By Leo Gura - March 25, 2014 | 4 Comments
How to break free of social conditioning and become a critical thinker.
Hey, this is Leo from Actualized.org, and in this quick self-help segment I’m going to talk about critical thinking.
Chunks Of Wisdom
Let’s crack into this one, let’s crack this one wide open. Critical thinking is a critical skill to have, and we’re going to talk about why it’s important. We’re also going to talk about how to develop it and we’re going to go deep on this one. I’m going to give you some wisdom, not just tips, but wisdom about why this is something you should be caring about.
Ultimately, what is behind critical thinking? Let’s define it and let’s talk about why you want to develop it. The reason you want to develop critical thinking is because it will allow you to solve many of the problems that you have in your life. The problems and the bottlenecks and the obstacles that are holding you back.
Those will keep holding you back until you start to think about them and analyze them and then work on them. You can’t work on a problem until you’ve identified it, become aware of it. A lot of the time you can’t become aware of the problem until you’ve really thought about it critically.
This is a tool you will use throughout the rest of your life to solve all your problems and all your challenges, and to take your life to the next level, and the next level, and the next level. Personally for me, critical thinking has always been something I’ve valued inherently, something I was good at.
This came naturally to me. When I look back at my life, where I’ve come to, where I am now, the position I’m at now, all the success I’ve had, all the things I’ve done for myself, all the changes I’ve made — there’s no way in hell that could’ve happened without thinking about those problems, really analyzing them, working my way through them independently.
I did that independently. Sure, I got a lot of valuable information from other people, from other sources, from books, from television, from media, from other gurus and whatnot. In the end, I had to take that on. I took on the burden of thinking through the problems myself.
That is what’s really the core of critical thinking. Let’s really think about critical thinking. Let’s use critical thinking to think about critical thinking, which will show you what critical thinking actually is.
Hall Of Fame
Who are some great critical thinkers in history? Let’s take a look at a couple of them. How about Rene Descartes? How about David Hume? Isaac Newton? Plato? Socrates? Aristotle? The Buddha? Albert Einstein? Pablo Picasso? Leonardo DaVinci? Just a short list. We can make this list literally thousands of names long, but it’s just a short sampling of some great thinkers.
When you look at these people, and you study them or their work, or you even read just some little short blurb about them on Wikipedia, what you learn is that these were deep thinkers. These were independent thinkers. This is the key that I want to take away from this video: critical thinking is independent thinking.
That means that you are figuring out the problem for yourself. You’re generating the answers for yourself. You’re not just taking whatever is given to you. It’s very easy, especially now with the internet and all this information overload that we have, all this knowledge we’ve accumulated over the last two and a half thousand years of human history, really since the Greek times.
We’ve got all this wisdom, we’ve got all this knowledge. We’ve got all these facts and information and trivia and all this, and it’s just out there. We tend to just go and appropriate, assimilate and just grab stuff. We’re just grabbing stuff, but we’re not critically thinking about it. We’re not analyzing it.
What tends to happen there is you get caught up in the values and beliefs of whoever you’re taking that information from instead of yourself. You’re not generating the answers yourself.
Shapes And Sizes
The best example I can give you here, and I hesitate to give it, but I’ll give it to you because it’s important: Remember in geometry class, where you were given a theorem about triangles or parallel lines, or the way angles work, you were given some theorem, and you could use it to generate answers to various problems.
Then you were also asked, later in the class, to not just use the theorem, but to actually prove it, to derive it. Do you remember that? Yeah, I hated doing that, but the point there is that there’s something important about being able to derive a truth for yourself, versus just taking it from culture, society or somebody else.
When you do that, even though it can be painful, challenging and it’s much easier to just take a theorem and apply it without thinking critically about it, when you do that you get true understanding. You get true perspective. You get real mastery.
If you actually went through and did those proofs in geometry class, then you actually developed a deep understanding of why geometry works the way it does. If you just took the theorems that were handed to you and you never did the proofs, you slacked off on that part and you just applied the theorems, then chances are that even to this day, you don’t really have a solid understanding of some of the laws of geometry.
You don’t understand, for example, why certain angles add up to a certain amount. You don’t understand why triangles are the way they are, and circles are the way they are, and squares and other things are the way they are. You don’t understand that because you haven’t gone through the process.
