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Why Is Critical Thinking Important and How to Improve It

Updated: July 8, 2024 | Published: April 2, 2020

Updated: July 8, 2024

Published: April 2, 2020

Why-Is-Critical-Thinking-Important-a-Survival-Guide

Why is critical thinking important? The decisions that you make affect your quality of life. And if you want to ensure that you live your best, most successful and happy life, you’re going to want to make conscious choices. That can be done with a simple thing known as critical thinking. Here’s how to improve your critical thinking skills and make decisions that you won’t regret.

What Is Critical Thinking?

Critical thinking is the process of analyzing facts to form a judgment. Essentially, it involves thinking about thinking. Historically, it dates back to the teachings of Socrates, as documented by Plato.

Today, it is seen as a complex concept understood best by philosophers and psychologists. Modern definitions include “reasonable, reflective thinking focused on deciding what to believe or do” and “deciding what’s true and what you should do.”

The Importance Of Critical Thinking

Why is critical thinking important? Good question! Here are a few undeniable reasons why it’s crucial to have these skills.

1. Critical Thinking Is Universal

Critical thinking is a domain-general thinking skill. What does this mean? It means that no matter what path or profession you pursue, these skills will always be relevant and will always be beneficial to your success. They are not specific to any field.

2. Crucial For The Economy

Our future depends on technology, information, and innovation. Critical thinking is needed for our fast-growing economies, to solve problems as quickly and as effectively as possible.

3. Improves Language & Presentation Skills

In order to best express ourselves, we need to know how to think clearly and systematically — meaning practice critical thinking! Critical thinking also means knowing how to break down texts, and in turn, improve our ability to comprehend.

4. Promotes Creativity

By practicing critical thinking, we are allowing ourselves not only to solve problems but also to come up with new and creative ideas to do so. Critical thinking allows us to analyze these ideas and adjust them accordingly.

5. Important For Self-Reflection

Without critical thinking, how can we really live a meaningful life? We need this skill to self-reflect and justify our ways of life and opinions. Critical thinking provides us with the tools to evaluate ourselves in the way that we need to.

Woman deep into thought as she looks out the window, using her critical thinking skills to do some self-reflection. Photo by Marcelo Chagas from Pexels

6. The Basis Of Science & Democracy

In order to have a democracy and to prove scientific facts, we need critical thinking in the world. Theories must be backed up with knowledge. In order for a society to effectively function, its citizens need to establish opinions about what’s right and wrong (by using critical thinking!).

Benefits Of Critical Thinking

We know that critical thinking is good for society as a whole, but what are some benefits of critical thinking on an individual level? Why is critical thinking important for us?

1. Key For Career Success

Critical thinking is crucial for many career paths. Not just for scientists, but lawyers, doctors, reporters, engineers, accountants, and analysts (among many others) all have to use critical thinking in their positions.
In fact, according to the World Economic Forum, critical thinking is one of the most desirable skills to have in the workforce, as it helps analyze information, think outside the box, solve problems with innovative solutions, and plan systematically.

2. Better Decision Making

There’s no doubt about it — critical thinkers make the best choices. Critical thinking helps us deal with everyday problems as they come our way, and very often this thought process is even done subconsciously. It helps us think independently and trust our gut feeling.

3. Can Make You Happier!

While this often goes unnoticed, being in touch with yourself and having a deep understanding of why you think the way you think can really make you happier. Critical thinking can help you better understand yourself, and in turn, help you avoid any kind of negative or limiting beliefs, and focus more on your strengths. Being able to share your thoughts can increase your quality of life.

4. Form Well-Informed Opinions

There is no shortage of information coming at us from all angles. And that’s exactly why we need to use our critical thinking skills and decide for ourselves what to believe. Critical thinking allows us to ensure that our opinions are based on the facts, and help us sort through all that extra noise.

5. Better Citizens

One of the most inspiring critical thinking quotes is by former US president Thomas Jefferson: “An educated citizenry is a vital requisite for our survival as a free people.”
What Jefferson is stressing to us here is that critical thinkers make better citizens, as they are able to see the entire picture without getting sucked into biases and propaganda.

6. Improves Relationships

While you may be convinced that being a critical thinker is bound to cause you problems in relationships, this really couldn’t be less true! Being a critical thinker can allow you to better understand the perspective of others, and can help you become more open-minded towards different views.

7. Promotes Curiosity

Critical thinkers are constantly curious about all kinds of things in life, and tend to have a wide range of interests. Critical thinking means constantly asking questions and wanting to know more, about why, what, who, where, when, and everything else that can help them make sense of a situation or concept, never taking anything at face value.

8. Allows For Creativity

Critical thinkers are also highly creative thinkers, and see themselves as limitless when it comes to possibilities. They are constantly looking to take things further, which is crucial in the workforce.

9. Enhances Problem Solving Skills

Those with critical thinking skills tend to solve problems as part of their natural instinct. Critical thinkers are patient and committed to solving the problem, similar to Albert Einstein, one of the best critical thinking examples, who said “It’s not that I’m so smart; it’s just that I stay with problems longer.”
Critical thinkers’ enhanced problem-solving skills makes them better at their jobs and better at solving the world’s biggest problems. Like Einstein, they have the potential to literally change the world.

