positive critical thinking skills

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positive critical thinking skills

How to build critical thinking skills for better decision-making

It’s simple in theory, but tougher in practice – here are five tips to get you started.

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Have you heard the riddle about two coins that equal thirty cents, but one of them is not a nickel? What about the one where a surgeon says they can’t operate on their own son?

Those brain teasers tap into your critical thinking skills. But your ability to think critically isn’t just helpful for solving those random puzzles – it plays a big role in your career. 

An impressive 81% of employers say critical thinking carries a lot of weight when they’re evaluating job candidates. It ranks as the top competency companies consider when hiring recent graduates (even ahead of communication ). Plus, once you’re hired, several studies show that critical thinking skills are highly correlated with better job performance.

So what exactly are critical thinking skills? And even more importantly, how do you build and improve them? 

What is critical thinking?

Critical thinking is the ability to evaluate facts and information, remain objective, and make a sound decision about how to move forward.

Does that sound like how you approach every decision or problem? Not so fast. Critical thinking seems simple in theory but is much tougher in practice, which helps explain why 65% of employers say their organization has a need for more critical thinking. 

In reality, critical thinking doesn’t come naturally to a lot of us. In order to do it well, you need to:

  • Remain open-minded and inquisitive, rather than relying on assumptions or jumping to conclusions
  • Ask questions and dig deep, rather than accepting information at face value
  • Keep your own biases and perceptions in check to stay as objective as possible
  • Rely on your emotional intelligence to fill in the blanks and gain a more well-rounded understanding of a situation

So, critical thinking isn’t just being intelligent or analytical. In many ways, it requires you to step outside of yourself, let go of your own preconceived notions, and approach a problem or situation with curiosity and fairness.

It’s a challenge, but it’s well worth it. Critical thinking skills will help you connect ideas, make reasonable decisions, and solve complex problems.

7 critical thinking skills to help you dig deeper

Critical thinking is often labeled as a skill itself (you’ll see it bulleted as a desired trait in a variety of job descriptions). But it’s better to think of critical thinking less as a distinct skill and more as a collection or category of skills. 

To think critically, you’ll need to tap into a bunch of your other soft skills. Here are seven of the most important. 


It’s important to kick off the critical thinking process with the idea that anything is possible. The more you’re able to set aside your own suspicions, beliefs, and agenda, the better prepared you are to approach the situation with the level of inquisitiveness you need. 

That means not closing yourself off to any possibilities and allowing yourself the space to pull on every thread – yes, even the ones that seem totally implausible.

As Christopher Dwyer, Ph.D. writes in a piece for Psychology Today , “Even if an idea appears foolish, sometimes its consideration can lead to an intelligent, critically considered conclusion.” He goes on to compare the critical thinking process to brainstorming . Sometimes the “bad” ideas are what lay the foundation for the good ones. 

Open-mindedness is challenging because it requires more effort and mental bandwidth than sticking with your own perceptions. Approaching problems or situations with true impartiality often means:

  • Practicing self-regulation : Giving yourself a pause between when you feel something and when you actually react or take action.
  • Challenging your own biases: Acknowledging your biases and seeking feedback are two powerful ways to get a broader understanding. 

Critical thinking example

In a team meeting, your boss mentioned that your company newsletter signups have been decreasing and she wants to figure out why.

At first, you feel offended and defensive – it feels like she’s blaming you for the dip in subscribers. You recognize and rationalize that emotion before thinking about potential causes. You have a hunch about what’s happening, but you will explore all possibilities and contributions from your team members.


Observation is, of course, your ability to notice and process the details all around you (even the subtle or seemingly inconsequential ones). Critical thinking demands that you’re flexible and willing to go beyond surface-level information, and solid observation skills help you do that.

Your observations help you pick up on clues from a variety of sources and experiences, all of which help you draw a final conclusion. After all, sometimes it’s the most minuscule realization that leads you to the strongest conclusion.

Over the next week or so, you keep a close eye on your company’s website and newsletter analytics to see if numbers are in fact declining or if your boss’s concerns were just a fluke. 

Critical thinking hinges on objectivity. And, to be objective, you need to base your judgments on the facts – which you collect through research. You’ll lean on your research skills to gather as much information as possible that’s relevant to your problem or situation. 

Keep in mind that this isn’t just about the quantity of information – quality matters too. You want to find data and details from a variety of trusted sources to drill past the surface and build a deeper understanding of what’s happening. 

You dig into your email and website analytics to identify trends in bounce rates, time on page, conversions, and more. You also review recent newsletters and email promotions to understand what customers have received, look through current customer feedback, and connect with your customer support team to learn what they’re hearing in their conversations with customers.

The critical thinking process is sort of like a treasure hunt – you’ll find some nuggets that are fundamental for your final conclusion and some that might be interesting but aren’t pertinent to the problem at hand.

That’s why you need analytical skills. They’re what help you separate the wheat from the chaff, prioritize information, identify trends or themes, and draw conclusions based on the most relevant and influential facts. 

It’s easy to confuse analytical thinking with critical thinking itself, and it’s true there is a lot of overlap between the two. But analytical thinking is just a piece of critical thinking. It focuses strictly on the facts and data, while critical thinking incorporates other factors like emotions, opinions, and experiences. 

As you analyze your research, you notice that one specific webpage has contributed to a significant decline in newsletter signups. While all of the other sources have stayed fairly steady with regard to conversions, that one has sharply decreased.

You decide to move on from your other hypotheses about newsletter quality and dig deeper into the analytics. 

One of the traps of critical thinking is that it’s easy to feel like you’re never done. There’s always more information you could collect and more rabbit holes you could fall down.

But at some point, you need to accept that you’ve done your due diligence and make a decision about how to move forward. That’s where inference comes in. It’s your ability to look at the evidence and facts available to you and draw an informed conclusion based on those. 

When you’re so focused on staying objective and pursuing all possibilities, inference can feel like the antithesis of critical thinking. But ultimately, it’s your inference skills that allow you to move out of the thinking process and onto the action steps. 

You dig deeper into the analytics for the page that hasn’t been converting and notice that the sharp drop-off happened around the same time you switched email providers.

After looking more into the backend, you realize that the signup form on that page isn’t correctly connected to your newsletter platform. It seems like anybody who has signed up on that page hasn’t been fed to your email list. 


3 ways to improve your communication skills at work

3 ways to improve your communication skills at work

If and when you identify a solution or answer, you can’t keep it close to the vest. You’ll need to use your communication skills to share your findings with the relevant stakeholders – like your boss, team members, or anybody who needs to be involved in the next steps.

Your analysis skills will come in handy here too, as they’ll help you determine what information other people need to know so you can avoid bogging them down with unnecessary details. 

In your next team meeting, you pull up the analytics and show your team the sharp drop-off as well as the missing connection between that page and your email platform. You ask the web team to reinstall and double-check that connection and you also ask a member of the marketing team to draft an apology email to the subscribers who were missed. 


Critical thinking and problem-solving are two more terms that are frequently confused. After all, when you think critically, you’re often doing so with the objective of solving a problem.

The best way to understand how problem-solving and critical thinking differ is to think of problem-solving as much more narrow. You’re focused on finding a solution.

In contrast, you can use critical thinking for a variety of use cases beyond solving a problem – like answering questions or identifying opportunities for improvement. Even so, within the critical thinking process, you’ll flex your problem-solving skills when it comes time to take action. 

Once the fix is implemented, you monitor the analytics to see if subscribers continue to increase. If not (or if they increase at a slower rate than you anticipated), you’ll roll out some other tests like changing the CTA language or the placement of the subscribe form on the page.

5 ways to improve your critical thinking skills

Beyond the buzzwords: Why interpersonal skills matter at work

Beyond the buzzwords: Why interpersonal skills matter at work

Think critically about critical thinking and you’ll quickly realize that it’s not as instinctive as you’d like it to be. Fortunately, your critical thinking skills are learned competencies and not inherent gifts – and that means you can improve them. Here’s how:

  • Practice active listening: Active listening helps you process and understand what other people share. That’s crucial as you aim to be open-minded and inquisitive.
  • Ask open-ended questions: If your critical thinking process involves collecting feedback and opinions from others, ask open-ended questions (meaning, questions that can’t be answered with “yes” or “no”). Doing so will give you more valuable information and also prevent your own biases from influencing people’s input.
  • Scrutinize your sources: Figuring out what to trust and prioritize is crucial for critical thinking. Boosting your media literacy and asking more questions will help you be more discerning about what to factor in. It’s hard to strike a balance between skepticism and open-mindedness, but approaching information with questions (rather than unquestioning trust) will help you draw better conclusions. 
  • Play a game: Remember those riddles we mentioned at the beginning? As trivial as they might seem, games and exercises like those can help you boost your critical thinking skills. There are plenty of critical thinking exercises you can do individually or as a team . 
  • Give yourself time: Research shows that rushed decisions are often regrettable ones. That’s likely because critical thinking takes time – you can’t do it under the wire. So, for big decisions or hairy problems, give yourself enough time and breathing room to work through the process. It’s hard enough to think critically without a countdown ticking in your brain. 

Critical thinking really is critical

The ability to think critically is important, but it doesn’t come naturally to most of us. It’s just easier to stick with biases, assumptions, and surface-level information. 

But that route often leads you to rash judgments, shaky conclusions, and disappointing decisions. So here’s a conclusion we can draw without any more noodling: Even if it is more demanding on your mental resources, critical thinking is well worth the effort.

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  • What Is Critical Thinking? | Definition & Examples

What Is Critical Thinking? | Definition & Examples

Published on May 30, 2022 by Eoghan Ryan . Revised on May 31, 2023.

Critical thinking is the ability to effectively analyze information and form a judgment .

To think critically, you must be aware of your own biases and assumptions when encountering information, and apply consistent standards when evaluating sources .

Critical thinking skills help you to:

  • Identify credible sources
  • Evaluate and respond to arguments
  • Assess alternative viewpoints
  • Test hypotheses against relevant criteria

Table of contents

Why is critical thinking important, critical thinking examples, how to think critically, other interesting articles, frequently asked questions about critical thinking.

Critical thinking is important for making judgments about sources of information and forming your own arguments. It emphasizes a rational, objective, and self-aware approach that can help you to identify credible sources and strengthen your conclusions.

Critical thinking is important in all disciplines and throughout all stages of the research process . The types of evidence used in the sciences and in the humanities may differ, but critical thinking skills are relevant to both.

In academic writing , critical thinking can help you to determine whether a source:

  • Is free from research bias
  • Provides evidence to support its research findings
  • Considers alternative viewpoints

Outside of academia, critical thinking goes hand in hand with information literacy to help you form opinions rationally and engage independently and critically with popular media.

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Critical thinking can help you to identify reliable sources of information that you can cite in your research paper . It can also guide your own research methods and inform your own arguments.

Outside of academia, critical thinking can help you to be aware of both your own and others’ biases and assumptions.

Academic examples

However, when you compare the findings of the study with other current research, you determine that the results seem improbable. You analyze the paper again, consulting the sources it cites.

You notice that the research was funded by the pharmaceutical company that created the treatment. Because of this, you view its results skeptically and determine that more independent research is necessary to confirm or refute them. Example: Poor critical thinking in an academic context You’re researching a paper on the impact wireless technology has had on developing countries that previously did not have large-scale communications infrastructure. You read an article that seems to confirm your hypothesis: the impact is mainly positive. Rather than evaluating the research methodology, you accept the findings uncritically.

Nonacademic examples

However, you decide to compare this review article with consumer reviews on a different site. You find that these reviews are not as positive. Some customers have had problems installing the alarm, and some have noted that it activates for no apparent reason.

You revisit the original review article. You notice that the words “sponsored content” appear in small print under the article title. Based on this, you conclude that the review is advertising and is therefore not an unbiased source. Example: Poor critical thinking in a nonacademic context You support a candidate in an upcoming election. You visit an online news site affiliated with their political party and read an article that criticizes their opponent. The article claims that the opponent is inexperienced in politics. You accept this without evidence, because it fits your preconceptions about the opponent.

There is no single way to think critically. How you engage with information will depend on the type of source you’re using and the information you need.

However, you can engage with sources in a systematic and critical way by asking certain questions when you encounter information. Like the CRAAP test , these questions focus on the currency , relevance , authority , accuracy , and purpose of a source of information.

When encountering information, ask:

  • Who is the author? Are they an expert in their field?
  • What do they say? Is their argument clear? Can you summarize it?
  • When did they say this? Is the source current?
  • Where is the information published? Is it an academic article? Is it peer-reviewed ?
  • Why did the author publish it? What is their motivation?
  • How do they make their argument? Is it backed up by evidence? Does it rely on opinion, speculation, or appeals to emotion ? Do they address alternative arguments?

Critical thinking also involves being aware of your own biases, not only those of others. When you make an argument or draw your own conclusions, you can ask similar questions about your own writing:

  • Am I only considering evidence that supports my preconceptions?
  • Is my argument expressed clearly and backed up with credible sources?
  • Would I be convinced by this argument coming from someone else?

If you want to know more about ChatGPT, AI tools , citation , and plagiarism , make sure to check out some of our other articles with explanations and examples.

  • ChatGPT vs human editor
  • ChatGPT citations
  • Is ChatGPT trustworthy?
  • Using ChatGPT for your studies
  • What is ChatGPT?
  • Chicago style
  • Paraphrasing


  • Types of plagiarism
  • Self-plagiarism
  • Avoiding plagiarism
  • Academic integrity
  • Consequences of plagiarism
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Critical thinking refers to the ability to evaluate information and to be aware of biases or assumptions, including your own.

Like information literacy , it involves evaluating arguments, identifying and solving problems in an objective and systematic way, and clearly communicating your ideas.

Critical thinking skills include the ability to:

You can assess information and arguments critically by asking certain questions about the source. You can use the CRAAP test , focusing on the currency , relevance , authority , accuracy , and purpose of a source of information.

Ask questions such as:

  • Who is the author? Are they an expert?
  • How do they make their argument? Is it backed up by evidence?

A credible source should pass the CRAAP test  and follow these guidelines:

  • The information should be up to date and current.
  • The author and publication should be a trusted authority on the subject you are researching.
  • The sources the author cited should be easy to find, clear, and unbiased.
  • For a web source, the URL and layout should signify that it is trustworthy.

Information literacy refers to a broad range of skills, including the ability to find, evaluate, and use sources of information effectively.

Being information literate means that you:

  • Know how to find credible sources
  • Use relevant sources to inform your research
  • Understand what constitutes plagiarism
  • Know how to cite your sources correctly

Confirmation bias is the tendency to search, interpret, and recall information in a way that aligns with our pre-existing values, opinions, or beliefs. It refers to the ability to recollect information best when it amplifies what we already believe. Relatedly, we tend to forget information that contradicts our opinions.

Although selective recall is a component of confirmation bias, it should not be confused with recall bias.

On the other hand, recall bias refers to the differences in the ability between study participants to recall past events when self-reporting is used. This difference in accuracy or completeness of recollection is not related to beliefs or opinions. Rather, recall bias relates to other factors, such as the length of the recall period, age, and the characteristics of the disease under investigation.

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Critical Thinking

Developing the right mindset and skills.

By the Mind Tools Content Team

We make hundreds of decisions every day and, whether we realize it or not, we're all critical thinkers.

We use critical thinking each time we weigh up our options, prioritize our responsibilities, or think about the likely effects of our actions. It's a crucial skill that helps us to cut out misinformation and make wise decisions. The trouble is, we're not always very good at it!

In this article, we'll explore the key skills that you need to develop your critical thinking skills, and how to adopt a critical thinking mindset, so that you can make well-informed decisions.

What Is Critical Thinking?

Critical thinking is the discipline of rigorously and skillfully using information, experience, observation, and reasoning to guide your decisions, actions, and beliefs. You'll need to actively question every step of your thinking process to do it well.

Collecting, analyzing and evaluating information is an important skill in life, and a highly valued asset in the workplace. People who score highly in critical thinking assessments are also rated by their managers as having good problem-solving skills, creativity, strong decision-making skills, and good overall performance. [1]

Key Critical Thinking Skills

Critical thinkers possess a set of key characteristics which help them to question information and their own thinking. Focus on the following areas to develop your critical thinking skills:

Being willing and able to explore alternative approaches and experimental ideas is crucial. Can you think through "what if" scenarios, create plausible options, and test out your theories? If not, you'll tend to write off ideas and options too soon, so you may miss the best answer to your situation.

To nurture your curiosity, stay up to date with facts and trends. You'll overlook important information if you allow yourself to become "blinkered," so always be open to new information.

But don't stop there! Look for opposing views or evidence to challenge your information, and seek clarification when things are unclear. This will help you to reassess your beliefs and make a well-informed decision later. Read our article, Opening Closed Minds , for more ways to stay receptive.

Logical Thinking

You must be skilled at reasoning and extending logic to come up with plausible options or outcomes.

It's also important to emphasize logic over emotion. Emotion can be motivating but it can also lead you to take hasty and unwise action, so control your emotions and be cautious in your judgments. Know when a conclusion is "fact" and when it is not. "Could-be-true" conclusions are based on assumptions and must be tested further. Read our article, Logical Fallacies , for help with this.

Use creative problem solving to balance cold logic. By thinking outside of the box you can identify new possible outcomes by using pieces of information that you already have.


