When Should You Stop Thinking?

More often than you think!

The complexity and beauty of critical thinking.

How many times have you said, “Let me think about it.” Or “I need more time to think about it.”  Or some version of those thoughts.

And then you think.  And think.  And think some more.

This is good, right?  We think more and harder and more clearly.  Because this means we are engaging in critical thinking.  Or are we?

Because what if my actual thinking about a topic is flawed, and then I just keep thinking  in the same way about the issue.  Is that thinking helpful?

Ex:  Leadership challenge:  I don’t like the way someone is else is operating.  And I think about it a lot and why is it happening and what can be done about it, and what I should do.

But what if my thinking itself is full of biases or assumptions or emotions, or black and white thinking that impede my ability to even consider what to do?  How is thinking more about the issue helping?  Or is it in fact reinforcing the lack of quality in the thinking and the outcome.

The answer might be yes.

I was immersed in this topic a few years ago when teaching a class.  I learned some powerful and mind altering lessons on the power of this competency and practice and when to notice that I am not using it, or well, when others are not either.

What critical thinking is not:  being critical, thinking, thinking more, evaluation without investigation.

Critical Thinking is: disciplined thinking that is clear, rational, open-minded, and in-formed by evidence.

But there are some key pitfalls, and here are only 3 of them.

 1. Rationalization:  Is the opposite of logical thinking.  When thinking logically, you start with evidence and move to a conclusion based on the evidence. With rationalization, you begin with the conclusion you want and then gather evidence to support that conclusion. A common result of using rationalization: excuses!

·         Evidence → Conclusion = Logic

·         Conclusion → Evidence = Rationalization; a common result = excuses

2. Emotional Thinking:  Means the absence of logic.

Emotional thinking occurs when: Reacting to a feeling; or emotional language, or wishful thinking, or emotional attachment to an issue

You’ll notice this in language.

Judgements:  “If you were a good manager, you would have realized the pressure I am under.”

Attributions:  “Why are you taking advantage of me?”

Characterizations:  “You’re just so inconsiderate.”

Problem Solving:  “The answer is for you to plan more effectively.”

 3. Biases

Cognitive bias = error in our thinking that affects our judgment and decision making.

There are tons.  180, google it, it’ll freak you out.

4 Key Characteristics to Foster Critical Thinking

  1. Curiosity
  2. Awareness
  3. Flexibility
  4. Common Sense

Here are the key seeds to plant in your leadership garden:

Critical thinking is essentially evaluating your thinking for clarity, openness and facts.

There are many pitfalls that derail us :  Rationalization, emotional thinking and biases.

We can cultivate it thought:  curiosity, awareness, flexibility and common senses.

“The essence of the independent mind lies not in what it thinks, but in how it thinks.”

– Christopher Hitchens

Resource:  HRDQ RL Critical Thinking