How To Know If You’re Thinking For Yourself

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Thinking Independently

Do you think for yourself? …Are you sure?

In today’s high-tech and fast paced modern world, we’re constantly surrounded by marketing, advertising, and media influencers all of which are looking to sway our opinions, thoughts, and actions.

How do you know that you’re really thinking for yourself?

Did you buy that snickers bar because you we hungry… or did you buy it because you saw a funny commercial that seeped into your sub-conscious?

Sometimes we don’t even realize that our thoughts and intentions have been hijacked, influenced, or manipulated.

In this article we’ll explore expert opinions and perspectives on how to know you’re thinking for yourself.

Let’s Dive In.

Why It Is Hard To Form Your Own Independent Opinion

To have truly independent thoughts means taking the road less traveled which most people just aren’t willing to do.

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It’s easy to think a certain way, or form an opinion based on what someone else thinks. If it ‘sounds good’ or if you’ve heard or seen the same thing multiple times on the media then why bother to question it?

But just because you’ve seen something repeated a few times on social media or in the news doesn’t make it true. And certainly doesn’t make it your “”own”” opinion.

According to the American Psychological Association

“Repetitive Exposure to a Single Opinion Can Have Almost as Much Influence as Exposure to Shared Opinions from Several People”

Today we’re constantly bombarded with one sided opinions which can make it very difficult to form truly independent non-bias opinions of our own.

Forming your own full-informed opinion can take some effort. To think for yourself means asking questions, admitting you don’t know something, exploring all perspectives, opinions, and sides to a story in order to fully understand what is true.

The effort it takes to think independently is minimal when compared to the value of independent thought.

Why It’s Important To Develop Your Own Independent Thoughts

Without independent thinking we’d still believe it thunders when God is mad, rains when we dance the right way, and that both CNN and Fox News always cover both sides of the truth.

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It’s only be asking questions, exploring different perspectives, and daring to think differently that we are able to discover truth and advance as a society.

Without independent thought, we become unconscious slaves to manipulation.

One of the most famous authors of all time, Leo Tolstoy, once said…

Freethinkers are those who are willing to use their minds without prejudice and without fearing to understand things that clash with their own customs, privileges, or beliefs. This state of mind is not common, but it is essential for right thinking.

The Benefits Of Thinking For Yourself

The real-world benefits to independent thinking are endless but for most cases we can boil it down to a single word.

“Understanding”

Dr. Jonathan Matheson, a professor of philosophy makes a great point saying that…

 “thinking for yourself is the only way to come to understand the answer to your question…. While you can know an answer simply by deferring to an expert, you cannot grasp the answer, or see it for yourself, without thinking for yourself.”

Do you want to understand that something is true, or do you want to believe it because someone else said so.

11 Tips To Make Sure You’re Thinking Independently (for yourself)

1. Stay Curious and Question Everything

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If you’re not questioning and you’re not curious, then don’t assume that you’re thinking for yourself.

To think for yourself, you have to be curious about increasing your understanding for the world and constantly be questioning.

According to Rod Judkins, Psychology Today author and innovation consultant…,

“It is our questions that fuel and drive our thinking.”

If you’re putting in the time and effort to ask questions then you’re exercising your independent thinking ability.

2. Don’t Use Reading As A Substitute For Thinking

Reading is one of the most important tools we have for learning and understanding new ideas.

Beanstack, an education company backed by SharkTank notes that, “as we read, we can absorb ideas and improve our own creative abilities.”

But all reading is not equal. There’s a difference between an esteemed journalist and some guy with a book deal and an opinion. Don’t just follow what you read blindly.

“I read it on the internet”

Anyone can write anything for someone else to read. Like this blog for example. Just because I’m writing this doesn’t mean you shouldn’t think critically about it for yourself.

Reading is a great way to expand your knowledge. But combining reading with critical thinking will give you the power you need to think independently.

3. Identify Your Bias’s

Part of having confidence in knowing that you’re thinking for yourself is having the ability to identify bias’s. Both in yourself and within your information source.

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Are your sources of information fair and open-minded?

To help identify Bias’s, the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay recommends that you ask yourself the following questions:

There are many bias information traps out there, including social media, traditional media, religion, family,  and self-ego.

Information source’s often feed us information with built in bias’s. Bias information can be very subtle and even sub-conscious.

