By Kathy Koches
The dictionary defines “independence” as: freedom from the control, influence, support, aid, or the like, of others.
One of my favorite comedians, George Carlin, put it this way: “I do this real moron thing, it’s called thinking, and I’m not a very good American because I like to form my own opinions.”
How about that magical feeling you got when you got your first two-wheel bike – I remember feeling free – to fly down the street, go where I wanted to go – be independent! Or learning to ski – it felt like flying – I was, for few minutes at least, free from the earth’s pull of gravity – an independent and free spirit.
Remember when you got your first car? Now THAT was independence! I got a sweet little powder blue Pontiac Tempest for my 16th birthday and felt on top of the world – I had wheels! I was independent and could go anywhere I wanted! Then there was that first job and that first paycheck. Suddenly you could see that if you worked hard just maybe you could gain financial independence – you could provide for yourself and not have to rely on your parents, spouse, or anyone else to take care of you. I agree with Denis Waitle when he said: “The greatest gifts you can give your children are the roots of responsibility and the wings of independence.”
So what exactly is this thing called “personal independence?” Independence means the freedom to separate ourselves from personal ideologies and intellectually challenge ourselves to see the full scope of an issue in order to find real solutions for the good of the whole. Independence means choosing to empower ourselves with the information to independently make up our own minds. Independence means creating a world society in which we can perceive nations through a satellite view, rather than a microscopic view, and make value judgments based on what’s good for the future, rather than the present. Independence means we have the freedom to pursue personal needs while choosing global motivations, and face the consequences of those actions, both wonderful and tragic, with the intent to learn, grow, and gain wisdom.
True independence means recognizing that every type of thought and belief system has something to teach, to offer, and that if we learn from those in our world, our chances of creating real change for the betterment of all increases exponentially. Independent thought is not popular — it is absolutely, pricelessly, rare. Nothing you read about in the papers or see on the television is independent. Whatever we take in from the popular media is regurgitated conventional knowledge. There is nothing independent about most of the world. This is a tragedy — independent thought is essential for progress. Conventional thinking moves us forward gradually at best (at worst it pushes us backwards). Independent thinking is required to achieve any substantial jump in performance.
Using these five strategies you can develop your independent thinking ability.
1. Disconnect from sources of conventional thinking. Instead of plugging into your TV, PC, or library for answers, think for yourself first. Without cutting yourself off from the world, you can increase your capacity for independent thought by limiting the conventional opinion you absorb.
2. Immerse yourself in experiences that conflict with your current perspective. Instead of substituting a new conventional thought for the old one, deliberately seek out experiences that challenge your views. These experiences may exist in foreign cultures, unusual subcultures, or between the pages of a book you disagree with. The point is not to adopt a new train of thought, but to disrupt the conventional railroad.
3. Watch the process from a distance. Leaving your normal life behind can give you the freedom to see issues from another perspective. Watching the world instead of eating it up gives you the peace of mind to think for yourself.
4. Randomize your sensory inputs. Instead of visiting the same places, eating the same foods, and talking to the same people, you can actively pursue new experiences.
5. Practice disbelief. Without becoming a cynic, you can develop the habit of instinctively distrusting thoughts that rely on conventional wisdom. Instead of assuming that these “truths” are self evident, suspend judgment until you’ve have confirmed that there is reality behind the logic.
Think independently and you create a world of limitless opportunity. But don’t take my word for it…find out for yourself. In the words of Coco Chanel, “The most courageous act is still to think for yourself. Aloud.”