Many of the decisions we make in life are subtly informed by our values and beliefs. These influences are called cognitive biases and it can be difficult to identify them in ourselves because they're often subconscious.

Practicing self-awareness will allow you to reflect on the beliefs you have and the choices you make. You'll then be better equipped to challenge your own thinking and make improved, unbiased decisions.

One particularly useful tool for critical thinking is the Ladder of Inference . It allows you to test and validate your thinking process, rather than jumping to poorly supported conclusions.

Developing a Critical Thinking Mindset

Combine the above skills with the right mindset so that you can make better decisions and adopt more effective courses of action. You can develop your critical thinking mindset by following this process:

Gather Information

First, collect data, opinions and facts on the issue that you need to solve. Draw on what you already know, and turn to new sources of information to help inform your understanding. Consider what gaps there are in your knowledge and seek to fill them. And look for information that challenges your assumptions and beliefs.

Be sure to verify the authority and authenticity of your sources. Not everything you read is true! Use this checklist to ensure that your information is valid:

  • Are your information sources trustworthy ? (For example, well-respected authors, trusted colleagues or peers, recognized industry publications, websites, blogs, etc.)
  • Is the information you have gathered up to date ?
  • Has the information received any direct criticism ?
  • Does the information have any errors or inaccuracies ?
  • Is there any evidence to support or corroborate the information you have gathered?
  • Is the information you have gathered subjective or biased in any way? (For example, is it based on opinion, rather than fact? Is any of the information you have gathered designed to promote a particular service or organization?)

If any information appears to be irrelevant or invalid, don't include it in your decision making. But don't omit information just because you disagree with it, or your final decision will be flawed and bias.

Now observe the information you have gathered, and interpret it. What are the key findings and main takeaways? What does the evidence point to? Start to build one or two possible arguments based on what you have found.

You'll need to look for the details within the mass of information, so use your powers of observation to identify any patterns or similarities. You can then analyze and extend these trends to make sensible predictions about the future.

To help you to sift through the multiple ideas and theories, it can be useful to group and order items according to their characteristics. From here, you can compare and contrast the different items. And once you've determined how similar or different things are from one another, Paired Comparison Analysis can help you to analyze them.

The final step involves challenging the information and rationalizing its arguments.

Apply the laws of reason (induction, deduction, analogy) to judge an argument and determine its merits. To do this, it's essential that you can determine the significance and validity of an argument to put it in the correct perspective. Take a look at our article, Rational Thinking , for more information about how to do this.

Once you have considered all of the arguments and options rationally, you can finally make an informed decision.

Afterward, take time to reflect on what you have learned and what you found challenging. Step back from the detail of your decision or problem, and look at the bigger picture. Record what you've learned from your observations and experience.

Critical thinking involves rigorously and skilfully using information, experience, observation, and reasoning to guide your decisions, actions and beliefs. It's a useful skill in the workplace and in life.

You'll need to be curious and creative to explore alternative possibilities, but rational to apply logic, and self-aware to identify when your beliefs could affect your decisions or actions.

You can demonstrate a high level of critical thinking by validating your information, analyzing its meaning, and finally evaluating the argument.

Critical Thinking Infographic

See Critical Thinking represented in our infographic: An Elementary Guide to Critical Thinking .

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41+ Critical Thinking Examples (Definition + Practices)

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Critical thinking is an essential skill in our information-overloaded world, where figuring out what is fact and fiction has become increasingly challenging.

But why is critical thinking essential? Put, critical thinking empowers us to make better decisions, challenge and validate our beliefs and assumptions, and understand and interact with the world more effectively and meaningfully.

Critical thinking is like using your brain's "superpowers" to make smart choices. Whether it's picking the right insurance, deciding what to do in a job, or discussing topics in school, thinking deeply helps a lot. In the next parts, we'll share real-life examples of when this superpower comes in handy and give you some fun exercises to practice it.

Critical Thinking Process Outline

a woman thinking

Critical thinking means thinking clearly and fairly without letting personal feelings get in the way. It's like being a detective, trying to solve a mystery by using clues and thinking hard about them.

It isn't always easy to think critically, as it can take a pretty smart person to see some of the questions that aren't being answered in a certain situation. But, we can train our brains to think more like puzzle solvers, which can help develop our critical thinking skills.

Here's what it looks like step by step:

Spotting the Problem: It's like discovering a puzzle to solve. You see that there's something you need to figure out or decide.

Collecting Clues: Now, you need to gather information. Maybe you read about it, watch a video, talk to people, or do some research. It's like getting all the pieces to solve your puzzle.

Breaking It Down: This is where you look at all your clues and try to see how they fit together. You're asking questions like: Why did this happen? What could happen next?

Checking Your Clues: You want to make sure your information is good. This means seeing if what you found out is true and if you can trust where it came from.

Making a Guess: After looking at all your clues, you think about what they mean and come up with an answer. This answer is like your best guess based on what you know.

Explaining Your Thoughts: Now, you tell others how you solved the puzzle. You explain how you thought about it and how you answered. 

Checking Your Work: This is like looking back and seeing if you missed anything. Did you make any mistakes? Did you let any personal feelings get in the way? This step helps make sure your thinking is clear and fair.

And remember, you might sometimes need to go back and redo some steps if you discover something new. If you realize you missed an important clue, you might have to go back and collect more information.

Critical Thinking Methods

Just like doing push-ups or running helps our bodies get stronger, there are special exercises that help our brains think better. These brain workouts push us to think harder, look at things closely, and ask many questions.

It's not always about finding the "right" answer. Instead, it's about the journey of thinking and asking "why" or "how." Doing these exercises often helps us become better thinkers and makes us curious to know more about the world.

Now, let's look at some brain workouts to help us think better:

1. "What If" Scenarios

Imagine crazy things happening, like, "What if there was no internet for a month? What would we do?" These games help us think of new and different ideas.

Pick a hot topic. Argue one side of it and then try arguing the opposite. This makes us see different viewpoints and think deeply about a topic.

3. Analyze Visual Data

Check out charts or pictures with lots of numbers and info but no explanations. What story are they telling? This helps us get better at understanding information just by looking at it.

4. Mind Mapping

Write an idea in the center and then draw lines to related ideas. It's like making a map of your thoughts. This helps us see how everything is connected.

There's lots of mind-mapping software , but it's also nice to do this by hand.

5. Weekly Diary

Every week, write about what happened, the choices you made, and what you learned. Writing helps us think about our actions and how we can do better.

6. Evaluating Information Sources

Collect stories or articles about one topic from newspapers or blogs. Which ones are trustworthy? Which ones might be a little biased? This teaches us to be smart about where we get our info.

There are many resources to help you determine if information sources are factual or not.

7. Socratic Questioning

This way of thinking is called the Socrates Method, named after an old-time thinker from Greece. It's about asking lots of questions to understand a topic. You can do this by yourself or chat with a friend.

Start with a Big Question:

"What does 'success' mean?"

Dive Deeper with More Questions:

"Why do you think of success that way?" "Do TV shows, friends, or family make you think that?" "Does everyone think about success the same way?"

"Can someone be a winner even if they aren't rich or famous?" "Can someone feel like they didn't succeed, even if everyone else thinks they did?"

Look for Real-life Examples:

"Who is someone you think is successful? Why?" "Was there a time you felt like a winner? What happened?"

Think About Other People's Views:

"How might a person from another country think about success?" "Does the idea of success change as we grow up or as our life changes?"

Think About What It Means:

"How does your idea of success shape what you want in life?" "Are there problems with only wanting to be rich or famous?"

Look Back and Think:

"After talking about this, did your idea of success change? How?" "Did you learn something new about what success means?"

socratic dialogue statues

8. Six Thinking Hats 

Edward de Bono came up with a cool way to solve problems by thinking in six different ways, like wearing different colored hats. You can do this independently, but it might be more effective in a group so everyone can have a different hat color. Each color has its way of thinking:

White Hat (Facts): Just the facts! Ask, "What do we know? What do we need to find out?"

Red Hat (Feelings): Talk about feelings. Ask, "How do I feel about this?"

Black Hat (Careful Thinking): Be cautious. Ask, "What could go wrong?"

Yellow Hat (Positive Thinking): Look on the bright side. Ask, "What's good about this?"

Green Hat (Creative Thinking): Think of new ideas. Ask, "What's another way to look at this?"

Blue Hat (Planning): Organize the talk. Ask, "What should we do next?"

When using this method with a group:

  • Explain all the hats.
  • Decide which hat to wear first.
  • Make sure everyone switches hats at the same time.
  • Finish with the Blue Hat to plan the next steps.

9. SWOT Analysis

SWOT Analysis is like a game plan for businesses to know where they stand and where they should go. "SWOT" stands for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats.

There are a lot of SWOT templates out there for how to do this visually, but you can also think it through. It doesn't just apply to businesses but can be a good way to decide if a project you're working on is working.

Strengths: What's working well? Ask, "What are we good at?"

Weaknesses: Where can we do better? Ask, "Where can we improve?"

Opportunities: What good things might come our way? Ask, "What chances can we grab?"

Threats: What challenges might we face? Ask, "What might make things tough for us?"

Steps to do a SWOT Analysis:

  • Goal: Decide what you want to find out.
  • Research: Learn about your business and the world around it.
  • Brainstorm: Get a group and think together. Talk about strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats.
  • Pick the Most Important Points: Some things might be more urgent or important than others.
  • Make a Plan: Decide what to do based on your SWOT list.
  • Check Again Later: Things change, so look at your SWOT again after a while to update it.

Now that you have a few tools for thinking critically, let’s get into some specific examples.

Everyday Examples

Life is a series of decisions. From the moment we wake up, we're faced with choices – some trivial, like choosing a breakfast cereal, and some more significant, like buying a home or confronting an ethical dilemma at work. While it might seem that these decisions are disparate, they all benefit from the application of critical thinking.

10. Deciding to buy something

Imagine you want a new phone. Don't just buy it because the ad looks cool. Think about what you need in a phone. Look up different phones and see what people say about them. Choose the one that's the best deal for what you want.

11. Deciding what is true

There's a lot of news everywhere. Don't believe everything right away. Think about why someone might be telling you this. Check if what you're reading or watching is true. Make up your mind after you've looked into it.

12. Deciding when you’re wrong

Sometimes, friends can have disagreements. Don't just get mad right away. Try to see where they're coming from. Talk about what's going on. Find a way to fix the problem that's fair for everyone.

13. Deciding what to eat

There's always a new diet or exercise that's popular. Don't just follow it because it's trendy. Find out if it's good for you. Ask someone who knows, like a doctor. Make choices that make you feel good and stay healthy.

14. Deciding what to do today

Everyone is busy with school, chores, and hobbies. Make a list of things you need to do. Decide which ones are most important. Plan your day so you can get things done and still have fun.

15. Making Tough Choices

Sometimes, it's hard to know what's right. Think about how each choice will affect you and others. Talk to people you trust about it. Choose what feels right in your heart and is fair to others.

16. Planning for the Future

Big decisions, like where to go to school, can be tricky. Think about what you want in the future. Look at the good and bad of each choice. Talk to people who know about it. Pick what feels best for your dreams and goals.

choosing a house

Job Examples

17. solving problems.

Workers brainstorm ways to fix a machine quickly without making things worse when a machine breaks at a factory.

18. Decision Making

A store manager decides which products to order more of based on what's selling best.

19. Setting Goals

A team leader helps their team decide what tasks are most important to finish this month and which can wait.

20. Evaluating Ideas

At a team meeting, everyone shares ideas for a new project. The group discusses each idea's pros and cons before picking one.

21. Handling Conflict

Two workers disagree on how to do a job. Instead of arguing, they talk calmly, listen to each other, and find a solution they both like.

22. Improving Processes

A cashier thinks of a faster way to ring up items so customers don't have to wait as long.

23. Asking Questions

Before starting a big task, an employee asks for clear instructions and checks if they have the necessary tools.

24. Checking Facts

Before presenting a report, someone double-checks all their information to make sure there are no mistakes.

25. Planning for the Future

A business owner thinks about what might happen in the next few years, like new competitors or changes in what customers want, and makes plans based on those thoughts.

26. Understanding Perspectives

A team is designing a new toy. They think about what kids and parents would both like instead of just what they think is fun.

School Examples

27. researching a topic.

For a history project, a student looks up different sources to understand an event from multiple viewpoints.

28. Debating an Issue

In a class discussion, students pick sides on a topic, like school uniforms, and share reasons to support their views.

29. Evaluating Sources

While writing an essay, a student checks if the information from a website is trustworthy or might be biased.

30. Problem Solving in Math

When stuck on a tricky math problem, a student tries different methods to find the answer instead of giving up.

31. Analyzing Literature

In English class, students discuss why a character in a book made certain choices and what those decisions reveal about them.

32. Testing a Hypothesis

For a science experiment, students guess what will happen and then conduct tests to see if they're right or wrong.

33. Giving Peer Feedback

After reading a classmate's essay, a student offers suggestions for improving it.

34. Questioning Assumptions

In a geography lesson, students consider why certain countries are called "developed" and what that label means.

35. Designing a Study

For a psychology project, students plan an experiment to understand how people's memories work and think of ways to ensure accurate results.

36. Interpreting Data

In a science class, students look at charts and graphs from a study, then discuss what the information tells them and if there are any patterns.

Critical Thinking Puzzles

critical thinking tree

Not all scenarios will have a single correct answer that can be figured out by thinking critically. Sometimes we have to think critically about ethical choices or moral behaviors. 

Here are some mind games and scenarios you can solve using critical thinking. You can see the solution(s) at the end of the post.

37. The Farmer, Fox, Chicken, and Grain Problem

A farmer is at a riverbank with a fox, a chicken, and a grain bag. He needs to get all three items across the river. However, his boat can only carry himself and one of the three items at a time. 

Here's the challenge:

  • If the fox is left alone with the chicken, the fox will eat the chicken.
  • If the chicken is left alone with the grain, the chicken will eat the grain.

How can the farmer get all three items across the river without any item being eaten? 

38. The Rope, Jar, and Pebbles Problem

You are in a room with two long ropes hanging from the ceiling. Each rope is just out of arm's reach from the other, so you can't hold onto one rope and reach the other simultaneously. 

Your task is to tie the two rope ends together, but you can't move the position where they hang from the ceiling.

You are given a jar full of pebbles. How do you complete the task?

39. The Two Guards Problem

Imagine there are two doors. One door leads to certain doom, and the other leads to freedom. You don't know which is which.

In front of each door stands a guard. One guard always tells the truth. The other guard always lies. You don't know which guard is which.

You can ask only one question to one of the guards. What question should you ask to find the door that leads to freedom?

40. The Hourglass Problem

You have two hourglasses. One measures 7 minutes when turned over, and the other measures 4 minutes. Using just these hourglasses, how can you time exactly 9 minutes?

41. The Lifeboat Dilemma

Imagine you're on a ship that's sinking. You get on a lifeboat, but it's already too full and might flip over. 

Nearby in the water, five people are struggling: a scientist close to finding a cure for a sickness, an old couple who've been together for a long time, a mom with three kids waiting at home, and a tired teenager who helped save others but is now in danger. 

You can only save one person without making the boat flip. Who would you choose?

42. The Tech Dilemma

You work at a tech company and help make a computer program to help small businesses. You're almost ready to share it with everyone, but you find out there might be a small chance it has a problem that could show users' private info. 

If you decide to fix it, you must wait two more months before sharing it. But your bosses want you to share it now. What would you do?

43. The History Mystery

Dr. Amelia is a history expert. She's studying where a group of people traveled long ago. She reads old letters and documents to learn about it. But she finds some letters that tell a different story than what most people believe. 

If she says this new story is true, it could change what people learn in school and what they think about history. What should she do?

The Role of Bias in Critical Thinking

Have you ever decided you don’t like someone before you even know them? Or maybe someone shared an idea with you that you immediately loved without even knowing all the details. 

This experience is called bias, which occurs when you like or dislike something or someone without a good reason or knowing why. It can also take shape in certain reactions to situations, like a habit or instinct. 

Bias comes from our own experiences, what friends or family tell us, or even things we are born believing. Sometimes, bias can help us stay safe, but other times it stops us from seeing the truth.

Not all bias is bad. Bias can be a mechanism for assessing our potential safety in a new situation. If we are biased to think that anything long, thin, and curled up is a snake, we might assume the rope is something to be afraid of before we know it is just a rope.

While bias might serve us in some situations (like jumping out of the way of an actual snake before we have time to process that we need to be jumping out of the way), it often harms our ability to think critically.

How Bias Gets in the Way of Good Thinking

Selective Perception: We only notice things that match our ideas and ignore the rest. 

It's like only picking red candies from a mixed bowl because you think they taste the best, but they taste the same as every other candy in the bowl. It could also be when we see all the signs that our partner is cheating on us but choose to ignore them because we are happy the way we are (or at least, we think we are).

Agreeing with Yourself: This is called “ confirmation bias ” when we only listen to ideas that match our own and seek, interpret, and remember information in a way that confirms what we already think we know or believe. 

An example is when someone wants to know if it is safe to vaccinate their children but already believes that vaccines are not safe, so they only look for information supporting the idea that vaccines are bad.

Thinking We Know It All: Similar to confirmation bias, this is called “overconfidence bias.” Sometimes we think our ideas are the best and don't listen to others. This can stop us from learning.

