What’s my next move? Our success in life—and sometimes our survival—depends on developing the ability to solve challenging problems in organized and creative ways. How can we learn to be effective problem solvers?
Copyright © Cengage Learning
Critical thinking can help
creatively and constructively solve problems.
Thinking Critically About Problems
Throughout your life, you are continually solving problems, including the many minor problems that you solve each day: negotiating a construction delay on the road, working through an unexpected difficulty at your job, helping an upset child deal with a disappointment. As a student, you are faced with a steady stream of academic assignments, quizzes, exams, and papers. Relatively simple problems like these do not require a systematic or complex analysis. For example, to do well on an exam, you need to define the problem (what areas will the exam cover, and what will be the format?), identify and evaluate various alternatives (what are possible study approaches?), and then put all these factors together to reach a solution (what will be your study plan and schedule?). But the difficult and complicated problems in life require more attention.
Problems are the crucibles that forge the strength of our characters. When you are tested by life—forced to overcome adversity and think your way through the most challenging situations—you will emerge a more intelligent, resourceful, and resilient person. However, if you lead a sheltered existence that insulates you from life’s trials, or if you flee from situations at the first sign of trouble, then you are likely to be weak and unable to cope with the eruptions and explosions that are bound to occur. Adversity reveals the person you have become, the character you have created. As the Roman philosopher and poet Lucretius explained, “So it is more useful to watch a man in times of peril, and in adversity to discern what