10. An Activity For The Mind

Just like our muscles, in order for them to be strong, our mind also needs to be exercised and challenged. It’s safe to say that critical thinking is almost like an activity for the mind — and it needs to be practiced. Critical thinking encourages the development of many crucial skills such as logical thinking, decision making, and open-mindness.

11. Creates Independence

When we think critically, we think on our own as we trust ourselves more. Critical thinking is key to creating independence, and encouraging students to make their own decisions and form their own opinions.

12. Crucial Life Skill

Critical thinking is crucial not just for learning, but for life overall! Education isn’t just a way to prepare ourselves for life, but it’s pretty much life itself. Learning is a lifelong process that we go through each and every day.

How To Improve Your Critical Thinking

Now that you know the benefits of thinking critically, how do you actually do it?

  • Define Your Question: When it comes to critical thinking, it’s important to always keep your goal in mind. Know what you’re trying to achieve, and then figure out how to best get there.
  • Gather Reliable Information: Make sure that you’re using sources you can trust — biases aside. That’s how a real critical thinker operates!
  • Ask The Right Questions: We all know the importance of questions, but be sure that you’re asking the right questions that are going to get you to your answer.
  • Look Short & Long Term: When coming up with solutions, think about both the short- and long-term consequences. Both of them are significant in the equation.
  • Explore All Sides: There is never just one simple answer, and nothing is black or white. Explore all options and think outside of the box before you come to any conclusions.

How Is Critical Thinking Developed At School?

Critical thinking is developed in nearly everything we do, but much of this essential skill is encouraged and practiced in school. Fostering a culture of inquiry is crucial, encouraging students to ask questions, analyze information, and evaluate evidence.

Teaching strategies like Socratic questioning, problem-based learning, and collaborative discussions help students think for themselves. When teachers ask questions, students can respond critically and reflect on their learning. Group discussions also expand their thinking, making them independent thinkers and effective problem solvers.

How Does Critical Thinking Apply To Your Career?

Critical thinking is a valuable asset in any career. Employers value employees who can think critically, ask insightful questions, and offer creative solutions. Demonstrating critical thinking skills can set you apart in the workplace, showing your ability to tackle complex problems and make informed decisions.

In many careers, from law and medicine to business and engineering, critical thinking is essential. Lawyers analyze cases, doctors diagnose patients, business analysts evaluate market trends, and engineers solve technical issues—all requiring strong critical thinking skills.

Critical thinking also enhances your ability to communicate effectively, making you a better team member and leader. By analyzing and evaluating information, you can present clear, logical arguments and make persuasive presentations.

Incorporating critical thinking into your career helps you stay adaptable and innovative. It encourages continuous learning and improvement, which are crucial for professional growth and success in a rapidly changing job market.

Young man using his critical thinking skills to succeed in school and open up career opportunities for himself. Photo by Oladimeji Ajegbile from Pexels

Conclusion

Critical thinking is a vital skill with far-reaching benefits for personal and professional success. It involves systematic skills such as analysis, evaluation, inference, interpretation, and explanation to assess information and arguments.

By gathering relevant data, considering alternative perspectives, and using logical reasoning, critical thinking enables informed decision-making. Reflecting on and refining these processes further enhances their effectiveness.

The future of critical thinking holds significant importance as it remains essential for adapting to evolving challenges and making sound decisions in various aspects of life.

FAQs

What are the benefits of developing critical thinking skills?

Critical thinking enhances decision-making, problem-solving, and the ability to evaluate information critically. It helps in making informed decisions, understanding others’ perspectives, and improving overall cognitive abilities.

How does critical thinking contribute to problem-solving abilities?

Critical thinking enables you to analyze problems thoroughly, consider multiple solutions, and choose the most effective approach. It fosters creativity and innovative thinking in finding solutions.

What role does critical thinking play in academic success?

Critical thinking is crucial in academics as it allows you to analyze texts, evaluate evidence, construct logical arguments, and understand complex concepts, leading to better academic performance.

How does critical thinking promote effective communication skills?

Critical thinking helps you articulate thoughts clearly, listen actively, and engage in meaningful discussions. It improves your ability to argue logically and understand different viewpoints.

How can critical thinking skills be applied in everyday situations?

You can use critical thinking to make better personal and professional decisions, solve everyday problems efficiently, and understand the world around you more deeply.

What role does skepticism play in critical thinking?

Skepticism encourages questioning assumptions, evaluating evidence, and distinguishing between facts and opinions. It helps in developing a more rigorous and open-minded approach to thinking.

What strategies can enhance critical thinking?

Strategies include asking probing questions, engaging in reflective thinking, practicing problem-solving, seeking diverse perspectives, and analyzing information critically and logically.

At UoPeople, our blog writers are thinkers, researchers, and experts dedicated to curating articles relevant to our mission: making higher education accessible to everyone.