Have you ever met someone who you consider a “know it”? Probably, they have a lot of overconfidence bias because while they may know many things accurately, they can’t know everything. Still, if they act like they do, they show overconfidence bias.

There's a weird kind of bias similar to this called the Dunning Kruger Effect, and that is when someone is bad at what they do, but they believe and act like they are the best .

Following the Crowd: This is formally called “groupthink”. It's hard to speak up with a different idea if everyone agrees. But this can lead to mistakes.

An example of this we’ve all likely seen is the cool clique in primary school. There is usually one person that is the head of the group, the “coolest kid in school”, and everyone listens to them and does what they want, even if they don’t think it’s a good idea.

How to Overcome Biases

Here are a few ways to learn to think better, free from our biases (or at least aware of them!).

Know Your Biases: Realize that everyone has biases. If we know about them, we can think better.

Listen to Different People: Talking to different kinds of people can give us new ideas.

Ask Why: Always ask yourself why you believe something. Is it true, or is it just a bias?

Understand Others: Try to think about how others feel. It helps you see things in new ways.

Keep Learning: Always be curious and open to new information.

city in a globe connection

In today's world, everything changes fast, and there's so much information everywhere. This makes critical thinking super important. It helps us distinguish between what's real and what's made up. It also helps us make good choices. But thinking this way can be tough sometimes because of biases. These are like sneaky thoughts that can trick us. The good news is we can learn to see them and think better.

There are cool tools and ways we've talked about, like the "Socratic Questioning" method and the "Six Thinking Hats." These tools help us get better at thinking. These thinking skills can also help us in school, work, and everyday life.

We’ve also looked at specific scenarios where critical thinking would be helpful, such as deciding what diet to follow and checking facts.

Thinking isn't just a skill—it's a special talent we improve over time. Working on it lets us see things more clearly and understand the world better. So, keep practicing and asking questions! It'll make you a smarter thinker and help you see the world differently.

Critical Thinking Puzzles (Solutions)

The farmer, fox, chicken, and grain problem.

  • The farmer first takes the chicken across the river and leaves it on the other side.
  • He returns to the original side and takes the fox across the river.
  • After leaving the fox on the other side, he returns the chicken to the starting side.
  • He leaves the chicken on the starting side and takes the grain bag across the river.
  • He leaves the grain with the fox on the other side and returns to get the chicken.
  • The farmer takes the chicken across, and now all three items -- the fox, the chicken, and the grain -- are safely on the other side of the river.

The Rope, Jar, and Pebbles Problem

  • Take one rope and tie the jar of pebbles to its end.
  • Swing the rope with the jar in a pendulum motion.
  • While the rope is swinging, grab the other rope and wait.
  • As the swinging rope comes back within reach due to its pendulum motion, grab it.
  • With both ropes within reach, untie the jar and tie the rope ends together.

The Two Guards Problem

The question is, "What would the other guard say is the door to doom?" Then choose the opposite door.

The Hourglass Problem

  • Start both hourglasses. 
  • When the 4-minute hourglass runs out, turn it over.
  • When the 7-minute hourglass runs out, the 4-minute hourglass will have been running for 3 minutes. Turn the 7-minute hourglass over. 
  • When the 4-minute hourglass runs out for the second time (a total of 8 minutes have passed), the 7-minute hourglass will run for 1 minute. Turn the 7-minute hourglass again for 1 minute to empty the hourglass (a total of 9 minutes passed).

The Boat and Weights Problem

Take the cat over first and leave it on the other side. Then, return and take the fish across next. When you get there, take the cat back with you. Leave the cat on the starting side and take the cat food across. Lastly, return to get the cat and bring it to the other side.

The Lifeboat Dilemma

There isn’t one correct answer to this problem. Here are some elements to consider:

  • Moral Principles: What values guide your decision? Is it the potential greater good for humanity (the scientist)? What is the value of long-standing love and commitment (the elderly couple)? What is the future of young children who depend on their mothers? Or the selfless bravery of the teenager?
  • Future Implications: Consider the future consequences of each choice. Saving the scientist might benefit millions in the future, but what moral message does it send about the value of individual lives?
  • Emotional vs. Logical Thinking: While it's essential to engage empathy, it's also crucial not to let emotions cloud judgment entirely. For instance, while the teenager's bravery is commendable, does it make him more deserving of a spot on the boat than the others?
  • Acknowledging Uncertainty: The scientist claims to be close to a significant breakthrough, but there's no certainty. How does this uncertainty factor into your decision?
  • Personal Bias: Recognize and challenge any personal biases, such as biases towards age, profession, or familial status.

The Tech Dilemma

Again, there isn’t one correct answer to this problem. Here are some elements to consider:

  • Evaluate the Risk: How severe is the potential vulnerability? Can it be easily exploited, or would it require significant expertise? Even if the circumstances are rare, what would be the consequences if the vulnerability were exploited?
  • Stakeholder Considerations: Different stakeholders will have different priorities. Upper management might prioritize financial projections, the marketing team might be concerned about the product's reputation, and customers might prioritize the security of their data. How do you balance these competing interests?
  • Short-Term vs. Long-Term Implications: While launching on time could meet immediate financial goals, consider the potential long-term damage to the company's reputation if the vulnerability is exploited. Would the short-term gains be worth the potential long-term costs?
  • Ethical Implications : Beyond the financial and reputational aspects, there's an ethical dimension to consider. Is it right to release a product with a known vulnerability, even if the chances of it being exploited are low?
  • Seek External Input: Consulting with cybersecurity experts outside your company might be beneficial. They could provide a more objective risk assessment and potential mitigation strategies.
  • Communication: How will you communicate the decision, whatever it may be, both internally to your team and upper management and externally to your customers and potential users?

The History Mystery

Dr. Amelia should take the following steps:

  • Verify the Letters: Before making any claims, she should check if the letters are actual and not fake. She can do this by seeing when and where they were written and if they match with other things from that time.
  • Get a Second Opinion: It's always good to have someone else look at what you've found. Dr. Amelia could show the letters to other history experts and see their thoughts.
  • Research More: Maybe there are more documents or letters out there that support this new story. Dr. Amelia should keep looking to see if she can find more evidence.
  • Share the Findings: If Dr. Amelia believes the letters are true after all her checks, she should tell others. This can be through books, talks, or articles.
  • Stay Open to Feedback: Some people might agree with Dr. Amelia, and others might not. She should listen to everyone and be ready to learn more or change her mind if new information arises.

Ultimately, Dr. Amelia's job is to find out the truth about history and share it. It's okay if this new truth differs from what people used to believe. History is about learning from the past, no matter the story.

Related posts:

  • Experimenter Bias (Definition + Examples)
  • Hasty Generalization Fallacy (31 Examples + Similar Names)
  • Ad Hoc Fallacy (29 Examples + Other Names)
  • Confirmation Bias (Examples + Definition)
  • Equivocation Fallacy (26 Examples + Description)

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Critical Thinking Definition, Skills, and Examples

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Critical thinking refers to the ability to analyze information objectively and make a reasoned judgment. It involves the evaluation of sources, such as data, facts, observable phenomena, and research findings.

Good critical thinkers can draw reasonable conclusions from a set of information, and discriminate between useful and less useful details to solve problems or make decisions. Employers prioritize the ability to think critically—find out why, plus see how you can demonstrate that you have this ability throughout the job application process. 

Why Do Employers Value Critical Thinking Skills?

Employers want job candidates who can evaluate a situation using logical thought and offer the best solution.

 Someone with critical thinking skills can be trusted to make decisions independently, and will not need constant handholding.

Hiring a critical thinker means that micromanaging won't be required. Critical thinking abilities are among the most sought-after skills in almost every industry and workplace. You can demonstrate critical thinking by using related keywords in your resume and cover letter, and during your interview.

Examples of Critical Thinking

The circumstances that demand critical thinking vary from industry to industry. Some examples include:

  • A triage nurse analyzes the cases at hand and decides the order by which the patients should be treated.
  • A plumber evaluates the materials that would best suit a particular job.
  • An attorney reviews evidence and devises a strategy to win a case or to decide whether to settle out of court.
  • A manager analyzes customer feedback forms and uses this information to develop a customer service training session for employees.

Promote Your Skills in Your Job Search

If critical thinking is a key phrase in the job listings you are applying for, be sure to emphasize your critical thinking skills throughout your job search.

Add Keywords to Your Resume

You can use critical thinking keywords (analytical, problem solving, creativity, etc.) in your resume. When describing your  work history , include top critical thinking skills that accurately describe you. You can also include them in your  resume summary , if you have one.

For example, your summary might read, “Marketing Associate with five years of experience in project management. Skilled in conducting thorough market research and competitor analysis to assess market trends and client needs, and to develop appropriate acquisition tactics.”

Mention Skills in Your Cover Letter

Include these critical thinking skills in your cover letter. In the body of your letter, mention one or two of these skills, and give specific examples of times when you have demonstrated them at work. Think about times when you had to analyze or evaluate materials to solve a problem.

Show the Interviewer Your Skills

You can use these skill words in an interview. Discuss a time when you were faced with a particular problem or challenge at work and explain how you applied critical thinking to solve it.

Some interviewers will give you a hypothetical scenario or problem, and ask you to use critical thinking skills to solve it. In this case, explain your thought process thoroughly to the interviewer. He or she is typically more focused on how you arrive at your solution rather than the solution itself. The interviewer wants to see you analyze and evaluate (key parts of critical thinking) the given scenario or problem.

Of course, each job will require different skills and experiences, so make sure you read the job description carefully and focus on the skills listed by the employer.

Top Critical Thinking Skills

Keep these in-demand critical thinking skills in mind as you update your resume and write your cover letter. As you've seen, you can also emphasize them at other points throughout the application process, such as your interview. 

Part of critical thinking is the ability to carefully examine something, whether it is a problem, a set of data, or a text. People with  analytical skills  can examine information, understand what it means, and properly explain to others the implications of that information.

  • Asking Thoughtful Questions
  • Data Analysis
  • Interpretation
  • Questioning Evidence
  • Recognizing Patterns


Often, you will need to share your conclusions with your employers or with a group of colleagues. You need to be able to  communicate with others  to share your ideas effectively. You might also need to engage in critical thinking in a group. In this case, you will need to work with others and communicate effectively to figure out solutions to complex problems.

  • Active Listening
  • Collaboration
  • Explanation
  • Interpersonal
  • Presentation
  • Verbal Communication
  • Written Communication

Critical thinking often involves creativity and innovation. You might need to spot patterns in the information you are looking at or come up with a solution that no one else has thought of before. All of this involves a creative eye that can take a different approach from all other approaches.

  • Flexibility
  • Conceptualization
  • Imagination
  • Drawing Connections
  • Synthesizing


To think critically, you need to be able to put aside any assumptions or judgments and merely analyze the information you receive. You need to be objective, evaluating ideas without bias.

  • Objectivity
  • Observation

Problem Solving

Problem-solving is another critical thinking skill that involves analyzing a problem, generating and implementing a solution, and assessing the success of the plan. Employers don’t simply want employees who can think about information critically. They also need to be able to come up with practical solutions.

  • Attention to Detail
  • Clarification
  • Decision Making
  • Groundedness
  • Identifying Patterns

More Critical Thinking Skills

  • Inductive Reasoning
  • Deductive Reasoning
  • Noticing Outliers
  • Adaptability
  • Emotional Intelligence
  • Brainstorming
  • Optimization
  • Restructuring
  • Integration
  • Strategic Planning
  • Project Management
  • Ongoing Improvement
  • Causal Relationships
  • Case Analysis
  • Diagnostics
  • SWOT Analysis
  • Business Intelligence
  • Quantitative Data Management
  • Qualitative Data Management
  • Risk Management
  • Scientific Method
  • Consumer Behavior

Key Takeaways

  • Demonstrate that you have critical thinking skills by adding relevant keywords to your resume.
  • Mention pertinent critical thinking skills in your cover letter, too, and include an example of a time when you demonstrated them at work.
  • Finally, highlight critical thinking skills during your interview. For instance, you might discuss a time when you were faced with a challenge at work and explain how you applied critical thinking skills to solve it.

University of Louisville. " What is Critical Thinking ."

American Management Association. " AMA Critical Skills Survey: Workers Need Higher Level Skills to Succeed in the 21st Century ."

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How to build your critical thinking skills in 7 steps (with examples)

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Critical thinking is, well, critical. By building these skills, you improve your ability to analyze information and come to the best decision possible. In this article, we cover the basics of critical thinking, as well as the seven steps you can use to implement the full critical thinking process. 

Critical thinking comes from asking the right questions to come to the best conclusion possible. Strong critical thinkers analyze information from a variety of viewpoints in order to identify the best course of action.

Don’t worry if you don’t think you have strong critical thinking abilities. In this article, we’ll help you build a foundation for critical thinking so you can absorb, analyze, and make informed decisions. 

What is critical thinking? 

Critical thinking is the ability to collect and analyze information to come to a conclusion. Being able to think critically is important in virtually every industry and applicable across a wide range of positions. That’s because critical thinking isn’t subject-specific—rather, it’s your ability to parse through information, data, statistics, and other details in order to identify a satisfactory solution. 

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Top 8 critical thinking skills

Like most soft skills, critical thinking isn’t something you can take a class to learn. Rather, this skill consists of a variety of interpersonal and analytical skills. Developing critical thinking is more about learning to embrace open-mindedness and bringing analytical thinking to your problem framing process. 

In no particular order, the eight most important critical thinking skills are:

Analytical thinking: Part of critical thinking is evaluating data from multiple sources in order to come to the best conclusions. Analytical thinking allows people to reject bias and strive to gather and consume information to come to the best conclusion. 

Open-mindedness: This critical thinking skill helps you analyze and process information to come to an unbiased conclusion. Part of the critical thinking process is letting your personal biases go and coming to a conclusion based on all of the information. 

Problem solving : Because critical thinking emphasizes coming to the best conclusion based on all of the available information, it’s a key part of problem solving. When used correctly, critical thinking helps you solve any problem—from a workplace challenge to difficulties in everyday life. 

Self-regulation: Self-regulation refers to the ability to regulate your thoughts and set aside any personal biases to come to the best conclusion. In order to be an effective critical thinker, you need to question the information you have and the decisions you favor—only then can you come to the best conclusion. 

Observation: Observation skills help critical thinkers look for things beyond face value. To be a critical thinker you need to embrace multiple points of view, and you can use observation skills to identify potential problems.

Interpretation: Not all data is made equal—and critical thinkers know this. In addition to gathering information, it’s important to evaluate which information is important and relevant to your situation. That way, you can draw the best conclusions from the data you’ve collected. 

Evaluation: When you attempt to answer a hard question, there is rarely an obvious answer. Even though critical thinking emphasizes putting your biases aside, you need to be able to confidently make a decision based on the data you have available. 

Communication: Once a decision has been made, you also need to share this decision with other stakeholders. Effective workplace communication includes presenting evidence and supporting your conclusion—especially if there are a variety of different possible solutions. 

7 steps to critical thinking

Critical thinking is a skill that you can build by following these seven steps. The seven steps to critical thinking help you ensure you’re approaching a problem from the right angle, considering every alternative, and coming to an unbiased conclusion.

 First things first: When to use the 7 step critical thinking process

There’s a lot that goes into the full critical thinking process, and not every decision needs to be this thought out. Sometimes, it’s enough to put aside bias and approach a process logically. In other, more complex cases, the best way to identify the ideal outcome is to go through the entire critical thinking process. 

The seven-step critical thinking process is useful for complex decisions in areas you are less familiar with. Alternatively, the seven critical thinking steps can help you look at a problem you’re familiar with from a different angle, without any bias. 

If you need to make a less complex decision, consider another problem solving strategy instead. Decision matrices are a great way to identify the best option between different choices. Check out our article on 7 steps to creating a decision matrix .

1. Identify the problem

Before you put those critical thinking skills to work, you first need to identify the problem you’re solving. This step includes taking a look at the problem from a few different perspectives and asking questions like: 

What’s happening? 

Why is this happening? 

What assumptions am I making? 

At first glance, how do I think we can solve this problem? 

A big part of developing your critical thinking skills is learning how to come to unbiased conclusions. In order to do that, you first need to acknowledge the biases that you currently have. Does someone on your team think they know the answer? Are you making assumptions that aren’t necessarily true? Identifying these details helps you later on in the process. 

2. Research

At this point, you likely have a general idea of the problem—but in order to come up with the best solution, you need to dig deeper. 

During the research process, collect information relating to the problem, including data, statistics, historical project information, team input, and more. Make sure you gather information from a variety of sources, especially if those sources go against your personal ideas about what the problem is or how to solve it.

Gathering varied information is essential for your ability to apply the critical thinking process. If you don’t get enough information, your ability to make a final decision will be skewed. Remember that critical thinking is about helping you identify the objective best conclusion. You aren’t going with your gut—you’re doing research to find the best option

3. Determine data relevance

Just as it’s important to gather a variety of information, it is also important to determine how relevant the different information sources are. After all, just because there is data doesn’t mean it’s relevant. 

Once you’ve gathered all of the information, sift through the noise and identify what information is relevant and what information isn’t. Synthesizing all of this information and establishing significance helps you weigh different data sources and come to the best conclusion later on in the critical thinking process. 

