Independent thinker

Becoming an independent thinker is often misunderstood. I get why you are asking, but I’m not sure it’s the right question to ask.

Gaining independence is a bit like those wild teenage years. Imagine strutting around in kick-ass boots, declaring “Not this!” about anything you dislike without knowing what else, if “not this.” It’s a necessary but somewhat confusing stage. Some folks get stuck here, spending a lifetime kicking and screaming, not realizing that this was supposed to be a temporary phase. Such independence can quickly become pretty lonely.

The grown-up stage is called interdependence, and it’s about co-existing with others for mutual benefit. In this case, that would mean co-thinking. But to do that, you first have to know yourself: what you stand for, your values, and what makes you tick. No textbook can teach you this. You have to go taste the flavors of life—careers, relationships, hobbies, you name it.

Once you know yourself, you are ready to share ideas, get feedback, admit mistakes, apologize where appropriate and hold your ground when needed. You consciously choose when to think out of the box and when it’s beneficial to follow a known path. Experience helps you pick your battles.

Independent Thinker vs. Interdependent Thinker

Testing our thoughts against others is essential. Otherwise, we live in a bubble. An independent thinker tends to slam doors, while co-dependent people blindly follow a guru (of any kind – a dominant boyfriend, an Instagram trendsetter, a despotic ruler). But if you are an interdependent thinker, you thrive on diverse opinions, exchange of ideas, on finding common language and the essence behind things. It enables intellectual and creative collaborations.

But, at the same time, you must have a clear, strong identity that is legible to others. If you know who you are, they know what to expect. You have to feel so comfortable in your skin that you don’t mind if your opinions are unpopular. You must be able to both be yourself and remain open to learning, expansion and change. This combination of openness, collaboration and resilience is the magic trick here.

True independent thinking is significantly conditioned by emotional and spiritual maturity, surpassing mere intellectual prowess. Cultivating such maturity will bring you mile steps ahead, and I don’t doubt that intellectual growth will naturally follow. Only in this context does it make sense to focus on the specific aspects that make you a better critical and independent thinker.

Image by Tabea from Pixabay

How can I become a more independent thinker? (#AskMichaelaFree)
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