Critical Thinking Series – Introduction

The articles in this series are from my e-book, “Thinking for a Change: a fresh look at critical thinking”. The e-book is available for download at a price of $2.99 at the Transforming Leader Online Store.

critical-thinkingYears ago I heard a story about a man who tried to steal an ATM machine. His plan was to rip the ATM out of the wall of a store-front by chaining it to the back bumper of his pick-up truck. After securing the chain, the incompetent thief got in his truck and hit the gas. A few seconds later, he heard a terribly loud noise and the truck suddenly lurched ahead. Frantic and scared he would soon be caught, he quickly hit the brakes and ran around to claim his prize. Appalled, he discovered the ATM machine was still secured to the building. Lying on the ground in front of him was the truck’s back bumper which had been ripped off. Scared and frustrated, the man got in the truck and went home. Hours later, the police showed up at his door and arrested him for attempted robbery. He was easy to find. The police just checked the license plate on the bumper left chained to the ATM. I don’t know how true the story is, but it makes me chuckle and I wouldn’t be surprised if it actually happened.

It is incredibly easy to make daily choices without a good and proper dose of critical thinking. Something happens to us and we either react (which can barely be define as thinking at all) or we do the first thing that comes to mind that seems halfway reasonable. Often, it’s a shot in the dark whether our half-baked decision will come back and bite us or not. In fact, the old saying “When you find yourself in a hole, stop digging” has its roots in Scriptures. Psalm 7:15 says, “He who digs a hole and scoops it out falls into the pit he has made.” Humanity has made a lot of holes throughout history and, unfortunately, we don’t always learn from our mistakes! Check out some of these quotes that so aptly capture our propensity for doing or saying something prematurely.

  • “Nothing in the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity.” -Martin Luther King, Jr.
  • “Only two things are infinite, the universe and human stupidity, and I’m not sure about the former.” -Albert Einstein
  • “I like to think of my behavior in the sixties as a ‘learning experience.’ Then again, I like to think of anything stupid I’ve done as a ‘learning experience.’ It makes me feel less stupid.” -P.J. O’Rourke
  • If you don’t do stupid things while you’re young, you’ll have nothing to smile about when you’re old. –Author Unknown
  • When you’re thirsty, it’s too late to begin thinking about digging a well. –Japanese Proverb
  • Some mistakes are too much fun to only make once. –Author Unknown

Consider the Children’s Ministry Director who is faced with a dilemma. A Sunday School volunteer calls to explain that she won’t be able to teach her preschool class (which is starting in 15 minutes!). The director is now in a quandary. There will be several families showing up in a matter of minutes and something needs to be done quickly. He may react and grab the first warm body he sees to fill in; or perhaps he quickly decides to let the teen assistant teach the class alone. Either way, with an extra minute or two, he could have come up with more viable options. Of course, the old saying “Hind sight is 20/20.” is only quoted when we discover our hasty decision created bigger problems. In this example, what if the ‘last minute’ sub ended up yelling at the children and left them alone for several minutes for a bathroom break. The quick decision might end up with new families who are angry and unsure if they want to continue attending church or not.

One reason we are OK with this way of thinking is that it usually gets us by. Anyone with a head on their shoulders, a little experience, and some common sense can make a halfway decent decision that saves the day . . . most of the time. So this way of thinking becomes the standard simply because it often works!

In the above example, the quick thinking of that director could have saved the day if nothing went wrong. In hind-sight he might also wished he had thought things through more thoroughly. An extra 4 minutes would have sufficed!

There’s a better way. I believe we can learn to think with perspective. It’s my personal goal to be a ‘critical thinker’ (not a critical person!) as often as possible; and I’m beginning to see that my goal can and is being realized in my day to day life.

To read more, check out the next article in this series or purchase the e-book at my online store today!

photo credit: steven n fettig via photopin cc

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