To determine data relevance, ask yourself:

How reliable is this information? 

How significant is this information? 

Is this information outdated? Is it specialized in a specific field? 

4. Ask questions

One of the most useful parts of the critical thinking process is coming to a decision without bias. In order to do so, you need to take a step back from the process and challenge the assumptions you’re making. 

We all have bias—and that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Unconscious biases (also known as cognitive biases) often serve as mental shortcuts to simplify problem solving and aid decision making. But even when biases aren’t inherently bad, you must be aware of your biases in order to put them aside when necessary. 

Before coming to a solution, ask yourself:

Am I making any assumptions about this information? 

Are there additional variables I haven’t considered? 

Have I evaluated the information from every perspective? 

Are there any viewpoints I missed? 

5. Identify the best solution

Finally, you’re ready to come to a conclusion. To identify the best solution, draw connections between causes and effects. Use the facts you’ve gathered to evaluate the most objective conclusion. 

Keep in mind that there may be more than one solution. Often, the problems you’re facing are complex and intricate. The critical thinking process doesn’t necessarily lead to a cut-and-dry solution—instead, the process helps you understand the different variables at play so you can make an informed decision. 

6. Present your solution

Communication is a key skill for critical thinkers. It isn’t enough to think for yourself—you also need to share your conclusion with other project stakeholders. If there are multiple solutions, present them all. There may be a case where you implement one solution, then test to see if it works before implementing another solution. 

7. Analyze your decision

The seven-step critical thinking process yields a result—and you then need to put that solution into place. After you’ve implemented your decision, evaluate whether or not it was effective. Did it solve the initial problem? What lessons—whether positive or negative—can you learn from this experience to improve your critical thinking for next time? 

Depending on how your team shares information, consider documenting lessons learned in a central source of truth. That way, team members that are making similar or related decisions in the future can understand why you made the decision you made and what the outcome was. 

Example of critical thinking in the workplace

Imagine you work in user experience design (UX). Your team is focused on pricing and packaging and ensuring customers have a clear understanding of the different services your company offers. Here’s how to apply the critical thinking process in the workplace in seven steps: 

Start by identifying the problem

Your current pricing page isn’t performing as well as you want. You’ve heard from customers that your services aren’t clear, and that the page doesn’t answer the questions they have. This page is really important for your company, since it’s where your customers sign up for your service. You and your team have a few theories about why your current page isn’t performing well, but you decide to apply the critical thinking process to ensure you come to the best decision for the page. 

Gather information about how the problem started

Part of identifying the problem includes understanding how the problem started. The pricing and packaging page is important—so when your team initially designed the page, they certainly put a lot of thought into it. Before you begin researching how to improve the page, ask yourself: 

Why did you design the pricing page the way you did? 

Which stakeholders need to be involved in the decision making process? 

Where are users getting stuck on the page?

Are any features currently working?

Then, you research

In addition to understanding the history of the pricing and packaging page, it’s important to understand what works well. Part of this research means taking a look at what your competitor’s pricing pages look like. 

Ask yourself: 

How have our competitors set up their pricing pages?

Are there any pricing page best practices? 

How does color, positioning, and animation impact navigation? 

Are there any standard page layouts customers expect to see? 

Organize and analyze information

You’ve gathered all of the information you need—now you need to organize and analyze it. What trends, if any, are you noticing? Is there any particularly relevant or important information that you have to consider? 

Ask open-ended questions to reduce bias

In the case of critical thinking, it’s important to address and set bias aside as much as possible. Ask yourself: 

Is there anything I’m missing? 

Have I connected with the right stakeholders? 

Are there any other viewpoints I should consider? 

Determine the best solution for your team

You now have all of the information you need to design the best pricing page. Depending on the complexity of the design, you may want to design a few options to present to a small group of customers or A/B test on the live website.

Present your solution to stakeholders

Critical thinking can help you in every element of your life, but in the workplace, you must also involve key project stakeholders . Stakeholders help you determine next steps, like whether you’ll A/B test the page first. Depending on the complexity of the issue, consider hosting a meeting or sharing a status report to get everyone on the same page. 

Analyze the results

No process is complete without evaluating the results. Once the new page has been live for some time, evaluate whether it did better than the previous page. What worked? What didn’t? This also helps you make better critical decisions later on.

Critically successful 

Critical thinking takes time to build, but with effort and patience you can apply an unbiased, analytical mind to any situation. Critical thinking makes up one of many soft skills that makes you an effective team member, manager, and worker. If you’re looking to hone your skills further, read our article on the 25 project management skills you need to succeed . 

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9 characteristics of critical thinking (and how you can develop them)

9 characteristics of critical thinking (and how you can develop them)

It's no secret that critical thinking is essential for growth and success. Yet many people aren't quite sure what it means — it sounds like being a critic or cynical, traits that many people want to avoid.

However, thinking critically isn't about being negative. On the contrary, effective critical thinkers possess many positive traits. Attributes like curiosity, compassion, and communication are among the top commonalities that critical thinkers share, and the good news is that we can all learn to develop these capabilities.

This article will discuss some of the principal characteristics of critical thinking and how developing these qualities can help you improve your decision-making and problem-solving skills. With a bit of self-reflection and practice, you'll be well on your way to making better decisions, solving complex problems, and achieving success across all areas of your life.

What is critical thinking?

Scholarly works on critical thinking propose many ways of interpreting the concept ( at least 17 in one reference! ), making it challenging to pinpoint one exact definition. In general, critical thinking refers to rational, goal-directed thought through logical arguments and reasoning. We use critical thinking to objectively assess and evaluate information to form reasonable judgments.

Critical thinking has its roots in ancient Greece. The philosopher Socrates is credited with being one of the first to encourage his students to think critically about their beliefs and ideas. Socrates believed that by encouraging people to question their assumptions, they would be able to see the flaws in their reasoning and improve their thought processes.

Today, critical thinking skills are considered vital for success in academia and everyday life. One of the defining " 21st-century skills ," critical thinking is integral to problem-solving, decision making, and goal setting.

Why is it necessary to develop critical thinking skills?

Characteristics of critical thinking: question marks and a light bulb icon

Critical thinking skills help us learn new information, understand complex concepts, and make better decisions. The ability to be objective and reasonable is an asset that can enhance personal and professional relationships.

The U.S. Department of Labor reports critical thinking is among the top desired skills in the workplace. The ability to develop a properly thought-out solution in a reasonable amount of time is highly valued by employers. Companies want employees who can solve problems independently and work well in a team. A desirable employee can evaluate situations critically and creatively, collaborate with others, and make sound judgments.

Critical thinking is an essential component of academic study as well. Critical thinking skills are vital to learners because they allow students to build on their prior knowledge and construct new understandings. This will enable learners to expand their knowledge and experience across various subjects.

Despite its importance, though, critical thinking is not something that we develop naturally or casually. Even though critical thinking is considered an essential learning outcome in many universities, only 45% of college students in a well-known study reported that their skills had improved after two years of classes.

9 characteristics of critical thinking

Clearly, improving our ability to think critically will require some self-improvement work. As lifelong learners, we can use this opportunity for self-reflection to identify where we can improve our thinking processes.

Strong critical thinkers possess a common set of personality traits, habits, and dispositions. Being aware of these attributes and putting them into action can help us develop a strong foundation for critical thinking. These essential characteristics of critical thinking can be used as a toolkit for applying specific thinking processes to any given situation.

Characteristics of critical thinking: illustration of a human head with a lightbulb in it

Curiosity is one of the most significant characteristics of critical thinking. Research has shown that a state of curiosity drives us to continually seek new information . This inquisitiveness supports critical thinking as we need to constantly expand our knowledge to make well-informed decisions.

Curiosity also facilitates critical thinking because it encourages us to question our thoughts and mental models, the filters we use to understand the world. This is essential to avoid critical thinking barriers like biases and misconceptions. Challenging our beliefs and getting curious about all sides of an issue will help us have an open mind during the critical thinking process.

Actionable Tip: Choose to be curious. When you ask “why,” you learn about things around you and clarify ambiguities. Google anything you are curious about, read new books, and play with a child. Kids have a natural curiosity that can be inspiring.

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2. Analytical

Investigation is a crucial component of critical thinking, so it's important to be analytical. Analytical thinking involves breaking down complex ideas into their simplest forms . The first step when tackling a problem or making a decision is to analyze information and consider it in smaller pieces. Then, we use critical thinking by gathering additional information before getting to a judgment or solution.

Being analytical is helpful for critical thinking because it allows us to look at data in detail. When examining an issue from various perspectives, we should pay close attention to these details to arrive at a decision based on facts. Taking these steps is crucial to making good decisions.

Actionable Tip: Become aware of your daily surroundings. Examine how things work — breaking things down into steps will encourage analysis. You can also play brain and puzzle games. These provide an enjoyable way to stimulate analytical thinking.

3. Introspective

Critical thinkers are typically introspective. Introspection is a process of examining our own thoughts and feelings. We do this as a form of metacognition, or thinking about thinking. Researchers believe that we can improve our problem-solving skills by using metacognition to analyze our reasoning processes .

Being introspective is essential to critical thinking because it helps us be self-aware. Self-awareness encourages us to acknowledge and face our own biases, prejudices, and selfish tendencies. If we know our assumptions, we can question them and suspend judgment until we have all the facts.

Actionable Tip: Start a journal. Keep track of your thoughts, feelings, and opinions throughout the day, especially when faced with difficult decisions. Look for patterns. You can avoid common thought fallacies by being aware of them.

4. Able to make inferences

Another characteristic of critical thinking is the ability to make inferences, which are logical conclusions based on reviewing the facts, events, and ideas available. Analyzing the available information and observing patterns and trends will help you find relationships and make informed decisions based on what is likely to happen.

The ability to distinguish assumptions from inferences is crucial to critical thinking. We decide something is true by inference because another thing is also true, but we decide something by assumption because of what we believe or think we know. While both assumptions and inferences can be valid or invalid, inferences are more rational because data support them.

Actionable Tip: Keep an eye on your choices and patterns during the day, noticing when you infer. Practice applying the Inference Equation — I observe + I already know = So now I am thinking — to help distinguish when you infer or assume.

5. Observant

Wooden blocks with icons of the 5 senses

Observation skills are also a key part of critical thinking. Observation is more than just looking — it involves arranging, combining, and classifying information through all five senses to build understanding. People with keen observation skills notice small details and catch slight changes in their surroundings.

Observation is one of the first skills we learn as children , and it is critical for problem-solving. Being observant allows us to collect more information about a situation and use that information to make better decisions and solve problems. Further, it facilitates seeing things from different perspectives and finding alternative solutions.

Actionable Tip: Limit your use of devices, and be mindful of your surroundings. Notice and name one thing for each of your five senses when you enter a new environment or even a familiar one. Being aware of what you see, hear, smell, taste, and touch allows you to fully experience the moment and it develops your ability to observe your surroundings.

6. Open-minded and compassionate

Open-minded and compassionate people are good critical thinkers. Being open-minded means considering new ideas and perspectives, even if they conflict with your own. This allows you to examine different sides of an issue without immediately dismissing them. Likewise, compassionate people can empathize with others, even if they disagree. When you understand another person's point of view, you can find common ground and understanding.

Critical thinking requires an open mind when analyzing opposing arguments and compassion when listening to the perspective of others. By exploring different viewpoints and seeking to understand others' perspectives, critical thinkers can gain a more well-rounded understanding of an issue. Using this deeper understanding, we can make better decisions and solve more complex problems.

Actionable Tip: Cultivate open-mindedness and compassion by regularly exposing yourself to new ideas and views. Read books on unfamiliar topics, listen to podcasts with diverse opinions, or talk with people from different backgrounds.

7. Able to determine relevance

The ability to assess relevance is an essential characteristic of critical thinking. Relevance is defined as being logically connected and significant to the subject. When a fact or statement is essential to a topic, it can be deemed relevant.

Relevance plays a vital role in many stages of the critical thinking process . It's especially crucial to identify the most pertinent facts before evaluating an argument. Despite being accurate and seemingly meaningful, a point may not matter much to your subject. Your criteria and standards are equally relevant, as you can't make a sound decision with irrelevant guidelines.

Actionable Tip: When you're in a conversation, pay attention to how each statement relates to what you're talking about. It's surprising how often we stray from the point with irrelevant information. Asking yourself, "How does that relate to the topic?" can help you spot unrelated issues.

I CAN or I WILL written in wooden blocks

Critical thinking requires willingness. Some scholars argue that the "willingness to inquire" is the most fundamental characteristic of critical thinking , which encompasses all the others. Being willing goes hand in hand with other traits, like being flexible and humble. Flexible thinkers are willing to adapt their thinking to new evidence or arguments. Those who are humble are willing to acknowledge their faults and recognize their limitations.

It's essential for critical thinking that we have an open mind and are willing to challenge the status quo. The willingness to question assumptions, consider multiple perspectives, and think outside the box allows critical thinkers to reach new and necessary conclusions.

Actionable Tip: Cultivate willingness by adopting a growth mindset. See challenges as learning opportunities. Celebrate others' accomplishments, and get curious about what led to their success.

9. Effective communicators

Being a good critical thinker requires effective communication. Effective critical thinkers know that communication is imperative when solving problems. They can articulate their goals and concerns clearly while recognizing others' perspectives. Critical thinking requires people to be able to listen to each other's opinions and share their experiences respectfully to find the best solutions.

A good communicator is also an attentive and active listener. Listening actively goes beyond simply hearing what someone says. Being engaged in the discussion involves:

  • Listening to what they say
  • Being present
  • Asking questions that clarify their position

Actively listening is crucial for critical thinking because it helps us understand other people's perspectives.

Actionable Tip: The next time you speak with a friend, family member, or even a complete stranger, take the time to genuinely listen to what they're saying. It may surprise you how much you can learn about others — and about yourself — when you take the time to listen carefully.

The nine traits above represent just a few of the most common characteristics of critical thinking. By developing or strengthening these characteristics, you can enhance your capacity for critical thinking.

Get to the core of critical thinking

Critical thinking is essential for success in every aspect of life, from personal relationships to professional careers. By developing your critical thinking skills , you can challenge the status quo and gain a new perspective on the world around you. You can start improving your critical thinking skills today by determining which characteristics of critical thinking you need to work on and using the actionable tips to strengthen them. With practice, you can become a great critical thinker.

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Erin E. Rupp

Erin E. Rupp

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Why Is Critical Thinking Important? A Survival Guide


Why is critical thinking important? The decisions that you make affect your quality of life. And if you want to ensure that you live your best, most successful and happy life, you’re going to want to make conscious choices. That can be done with a simple thing known as critical thinking. Here’s how to improve your critical thinking skills and make decisions that you won’t regret.

What Is Critical Thinking?

You’ve surely heard of critical thinking, but you might not be entirely sure what it really means, and that’s because there are many definitions. For the most part, however, we think of critical thinking as the process of analyzing facts in order to form a judgment. Basically, it’s thinking about thinking.

How Has The Definition Evolved Over Time?

The first time critical thinking was documented is believed to be in the teachings of Socrates , recorded by Plato. But throughout history, the definition has changed.

Today it is best understood by philosophers and psychologists and it’s believed to be a highly complex concept. Some insightful modern-day critical thinking definitions include :

  • “Reasonable, reflective thinking that is focused on deciding what to believe or do.”
  • “Deciding what’s true and what you should do.”

The Importance Of Critical Thinking

Why is critical thinking important? Good question! Here are a few undeniable reasons why it’s crucial to have these skills.

1. Critical Thinking Is Universal

Critical thinking is a domain-general thinking skill. What does this mean? It means that no matter what path or profession you pursue, these skills will always be relevant and will always be beneficial to your success. They are not specific to any field.

2. Crucial For The Economy

Our future depends on technology, information, and innovation. Critical thinking is needed for our fast-growing economies, to solve problems as quickly and as effectively as possible.

3. Improves Language & Presentation Skills

In order to best express ourselves, we need to know how to think clearly and systematically — meaning practice critical thinking! Critical thinking also means knowing how to break down texts, and in turn, improve our ability to comprehend.

4. Promotes Creativity

By practicing critical thinking, we are allowing ourselves not only to solve problems but also to come up with new and creative ideas to do so. Critical thinking allows us to analyze these ideas and adjust them accordingly.

5. Important For Self-Reflection

Without critical thinking, how can we really live a meaningful life? We need this skill to self-reflect and justify our ways of life and opinions. Critical thinking provides us with the tools to evaluate ourselves in the way that we need to.

Woman deep into thought as she looks out the window, using her critical thinking skills to do some self-reflection.

6. The Basis Of Science & Democracy

In order to have a democracy and to prove scientific facts, we need critical thinking in the world. Theories must be backed up with knowledge. In order for a society to effectively function, its citizens need to establish opinions about what’s right and wrong (by using critical thinking!).

Benefits Of Critical Thinking

We know that critical thinking is good for society as a whole, but what are some benefits of critical thinking on an individual level? Why is critical thinking important for us?

1. Key For Career Success

Critical thinking is crucial for many career paths. Not just for scientists, but lawyers , doctors, reporters, engineers , accountants, and analysts (among many others) all have to use critical thinking in their positions. In fact, according to the World Economic Forum, critical thinking is one of the most desirable skills to have in the workforce, as it helps analyze information, think outside the box, solve problems with innovative solutions, and plan systematically.

