Foundations of Personal Growth: Critical Thinking


Personal Growth must be intentional and one of the areas we must be intentional is our thinking.

Edward de Bono describes thinking as “the operating skill through which intelligence acts upon experience.”  An analogy: intelligence is the car and thinking is your driving skill level.  While intelligence is a worthwhile pursuit, thinking is the greater pursuit.

Vincent Ryan Ruggerio defines thinking as “a purposeful mental activity – you control it, not vice versa.” Thinking can be broken into two areas:

  1. Creative Thinking: the generation of ideas
  2. Critical Thinking: the evaluation of ideas

A few weeks ago while home sick, I watched a few of the “judge” shows that air in the afternoon: Judge Alex and Judge Judy. Their shows are filled with cases in which one of the people lacks critical thinking skills. In one instance, a woman who wrote a check for shoes she purchased at a show and the check bounced.  After wearing the shoes she didn’t like them, so she never reconciled the check nor did she returned the shoes.  She was being sued for $600+ dollars for all the shoes she bought – yeah a whole lot of shoes. Her entire defense was “the shoes hurt her feet and were poor quality.”  She believed how she felt justified her actions and was dumbfounded by Judge Judy’s judgement for the plaintiff. *sigh* I could go on but I think you get the point.

How to improve your critical thinking skills?

1. Study other good thinkers and successful people.  

I read lots of biographies and of course I have to plug my favorite thinker: Leonardo da Vinci.  George W. Bush’s book “Decision Points” is all about his process of making decisions in complex situations. Don’t let your political affiliation stop you from reading this book. There are only 43 other men who know what it’s like to be president and only 4 living now. So anyone reading this blog can benefit from the book.

2. Purchase Vincent Ruggiero’s “Becoming a Critical Thinker”  and Edward de Bono’s “de Bono’s Thinking Course

Both books are filled with activities that help you improve your thinking. They also give you thinking strategies and tools to help you evaluate ideas.  Both books also dabble into creative thinking.

3. Commit to a life of reflection – journaling is a great for this.

If you don’t like to write, spending time daily reflecting will suffice. Ruggiero’s book goes into more detail about this, but the strategy to follow for reflecting is:

  1. Observe – the better you take notice of the world around you the better you think.  Observation also includes active listening
  2. Record/reflect on your observation
  3. Address relevant questions – ask why?

Your success doesn’t singularly depend on what you know or your degree, it also depends on how you apply what you know. Critical thinking is the foundation for your success.  Good judgement, the ability to evaluate ideas and data, the ability to separate your emotions & make decisions  and not being gullible to the amount of misinformation we have so readily available via the internet are skills that are rooted in good thinking skills. Your ability to influence as a leader is grounded in critical thinking. Make it a priority today.