What exactly is critical thinking, Big Red Car?
Big Red Car here on a crisp Monday. Been gone to Savannah and New York City for my annual pilgrimage to celebrate somebody’s birthday, to see the Broadway shows, to eat decadent food, and to watch the NYC Veterans Day Parade. Missions accomplished.
On the plane back, I got to thinking about the issue of critical thinking. Somebody whose opinion I respect said that much of what is going on today is driven by a failure to think critically, accelerated by an intellectual laziness to simply follow one’s emotions.
Critical thinking, Big Red Car?
Here’s a bit of shorthand for the basis of our discussion. You can get a lot longer definitions which tend to confuse me, but I can understand this:
Critical thinking is the application of a disciplined process of objectively evaluating information based on actual observation and factual evidence resulting in a depth of understanding and clarity which supports good decisionmaking.
Critical thinking requires hard work, a bit of research, some thoughtful reflection, fairness, and the ability to evaluate evidence which may require one to jettison things which are not true.
It is hard work and it is not for the intellectually lazy. You, of course, are not intellectually lazy.
Emotions, Big Red Car?
Emotions are the way we feel about things — anger, anxiety, apathy, confusion, contentment, curiosity, desire, excitement, fear, fondness, forgiveness, grief, guilt, happiness, hate, hope, hostility, irritation, jealousy, loneliness, longing, love (parent-child), love (romantic), passion, resignation, restlessness, revenge, sadness, shame, surprise, suspicion, sympathy, tenderness, worry. [Just a smattering. There are more. But, this is a good list to start with and for me covers most of mine.]
Whew! Admit it. You didn’t know you had so many emotions, did you?
And, they are easy as Hell to allow to bubble to the surface and rule our lives. It does not require hard work to give into our emotions.
And, yet, every day, we find ourselves enmeshed in many of them. Are your actions guided by those emotions? Mine are.
Let’s be clear — being impacted by emotion is not a bad thing. Acting on emotion alone may have some unfortunate consequences.
Example me up, Big Red Car
Let me give you an example? How about North Korea? Our old pal, Kim Jong-on, is a mercurial, emotional guy.
On the other hand, our President, Donald J Trump, seems to be equally driven by emotion.
The Big Red Car thinks both of these guys are manipulators of the emotions of their audiences. Leaders will do that. Good and bad leaders will do that.
[You do realize, dear reader, that President Trump was elected because he tapped into the ANGER in the hinterlands, right?]
Another example is the feeling a VC funded startup CEO has when she has a tough meeting with the Board of Directors. Does she leave feeling angry? Irritated? Suspicious? Could happen.
What do we do, Big Red Car?
Here it is dear reader:
1. First, do not deny the power of emotion in your life. Do not encourage it, but do not pretend it is not a driver of our lives.
Some emotions, “romantic love” as an example, are what makes life worth living. We are all striving for our own little bubble of contentment.
Do not become an emotion junkie. Do NOT give into your feelings. [Except on Valentine’s Day. On Valentine’s Day give into your feelings.]
2. Second, take a minute to contemplate whether your emotional response is based on critical thinking.
Haha, of course, it isn’t. If it were, I wouldn’t be writing this blog post, right?
When your emotions are in check, begin to think critically. Do not squash your emotions, box them up, package them. Hold them safe.
3. Now, you are ready to think critically.
Evaluate the facts. Let the facts instruct you. Gather them. Analyze them. Synthesize them. Test them. Grade them.
What “facts” or “data points” can you directly observe, experience, touch, verify, reason to and through.
What facts do you believe?
4. OK, now here’s the messy part.
Take those facts and overlay your values, the VALUES of your company over them. Which facts collide with your values?
[Pro tip: Nobody knows their values until you have to make tough decisions and stare down the price tag of those value-driven decisions. Values are free until they aren’t. Only then are they real.]
5. Now, make your decision based on your critical thinking, not how you FEEL!
Inform your decisionmaking with your values.
Allow me one flight of fancy? This is exactly what is wrong with American politics today — everybody is held hostage to their feelings and nobody is thinking critically. But, that, dear reader, is a subject for another day, no?
Be kind to yourself. Get ready for Thanksgiving knowing the Big Red Car is thankful for ………………………………………………… YOU!