2. Better Decision Making

There’s no doubt about it — critical thinkers make the best choices. Critical thinking helps us deal with everyday problems as they come our way, and very often this thought process is even done subconsciously. It helps us think independently and trust our gut feeling.

3. Can Make You Happier!

While this often goes unnoticed, being in touch with yourself and having a deep understanding of why you think the way you think can really make you happier. Critical thinking can help you better understand yourself, and in turn, help you avoid any kind of negative or limiting beliefs, and focus more on your strengths. Being able to share your thoughts can increase your quality of life.

4. Form Well-Informed Opinions

There is no shortage of information coming at us from all angles. And that’s exactly why we need to use our critical thinking skills and decide for ourselves what to believe. Critical thinking allows us to ensure that our opinions are based on the facts, and help us sort through all that extra noise.

5. Better Citizens

One of the most inspiring critical thinking quotes is by former US president Thomas Jefferson: “An educated citizenry is a vital requisite for our survival as a free people.” What Jefferson is stressing to us here is that critical thinkers make better citizens, as they are able to see the entire picture without getting sucked into biases and propaganda.

6. Improves Relationships

While you may be convinced that being a critical thinker is bound to cause you problems in relationships, this really couldn’t be less true! Being a critical thinker can allow you to better understand the perspective of others, and can help you become more open-minded towards different views.

7. Promotes Curiosity

Critical thinkers are constantly curious about all kinds of things in life, and tend to have a wide range of interests. Critical thinking means constantly asking questions and wanting to know more, about why, what, who, where, when, and everything else that can help them make sense of a situation or concept, never taking anything at face value.

8. Allows For Creativity

Critical thinkers are also highly creative thinkers, and see themselves as limitless when it comes to possibilities. They are constantly looking to take things further, which is crucial in the workforce.

9. Enhances Problem Solving Skills

Those with critical thinking skills tend to solve problems as part of their natural instinct. Critical thinkers are patient and committed to solving the problem, similar to Albert Einstein, one of the best critical thinking examples, who said “It’s not that I’m so smart; it’s just that I stay with problems longer.” Critical thinkers’ enhanced problem-solving skills makes them better at their jobs and better at solving the world’s biggest problems. Like Einstein, they have the potential to literally change the world.

10. An Activity For The Mind

Just like our muscles, in order for them to be strong, our mind also needs to be exercised and challenged. It’s safe to say that critical thinking is almost like an activity for the mind — and it needs to be practiced. Critical thinking encourages the development of many crucial skills such as logical thinking, decision making, and open-mindness.

11. Creates Independence

When we think critically, we think on our own as we trust ourselves more. Critical thinking is key to creating independence, and encouraging students to make their own decisions and form their own opinions.

12. Crucial Life Skill

Critical thinking is crucial not just for learning, but for life overall! Education isn’t just a way to prepare ourselves for life, but it’s pretty much life itself. Learning is a lifelong process that we go through each and every day.

How to Think Critically

Now that you know the benefits of thinking critically, how do you actually do it?

How To Improve Your Critical Thinking

  • Define Your Question: When it comes to critical thinking, it’s important to always keep your goal in mind. Know what you’re trying to achieve, and then figure out how to best get there.
  • Gather Reliable Information: Make sure that you’re using sources you can trust — biases aside. That’s how a real critical thinker operates!
  • Ask The Right Questions: We all know the importance of questions, but be sure that you’re asking the right questions that are going to get you to your answer.
  • Look Short & Long Term: When coming up with solutions, think about both the short- and long-term consequences. Both of them are significant in the equation.
  • Explore All Sides: There is never just one simple answer, and nothing is black or white. Explore all options and think outside of the box before you come to any conclusions.

How Is Critical Thinking Developed At School?

Critical thinking is developed in nearly everything we do. However, much of this important skill is encouraged to be practiced at school, and rightfully so! Critical thinking goes beyond just thinking clearly — it’s also about thinking for yourself.

When a teacher asks a question in class, students are given the chance to answer for themselves and think critically about what they learned and what they believe to be accurate. When students work in groups and are forced to engage in discussion, this is also a great chance to expand their thinking and use their critical thinking skills.

How Does Critical Thinking Apply To Your Career?

Once you’ve finished school and entered the workforce, your critical thinking journey only expands and grows from here!

Impress Your Employer

Employers value employees who are critical thinkers, ask questions, offer creative ideas, and are always ready to offer innovation against the competition. No matter what your position or role in a company may be, critical thinking will always give you the power to stand out and make a difference.

Careers That Require Critical Thinking

Some of many examples of careers that require critical thinking include:

  • Human resources specialist
  • Marketing associate
  • Business analyst

Truth be told however, it’s probably harder to come up with a professional field that doesn’t require any critical thinking!

Photo by  Oladimeji Ajegbile  from  Pexels

What is someone with critical thinking skills capable of doing.

Someone with critical thinking skills is able to think rationally and clearly about what they should or not believe. They are capable of engaging in their own thoughts, and doing some reflection in order to come to a well-informed conclusion.

A critical thinker understands the connections between ideas, and is able to construct arguments based on facts, as well as find mistakes in reasoning.

The Process Of Critical Thinking

The process of critical thinking is highly systematic.

What Are Your Goals?

Critical thinking starts by defining your goals, and knowing what you are ultimately trying to achieve.

Once you know what you are trying to conclude, you can foresee your solution to the problem and play it out in your head from all perspectives.

What Does The Future Of Critical Thinking Hold?

The future of critical thinking is the equivalent of the future of jobs. In 2020, critical thinking was ranked as the 2nd top skill (following complex problem solving) by the World Economic Forum .

We are dealing with constant unprecedented changes, and what success is today, might not be considered success tomorrow — making critical thinking a key skill for the future workforce.

Why Is Critical Thinking So Important?

Why is critical thinking important? Critical thinking is more than just important! It’s one of the most crucial cognitive skills one can develop.

By practicing well-thought-out thinking, both your thoughts and decisions can make a positive change in your life, on both a professional and personal level. You can hugely improve your life by working on your critical thinking skills as often as you can.

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Positive thinking: Stop negative self-talk to reduce stress

Positive thinking helps with stress management and can even improve your health. Practice overcoming negative self-talk with examples provided.

Is your glass half-empty or half-full? How you answer this age-old question about positive thinking may reflect your outlook on life, your attitude toward yourself, and whether you're optimistic or pessimistic — and it may even affect your health.

Indeed, some studies show that personality traits such as optimism and pessimism can affect many areas of your health and well-being. The positive thinking that usually comes with optimism is a key part of effective stress management. And effective stress management is associated with many health benefits. If you tend to be pessimistic, don't despair — you can learn positive thinking skills.

Understanding positive thinking and self-talk

Positive thinking doesn't mean that you ignore life's less pleasant situations. Positive thinking just means that you approach unpleasantness in a more positive and productive way. You think the best is going to happen, not the worst.

Positive thinking often starts with self-talk. Self-talk is the endless stream of unspoken thoughts that run through your head. These automatic thoughts can be positive or negative. Some of your self-talk comes from logic and reason. Other self-talk may arise from misconceptions that you create because of lack of information or expectations due to preconceived ideas of what may happen.

If the thoughts that run through your head are mostly negative, your outlook on life is more likely pessimistic. If your thoughts are mostly positive, you're likely an optimist — someone who practices positive thinking.

The health benefits of positive thinking

Researchers continue to explore the effects of positive thinking and optimism on health. Health benefits that positive thinking may provide include:

  • Increased life span
  • Lower rates of depression
  • Lower levels of distress and pain
  • Greater resistance to illnesses
  • Better psychological and physical well-being
  • Better cardiovascular health and reduced risk of death from cardiovascular disease and stroke
  • Reduced risk of death from cancer
  • Reduced risk of death from respiratory conditions
  • Reduced risk of death from infections
  • Better coping skills during hardships and times of stress

It's unclear why people who engage in positive thinking experience these health benefits. One theory is that having a positive outlook enables you to cope better with stressful situations, which reduces the harmful health effects of stress on your body.

It's also thought that positive and optimistic people tend to live healthier lifestyles — they get more physical activity, follow a healthier diet, and don't smoke or drink alcohol in excess.

Identifying negative thinking

Not sure if your self-talk is positive or negative? Some common forms of negative self-talk include:

  • Filtering. You magnify the negative aspects of a situation and filter out all the positive ones. For example, you had a great day at work. You completed your tasks ahead of time and were complimented for doing a speedy and thorough job. That evening, you focus only on your plan to do even more tasks and forget about the compliments you received.
  • Personalizing. When something bad occurs, you automatically blame yourself. For example, you hear that an evening out with friends is canceled, and you assume that the change in plans is because no one wanted to be around you.
  • Catastrophizing. You automatically anticipate the worst without facts that the worse will happen. The drive-through coffee shop gets your order wrong, and then you think that the rest of your day will be a disaster.
  • Blaming. You try to say someone else is responsible for what happened to you instead of yourself. You avoid being responsible for your thoughts and feelings.
  • Saying you "should" do something. You think of all the things you think you should do and blame yourself for not doing them.
  • Magnifying. You make a big deal out of minor problems.
  • Perfectionism. Keeping impossible standards and trying to be more perfect sets yourself up for failure.
  • Polarizing. You see things only as either good or bad. There is no middle ground.

Focusing on positive thinking

You can learn to turn negative thinking into positive thinking. The process is simple, but it does take time and practice — you're creating a new habit, after all. Following are some ways to think and behave in a more positive and optimistic way:

  • Identify areas to change. If you want to become more optimistic and engage in more positive thinking, first identify areas of your life that you usually think negatively about, whether it's work, your daily commute, life changes or a relationship. You can start small by focusing on one area to approach in a more positive way. Think of a positive thought to manage your stress instead of a negative one.
  • Check yourself. Periodically during the day, stop and evaluate what you're thinking. If you find that your thoughts are mainly negative, try to find a way to put a positive spin on them.
  • Be open to humor. Give yourself permission to smile or laugh, especially during difficult times. Seek humor in everyday happenings. When you can laugh at life, you feel less stressed.
  • Follow a healthy lifestyle. Aim to exercise for about 30 minutes on most days of the week. You can also break it up into 5- or 10-minute chunks of time during the day. Exercise can positively affect mood and reduce stress. Follow a healthy diet to fuel your mind and body. Get enough sleep. And learn techniques to manage stress.
  • Surround yourself with positive people. Make sure those in your life are positive, supportive people you can depend on to give helpful advice and feedback. Negative people may increase your stress level and make you doubt your ability to manage stress in healthy ways.
  • Practice positive self-talk. Start by following one simple rule: Don't say anything to yourself that you wouldn't say to anyone else. Be gentle and encouraging with yourself. If a negative thought enters your mind, evaluate it rationally and respond with affirmations of what is good about you. Think about things you're thankful for in your life.

Here are some examples of negative self-talk and how you can apply a positive thinking twist to them:

Practicing positive thinking every day

If you tend to have a negative outlook, don't expect to become an optimist overnight. But with practice, eventually your self-talk will contain less self-criticism and more self-acceptance. You may also become less critical of the world around you.

When your state of mind is generally optimistic, you're better able to handle everyday stress in a more constructive way. That ability may contribute to the widely observed health benefits of positive thinking.

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  • Forte AJ, et al. The impact of optimism on cancer-related and postsurgical cancer pain: A systematic review. Journal of Pain and Symptom Management. 2021; doi:10.1016/j.jpainsymman.2021.09.008.
  • Rosenfeld AJ. The neuroscience of happiness and well-being. Child and Adolescent Psychiatric Clinics of North America. 2019;28:137.
  • Kim ES, et al. Optimism and cause-specific mortality: A prospective cohort study. American Journal of Epidemiology. 2016; doi:10.1093/aje/kww182.
  • Amonoo HL, et al. Is optimism a protective factor for cardiovascular disease? Current Cardiology Reports. 2021; doi:10.1007/s11886-021-01590-4.
  • Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans. 2nd ed. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. https://health.gov/paguidelines/second-edition. Accessed Oct. 20, 2021.
  • Seaward BL. Essentials of Managing Stress. 4th ed. Burlington, Mass.: Jones & Bartlett Learning; 2021.
  • Seaward BL. Cognitive restructuring: Reframing. Managing Stress: Principles and Strategies for Health and Well-Being. 8th ed. Burlington, Mass.: Jones & Bartlett Learning; 2018.
  • Olpin M, et al. Stress Management for Life. 5th ed. Cengage Learning; 2020.
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Developing the ability to think critically is essential for individuals to manage their daily affairs and make informed choices effectively. Whether it involves assessing an argument, examining a situation, or resolving a problem, critical thinking empowers us to examine evidence, evaluate different viewpoints, and arrive at a logical decision. It's important to note that critical thinking is not an inherent ability that some possess while others don't; instead, it is a learned skill that can be improved through practice and self-reflection.

The ability to think critically is increasingly essential in today's complex and rapidly changing world, where we are bombarded with information from various sources, many of which may be unreliable or biased . Developing strong critical thinking skills is more important than ever in this context.

Critical Thinking

Below, we will explore some of the best ways to improve your necessary thinking skills to become a more informed and effective thinker in all areas of your life.

1. Engage In Plenty of Reading

Developing critical thinking skills at a young age can have lifelong benefits. In particular, speed reading for kids can be a valuable tool for improving critical thinking skills. By learning how to read quickly and efficiently, children can absorb more information in less time, making more informed decisions and arriving at well-reasoned conclusions.

Furthermore, developing speed learning enhances cognitive abilities, including critical thinking skills. People who learn faster can better process and think critically about complex information. They also tend to have better working memory and executive function, which are essential for problem-solving and decision-making .

2. Question Everything

Improving your critical thinking skills can be achieved by adopting a questioning attitude. It's essential to take only some of what you hear or read for granted but to delve deeper into the information and evaluate it critically. This can involve asking yourself questions such as: who is the source of information? What could be their motives? What evidence do they have to back up their claims? Doing so can give you a more comprehensive understanding of the subject matter and enhance your thinking ability.

With this said, developing strong research skills is a key component of critical thinking. To make informed decisions and arrive at well-reasoned conclusions, it is crucial to know how to find and evaluate sources of information, especially on complex or controversial topics .

3. Analyze Arguments

Another way to improve your critical thinking skills is to analyze arguments. Identify the main claim, conclusion, supporting reasons, or evidence. Look for logical fallacies, such as ad hominem attacks or appeals to emotion, that weaken an argument. Consider alternative viewpoints and counterarguments. This will help you to develop your arguments and make more informed decisions.

4. Practice Reflection

Another crucial method to enhance your critical thinking abilities is self-reflection. It's important to reflect on your thought processes and decision-making methods. This involves evaluating your biases, assumptions, and preconceptions. By reflecting on what you could have done differently and what you learned from the experience, you can gain greater awareness of your thinking patterns and improve your decision-making skills. Regular self-reflection can help you develop a more objective and analytical mindset, leading to better critical thinking skills overall.

Furthermore, challenging your beliefs is a powerful way to improve your critical thinking skills. This means considering alternative viewpoints, even if they conflict with your own. It is essential to identify any biases or assumptions you may have and be open to changing your mind if the evidence warrants it.

5. Seek Out Different Perspectives

When surrounded by those who hold similar beliefs, it’s easy to become trapped in our echo chambers. You must actively seek out alternative viewpoints to sharpen your critical thinking abilities. Pay attention to those with various perspectives and life experiences. Take into account their viewpoints and analyze their points of contention. You'll have a deeper view of the world. As a result, one that is informed and nuanced.

6. Learn to Ask Good Questions

Asking good questions is an essential part of critical thinking. Learn to ask open-ended questions that encourage discussion and exploration. Avoid closed-ended questions that require a yes or no answer. Good questions help to clarify your thinking and to challenge the thinking of others.

This can also be done by being an active listener. Active listening is another essential skill for critical thinking. Focusing on what the speaker is saying without interruption or making assumptions is crucial to becoming a better listener. Clarify the speaker's meaning by asking questions and identifying any underlying assumptions or biases they may have.

Jigsaw puzzle in the shape of a brain.

The Importance of Critical Thinking

The ability to critically analyze, assess, and comprehend information is crucial. Critical thinking is vital in many facets of life for several reasons; below are some of the reasons why:

1. Making Informed and Reasoned Decisions

Making well-informed decisions, whether for your personal or professional life, requires critical thinking. People can more fully comprehend the benefits and drawbacks of many points of view and make wise decisions by challenging presumptions, assessing data, and dissecting arguments.

Critical thinking is particularly important in today's information-rich world, where individuals are constantly bombarded with information from various sources, both reliable and unreliable. This skill allows individuals to sift through this information and arrive at well-informed decisions based on evidence and reason.

2. Identifying and Solving Problems

Problem-solving also requires the use of critical thinking. People can find the origins of problems and create better solutions by dissecting complex situations into their component elements and looking at them from several perspectives. This ability is instrumental in science, engineering, and business, where issues are frequently complex and call for original thinking to solve them. Individuals can create original, valuable solutions through critical thinking to assist them in achieving their objectives.

3. Communicating and Collaborating with Others

Effective communication and teamwork are crucial in many facets of life in both personal and professional settings. Critical thinking empowers people to work with others and better communicate their ideas by enabling them to clarify their perspectives effectively and participate in fruitful discussions.