Often bias media sources are incentivized by profits. This can lead to misleading sensationalism on all sides.

You can only cultivate independent thinking if you get information from a credible source.

Avoid sources that can’t back up or provide evidence or use anonymous sources to support their viewpoints. 

4. Don’t Rely On 1 Single Source Of Information

Relying on only one perspective or a single source of information to base an opinion on greatly increases the likelihood of a misrepresentation of truth.

Think about the old saying that “there’s 3 side to every story” 

1. Perspective A
2. Perspective B
3. The truth

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As ascribed by self-made billionaire, investor, and philanthropist Ray Dalio, the more lenses of information and perspectives you look through, the deeper your insight and understanding of truth.

5. Do Your Own Unbiased Research

To make sure that you’re thinking for yourself do your own research. And by “do your own research” experts do mean look it up on social media.

Doing your own research to develop your own educated opinion means doing the following

When discussing “doing your own research” author and biology professor Melanie Trecek-King says that if you’re really convinced nearly all of the world’s experts are wrong on a certain subject, then become an expert yourself.

6. Be Flexible and Open Minded

According to educational consultant and psychology author Kendra Cherry, being openminded is “necessary in order to think critically and rationally.”

To make sure that you’re thinking for yourself, remember there’s always a possibility that you could be wrong. It’s healthy and important to welcome a new voice to your mind

Being open-minded is the key to a constantly expanding and evolving your own independent consciousness.

If you can’t be open to changing your mind, you won’t possess the inner wisdom that will allow you to think for independently for yourself.

Be Willing To Be Wrong

You must accept that your opinions could be completely wrong.

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The best way to cultivate a state of open-mindedness is by understanding that even the smartest individuals in the world make mistakes.

There’s beauty, goodness, and respect to be gained by being willing to change your belief based on new perspectives.

7. Re-Examine Your Opinions and Bias’s

As stated, very well, by a young philosopher…, if we did not have the ability to become aware of our own harmful behavior and thought patterns, then we would be unable to create change in our brain and in our life.

From time to time it’s important to reexamine what you think and why.

To do this ask yourself these questions:

8. Don’t Form Opinions Out Of Fear, Or Guilt

When you make a decision based on feelings of fear or guilt you’re being manipulated by your own emotional bias.

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When describing those who think independently, psychology writer and licensed therapist Darlene Lancer says that, those who form opinions and take action based on addictions, fear, and guilt are being sub-consciously controlled by others.

9. Expand Your Consciousness

Our brains are built for change.

Experts at VeryWellMind agree that…,

“while people used to believe that the brain became fixed after a certain age, newer research has revealed that the brain never stops changing in response to learning.”

Ways to Expand Your Consciousness 
  1. Increase Your Consciousness By Accepting Responsibility
  2. Meditation Can Increase Consciousness
  3. How Conscious Are You About Your Diet ?
  4. Practice Mindfulness To Increase Awareness
  5. Yoga Is Great For Your Body (and your mind)
  6. Increase Your Conscious Awareness By Spending Time In Nature
  7. Do Psychedelics Expand Consciousness

10. Stay Aware of Media Consumption

Be Mindful Of How Much and Why You’re Scrolling

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As written in digital magazine MindfulWorld, “you can become hypnotized by media and take on beliefs that aren’t true if you aren’t viewing consciously.”

It’s well documented that the human brain is easily susceptible to distractions from media platforms.

But media isn’t all bad, According to Sutter Health…, “You shouldn’t be afraid of the media, but you should be educated on how to safely and healthily experience it.

11. Be Aware of Groupthink And Conformity

Group think is when a group (or tribe) of people go-along with a common idea or belief without thinking about it for themselves.

The group idea becomes popular and anyone who disagrees with it risks being ostracized and feeling kicked out of the group.

This is where the term populism comes from. It’s a form of tribalism where people confuse what’s popular with what is true. What’s Popularity vs. Truth

Nazi Germany and World War II are extreme examples of what can happen when populism and group-think go unchecked. These are prime examples of what it’s so important to think independently.

Final Thoughts: Thinking For Yourself

The importance of thinking for yourself cannot be overstated enough.  Independent thinking is our gateway to freedom and escape from outside interests.

While leaning on expert opinions is necessary, understanding bias’s, different perspectives, critical thinking, and independent research is a key piece for understanding instead of believing.

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