In Times Of Old
This is something that’s really undervalued these days in society. It used to be very highly regarded in the classical eras, like the Greek times and the Roman times. Just think about the Socratic method. What did Socrates do? What was his philosophical style?
It was interesting, because the Socratic method, all it is is just asking questions. The way that Socrates would educate his students, students of philosophy, the way he would do philosophy himself is he would ask you questions.
You might come in there and say “Well I believe such and such.” And he would say “OK, so you believe that. If that’s true, then that must also imply this.” And then you would say “No, it doesn’t imply that.” Then he’s say “OK, then what you said must be false.”
Or maybe you agree. Yes, it does imply that, but it doesn’t imply it in the way you thought. So now it implies something slightly different, and then that thing implies something slightly different, something else, and something else.
You have this chain of implications from that original assumption or that original belief. Through this process, you can go down this chain of reasoning by asking question after question after question, posing hypothetical scenarios.
You can get pretty deep into the truth of the matter, and start to really see what is making this idea tick. It’s what you’ve got to be doing with your life. You’ve got to be doing that. If you’re curious about how I actually build critical thinking skills, how do you actually do that?
You have to just start doing it. You have to start asking yourself questions. Instead of taking facts and information from the media and from books, just accepting it as true, start analyzing it, thinking it.
The Way You Read
One example of this is when you’re reading a book. If you’re reading a nonfiction book, I think one of the signs that you’re a critical reader is that as you’re reading it, you put it down a lot of times. You can’t just read a deep non-fiction book cover to cover and not stop.
For me, when I’m reading, I read the book, I read a couple of pages and then I have to stop and think about what I read. I can ask myself questions. Is that true? Does it really work like that? If it is true, what are the implications for my life? What are the implications for all the other information I’ve gathered?
I start to ask myself those questions. Sometimes I’ll read just two pages and then I’ll go off on a tangent in my mind, going down this chain of critical thinking that I’ve got going, and I’ll spend fifteen minutes thinking about it. Then I’ll realise I was caught in that chain and I’ll be like “OK, let’s get back to the book.”
Finally, I get back to the book because I want to finish the book too. There’s a little bit of a trade-off there. Basically, you go through and read a couple of pages, and think about it. You don’t just read the book cover to cover, throw it away and go on to the next one. That’s just you sucking in information, and then who knows what effect it’s going to have on you.
Throwing Information Around
The problem right now in society is that we have a lot of people throwing information at you. A lot of that information is motivated by commercial interests, commercial purposes. There are literally billion dollar marketing departments, across the country, across the world, that are looking at how to trap you into buying their bullshit product.
They might not even think the product is good, and they’ll still figure out a way to trap you into it. They’ll figure out a way to make you believe whatever is convenient for them, whatever produces the most money for them.
That’s a very powerful, dangerous force. You have to be able to unplug yourself from that. When You start to think critically, you start to think independently, for yourself, powerful things start to happen. This is why critical thinking is so critical. When you have that ability, then what you’re going to create for yourself is a sense of self-direction and self-reliance.
Right now, if you’re not a critical thinkers, then you do not have your own direction in life. You do not have a sense of reliance on yourself. You’re relying on the media, on culture, on your friends, on people around you, on your college professors, on whatever, to get you the information that you need.
What they’re doing is providing you, quite frankly, with horseshit garbage negative information that is flat out false, highly distorted or leading you down a path you do not want to be going down.
A Herd Unguided
When you unplug yourself from that it’s crazy. I think the best analogy I can give is it’s almost like there’s a herd of cattle, and they’re all running. They’re all running like in a stampede towards a canyon far off in the distance. This giant herd of cattle, all walking or running even, towards this canyon.
You’re part of that herd. You don’t even realise what’s going to happen is that soon enough, the canyon’s not that close right now, but soon enough that canyon’s going to come. When that whole herd gets there, they’re going to fall off the fucking cliff, and you’re going to come along for the ride.
That’s what society basically is. That’s what mainstream society is. Everyone who’s plugged into that is going to fall off the fucking cliff. It’s that dead serious. This is what’s happening with your health. This is what’s happening with the entertainment you’re watching. This is what’s happening with your lack of exercise.