By evaluating evidence and arguments, individuals can also engage in more informed and constructive discussions with those with different perspectives, leading to more productive and successful collaborations.

4. Navigating the Complexities of Modern Life

Critical thinking is becoming increasingly crucial in today's world, which is changing quickly and presents people with new challenges and opportunities. People can better traverse the complexity of modern life and make decisions that will benefit themselves and their communities by effectively assessing, evaluating, and filtering information. People who are more adaptable and open to new ideas and viewpoints are better able to succeed in various contexts and scenarios.

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As the world undergoes constant transformations, it becomes increasingly important to possess the skills to analyze situations critically and adjust accordingly. By improving our capacity for critical thinking, we can become more self-assured, knowledgeable, and empowered individuals who can successfully navigate the intricacies of the world. Therefore, we must consistently push ourselves to question everything, think critically, and make informed decisions based on evidence and logical thinking.

About the Author

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What Is Positive Thinking? +9 Examples of Positive Thoughts

Positive Thinking

In this article, we’ll address these questions while providing resources to help you cultivate the ability to think more positively. With these insights, you’ll better understand how to swap out negative thoughts for positive ones, grow your wellbeing, and even improve your physical health.

Before we continue, we thought you might like to download our three Positive Psychology Exercises for free . These science-based exercises explore fundamental aspects of positive psychology, including strengths, values, and self-compassion, and will give you the tools to enhance the wellbeing of your clients, students, or employees.

This Article Contains:

What is positive thinking in psychology, are there benefits 4 research results, positive thinking and physical health: 5 findings, 9 real-life examples of positive thinking, positive thinking vs. negative thinking, criticisms: what positive thinking is not, our 5 best positive thinking resources, a take-home message.

Broadly speaking, positive thinking can be thought of as positive cognitions. This distinguishes positive thinking from emotions, behaviors, and longer term outcomes like wellbeing or depression.

In the research on positive thinking, an agreed-upon definition is still evolving. For example, Caprara and Steca (2005) suggested that life satisfaction , self-esteem, and optimism were indicators that a person was engaging in positive thinking.

Indeed, these concepts may involve positive thinking, but they are also often thought of as positive outcomes that might result from engaging in positive-thinking strategies.

Others have been more precise about what positive thinking involves. Bekhet and Zauszniewski (2013) outlined eight key skills that contribute to positive thinking that can be recalled easily using the acronym THINKING:

  • Transforming negative thoughts into positive thoughts
  • Highlighting positive aspects of the situation
  • Interrupting pessimistic thoughts by using relaxation techniques and distraction
  • Noting the need to practice positive thinking
  • Knowing how to break a problem into smaller parts to be manageable
  • Initiating optimistic beliefs with each part of the problem
  • Nurturing ways to challenge pessimistic thoughts
  • Generating positive feelings by controlling negative thoughts

You’ll note that this list includes techniques such as relaxation that may or may not be cognitive.

Other researchers have explored the different dimensions of positive thinking and have suggested that positive thinking can be understood as a construct with four dimensions (Tsutsui & Fujiwara, 2015):

  • Self-encouragement thinking This involves thoughts about being one’s own cheerleader.
  • Self-assertive thinking This involves thoughts about doing well for others.
  • Self-instructive and control thinking This involves thoughts that guide performance.
  • Self-affirmative thinking This involves confident thoughts.

As you can see, positive thinking can be defined in different ways. Inconsistent definitions of positive thinking in the research make it difficult to draw clear conclusions about the role of positive thinking in mental health .

For example, Diener et al. (2009) suggest that positive thinking is good for wellbeing, but when positive thinking and wellbeing are measured with the same scales (for example, scales that measure optimism, subjective wellbeing, or life satisfaction), the research may really be saying that something predicts itself, which is not very useful or informative.

Clearer definitions about what positive thinking is and how it’s different from assessments of wellbeing are needed to better understand the actual benefits and importance of positive thinking.


Here we’ll aim to clarify which types of positive thinking are good for mental health and wellbeing and which types might not be so good.

First, positive thinking about the self tends to be good for wellbeing. For example, when people have confidence in their abilities to achieve, they are more likely to succeed and achieve (Taylor & Brown, 1994).

Viewing oneself more positively than others also seems to buffer the effects of stress (Taylor & Brown, 1994). This evidence is mostly consistent with research on self-worth, self-confidence, and self-esteem (Miller Smedema, Catalano, & Ebener, 2010) – processes that may be considered types of positive thinking.

Second, optimistic thoughts are generally thought to be good for wellbeing. It doesn’t seem to matter whether these thoughts are unrealistic or not. Optimistic thinking tends to help people feel better, have more positive social relationships, and cope better with stress (Taylor & Brown, 1994).

Third, positive thoughts or beliefs about control appear to be beneficial. For example, believing that we have control during stressful experiences seems to help us cope better (Taylor & Brown, 1994).

The benefit of positive thoughts about control appears to be consistent with other research on the challenge mindset . When we have a challenge mindset , we believe that we have the skills and ability to handle current stressors. This mindset can be contrasted with a threat mindset , which is characterized by thoughts and beliefs that we can not effectively handle our current stressors (Crum, Akinola, Martin, & Fath, 2017).

The challenge mindset , where we believe we have more control, is more beneficial for us.

Lastly, a general positive outlook toward life, oneself, and the future is considered so beneficial that it is often considered a part of wellbeing itself (Caprara & Steca, 2005). As the philosopher René Descartes once said:

I think, therefore I am.

This seems true when it comes to positive thinking; if we think we feel good, then we do.

Research has begun to provide compelling evidence for a link between positive thinking and physical health. Namely optimism, which is often considered a type of positive thought, seems to contribute to positive health outcomes. For example, Scheier and Carver (1987) linked optimism to fewer physical ailments such as coughs, fatigue, muscle soreness, and dizziness.

Optimists also seemed to recover faster from coronary artery bypass surgery (Scheier & Carver, 1987). Other evidence points to the potential impact of positive thinking on cardiovascular health, including better blood pressure and lower risk for heart attacks.

Positive thinking also seems to improve the quality of life among cancer patients and can be protective against the common cold, allergies, and other immune system issues (Naseem & Khalid, 2010). Furthermore, AIDS-specific optimism is related to active coping (Taylor et al., 1992).

Although there are many benefits of positive thinking on health, there appears to be one key caveat. Urging patients with severe illness to think positively about extremely negative situations can be too big of an ask.

Psychological support that includes positive thinking can place an unnecessary burden on already struggling patients. So it’s important to keep in mind that positive thinking is just one of many potentially successful strategies and shouldn’t be forced upon individuals who don’t feel like it’s a good fit for them (Rittenberg, 1995).

Examples of Positive Thinking

Past-focused positive thinking

Past-focused thinking that is negative or pessimistic may contribute to greater depression. Shifting these thoughts to be more positive can help us move past bad things that happened in the past.

Here are examples of past-focused positive thoughts that put a positive spin on the past while still acknowledging the difficult situation:

  • “I did the best I could.”
  • “That job interview went badly, but at least I learned what to do differently next time.”
  • “I know my childhood wasn’t perfect, but my parents did the best they could.”

Present-focused positive thinking

Present-focused positive thinking can help us cope more effectively with our current challenges, decrease our stress, and potentially improve our life satisfaction.

Here are some examples of present-focused positive thoughts:

  • “I’m so lucky to have my friend Jane who really cares about me.”
  • “That breakfast was so tasty and beautiful, and I enjoyed it immensely.”
  • “Even though I may make mistakes, I always try my best.”

Future-focused positive thinking

Future-focused thinking that is negative or pessimistic may contribute to greater worry or anxiety. Shifting these thoughts to be more positive can help us stay more present and stop generating negative emotions about things that haven’t even happened yet.

Here are some examples of future-focused positive thoughts:

  • “It’s all going to turn out fine.”
  • “I can’t wait to go to that event next week.”
  • “I will continue to work toward my goals, so I know that my future is going to be great.”

3 positive psychology exercises

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Like positive thinking, negative thinking is not a clear-cut construct. But as a relatively simple example, optimism is often contrasted with pessimism.

When it comes to performance, both optimism and pessimism are equally effective. More specially, a person who is a defensive pessimist does better when using one strategy, and a person who is a strategic optimist does better when using another. That means that negative thoughts can help some people in some circumstances (Norem & Chang, 2002).

When it comes to wellbeing, optimists tend to be in a better mood, while pessimists tend to be higher in anxiety (Norem & Chang, 2002). But simply inducing a more positive mood in pessimists doesn’t just hurt their performance, it makes them more  anxious.

Defensive pessimists do and feel better when they’re allowed to explore potentially negative outcomes – this helps them manage their anxiety more effectively. Furthermore, defensive pessimists have better outcomes than other anxious people who are not pessimists.

All this is to say that ridding people of their pessimism is not only unhelpful, but it may also be harmful (Norem & Chang, 2002). So what does one do with negative thinking?

In the case of pessimists, it may be better not to force them into positive thinking. To them, it may feel like trying to put a square peg into a round hole. Instead, it may be more helpful to explore whether negative thoughts are functional, useful, and beneficial.

It may be helpful to record negative thoughts to understand why they appear and how they affect other emotions and behaviors. Use our Dysfunctional Thought Record Worksheet to do this, as it will help explore negative thought triggers and practice making thoughts more adaptive.

This doesn’t mean these new thoughts have to be positive, just more helpful. Furthermore, you can access our Getting Rid of ANTS: Automatic Negative Thoughts Worksheet  as well.

Positive behavior

First, excessive positive emotion may actually harm wellbeing. For example, Dr. June Gruber’s research suggests that too much positive emotion can be a risk factor for mania (Gruber, Johnson, Oveis, & Keltner, 2008).

Furthermore, thinking excessively about happiness has also been linked to lower wellbeing. Especially, setting unreasonably high standards for happiness and frequently thinking about one’s own emotional state have been linked to lower happiness (Ford & Mauss, 2014). This research suggests that there may be some aspects of positive thinking that are not good for us.

Another common criticism of positive thinking is that it’s an inappropriate, and possibly ineffective, strategy in some situations – for example, in response to the death of a loved one (Bonanno & Burton, 2013).

Further research has shown that cognitive reappraisal, which involves thinking about the positives or silver linings of a situation, can help in some situations and hurt in others. More specifically, using this positive thinking strategy was actually associated with higher depression in situations that were controllable (Troy, Shallcross, & Mauss, 2013). This suggests that positive thinking may not be an effective strategy in all situations.

Another criticism centers around particular types of positive thinking that are not based on science. For example, experts in the field of psychology generally consider “the law of attraction,” which suggests that believing in something will make it so, to be pseudoscience, not based on scientific methods.

In fact, these types of beliefs are considered magical thinking, and research has shown that greater familiarity with the law of attraction is associated with higher depression (Jones, 2019). So it’s important to keep in mind that positive thinking can be a useful tool in some circumstances and may contribute to optimism, positive outcomes, and wellbeing, but it’s not magic.

Here are some resources to help you learn more about positive thinking and build positive thinking skills.

Radical self-love cards

This worksheet helps you build a deck of self-affirmation cards. These can help cultivate more self-focused positive thoughts.

Grab the Stacking the Deck worksheet for guidelines.

Reverse the Rabbit Hole

Those of us with anxiety know that thoughts take on a mind of their own and take us along for the ride.

By considering positive outcomes, you may be able to derail this process and get out of the anxiety rabbit hole.

Grab the Reverse the Rabbit Hole worksheet to get started.

Paying attention to positive events

It’s human nature to pay more attention to the negative than the positive. But if we’re always just focusing on the bad stuff, we never get around to noticing and appreciating the good stuff.

Make an effort to pay more attention to the positive in life. Grab our Skills for Regulating Emotions worksheet  to learn more.

I’m Great Because…

Sometimes we are self-critical because we just haven’t spent the time to think about what is great about us. Reflecting on our good qualities can make positive thinking easier.

Check out our I’m Great Because… worksheet for some prompts.

My Love Letter to Myself

Exploring our positive qualities and working to better understand how they benefit us can help us value ourselves more.

To build this self-insight, take a peek at our My Love Letter to Myself worksheet .

17 Positive Psychology Exercises

If you’re looking for more science-based ways to help others enhance their wellbeing, this signature collection contains 17 validated positive psychology tools for practitioners . Use them to help others flourish and thrive.

Positive thinking has been of interest to psychologists for some time. Still, a mutually agreed-upon definition of positive thinking remains elusive.

Regardless of how positive thinking is measured, it appears to impact both mental and physical health positively.

Further, many useful resources are available to help people build their positive thinking skills.

Overall, the research suggests that cultivating positive thinking in counseling, therapy, or on your own is indeed a worthwhile endeavor. We trust our resources will be beneficial in guiding you on a more positive path.

We hope you enjoyed reading this article. Don’t forget to download our three Positive Psychology Exercises for free .

  • Bekhet, A. K., & Zauszniewski, J. A. (2013). Measuring use of positive thinking skills: Psychometric testing of a new scale. Western Journal of Nursing Research , 35 (8), 1074–1093.
  • Bonanno, G. A., & Burton, C. L. (2013). Regulatory flexibility: An individual differences perspective on coping and emotion regulation. Perspectives on Psychological Science , 8 (6), 591–612.
  • Caprara, G. V., & Steca, P. (2005). Affective and social self-regulatory efficacy beliefs as determinants of positive thinking and happiness. European Psychologist , 10 (4), 275–286.
  • Crum, A. J., Akinola, M., Martin, A., & Fath, S. (2017). The role of stress mindset in shaping cognitive, emotional, and physiological responses to challenging and threatening stress. Anxiety, Stress, & Coping , 30 (4), 379–395.
  • Diener, E., Wirtz, D., Biswas-Diener, R., Tov, W., Kim-Prieto, C., Choi, D. W., & Oishi, S. (2009). New measures of well-being. In E. Diener, Assessing well-being: The collected works of Ed Diener. (pp. 247–266). Springer.
  • Ford, B., & Mauss, I. (2014). The paradoxical effects of pursuing positive emotion. In J. Gruber & J. T. Moskowitz (Eds.),  Positive emotion: Integrating the light sides and dark sides (pp. 363–382). Oxford University Press.
  • Gruber, J., Johnson, S. L., Oveis, C., & Keltner, D. (2008). Risk for mania and positive emotional responding: Too much of a good thing? Emotion , 8 (1), 23–33.
  • Jones, B. (2019). If you think it you can achieve it: The relationship between goal specificity and magical thinking. Murray State Theses and Dissertations, 140.
  • Naseem, Z., & Khalid, R. (2010). Positive thinking in coping with stress and health outcomes: Literature review. Journal of Research & Reflections in Education , 4 (1).
  • Norem, J. K., & Chang, E. C. (2002). The positive psychology of negative thinking. Journal of Clinical Psychology , 58 (9), 993–1001.
  • Miller Smedema, S., Catalano, D., & Ebener, D. J. (2010). The relationship of coping, self-worth, and subjective well-being: A structural equation model. Rehabilitation Counseling Bulletin , 53 (3), 131–142.
  • Rittenberg, C. N. (1995). Positive thinking: An unfair burden for cancer patients? Supportive Care in Cancer , 3 (1), 37–39.
  • Scheier, M. E., & Carver, C. S. (1987). Dispositional optimism and physical well‐being: The influence of generalized outcome expectancies on health. Journal of Personality , 55 (2), 169–210.
  • Taylor, S. E., & Brown, J. D. (1994). Positive illusions and well-being revisited: Separating fact from fiction.  Psychological Bulletin , 116 (1), 21–27.
  • Taylor, S. E., Kemeny, M. E., Aspinwall, L. G., Schneider, S. G., Rodriguez, R., & Herbert, M. (1992). Optimism, coping, psychological distress, and high-risk sexual behavior among men at risk for acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS). Journal of Personality and Social Psychology , 63 (3), 460.
  • Troy, A. S., Shallcross, A. J., & Mauss, I. B. (2013). A person-by-situation approach to emotion regulation: Cognitive reappraisal can either help or hurt, depending on the context. Psychological Science , 24 (12), 2505–2514.
  • Tsutsui, K., & Fujiwara, M. (2015). The relationship between positive thinking and individual characteristics: Development of the Soccer Positive Thinking Scale. Football Science , 12 , 74–83.

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K Ward

Negative thinking is clearly unhelpful and unhealthy. But critical thinking—deep reflection, informed by research — is increasingly important in an age of opinion-based blogs, or “created content “ copy-and-pasted from unknown sources. This seems especially true when talking about positive thinking. Can we convince critical thinkers (also some of the most negative thinkers?) to be more positive through empty platitudes or anecdotal evidence?

A big stumbling block for me here is the interpretation of René Descartes’ “I think, therefore I am.” to mean “if we think we feel good, then we do”. I hate to be a downer, but this is a superficial misinterpretation of the original quote. I wouldn’t mind so much, but Cartesian philosophy is such a major contributor to our ongoing (mis)understanding of the brain, mind, reality. Please don’t undermine the otherwise wonderful ideas presented here and alienate critical thinkers. Positive psychology needs to convince them too!

