How to Think for Yourself and Why You Should. What an odd title, right? Yet, you’d be surprised to know that thinking for ourselves is getting harder and harder to do.
Smartphones, smart TVs, Android TVs, Siri, Google Assistant, Alexa—should I keep going? Thinking for ourselves has become a chore in and of itself that we’re slowly forgetting how to do it.
Even worse, we seem to have lost the passion for it. Having everything ready at our fingertips has made us lazy and technology-dependent.
Today, we’re diving deep into the world of thoughts. We want to remind you how to think for yourself and why you should.
Thinking for Yourself
Here are a few pointers to consider when finding out about the ins and outs of how to think for yourself.
The basic definition of thinking for yourself is to come up with opinions and beliefs that are completely your own. In other words, you contemplate, ponder, and analyze. Then, based on all that, you reach a conclusion based on your viewpoint.
Let’s not forget what the French philosopher, Rene Descartes, famously said, “I think, therefore I am.” We’re giving his quote a nice, little add-on: “I don’t cater to anyone else’s interpretation of the facts. I form my own opinions.”
Here’s a quick example of how to think for yourself. Imagine you’re in a room full of people. Everyone’s voicing their opinions and thoughts on a certain topic.
So, what do you do? Well, the best thing to do in a situation like that is to take in as much factual data as you can. Next, scrutinize it, then formulate your unique ideas.
Does your idea sound similar to someone else’s? That’s Ok. You don’t have to dispute and argue about every little thing to prove you think for yourself.
It also doesn’t mean you constantly need to come up with original ideas. Nor does it mean you have to be different all the time.
Experts refer to independent thinking as cognitive development. This usually happens in two stages.
The first stage is when children are between the ages of 6 to 12. During this stage, children learn how to form thoughts in specific ways, such as:
- Carrying out actions that require transformations and changes
- Sorting objects and putting things in order
The second stage is adolescence when children are between the ages of 12 and 18. This is a time where there’s more complexity to their thinking.
Their ability to carry out logical, as well as abstract thinking. This includes:
- Considering several viewpoints
- Thinking about thinking
- Reasoning by using a series of known principles
- Contemplating possible outcomes
Benefits of Thinking for Yourself
We talked a little bit about the fundamentals of thinking for yourself. Now, let’s talk about the importance of why you should always do it.
After all, thinking for yourself is much more than just opposing other people’s beliefs. It’s about standing up for what you believe is right, even if mainstream media says otherwise.
Check out some amazing benefits of independent thinking:
- Boost feelings of your self-confidence, self-respect, and self-worth
- Gain more trust in your abilities
- Have a greater sense of accomplishment
- Increase your brainpower
- Expand your mind by recognizing different perspectives and diverse points of view
- Gain others’ respect
- Learn various methods of self-improvement
- Become more aware of what the media is trying to sell you
Drawbacks of Not Thinking for Yourself
Granted, it’s easier to just go with the flow. Why would anyone set out to contradict others, rock the boat, and risk getting ostracized?
Yet, that’s not the worst that can happen if you let others do all the thinking for you. That act of blind obedience comes with a slew of drawbacks. You’ll find a few of them listed below.
The Herd Mentality
How many of you are always following the latest trends in music, clothes, accessories—you name it? This can be tricky because it’s a double-edged sword.
On one side, you feel you want to fit in and know all the latest gossip and fashion trends. On the flip side, social media can be extremely judgmental when deciding what’s cool and what’s not.
Nevertheless, it’s not only social media that’s at fault. Marketing companies put in a lot of effort to create ads and commercials that put us in a trance-like state.
They make us feel that if we don’t have that particular product, we can no longer go on living. So, we run out, overspend, go into debt and so the cycle continues.
Trying to go against that can feel like you’re swimming with sharks. You can even be given the dreaded cold shoulder.
Don’t be fooled into falling into that trap. It’s all too easy to lose yourself when you’re on social media.
Stand your ground and voice your opinions. If you like a certain trend, great! Go for it!
How about if you don’t like a certain song or fashion item? Then, say how you feel with grace and respect.
You’ll be remembered as the brave person who was able to stand up for themselves. If you don’t, you’ll be clumped in with those who followed the trend like a flock of sheep.
Coined in 1972 by Irving Janis, GroupThink is a powerful psychological phenomenon. This is basically when one or two people in a group acquiesce to something just to avoid conflict. They believe they’re doing it to fit in and be part of the crowd.
