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5: Developing Critical Thinking Skills

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    It is impossible to live a life that’s free of problems. Besides, problems serve a purpose. They provide opportunities to participate in life. Problems stimulate us and pull us forward.

    Seen from this perspective, our goal becomes not to eliminate problems but to find problems that are worthy of us. Worthy problems are those that challenge us to think, consider our values, and define our goals. Solving the biggest problems offers the greatest potential benefits for others and ourselves. Engaging with big problems changes us for the better. Bigger problems give more meaning to our lives.

    Problems expand to fill whatever space is available. Suppose that your only problem for today is to write a thank-you letter to a job interviewer. You could spend the entire day thinking about what you’re going to say, writing the letter, finding a stamp, going to the post office—and then thinking about all of the things you forgot to say.

    Now suppose that you get a phone call with an urgent message: A close friend has been admitted to the hospital and wants you to come right away. It’s amazing how quickly and easily that letter can get finished when there’s a bigger problem on your plate.

    True, the smaller problems that enter our lives still need to be solved. The goal is simply to solve them in less time and with less energy.

    Bigger problems are easy to find—world hunger, child abuse, environmental pollution, terrorism, human rights violations, drug abuse, street crime, energy shortages, poverty, and wars. These problems await your attention and involvement.

    Tackling a bigger problem does not have to be depressing. In fact, it can be energizing—a reason for getting up in the morning. A huge project can channel your passion and purpose.

    When we take on a bigger problem, we play full out. We do justice to our potentials. We start to love what we do and do what we love. We’re awake, alert, and engaged. Playing full out means living our lives as if our lives depended on it.

    Perhaps a little voice in your mind is saying, “That’s crazy. I can’t do anything about global problems.” In the spirit of critical thinking, put that idea to the test. Get involved in solving a bigger problem. Then notice the difference that you can make. And just as important, notice how your other problems dwindle—or even vanish.

    In this module, you will learn about ways to develop your critical and creative thinking skills, which will help you take on life’s problems with confidence.

    5: Developing Critical Thinking Skills is shared under a CC BY license and was authored, remixed, and/or curated by LibreTexts.

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