Five Ways To Free The Independent Thinker Inside of You
To be an independent-thinker is to be a free-thinker; and everyone should be free from the bondage of other people’s opinions, expectations, and beliefs. Independent thinkers are a dying breed, but we discuss five ways to bring them back from the edge of extinction.
The Death Of The Independent Thinker
“A classroom full of 10-year-old students is asked to solve a problem with children crossing the street on the way to school. The children come up with ideas that have been used successfully in other places: traffic calming devices, overpasses, fluorescent jackets and speed limits. All these ideas are conventional, exactly what the teacher wants to hear.
Except for one. A student recommends that the school board sell the property and move the classroom online. This is not what the teacher was expecting.
This idea may not be practical, popular, or even possible, but when it’s ridiculed by the class it might be the last independent thought that the student dares to express — the death of another independent thinker.”
The Characteristics And Benefits Of Being An Independent Thinker
- increased motivation and confidence
- constant search for knowledge
- improved performance and productivity
- analytical and strategic
5 Ways to Develop Your Independent Thinking
Turn Off The Programming
One of the worst things we have done is whenever something happens, we turn on the TV to find out how we should feel about it. Understand whatever media source you are listening, reading or watching is poll tested talking points of repetitive information.
Even the pundits who are interviewed never answer a question they do not want (or prepared) to answer. I am sure you have seen a program where the person is asked a direct question about a scandal or a vote and they take the opportunity to pivot and answered whatever question they want. Then the person is thanked for their time and leaves. Now the host has a segment with a panel where they continue to speculate on the issue the person was unwilling to share any facts regarding.
If you want to think for yourself, you are going to have to limit the conventional opinions you allow yourself to absorb.
Immerse Yourself In Experiences That Contradict Your Current Beliefs
Your beliefs are based on a combination of:
- Your values: Whatever you hold in high-esteem (family, friends, career, pets, political and religious views).
- The things you “know”
- Your preferences and prejudices: Stuff you believe to be true without facts to support it. (Don’t worry, we all have them).
These three factors are in a constant flux… updated as your knowledge and understanding change with your life experiences.
It is important to reassess your beliefs on a regular basis. One of the best ways to do this is to go all-in on a belief that opposes your own.
Research and defend it with the same resolve that you would defend something you care about. You will likely begin to notice there is enough information out there to make a pretty strong case for any belief (and I mean any belief).
If able, I recommend you physically immerse yourself into a foreign culture and experience their lives.
Remember, your goal is not to necessarily leave with a new belief, but to challenge your conventional beliefs.
Exercise Your Creativity
To become an independent thinker, you need to exercise your creativity by taking action and thinking critically.
There is only one you and the only way you can be you is by being you (like what I did there). 🙂
By becoming aware of your values, knowledge, preferences and prejudges you can accept your personal limitations and come up with solutions to grow beyond them.
Think of your life as a blank sheet of paper that you are allowing yourself to paint. Allow yourself to share your ideas in meetings and volunteer to lead projects.
Embarking on new adventures and new opportunities will help develop your independent thinking and help encourage confidence and a positive self-image.
Mix It Up And Try New Things
- Instead of taking the same route to work,
- eating at the same restaurants and ordering the same food,
- talking with the same people,
- you need to pursue new experiences.
When I took a trip to Nigeria this past December, I experienced an entirely new world. It changed the way I saw my life and how I measured success. I saw people working harder than me, with significantly fewer opportunities to succeed. Yet they were up before 5am preparing for work without complaint.
Their children were up preparing to go to school, but when they got out of school, they didn’t go home, they went to work. They would stand on the street corners with a handful of items. Almost like their own flee market or convenience store.
Most people conform as a way to feel secure in their life, but if you want to be independent, you need to challenge yourself and the world.
Become An Inquisitive Person
Without becoming a pessimist, you can benefit from being skeptical of thoughts that rely on conventional wisdom.
For example, no one trusts the news, but they quote the news anytime it agrees with their beliefs. People share fake news on a regular basis believing the information to be real and accurate.
There are examples of people becoming desensitized to tigers based on what they see in the zoo and on TV. They end up putting their life in danger climbing the cage at the zoo because they believe they can tame the beast.
People watching CSI and believe that is how cases are solved in real life. As a result, more people are being found not guilty because people expect there to be forensic evidence (like the show).
There is also the way media portrays similar stories in very different ways. Depending on the race of the suspect, the news will report a person who killed several people as a terrorist, a thug, or a gunman. Very close to my home a few days ago a murderer killed several people at a Madden tournament.
The attack is called an act of terror only when the murderer fit a certain conventional wisdom.
Now I already know some of you are not going to like what I just said, but as I mentioned, independent thinkers are becoming extinct because they are persecuted until they conform.
But allow me to ask you this, should it be a terrorist attack only if someone is of a certain religion or should it be a terrorist attack if someone is terrorizing the masses?
The 10% Rule
I have a rule called the “10% Rule”. I believe most negative stories involve the media focusing on fewer than 10% of any particular group. We start to believe it is commonplace because that is all they talk about. However, you will find that most cops are not killing civilians, most blacks are not in gangs, most whites are not racist, most Muslims are not terrorists and so on and so forth.
But if you do not stop absorbing conventional wisdom, you will never be able to see the world any other way.
I am passionate about independent thinking because I believe it is a crucial step in not only reaching our potential, but in our ability to create a better world for everyone.
- To change the world, we must recognize when we are focusing on the 10%.
- Then others will notice they are doing the same.
- We need to break the cycle and celebrate the 90%.
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Resource: Pick the Brain_Tom O’Leary