Have you ever observed somebody’s actions and said to yourself “they just don’t have any common sense.” I have even looked in the mirror and said that to myself at times. There are many thoughts and actions that we see as something that people are just born with, like common sense or intuition. This is simply not true. Let me explain…
Over the last couple of decades that I have been developing leaders. I have found that people are taught and learn a critical thinking process (CTP) through mentors and experiences. It is not something you’re born with, or blessed with through divine intervention. CTP is not a core essential human need, such as hunger pains when you need nourishment or getting tired when you need to rest. It is more like a thermostat that will turn on the air conditioning when it is too hot or the heat pump when it is too cold and it can really be that simple, if you put your mind to it.
You must build your critical thinking process on a foundation of solid principles, guiding structure and mission. You must be clear in the fact that you need to keep a positive attitude and show initiative, as leaders and critical thinkers don’t need a boss to get them motivated or to get started. You’re thinking must be built on the cornerstone of integrity. Integrity is what leadership and influence is built on. You must have a thirst for knowledge. That’s why it’s so important to focus on your strengths, because if you don’t like it, you won’t get into it.
Critical thinkers are always in demand in life and business and you can develop your CTP through many avenues. The first and safest way, would be to gain critical thinking through studying other successful leaders in books or periodicals. You do not need to try to reinvent the wheel when it comes to critical thinking. Take the time to study successful people who have already developed an extraordinary CTP. I would recommend studying the writings of individuals such as John C Maxwell, Steven R Covey, Marcus Buckingham, Simon Sinek, Josh Kaufman and Linda Kaplan Thaler, just to name a few. It is critical that you are very selective in what you expose yourself to in the ways of thinking. Second, you can select a successful leader in your area of interest or profession. You need to select (or be selected by) a mentor. Do not pick somebody that you are a friend with, or a family member. This will only get you a decent meal, stories about the good old days, and probably a little gossip. You need to find somebody that will stretch your way of thinking. Somebody that is highly successful, that may be living your dream in business, faith and life. This could be some your acquaintances with, or somebody you only know of, but if you desire to have a successful career and life, you will need to humbly seek out people that are smarter and more successful than you. One of the many things that I’ve learned from my mentor John C Maxwell is “If you are the smartest person in the room, you’re in the wrong room”. And that is a fact. I continually stretch my way of thinking by associating with people inside and outside of my areas of expertise or interest. People that are leading at much higher levels than I. A great way to think about it, is that you want to think and develop yourself at least two levels higher than you see yourself, lead one level down and develop others at all levels. The third way of developing CTP, is the “School of Hard Knocks.” This is not the way that I would suggest you learn all of your critical thinking processes, as this is the most painful way to learn them. Some people will argue that pain is the best way to learn lessons that will stick. For me… Pain is a last way I like to learn things. Mainly because it hurts and it adds stress to your mind and body. And the last thing we need in this life is more stress. I do know this. We learn best from our mistakes and as we develop our CTP, we will make increasingly better decisions and decreasingly poor ones.
When it comes right down to it, you can improve your life and the lives of others with a solid critical thinking process. James Allen said it like this, “You are today where your thoughts have brought you. You will be tomorrow where your thoughts take you.” The critical thinking process that you begin to develop today, will lead you to your success of tomorrow. Start today!