How To Master Your Critical Thinking Skills
Imagine a world where we can talk about ideas and not be at each other's throats when we disagree. Imagine a world where even as we disagree, we can still decide how to synthesize information and decide how to move forward without conflict. Imagine a world where news and media wasn't always trying to manipulate you into believing whatever the news outlet's agenda was. You might think this imagined world is not possible - but it is - we simply have to be willing to get there. And before you start worrying whether everyone else is willing to get there, you simply have to ask, are you?
I can say I knew this before, but it really became evident in 2020 to me: our culture has truly lost the art of critical thinking. For regular readers of alternative media, you may or may not have had the thought: "wow, ya so many people fell for bogus mainstream narratives in 2020." But the truth is, I see critical thinking challenges in crowds that both work in and consume alternative media as I do with mainstream media.
Last year I wrote an essay on the subject of conspiracy, bringing to light the reality that conspiracy does exist in our world at times, but often times people can begin to believe everything is a conspiracy or that everything from alt media is true while mainstream media is always wrong. This is faulty thinking. We might also have difficulty understanding what evidence supports a conspiracy vs. what someone simply believes is evidence when in fact it's not.
Given so many huge decisions are being made in our world right now based off of faulty information, and the consequences of the those decisions are huge, knowing how to arrive at effective decisions through facts and proper dialogue is a really important skill to develop.
Since the inception of our first media platform, Collective Evolution, back in 2009 I've always felt that what is playing out in our lives, physical world, current events, politics, relationships etc is a reflection of our beliefs, worldviews and thinking - believe it or not, this is a more of a spiritual experience than we might realize. Current events is s reflection of our current level of consciousness.
Think of it this way, what does meditation lead you towards? What does having a greater sense of self awareness lead to? What do we do with increased peace in our minds and physiology? How do we use those states of being to make decisions in our world and in our lives? The spiritual skills we choose to develop lead to changes in how we think about almost everything in our day to day lives, yet very few people associated spiritual development with thinking and current events - instead, those subjects are often avoided and thus our inner spiritual work doesn't always translate into the deeper changes in our societal world as we've set up a barrier as to how we apply our level of consciousness.
For example, an average meditator usually wants greater peace in their lives, and in a lot of cases also wants to see a more peaceful and thriving world. At the same time, they might carry the judgment that news is negative, and therefore never engage with it. Thus when it comes to how to engage with how we can change the way society functions to create that thriving world, we might not have many thoughts come to mind as we're not used to applying our greater sense of awareness to asking questions about how our world works and why. Given that asking these questions gives us an understanding as to how we can change our world, it's crucial that we take this step, and not just leave our heightened awareness on the meditation pillow.
Let's look at it another way. In much of personal transformation, we are seeking solutions to self soothe and create change in our lives. The pathway to doing this is through getting to know ourselves, how we function, what our subconscious patterns are etc. We bring these things to our awareness, raise our consciousness around them, and then know how to take action.
The same can be said for how we view our physical world and current events. How do things really work? Do we really know what we're voting for? Do we really know what we're investing in? Are we capable of something we're not being exposed to? How would we know or find out if we choose not to explore?
In essence, in many ways we must ask deeper questions about how our world works than what is commonly explored in mainstream media, because this will tell us where we're at. We'll also gain insight into the human condition and culture behind the choices that are made and whether some of it comes from conspiracy - so that ultimately we can know how to move forward. Note, this isn't about judging what is happening and seeking revenge on anyone who might have done something wrong, it's simply a process of bringing to awareness what might be going on so we can recognize the need for change and take the right actions.
Critical thinking then, is a process of looking at situations, relationships, ideas and real world pieces of information and understanding what's going on, what's behind it, and what to do with that information. It's understanding our personal and collective relationship to our world. It's part of how we participate in creating the world we see out there.
There are several ways to begin mastering our critical thinking so that we can make more effective decisions in our personal lives and as a community. Let's go over a couple below.
One of the best ways to improve our critical thinking is to better hear what is actually being said. Whether we are reading, watching a video, listening to a podcast, or in conversation, truly taking the time to HEAR what is being said seems a lost art. It's why we place the exercise at the top of all of our articles that invites each of us to become more present and physiologically coherent. This simple 60 second exercise literally changes our physiological state into one that can hear better, discern better, empathize better, and navigate information better.
What state are we in when we are listening to something? How about when someone says something we don't quite like? Do we start sighing, judging, responding back to the screen saying things like "oh man you don't get it?" Does this change the way we listen and what we hear? Do we miss all of the areas that we actually agree with the person on in favor of seeing the one or two things we don't agree with? Were we open to learning something new?
