Critical thinking requires you to rewire your brain to see the world in different ways. One way to do that is to imagine a series of "What if..." scenarios.
Photo by Tim
The idea here is basically a mental exercise to stretch your critical thinking muscles. BBC Future explains:
One way to develop those skills could be to re-imagine key events. History students could write an essay exploring "What would the world be like if Germany had won World War Two?" or "What would have happened if Britain had permanently abolished the monarchy in the 17th Century?". If history isn't your thing, writing a story imagining "The day the president quit" or "The day my wife disappeared" could be a starting point.
It may sound fanciful, but the point is that it forces you to consider the different eventualities and form hypotheses. Young children help hone that kind of "counterfactual thinking" when they play pretend, which helps them to learn everything from the laws of physics to social skills. We don't tend to practise it deliberately as an adult — but you might find that it helps broaden your mindset when grappling with the unexpected.
Whether you're trying to make a decision, understand something that happened, or whatever else, creating a serious of "what if..." scenarios might just help.
A five-step guide to not being stupid [BBC Future]