This is what’s happening with the crappy carrier you’re in. This is what’s happening with how you understand relationships, and sex, and religion, and morality. All this stuff has just been handed to you, and you just take it. You just accept it, you don’t think about it whatsoever. You don’t discover the truths for yourself.
When you start to discover these truths for yourself, and think very critically, independently, rely on yourself as the primary source and leave all the other sources as secondary sources, when you are the primary source, you’re going to realise that a lot of the ideas out there are just flat out wrong for you, are not going to work, are extremely unhealthy, flat out false, greatly distorted.
What you’re going to do is be that one cow that sees what’s happening and you’re going to stop. You’re going to go in the opposite direction. You’re going to say “Damn! I’m so glad that I broke out of that herd. If I kept going down that path, I would’ve surely fallen off the fucking cliff. All those cows that are going down that direction, are going to have a miserable and horrible life. But me, because I’ve got my own sense of direction, I’m going to go and chart my own path through life. My path is going to be an independent path, a critical path, a path that can have strength and value, and that can generate something new for humanity, that can create powerful ideas, can start powerful projects, can help people in powerful ways and can deeply fulfill me.”
This is the bottom line of why critical thinking is important and how it should be working. Practically, how do we actually implement this? I’m telling you. Stop getting information mindlessly from the environment. That means stop books, stop internet, stop television, stop magazines, stop getting your information from people and family and religion, and from history and philosophy, from gurus out there including myself, professors and teachers.
Stop relying on those people to force feed you golden nuggets. You can use all that as a way to prime the pump, but then you’ve got to do the work. You’ve got to put that stuff into your mill — look at your mind as a mill that’s going to grind through this material you’re putting into it. You put the material in, then you actually have to do the grinding. That’s not what you’ve been doing so far.
To actually do that, you have to start asking questions. Ask questions about your religion. Don’t be afraid. Ask questions about history, question it, be skeptical. Be a total skeptic, be a cynic, at least for a while, go through that phase, be very skeptical. Be very critical. Be very analytical about what people are telling you, people’s opinions and value your own opinions above the opinions of others.
Actually try to derive this stuff. Derive the truths. Ask yourself what is true. What is real? What is valuable to me? What is important in life? Answer those yourself, don’t just get that from you parents. Don’t just get that from your church. Don’t get that from a book. Don’t even get that from me.
Everything I’m telling you, you should be analyzing very, very critically. Seeing what works, what’s true and what’s not. What’s true for me, and what I believe to be true, is not necessarily what’s true. It’s not necessarily what’s going to work for you. You have to figure that out. Think, don’t be lazy.
Two Sides Of The Coin
The two factors for critical thinking are curiosity and open mindedness. If you’re curious and you’re fascinated by ideas, and understanding things, that’s going to help you a long way. That’s going to move you a long way forward along this trying to become a good critical thinker.
If you’re open minded to ideas, then it’s going to be so important to make it down this path as well. If you’re close minded, then you’re basically fucked. You’re not going to be able to analyze ideas properly and really find the truth. Your blinder is on, and you’re only looking in this one direction for truth, but truth might be over here.
Except you’re always looking over here, because people told you to always be looking over here. You will never find what’s really true. Being open minded means you’re willing to do this. You’re willing to go and look into every direction, every nook and cranny, doesn’t matter who tells you what.
If someone tells you not to look somewhere, that’s probably some place you should actually go and look. Why would they tell you not to look there? Probably because they’re afraid of what you’re going to find out. Look in every nook and cranny. That’s what you’ve got to do. Be curious and open minded.
That’s what I have to say about critical thinking. Be an independent thinker. Be a critical thinker. The more you do this, the more you practice it, the more it’s just going to build and snowball. Soon enough, you’re going to realize that you’re an amazing critical thinker, independent thinker. Your life is going to take that trajectory, you’re going to break off from that herd that’s going down the cliff. You’re going to walk in a positive new direction.
This is it for critical thinking. I am signing off. Go ahead and post me some comments. Share this and like this if you would. I’d like to spread the message. I’d like you to help me do that. That’s why I put out this content for free.
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