Art jefferson Marr

The Affective Neuroscience of Positive Thinking

Positive thinking ‘works’, but works best ‘affectively’ when performed persistently while in a relaxed state. Below is the neuroscience behind this simple idea, which can be easily tested if one gives this slight modification of positive thinking a try.

And it all has to do with the neuroscience of pleasure. Unlike other functions in the brain, from perception to thinking, the neural source of our pleasures are localized in the brain as specialized groups of nerve cells or ‘nuclei’, or ‘hot spots’, located in the mid-brain. These nuclei receive inputs from different sources in the nervous system, from proprioceptive stimuli (neuro-muscular activity) to interoceptive stimuli (satiation and deprivation) to cognitive stimuli (novel positive or negative means-end expectancies), and all modulate the activity of these nuclei which release or inhibit endogenous opioids that elicit the rainbow of pleasures which mark our day.

For example, relaxation induces opioid activity and is pleasurable, but tension inhibits it and is painful. Similarly, satiation inhibits our pleasure when we eat, and deprivation or hunger increases it. Finally, positive novel means-ends expectancies enhance our pleasures, and negative expectancies inhibit them. Thus, for our sensory pleasures (eating, drinking), watching an exciting movie makes popcorn taste better than when watching a dull or depressing movie. This also applies to when we are relaxed, as thinking or performing meaningful activity is reflected in ‘flow’ or ‘peak’ experiences when we are engaging in highly meaningful behavior while relaxed. (Meaning will be defined as anticipated or current behavior that has branching novel positive implications, such as creating art, doing good deeds or productive work)

But again, don’t mind this verbiage, just prove it to yourself Just get relaxed using a relaxation protocol such as progressive muscle relaxation, eyes closed rest, or mindfulness, and then follow it by exclusively attending to or performing meaningful activity, or in other words, positive thinking, and avoiding all meaningless activity or ‘distraction’. Keep it up and you will not only stay relaxed, but continue so with a greater sense of wellbeing or pleasure. The attribution of affective value to meaningful behavior makes the latter seem ‘autotelic’, or reinforcing in itself, and the resultant persistent attention to meaning crowds out the occasions we might have spent dwelling on other unmeaningful worries and concerns.


Rauwolf, P., et al. (2021) Reward uncertainty – as a ‘psychological salt’- can alter the sensory experience and consumption of high-value rewards in young healthy adults. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General (prepub) https://doi.apa.org/doiLanding?doi=10.1037%2Fxge0001029

A more formal explanation from a neurologically based learning theory of this technique is provided on pp. 44-51 in a little open-source book on the psychology of rest linked below. (The flow experience is discussed on pp. 81-86.) https://www.scribd.com/doc/284056765/The-Book-of-Rest-The-Odd-Psychology-of-Doing-Nothing

More on the Neuroscience of Pleasure Berridge Lab, University of Michigan https://lsa.umich.edu/psych/research&labs/berridge/research/affectiveneuroscience.html

Maryanne Sea

The article seemed well written, though there were a few places where the writing seemed unclear to me.

I would recommend, though, that the author consider the work of Dr. Joe Dispenza, whose programs reach millions every year. It would be wonderful for this article to include some of his research findings about the placebo effect. His work has been scientifically validated to the point that NIH has approached him with the hope of studying his work. I feel that without looking at Dr. Dispenza’s work, it is a disservice to belittle the Law Of Attraction, as it represents a lack of understanding of ‘The Field’. It would also be so helpful to include a consideration of the work of Lynne McTaggart, a UK researcher, who is changing the planet with her understanding of how to use group intention to create change in the physical world. Dr. Joe Dispenza’s and Lynne McTaggart’s work are by no means pseudo-science, as this author would seem to imply by her comment. I felt that the author was relying far more on studies that are 15, and even 33 years old, rather than looking at the scientific knowledge we have available today. As a result, the article felt quite ‘outdated’ to me.

Annelé Venter

Good day Maryanne,

You mention a few interesting points! As always, we encourage comments and insights from our readers and appreciate the sharing of your thoughts.

Best regards, Annelé


I like it because it gives a new dimension for thinking about past present and future and also because it helps me a lot to understand how mind works in a tough situation . So I’d like to register my appreciation for the useful content of this article

Sr Mareena

This article is very useful .


Self – encouragement thinking,self – assertive thinking,self – instructive and control thinking self affirmative thinking in four points very useful words.Positive thinking very important life…very importance of positive thinking good for mental health…positive thinking about the self tends to be good for well being.Positive thinking improve the quality of life.Future focused Positive thinking Resources….very nice.Thankyou Wishes By.TWINKLE M.SHOWZHANEEM

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The Power of Positive Thinking

Kendra Cherry, MS, is a psychosocial rehabilitation specialist, psychology educator, and author of the "Everything Psychology Book."

positive critical thinking skills

Carly Snyder, MD is a reproductive and perinatal psychiatrist who combines traditional psychiatry with integrative medicine-based treatments.

positive critical thinking skills

Klaus Vedfelt / Getty Images

What Is Positive Thinking?

  • Benefits of Positive Thinking

How to Practice Positive Thinking

Potential pitfalls of positive thinking, frequently asked questions.

Do you tend to see the glass as half empty or half full? You have probably heard that question plenty of times. Your answer relates directly to the concept of positive thinking and whether you have a positive or negative outlook on life. Positive thinking plays an important role in positive psychology , a subfield devoted to the study of what makes people happy and fulfilled.

Research has found that positive thinking can aid in stress management and even plays an important role in your overall health and well-being. It can help combat feelings of low self-esteem, improve physical health, and help brighten your overall outlook on life.

This article discusses what positive thinking is and the health benefits of being positive. It also explores some of the strategies you can use to become a more positive thinker.

Positive thinking means approaching life's challenges with a positive outlook. It doesn't mean seeing the world through rose-colored lenses by ignoring or glossing over the negative aspects of life.

Positive thinking does not necessarily mean avoiding difficult situations. Instead, positive thinking means making the most of potential obstacles, trying to see the best in other people, and viewing yourself and your abilities in a positive light.

Some researchers, including positive psychologist Martin Seligman , frame positive thinking in terms of explanatory style. Your explanatory style is how you explain why events happened.

  • Optimistic explanatory style : People with an optimistic explanatory style tend to give themselves credit when good things happen and typically blame outside forces for bad outcomes. They also tend to see negative events as temporary and atypical.
  • Pessimistic explanatory style : People with a pessimistic explanatory style often blame themselves when bad things happen, but fail to give themselves adequate credit for successful outcomes. They also have a tendency to view negative events as expected and lasting. As you can imagine, blaming yourself for events outside of your control or viewing these unfortunate events as a persistent part of your life can have a detrimental impact on your state of mind.

Positive thinkers are more apt to use an optimistic explanatory style, but the way in which people attribute events can also vary depending upon the exact situation. For example, a person who is generally a positive thinker might use a more pessimistic explanatory style in particularly challenging situations, such as at work or at school.

While there are many factors that determine whether a person has a positive outlook, the way that they explain the events of their life, known as their explanatory style, plays an important role.

Positive Psychology vs. Positive Thinking

While the terms "positive thinking" and "positive psychology" are sometimes used interchangeably, it is important to understand that they are not the same thing. Positive thinking is about looking at things from a positive point of view. It is a type of thinking that focuses on maintaining a positive, optimistic attitude. Positive psychology is a branch of psychology that studies the effects of optimism, what causes it, and when it is best utilized.

Health Benefits of Positive Thinking

In recent years, the so-called "power of positive thinking" has gained a great deal of attention thanks to self-help books such as "The Secret." While these pop-psychology books often tout positive thinking or philosophies like the law of attraction as a sort of psychological panacea, empirical research has found that there are many very real health benefits linked to positive thinking and optimistic attitudes.

Positive thinking is linked to a wide range of health benefits, including:

  • Better stress management and coping skills
  • Enhanced psychological health
  • Greater resistance to the common cold
  • Increased physical well-being
  • Longer life span
  • Lower rates of depression
  • Reduced risk of cardiovascular disease-related death

One study of 1,558 older adults found that positive thinking could also reduce frailty during old age.

A 2018 study published in the Journal of Aging Research found that having a positive mental attitude was linked to decreased mortality over a 35-year period. People who had a more positive outlook were also more likely to get regular physical exercise, avoid smoking, eat a healthier diet, and get more quality sleep.

Clearly, there are many benefits of positive thinking . But why, exactly, does positive thinking have such a strong impact on physical and mental health ?

One theory is that people who think positively tend to be less affected by stress. Research suggests that having more positive automatic thoughts helps people become more resilient in the face of life's stressful events. People who had high levels of positive thinking were more likely to walk away from stressful life events with a higher sense of the meaningfulness of life.

Another possibility is that people who think positively tend to live healthier lives in general; they may exercise more, follow a more nutritious diet, and avoid unhealthy behaviors.

While you might be more prone to negative thinking, there are strategies that you can use to become a more positive thinker. Practicing these strategies regularly can help you get in the habit of maintaining a more positive outlook on life.

  • Notice your thoughts : Start paying attention to the type of thoughts you have each day. If you notice that many of them are negative, make a conscious effort to reframe how you are thinking in a more positive way.
  • Write in a gratitude journal : Practicing gratitude can have a range of positive benefits and it can help you learn to develop a better outlook. Experiencing grateful thoughts helps people to feel more optimistic.
  • Use positive self-talk : How you talk to yourself can play an important role in shaping your outlook. Studies have shown that shifting to more positive self-talk can have a positive impact on your emotions and how you respond to stress.

While there are many benefits to thinking positively, there are actually times when more realistic thinking is more advantageous. For example, in some situations, negative thinking can actually lead to more accurate decisions and outcomes.

Some research has found that negative thinking and moods can actually help people make better, more accurate judgments.

However, research suggests that realistic optimism might be the ideal. The results of a 2020 study published in the Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin revealed that people who have mistaken expectations, whether those expectations are optimistic or pessimistic, tend to fare worse in terms of mental health when compared to realists.  

The authors of the study suggest that the disappointment that optimists experience when their high hopes are not realized can have a negative impact on well-being. This doesn't mean that people should strive to be pessimistic thinkers. since studies indicate that people with a negative outlook tend to fare the worst. Instead, having a generally positive outlook that is focused on realistic expectations may be the best approach. 

In some cases, inappropriately applied positive thinking can cross the line into what is known as toxic positivity . This involves insisting on maintaining a positive mindset no matter how upsetting, dire, or damaging a situation might be. This type of excessive positivity can impede authentic communication and cause people to experience feelings of shame or guilt if they struggle to maintain such an overly positive outlook.

Positive thinking can have pitfalls at times. While it is important to have an overall positive outlook, unrealistically high expectations can lead to disappointment. Being unable to accept any negative emotions, known as toxic positivity, can also have a negative effect on mental well-being.

A Word From Verywell

Even if you are not a natural-born optimist, there are things you can do to learn how to think more positively and become a positive thinker . One of the first steps is to focus on your own inner monologue and to pay attention to your self-talk.

Strategies that can improve your positive thinking include noticing your thoughts and making a conscious effort to shift from negative thoughts to more positive one. Practicing positive self-talk and practicing gratitude can also be helpful ways to start having a more positive outlook.

Positive thinking is important because it can have a beneficial impact on both physical and mental well-being. People who maintain a more positive outlook on life cope better with stress, have better immunity, and have a lower risk of premature death. Positive thinking also helps promote greater feelings of happiness and overall satisfaction with life.

Positive thinking has been shown to help people live healthier, happier lives. When they have a positive outlook, they are more likely to engage in healthy behaviors such as exercising, eating healthy, and getting plenty of rest. Downsides of positive thinking include the risk of forming overly high expectations that result in disappointment and being affected by toxic positivity.

Practicing mindfulness can be a way to build self-awareness and become more conscious of how your negative thoughts affect your moods and behaviors. As you become better at identifying negative thought patterns, you can then take steps to shift into a more positive mindset. Actively replacing negative thoughts with positive ones can help you eventually learn to become a more positive thinker.

Kim ES, Hagan KA, Grodstein F, DeMeo DL, De Vivo I, Kubzansky LD. Optimism and cause-specific mortality: a prospective cohort study . Am J Epidemiol. 2017;185(1):21-29. doi:10.1093/aje/kww182

Seligman M.  Learned Optimism . Random House.

Chang E, Sanna L.  Virtue, Vice, And Personality: The Complexity of Behavior . American Psychological Association.

Johns Hopkins Medicine. The power of positive thinking .

Park N, Peterson C, Szvarca D, Vander Molen RJ, Kim ES, Collon K. Positive psychology and physical health: Research and applications . Am J Lifestyle Med . 2016;10(3):200-206. doi:10.1177/1559827614550277

Gale CR, Mõttus R, Deary IJ, Cooper C, Sayer AA. Personality and risk of frailty: The English Longitudinal Study of Ageing . Ann Behav Med . 2017;51(1):128-136. doi:10.1007/s12160-016-9833-5

Paganini-Hill A, Kawas CH, Corrada MM. Positive mental attitude associated with lower 35-year mortality: The Leisure World Cohort Study .  J Aging Res . 2018;2018:2126368. doi:10.1155/2018/2126368

Boyraz G, Lightsey OR Jr. Can positive thinking help? Positive automatic thoughts as moderators of the stress-meaning relationship . Am J Orthopsychiatry . 2012;82(2):267-77. doi:10.1111/j.1939-0025.2012.01150.x

Kross E, Bruehlman-Senecal E, Park J, et al. Self-talk as a regulatory mechanism: how you do it matters . J Pers Soc Psychol . 2014;106(2):304-24. doi:10.1037/a0035173

Forgas JP. Don’t worry, be sad! On the cognitive, motivational, and interpersonal benefits of negative mood . Curr Dir Psychol Sci . 2013;22(3):225-232. doi:10.1177/0963721412474458

De Meza D, Dawson C. Neither an optimist nor a pessimist be: mistaken expectations lower well-being . Pers Soc Psychol Bull . 2021;47(4):540-550. doi:10.1177/0146167220934577

By Kendra Cherry, MSEd Kendra Cherry, MS, is a psychosocial rehabilitation specialist, psychology educator, and author of the "Everything Psychology Book."

The Good Positive

100 Positive Affirmations For Critical Thinking: Boost IQ

Positive Affirmations For Critical Thinking : Ever found yourself at a crossroads, tangled in thoughts, yearning for clarity?

I’ve been there, navigating the maze of my mind, seeking a beacon of insight. That’s when I discovered the transformative power of positive critical thinking affirmations.

Imagine equipping yourself with a toolkit, not of gadgets and gizmos, but of empowering statements that ignite your inner genius. These aren’t just words; they’re your secret allies, sharpening your mind, fostering clarity, and sculpting you into a masterful thinker.

Join me on this enlightening journey as we explore 100 positive affirmations designed to enhance your critical thinking skills .

Together, let’s unlock the door to a world where every challenge becomes an opportunity for growth and every decision is guided by wisdom.

Table of Contents

Affirm More : Positive Affirmations for Food Cravings .

Why use positive affirmations for critical thinking?

Why Use Positive Affirmations For critical thinking

Let me share a secret that transformed not just my thought patterns but my entire approach to life’s puzzles.

In a world brimming with information overload, where decisions can make or break moments, the clarity of thought becomes your north star.

1. Empowerment Through Words:

Remember when Simone Biles, with the weight of the world on her shoulders, centered herself with affirmations, teaching us that mental strength shapes reality? That’s the power of positive reinforcement at work, turning “I can’t” into “I will.”

2. Sharpening the Mind’s Blade:

Like a samurai hones his katana, affirmations sharpen our mental faculties. They’re not mere words but tools that sculpt neural pathways, enhancing our ability to dissect problems and weave through complexities with grace.

3. Building Resilience Against Negativity:

In times when the tide of public opinion swayed against climate activists, figures like Greta Thunberg stood unwavering, fueled by a deep-seated belief in their cause.

Affirmations anchor us, providing a bulwark against the storm of skepticism, allowing us to remain steadfast in our critical analysis.

In essence, weaving affirmations into the fabric of our daily thought processes is like equipping ourselves with a compass that points towards wisdom, resilience, and unparalleled clarity.

100 Positive Affirmations For Critical Thinking

Positive Affirmations for critical thinking

Dive into the world where thoughts shape destinies, and words wield the power to transform.

I stumbled upon a treasure trove of 100 positive affirmations designed to sharpen your critical thinking, and it was like finding the missing piece in the puzzle of my mind. Imagine starting your day with a whisper of wisdom, turning ‘I hope’ into ‘I know.’

🔖 Bookmark this page , for these arenaries are not just words but seeds. Plant them daily for 21 days , and watch as your garden of thoughts blooms into a haven of clarity, resilience, and insight.

Join me on this journey, and let’s cultivate minds that not only question but also understand.

1. “I embrace critical thinking in every decision I make.”

2. “My mind is equipped to question everything I hear.”

3. “I analyze information critically before forming opinions.”

4. “Every day, I practice interpreting data with precision.”

5. “I evaluate claims with a disciplined approach.”

6. “My judgement is sharpened through continuous application.”

7. “I read with a mindset to understand and question.”

8. “I listen actively to synthesize and assess arguments.”

9. “I say what I think with clarity and evidence.”

10. “I write with the intention to clarify and enlighten.”

11. “I seek reliable information to support my critical analysis.”

12. “My decisions are informed by a thorough evaluation process.”

