CAREER DEVELOPMENT / FEB. 23, 2016
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8 Ways to Think Differently and Develop Your Own Opinion

Independent thinking is one of society’s most valuable assets. It drives growth and inspires innovation. But independent thinking is just as rare as it is valuable. Most of us simply regurgitate whatever news, information and opinions we hear, but developing critical thinking skills can help you progress in the career world. People who think differently, the ones responsible for innovation and industry advancements, are the people who accelerate to the top of their field – and they’re compensated generously for it.

1. Disconnect from Sources of Conventional Thought

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When looking for answers, don’t run straight to your TV, the internet or local library. Instead, restrict your absorption of conventional opinion. Limiting the media you consume (and your attachment to it) doesn’t mean that you have to cut yourself off from the world, but it will allow you to form your own thoughts and opinions without relying on what others are saying.

2. Recognize Your Own Biases, and Learn to Confront Them

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One of the most difficult aspects of honing your critical thinking skills is recognizing and confronting your own biases. Everyone, regardless of who they are or where they come from, is biased about information whether they’re aware of it or not. To improve your critical thinking skills, you will need to be open to the idea of looking beyond these biases.

3. Immerse Yourself in New Experiences

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When you engage in new experiences, whether they’re good or bad, you change the way you think. Immersing yourself in new experiences will help you expand your knowledge and change your perspective.

Try travelling somewhere new, experimenting with different types of food, or exposing yourself to new cultures. Learning and experiencing new cultures first-hand can be particularly beneficial because it allows you to become aware of new ways of thinking, and forces you to adapt.

4. Expose Yourself to New Ideas

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Everyone has their own ideas, and we are fortunate to live in a time when new information and ideas are just a click away – or a trip to the bookstore.

Develop new interests in a wide range of topics, and read about these interests in different books written by different authors. Get differing ideas and views on these subjects, so you can expose yourself to various ways of thinking. Go to your local bookstore, or read through different magazines at the dentist’s office.

Use these new ideas to form your own opinions.

5. Fact-Check and Question Sources

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Before you form an opinion, make sure that you have your facts straight. Rather than forming an opinion based on emotions and feelings, gather facts and investigate before you make a judgement. Talk to people and perform research. Question whether the facts support your opinion.

Always question sources – especially when the source is Internet-based. If something seems “off” or wrong about a statement, do some digging to track down the source of the information before you form an opinion.

6. Leave Emotions at the Door

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It’s all too easy to get caught up in the world and the opinions people share. Rather than being consumed by everything that is going on in the world, take an objective position. Watch from a distance, and take emotion out of the equation. When you remove “self” from the picture, it becomes easier to think outside of the box and eventually, form your own opinion.

7. Participate in Group Discussions with Friends

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Meet with your friends and hold discussions. It doesn’t matter what the topic is; just be open to listening to other opinions. Exposing yourself to different thoughts, ideas and perspectives may change your own opinions and help you think more objectively.

8. Meet New People

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Meet new people to learn new things and expose yourself to new cultures. A simple conversation can spark interest in a new topic or encourage you to research important issues. Whenever you have the opportunity, talk to new people and keep your mind open to new ways of thinking.

If critical thinking doesn’t come naturally to you, as is the case for most of us, you can train yourself to change your thought patterns. How do you do this? It all starts with changing the way you do things.

Do you have any other tips on how to think critically? Your thoughts and comments below please...

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