Listening is a huge part of improving our critical thinking because it allows us to actually hear what someone is saying and where they are coming from, and it by nature keeps us more present. This in turn also helps us move past some of our own bias'.
In order to improve your listening while consuming content or in conversation, take a moment to breathe, become present, and notice your surroundings. Truly be there and bring your awareness to the idea that you're committing to listening to someone, holding off your response and truly hearing them.
This sounds simple, but you'll find this muscle of truly listening is not one we flex all that often. Especially in our fast paced world.
Understanding Our Bias
Bias is something we all have, it's a distortion in our thinking that can often make it so we begin to disengage with what someone is saying because in some sense we have been triggered by something we already believe, and we now shut off any further inquiry into new information. Bias also affects how we see news and information, as well as situations and our relationships, and even affects decisions we make.
For example, imagine someone is biased toward a political affiliation, maybe they like Democrats over Republicans. That person will likely speak more positively about politicians that are Democratic, and more negatively about Republicans, regardless of what each politician might truly stand for. The only reason for this is because the person identifies and has a positive bias towards the Democratic politician.
The issue here is we are making something, with no real value in making an impactful decision, very important. Not only that, but we culturally begin to focus on these unimportant details so much that we all begin to argue over them and divide ourselves by them, pulling us away from truly getting to the bottom of what is really going.
In a spiritual sense, we're taking an incredible being that we are as an awareness having an experience, and confining it to an incredibly limiting box that states "I'm a progressive" or "I'm a conservative." Does that truly tell someone who you are and what you believe? Is that label in practice actually serving our culture?
Here are The Pulse we don't recommend listening to just one news source, multiple, from different perspectives, is always better. But if you choose only one, which most do, make sure they have ZERO political affiliation. Political affiliation means you are hearing filtered information that distorts the truth 100% of the time. Virtually all mainstream and alternative media aligns with one political side.
We feel overcoming bias is so important in improving critical thinking and creating a thriving world that we developed a 8 week course called Overcoming Bias & Improving Critical Thinking. It's designed to help us shed light on our own bias, recognize it in others, and improve our self awareness - all so we can think more critically and make more effective decisions.
Asking Questions - Ease, Playfulness, & Curiosity
Another key to improving critical thinking is taking a quick look at what our state of being is with regards to learning about and exploring new information. In essence, what's your frame of mind and emotions when you're consuming media?
Think for a moment when a kid is learning, they are often playful, curious and move about with ease. They aren't finding ways to disagree, trying to argue all the time or identify with a particular position. These are learned habits that we develop as we take note from cultural norms and form a certain sense of identity around how we think about what we believe. While some might argue this is natural, is that really true? Is it optimal? Does it mean that we can't change this pattern? Or perhaps we can ask, where has that belief in this pattern led us? Is our society peaceful? Do we make sense of things effectively? Are we working together or are we divided by our beliefs?
My research and experience in working on myself and with others for the last 14 years has led me to a simple truth: we are all capable to expanding our awareness past the fickle form of identity that sees us as our beliefs. In fact, I've seen people free themselves from this level of thinking so deeply that they begin to synthesize information so much more effectively, and they can communicate with others much more deeply without all the arguments and disagreements. Why? Because they are free from the idea that someone is attacking their beliefs. They are free from the idea of needing to be right or wrong. They instead are at play and hold curiosity and ease enough that they can keep asking questions.
Questions are key. When we hear bits of information and ask more questions as opposed to simply jumping to conclusions, we pull our thinking and awareness even deeper. We begin to see where else things might go vs. simply stopping at whatever an analyst on TV might have told us.
Often times people feel that getting to answers is all about researching and hearing what others are saying. But what questions did they ask themselves to arrive at the answer they are giving you? We must learn to ask the right questions, if we want to get to answers that are more impactful and meaningful. This is often times the biggest factor in why mainstream, and even a lot of alternative media, is failing to provide people with experiences of arriving at useful answers. The questions being asked are often built from a bias, therefore they are faulty questions or questions that seek only to bring answers that fit into our existing bias.
The way we choose to operate with our media here at CE is to invite the habit and skill of questioning and critically thinking in every piece we create. This is done by posing questions, inviting deeper inquiry and pushing beyond existing worldviews.
This is another reason why we have put so much love and care into our course. We feel that aside from gaining a sense of presence and self awareness, knowing how to ask the right questions is one of the most important things we can do to slip past bias and improve our critical thinking greatly - something we so deeply need in our society right now.
If you're looking to take your journey of improving critical thinking and self awareness to the next level, check out a course we offer in our members area called Overcoming Bias & Improving Critical Thinking. Click here to learn more.