13. “I question the validity of arguments with a critical mindset.”

14. “I am motivated to challenge my own understanding daily.”

15. “My approach to problems is always critical and analytical.”

16. “I hold my opinions to the highest standard of evidence.”

17. “I practice critical thinking to enhance my education and goals.”

18. “My curiosity drives me to research and question deeply.”

19. “I apply critical thinking skills to synthesize new ideas.”

20. “I use logic and reason in every aspect of my life.”

21. “I am an objective thinker, always seeking the truth.”

22. “I discipline my mind to question assumptions and explore alternatives.”

23. “My knowledge grows as I challenge existing theories.”

24. “I am a critical thinker, ready to tackle complex problems.”

25. “My motivation for learning is fueled by my curiosity.”

26. “I continuously refine my skills in critical analysis.”

27. “I interpret evidence with an objective and open mind.”

28. “I evaluate the reliability of sources meticulously.”

29. “My mindset is geared towards growth and understanding.”

30. “I approach every challenge with a critical thinking perspective.”

31. “I am dedicated to practicing and improving my thinking skills.”

32. “I question the status quo to uncover deeper truths.”

33. “My ability to analyze helps me make informed decisions.”

34. “I value the process of critical thinking in education.”

35. “I seek to understand different perspectives thoroughly.”

36. “I am confident in my ability to reason and evaluate.”

37. “My critical thinking skills empower me to solve problems effectively.”

38. “I am a thinker who values evidence over assumptions.”

39. “I discipline myself to think logically and critically.”

40. “My goal is to approach every situation with a critical eye.”

41. “I cultivate a mindset that embraces complex problem-solving.”

42. “I am passionate about applying critical thinking in all areas of life.”

43. “I challenge myself to think deeper and question harder.”

44. “My education is enriched by my commitment to critical thinking.”

45. “I synthesize information from various sources to form balanced viewpoints.”

46. “I am adept at using critical thinking to navigate the world.”

47. “My opinions are formed through rigorous analysis and evaluation.”

48. “I value the discipline it takes to be a critical thinker.”

49. “I enhance my understanding by questioning and exploring ideas.”

50. “I am motivated to continually expand my critical thinking abilities.”

51. “I believe in my ability to dissect complex theories effectively.”

52. “My mind thrives on the challenge of understanding diverse arguments.”

53. “I am open to revising my opinions based on new, reliable evidence.”

54. “I engage in critical thinking to enhance my creative problem-solving.”

55. “I maintain an objective stance when evaluating different viewpoints.”

56. “My questions lead to deeper knowledge and insight.”

57. “I trust my process of critical examination to lead to truth.”

58. “I am a responsible consumer of information, always seeking to verify.”

59. “My critical thinking skills are a key component of my success.”

60. “I approach all I read and hear with a critical mindset.”

61. “I am confident in my ability to interpret complex information.”

62. “My ability to evaluate arguments is refined and accurate.”

63. “I use my critical thinking skills to make positive changes.”

64. “I am committed to practicing critical thinking in my daily life.”

65. “I enrich my mind with disciplined and rigorous thought.”

66. “My critical thinking leads to innovative and effective solutions.”

67. “I am always prepared to question my own biases and assumptions.”

68. “I value the power of critical thinking in fostering my intellectual growth.”

69. “I am skilled at synthesizing information to form comprehensive understandings.”

70. “I challenge conventional wisdom with well-reasoned arguments.”

71. “My dedication to critical thinking sharpens my academic and professional skills.”

72. “I am a lifelong learner, constantly improving my critical thinking capabilities.”

73. “I trust in my ability to make sound decisions based on critical analysis.”

74. “I am always eager to expand my understanding through questioning.”

75. “I lead by example, showing the importance of critical thinking.”

76. “I inspire others to embrace critical thinking for better decision-making.”

77. “I am proficient at distinguishing between fact and opinion.”

78. “My logical reasoning guides me to the heart of complex issues.”

79. “I approach life’s challenges with a keen critical eye.”

80. “I am passionate about using critical thinking to contribute to meaningful conversations.”

81. “I understand that critical thinking is essential for effective leadership.”

82. “I constantly seek to improve my ability to reason and reflect.”

83. “My mind is a fortress against misinformation, fortified by critical thinking.”

84. “I empower myself through the continuous application of critical thinking.”

85. “I am a beacon of logic in a sea of confusion.”

86. “My critical thinking skills are my most valuable educational tool.”

87. “I navigate the digital world with discernment and critical analysis.”

88. “I am adept at using critical thinking to break down barriers to understanding.”

89. “I celebrate each victory achieved through rigorous thought and analysis.”

90. “My pursuit of knowledge is guided by an unwavering commitment to critical thinking.”

91. “I am a master at identifying and evaluating underlying assumptions.”

92. “My ability to think critically is a cornerstone of my personal growth.”

93. “I use critical thinking to foster creativity and innovation.”

94. “I am always prepared to challenge ideas and explore new possibilities.”

95. “I appreciate the role of critical thinking in cultivating ethical judgement.”

96. “I am confident in my ability to question and learn from the world around me.”

97. “My critical thinking skills illuminate paths to understanding and consensus.”

98. “I am a critical thinker, ready to explore, evaluate, and excel.”

99. “I celebrate the power of critical thinking in unlocking my full potential.”

100. “My journey of critical thinking is endless, enriching every aspect of my life.”

How to Use Positive Affirmations for Critical Thinking?

How to use positive affirmations

Embarking on the journey of using positive affirmations for critical thinking is akin to setting sail towards uncharted territories of your mind, where each affirmation is a beacon of light guiding you to the shores of clarity and insight.

Let’s navigate these waters together, shall we?

1. Morning Mindset Magic : Begin each day by declaring your affirmations aloud. Picture this: as the sun ushers in a new dawn, so do your words illuminate your thoughts, casting away the shadows of doubt. This is your first act of rebellion against the mundane, your declaration of intent to think deeply, critically.

2. Reflective Repetition : Integrate these affirmations into your daily rituals. Whether it’s during your morning coffee or as you unwind in the evening, let these powerful statements be the soundtrack of your day. It’s not just about saying the words; it’s about feeling them, living them.

3. Journal Your Journey : Write them down. There’s magic in the act of writing; it’s as if you’re carving your intentions into the very fabric of the universe. This isn’t just any journal. It’s the chronicle of your transformation, a testament to your commitment to cultivate a mind that questions, analyzes, and evolves.

4. Visualize Victory : Visualization is your secret weapon. As you recite your affirmations, paint a vivid picture in your mind of you embodying these statements. Imagine tackling challenges with grace, navigating complex problems with ease, and arriving at solutions with confidence.

How to Write Affirmations for Critical Thinking?

Crafting affirmations is an art. Start with ‘I am,’ making it personal, powerful.

Ensure they’re positive, present tense, painting a picture of the critical thinker you’re becoming. Make them specific, yet boundless in their potential to inspire growth.

Remember, this journey is yours. Each affirmation, a step closer to the pinnacle of your intellectual prowess. Ready to begin?


Frequently Asked Questions

What are positive affirmations for enhancing critical thinking?

Positive affirmations for enhancing critical thinking are powerful statements that aim to boost your confidence in your ability to analyze, evaluate, and make decisions. They’re like little pep talks, reminding you that you have the power to tackle complex problems with clarity and insight.

How can positive affirmations improve my critical thinking skills?

By regularly affirming your ability to think critically, you reinforce the belief in your analytical capabilities. This mental reinforcement can help you approach challenges with a more open and analytical mindset, effectively enhancing your problem-solving skills and decision-making process.

Can affirmations help in developing stronger analytical abilities?

Absolutely! Affirmations work by programming your mind to believe in your capabilities, including your analytical skills. By consistently practicing positive affirmations, you can gradually shift your mindset towards a more critical and analytical approach to information and situations.

What are some examples of affirmations for better decision-making?

Examples include “ I trust my ability to make the best decision ,” and “ I calmly evaluate all options before deciding .” These affirmations help build confidence in your decision-making process, encouraging you to trust your judgment and analytical skills.

How do I incorporate positive affirmations into my daily learning for critical thinking?

Start your day by reciting a few affirmations related to critical thinking. Write them on sticky notes and place them where you’ll see them often, like on your bathroom mirror or computer monitor. Incorporating them into your daily routine can serve as constant reminders to engage in and apply critical thinking throughout your day.

Are there specific affirmations to foster a critical mindset?

Yes, there are! Try affirmations like “ I approach problems with an open and critical mind ” or “ I am a critical thinker who questions assumptions .” These are designed to prime your mind for analytical thinking and skepticism in a constructive way.

How often should I recite affirmations for critical thinking improvement?

Reciting affirmations daily is ideal. Morning is a powerful time, setting a positive tone for the day. However, feel free to repeat them whenever you need a mental boost, especially before tasks that require sharp critical thinking.

Can positive affirmations influence my problem-solving skills?

Definitely! Positive affirmations can reshape your mindset, making you more confident in your problem-solving abilities. This boost in self-belief encourages you to tackle challenges more effectively, looking for solutions rather than being daunted by problems.

What is the best way to use affirmations for enhancing logical reasoning?

Incorporate them into your daily routine by saying them out loud or in your mind during quiet moments, such as meditation or right before bed. Writing them down in a journal or on notes around your workspace can also reinforce their power, keeping your logical reasoning sharp.

Do affirmations for critical thinking actually work in boosting cognitive skills?

Yes, they can! By regularly affirming your ability to think critically and solve problems, you reinforce a positive self-image as a competent thinker, which can boost your cognitive skills . This practice, combined with critical thinking exercises, can greatly enhance your cognitive abilities over time.

So, we’ve been on quite the journey with “ positive affirmations for critical thinking ,” haven’t we?

I shared this little gem because, honestly, who doesn’t need a sprinkle of magic in their thought process? It’s like giving your brain a cup of the finest coffee every morning but without the caffeine jitters. Life-changing?

Absolutely! Because once you start seeing the world through the lens of positivity and critical insight, there’s no going back. You’re sharper, brighter, and oh so ready to tackle whatever comes your way.

Keep smiling, my friend, because you’ve got this – one positive affirmation at a time. 😉

Affirm More : Positive Affirmations For Valentine’s Day .

Aldvin Gomes

Aldvin is the proud owner of the great “ thegoodpositive.com .” An affirmation writer and practitioner of positive habits. The law of attraction has helped him manifest self-love, health, and happiness. Now, he has plans to help others manifest a positive living! Know more . Follow : Twitter (X)

Tchiki Davis, Ph.D.

9 Ways to Cultivate a Positive Mindset

Tips to start shifting your mindset in positive ways..

Posted May 19, 2021 | Reviewed by Chloe Williams

  • A positive mindset includes positive-oriented thoughts, beliefs, values, and attitudes, which are key factors for well-being.
  • Some tips for building a positive mindset include focusing on strengths and positive qualities, and practicing gratitude and self-compassion.
  • Some other strategies include shifting attention away from negative thoughts by taking a cold shower and trying to think of best-case scenarios.

Photo by Jade Orth on Unsplash

Some researchers have proposed that a positive mindset includes happiness , confidence , being in control, stability, motivation , and optimism (Barry, Folkard, & Ayliffe, 2014). In particular, a positive mindset includes positive-oriented thoughts, beliefs, values, and attitudes—key factors for well-being (learn more about your well-being with this well-being quiz ). So let's talk about how to cultivate a more positive mindset.

1. Focus on Your Strengths

Many of us focus on the things that are wrong with us, the things we're not good at, or the things we've failed at. But if we want to cultivate a positive mindset, we're better served by focusing on our strengths . This shift in focus can help us feel more positively about ourselves.

2. Practice Gratitude

Gratitude is about more than just saying "thanks." It's about searching for things to be grateful for every day. We might practice and strengthen this skill by writing gratitude lists or a gratitude journal. After some time, our brains will get better at recognizing things to be thankful for .

3. Focus on Your Positive Qualities

Ask yourself, what makes you who you are? Are you strong, detail-oriented, resilient , or something else? Make a list of your positive qualities. Reflecting on these can help you more easily focus on the good parts of yourself.

4. Practice Self-Compassion

Our inner voice often tells us everything we are doing wrong but it can sometimes forget to remind us about what we are doing right. That's why cultivating self-compassion can help improve our mindset. Practice self-compassion by taking a few moments to treat yourself kindly, carefully, and gently.

5. Practice Self-Care

Part of developing a more positive mindset might involve cultivating the belief that we are worth taking care of. We're allowed to have breaks, to feel good, and to engage in self-care . By taking better care of ourselves, we might think about ourselves in more positive ways that help us to have more positive experiences.

6. Shift Your Attention

It turns out we have a negativity bias that makes it easier to focus on the negative than focus on the positive. Practice shifting your attention by intentionally but gently moving your mind away from negative thoughts. If your mind is going down a rabbit hole and you're ruminating on something bad that happened, put the breaks on those thoughts by going for a run, taking a cold shower, or focusing on the details of an object in the room. These strategies can help short circuit your negative thoughts and help you focus on the positive.

7. Be More Optimistic

To practice optimism , think about how something might turn out better than expected. Try to imagine the best-case scenarios or focus on the good things that may happen in the future. This shift to optimism can help you have more positive expectations, which can lead to all sorts of good outcomes (Benson & Friedman, 1996).

8. Try Loving-Kindness Meditation

This type of meditation involves generating love and compassion, first toward yourself, then toward close others, then toward strangers, and then toward all living beings (Fredrickson et al., 2008). Doing loving-kindness meditation can help you get better at creating loving thoughts.

9. Set Meaningful Goals

Setting meaningful long-term goals can help us gain clarity on what really matters to us and what we want to achieve, so we may feel more meaningfully connected to what we do (Emmons, 2003). When setting meaningful goals, be sure that your goals fit your core values to ensure you're focusing your efforts on what matters to you.

positive critical thinking skills

There are many different ways to grow a more positive mindset. Hopefully, some of the practices provided here seem like a good fit for what you are looking for.

This post was adapted from an article published by The Berkeley Well-Being Institute.

Barry, J. A., Folkard, A., & Ayliffe, W. (2014). Validation of a brief questionnaire measuring positive mindset in patients with uveitis. Psychology, Community & Health, 3(1), 1-10.​​​​​

Benson, H., & Friedman, R. (1996). Harnessing the power of the placebo effect and renaming it remembered wellness. Annual Review of Medicine-Selected Topics in the Clinical Sciences, 47, 193-200.

Fredrickson, B. L., Cohn, M. A., Coffey, K. A., Pek, J., & Finkel, S. M. (2008). Open hearts build lives: positive emotions, induced through loving-kindness meditation, build consequential personal resources. Journal of personality and social psychology, 95(5), 1045.

Emmons, R. A. (2003). Personal goals, life meaning, and virtue: wellsprings of a positive life.

Tchiki Davis, Ph.D.

Tchiki Davis, Ph.D. , is a consultant, writer, and expert on well-being technology.

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6 Useful ways to encourage critical thinking in children

Kid thinking green background

Lomb | Shutterstock

In today’s fast-paced world, critical thinking skills are more important than ever for children to navigate through the complexities of life with wisdom and discernment. And for Catholics, it is particularly important to nurture these skills in children so they can develop a deeper understanding of their faith and the world around them .

Critical thinking empowers children to question, analyze, and evaluate information, guiding them in making informed decisions aligned with their values and beliefs. Here are six fun ways to encourage critical thinking in children while allowing them to learn more about their faith.

Bible puzzle challenges

Engage children in solving Bible puzzle challenges that require critical thinking skills. You could create crossword puzzles, word searches, or riddles based on biblical stories or teachings. Encourage children to analyze the clues and think critically about the answers, fostering a deeper understanding of scripture while sharpening their problem-solving abilities.

Saintly role-playing games

Organize role-playing games where children take on the roles of different saints or biblical characters. Try getting them to think critically about how these figures faced challenges and made decisions in alignment with their faith. Additionally, prompt children to reflect on the virtues and values exhibited by these saints, inspiring them to apply similar principles in their own lives.

Faith-based discussion club

Establish a faith-based discussion club where children engage in a dialogue around topics related to Catholic teachings and current events. Get them to research, analyze, and present evidence to support their assertions, fostering critical thinking and communication skills. Emphasize the importance of respectful dialogue, especially listening to opposing viewpoints, reflecting the Catholic values of intellectual humility and charity.

Parable puzzlers

Introduce children to the parables of Jesus through interactive puzzle activities. You could create scenarios or dilemmas inspired by parables and challenge children to think critically about the underlying moral lessons. Then encourage them to consider different perspectives and brainstorm creative solutions, fostering empathy and ethical reasoning rooted in Catholic teachings.

Sacred art interpretation

Explore sacred art with children and inspire them to reflect on its symbolism and meaning. Visit churches or museums with religious artwork and guide children in analyzing the colors, symbols, and figures depicted. Finally, encourage them to interpret the artwork from different perspectives, sparking meaningful discussions about faith, culture, and history.

Gospel journaling

Try getting children to keep a journal where they reflect on passages from the Gospels and apply critical thinking skills to their interpretations. Provide prompts or questions to guide their reflections, encouraging them to analyze the deeper meanings behind the teachings of Jesus. And have your children connect these insights to their own lives, fostering a deeper understanding of their faith and personal growth.

Man in office overthinking a problem

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