‘What’s the problem with that?’ you’re probably wondering. Granted, it’s always nice to be accepted.
Unfortunately, this can cause tremendous problems, much bigger than not being part of the clique.
One problem is that they agree without checking for alternative options. They don’t even consider taking the time to see how they feel about it. Do they agree? Do they disagree? Does it make them happy? Sad? No one knows because they gave up the right to be heard and considered as an individual.
On an even bigger scale, they’ve denied others what could’ve been some amazing concepts. They’ve impeded the flow of creative ideas and slowed down progress.
Throwing out ideas left and right is how successful partnerships and corporations thrive. They absorb everything being said. Then, filter out the doable from the not-so-doable.
Remember that mediocre ideas can be built on with the help of various sources. This is what we call brainstorming. Then, the idea continues to evolve until it becomes a remarkable, one-of-a-kind type of concept.
Tips on How to Think for Yourself
Developing your thoughts, beliefs, and ideologies takes dedication and commitment. Take the time to train and prepare. Just like anything in life, the more you practice, the better you’ll get.
Here are a few tips to help you out:
Two simple words that hold infinite enlightenment: know thyself. Even as Socrates was advising his fellow Athenians that, “To know thyself is the beginning of wisdom,” he couldn’t have possibly imagined the profound effect he’d have on all mankind.
But what does it mean exactly? Basically, it means that to live a full life, you have to examine every aspect of it. This includes your emotions, actions, and definitely your thoughts.
Understand what motivates you to do certain things. Recognize how you feel and think about what you encounter daily.
This philosophy of self-knowledge is the building block of growing as an individual. It helps you make sound decisions that’ll carry you through life. Self-knowledge also helps you build healthy relationships both in your professional and personal lives.
This may be one of the hardest things you’ll ever have to do. Still, it must be done to be a kind, conscientious individual. Not only that, but it’s how you can guarantee you’re not treating anyone unfairly without realizing it.
Bear in mind that your culture, religion, and upbringing all play a hand in influencing your thoughts. So, it’s important to take the time to judge first-hand what’s going on. Don’t oppose or agree to something based on other people’s opinions, even if it’s friends and family.
The first step in forming an opinion is by building up your mental resources. And what better way to do that than by reading about as many topics as you can.
Focus on issues that interest you. It’s also a good idea to read about things that you don’t particularly care for, but are trending on social media.
Modern technology makes it easier than ever to find out all you need about current topics. Once you’ve gathered all the information you need, take the time to reassess what you know.
Practice Critical Thinking
We face issues in our lives each day. Some are small, like forgetting to pick up your dry cleaning. Others are more serious, like asking for a raise or dealing with a break-up.
This is where critical thinking comes in. Begin by identifying the problem and gathering all the necessary data. Then, use that to form an opinion and ultimately make a decision.
Resist Peer Pressure
We all want to be heard and acknowledged. So, if you’re asking a friend for advice, they’re likely to try and persuade you to see things from their perspective.
They may even pressure you into it, especially if more than one friend is saying the same thing.
When you stumble upon a problem, you have to learn how to find possible solutions in the least likely of places. You also have to look at it from different vantage points.
Weigh the pros and cons, as well as who might benefit or get harmed from it. It’s just as important to factor in all potential consequences and outcomes.
This shines the light for you, and others, on what to expect. Plus, you’ll enjoy gathering all vital data and coming up with your personalized ideas.
Being flexible and standing your ground don’t go against each other. They complete one another.
It’s another stepping stone in the process of thinking for yourself. You start by getting to know who you truly are on the inside. The second step is to gather all relevant data.
Then, you look at things from as many standpoints as you can. This will help you learn to accept new ideas, even if you don’t agree with them 100%.
Finally, comes the part where you summon up some courage and stand up for what you believe. One way to do that is to understand your core values. They define who you are as a person, irrespective of where you come from or what your background is.
Many times we go with the flow because we’re afraid of failure or ridicule. Yes, confrontation can be hard. But what’s the alternative? Just staying quiet means you’re doing yourself and others a great disservice.
Your idea may be the best one they’ve heard all day. Or it could be the ethical and right thing to do in a certain situation.
A Final Word
Figuring out how to think for yourself and why you should is never easy. It takes time and practice, especially since society has taught us to do the exact opposite.
Forming your own opinions requires courage, grace, and deliberate self-reflection. Then, after all that hard work, life becomes much more manageable and loads more fun!