Developing Critical Thinking

Critical thinking is a skill that seems to be in short supply in today’s world. To think critically is not to be negative or unfavorable. It is to approach thinking in an analytical manner, considering all points and delving into possible unknowns. Critical thinking is characterized by thoughtful skepticism of statements, arguments or dogmas.

Be skeptical. Be a little leery of what you hear and read. Have an open mind that knowledge may need to be added or subtracted. Do not be gullible and do not be overly critical.

Define words. The English language is complicated in that some words have a multitude of meanings. Also words change with use over time. Make sure you understand the definition of terms and how they apply. Do not assume.

Check and double-check your pre-conceived ideas. Are you blocking this information because it counters what you have “always believed”. Are you embracing the argument because it is what you have “always thought”. Overcome “feelings” and go with thinking and reasoning. Is what is being presented fact or assumption? Are you responding with truth or with “folk lore” or unproven statements?

Examine and re-examine the “evidence”. With new scientific discoveries things that once were supposedly proven have now been declared false. Epigenetics is confirming that there is not one gene that controls anything, thus the long-held belief of alcoholism being genetic is being disproved.

Look for other ways of interpretation. Is it always a cause and effect statement? Is it a part of the elephant, but not the whole elephant. Is it too broad or too limited in scope?

Do not over complicate or over simplify. Is “Yes” or “No” too cut and dried? Is it a truism but not an absolute? Is it an opinion or fact?

Do not over generalize. Do hotcakes really sell fast? Where is the research and evidence? Has a “common sense statement” been made it into a dogma?

Apply critical thinking to all areas of life. What qualifies the person to be an “expert”? Do not readily buy into “studies have shown that…” Be a little leery in assessing facts and figures, knowing they can be slanted to “prove” most any point of view.

Be gracious with the critical thinkers around you. When do you want to know that the boat won’t float? When it is on the shore or in the middle of the ocean? Perhaps they see something vital you are not yet aware of. Be willing to probe their observation, knowing that the final decision is ultimately yours.

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Overcoming Skills

Do you have a bad case of the “overs”? You know, "over-scheduled", "over-committed", "over-spending", "over-reacting"… and in the process become “over-bearing”? Not to worry. You can tap into and maximize your individual talent through personal empowerment. Here are some thoughts for overcoming.

It’s all about choices. Make them. Use them. Limit them. Too many choices are stressful, causing you to second-guess yourself. Choose to be who you are. It is okay to like what you like.

Be harsh on behavior, gentle on the person - whether this is directed toward you, your mate, your child, your parent, your co-worker or whomever. Realize each person has infinite worth and value as a human being that has chosen attitudes or behaviors that are not acceptable. Address behavior, never personhood.

Realize that everything has trade-offs. Get real. Get honest. Is what you are pursuing worth what you are giving up? If not, what can you choose to do about it? Get things in proper perspective and determine priorities. Continually assess what is most important in your life. Challenge the lies you have bought into and are trying to live up to (or down to).

“Of course you don’t love your life, look at everything you are trying to do.” - quote

This too shall pass
- the good things and the not-so-good things. So don’t get stuck. Children grow up, parents die, school ends, and jobs change. Embrace the moment, love it, learn from it and graciously move on.

Determine what is neutral. Truth is neutral, whether agreed with it or not. Signal lights are neutral, whether running late or not. Time is neutral, whether managed or not. Money is neutral, whether spent wisely or not. Information is neutral, whether embraced or argued against.

Examine the ironies of life. Are fast foods really fast? Or do they add to fat as well as fatigue? Do labor saving devices really save labor? Or do they clutter cabinets and add to overload.

Quiet time is essential. Energy is everywhere and is cultivated by times of quiet and honest reflection. Slow down. Hurry less and relax more. Don’t make everything a crisis.

“Hurry, but don’t rush.” Coach John Wooden

Give up perfection. There is no such animal! Consider the reality that if something is perfect, then there is no room for growth and the next step is deterioration. Go for excellence. Do the best you can with the goal of continual improvement.

Develop a support base. It is okay to need help. Ask for it, receive it, and appreciate it. Hire help if possible. Barter with friends on projects, cooking, shopping, chores, child care, lawn or mechanic work, etc. Divvy up responsibilities among co-workers and family members.

Have fun! Develop a sense of humor. Enjoy parenting, school, work and home. Love LIFE!

Don’t cope, overcome. Coping is too stressful; overcoming is empowering. I have developed a dramatic series of life-changing solution principles that address the universal need of people. I would love to share them with you. Please let me hear from you.

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Synthesized Happiness

Thoughts are powerful. Philosophers throughout the centuries, including Jesus, have said in essence that “Whatever you think, you become.” In a more scientific vein, Dan Gilbert, Harvard psychologist, says we ‘synthesize’ our happiness.

Synthetics seem real and function well but are actually manmade faux materials. The mind cannot tell the difference between what is imagined and what is real. Is it the acquisition of possessions, money or adventures that makes you happy, or is it the anticipation of meaning that these things will bring? Case in point: how many times have you gained an illusive ideal, only to be reduced to the Peggy Lee song reframe of “Is that all there is?” After a short time, the event or object has no impact on your happiness.

Happiness is not found in objects. Bob - not his real name – in search of happiness and acceptance bought the latest model gigantic pick-up truck. Sure enough it brought him smiles galore as he was big man on campus. For about ten days. After everyone had admired, envied and taken a ride in his new toy, it became old news. The delight and fame was gone and so was his happiness. Reality set in of the burden of a monthly payment way over his income. A wiser Bob traded for a smaller vehicle and attached new meaning to life and possessions.

Attach on-going reality to the synthetic idea. Happiness associated with the original pursuit will be sustained as you allow accrued value. The new car retains its worth when kept up to give years of service. The home repaired and maintained increases as an asset. The marriage partner multiplies in significance through shared history and as nuances of his/her personality are appreciated.

You have it when you believe it. All things are created twice; first in the mind and then in reality. Being stuck with “synthetic happiness” is actually the key to finding authentic happiness. When there is no turning back, your mind is freed to find a way to be happy with your reality. You make the marriage work. You appreciate the parent or child. You become creative in stretching resources. You are thankful for the job you do have. You are given the gift to “Love what is”.

You are in charge of your own happiness. People contribute to but do not cause your happiness. Trying to parlay it to others is futile. They can contribute to your enjoyment of life, but you alone can make yourself happy. It is done through finding inner joy even in the midst of difficulties. Happy is better than unhappy. And the choice is yours. Always. In every situation.

“Synthetic happiness” is based on getting what you think you want. Authentic happiness is wanting what you get, whether it was your original ideal or not. With this thoughtful concept, make 2010 your happiest year yet.

We welcome reprinting of articles in your newsletter or magazine, providing credit is given as follows: “This article was written by Mona Dunkin, Motivational Speaker and Personal Success Coach, www.monadunkin.blogspot.com or www.monadunkin.com.”