Books are the best way to learn knowledge acquired by people over their lifetime. You can even get to learn from people who are not walking the Earth anymore. Isn’t it great?
It’s easy to take a book and see it as a messenger for truth. And yet, nobody really has all the answers. To take the knowledge shared as a fact is a common mistake. That’s why there are books contradicting other books after all. As knowledge and research expand, we discover that some ideas were wrong.
“One who believes all of a book would be better off without books” — Mencius
While this is quite extreme, the idea behind this quote is right. And not just for books! If you believe anything you are told, without wondering about some parts, you’ll miss the “true truth”.
What is it?
That nothing is completely black or white. Nothing is exactly one certain way. Proof of one thing can be found to be false after further research even.
After all, everybody thought the Earth was flat at one point in the past. It was proven to be wrong and we were able to move on from this research. Of course, some people go too far and decide to ignore hard facts to this day.
It’s important to double-guess everything that is without proof. Even if it might be true, at the very least, you’ll have made your brain work.
How can you develop this critical thinking?
There are two important actions that will kickstart your critical thinking. They don’t take any specific time. And yet, used for a long time, they could help change your life.
The very first step is to stop taking things too seriously. What do kids do when they don’t know something? They ask, ask, and ask again. “Intelligent” questions? Some maybe, but most could be considered pointless.
Yet, the result is incredible. They learn new things every single day. They even learn a language without knowing one at first! How? By asking questions again. By looking around. By making experiments.
Picture a young child trying to go in a kitchen drawer close to the ground. First, the parents will say no. Does that mean “not now”? Or forever? The only way to know for the child is to try again. Still no? Ok. How about now? Mmh I see a pattern.
That’s how they learn every single thing they know.
Ask “stupid” questions in your daily life. Things you “should” already know. Things people consider “obvious”.
- How do I walk?
- Why do I blink so much?
- Why is a couch more comfortable than a chair?
- Why does that tree have burgeons but not the one next to it?
The list is endless.
Contradict your thoughts
From there on, you can start thinking in opposites. Force yourself to find a reason to agree with opposite opinions than those you hold.
- Why could a fixed mindset be better than a growth mindset?
- Why would it be better to work more in a job I don’t like?
- How advantageous would it be to still live with my parents?
- How much better would my life be if I only ate fish? Vegetables? Meat?
Find one fact a day on which you hold a strong opinion. Remind yourself of the reasons behind that opinion. And then find reasons to prove the opposite is correct.
Is it easy? Hell no. Does it get easier? Yes.
I recently did this for my own life goals. I asked myself why it would be better not to have some. It took time, but I found some answers. Life would seem easier. I could be less stressed out, less worried. I could have a stable job and stay in the “company man” mindset still present in Japan. And so on.
Did I want those? Nope. The result? My goals felt all the more important after this exercise.
Now, ask yourself. Why is the Earth flat? How did this article not serve you any good? How did it serve you? Dig and find reasons for everything.
Not everything in life is a fact. Question everything. Find your own truth when proof is unavailable. And keep on learning about the world and yourself.
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Mathias Barra is a French polyglot living in Japan and who has learned 6 languages and dabbled in numerous others. Being a curious child full of wonders is how he keeps on learning and can’t stop sharing about every tiny idea, even non-language-related.