The Importance of Being an Independent Thinker

Diane Wing

These days it's hard to know what to believe. The need to critically consider and personally investigate and analyze information is more important than ever. Each of us is charged with being our own authority, with seeking truth and then applying it in a way that is appropriate for our circumstances. It is essential that we develop our instincts that alert us to when something is off, when something may be a threat, and then dig a little deeper to validate or to disprove that feeling.

“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...” - Leo Tolstoy

Given the large quantity of information available, it's important to evaluate it objectively and to clear away preconceived notions before evaluating the issue. Whatever the topic, read widely and from various points of view. See which ones resonate with you and which ones open you to a different way of thinking about the subject. Give the material real thought and decide what you think of it and what it means to you and its implications for the world at large. Simply looking for evidence to support what you already believe sets you up to remain stuck in your way of thinking or believing and to forever follow the majority.

Challenge your current beliefs and look for evidence to the contrary. This exercises the mind and expands it beyond its former limitations.This is how innovation and reform occur. It allows us to transcend fixed and stale thinking and to break free of stagnant opinions that do not serve the highest good.

Independent thinking means removing blind trust in what others say and to critically evaluate what it means to you and how it impacts you or the world around you, even when it flies in the face of what you want to be true. Questioning authority is becoming more acceptable these days and requires us to have more self-trust in order to decide what we believe to be true or not.Going against the majority is scary since it can result in alienation from those who believe a certain concept or way of being to be true. The first indication that it's time to question the information is how it makes you feel when you hear it.

When you hear a story from any source - the media, a friend, your company - consider the meaning of the story and whether or not it's valid by using what I call the four-part inner guidance system. How does it make your body feel? Does your body get a heavy feeling or a lighter feeling? Does your stomach tighten or do you feel relaxed? What are your emotions telling you? Is there anger, worry, or joy associated with the idea? What thoughts go through your head? Do you mentally search for evidence to support what you're hearing or does your mind find holes in the story? From a spiritual sense, does it feel moral and in the highest good for all concerned?

Then dig deeper to uncover the potential hidden meaning behind the story. If you find that it is false, then search for the reason why the story was told in the first place. Is it simply being repeated without verification or is it meant to distract from the real issue? Or is it that the person or source didn't investigate the idea that justifies the way the story is being told? React in a way that is appropriate for what you discover and believe to be true. Evaluate the evidence and disagree or agree, but take the time to think it through. Ask open-ended questions as part of the analysis, such as "What if we think about it this way..."

Finally, determine how to apply the information and make the best use of it. If the information can't be applied or isn't useful in some way, move on to something more meaningful. Meaning, purpose, and applicability are essential components for spending time with a piece of information.

Challenge ideas and opinions. Offer your own and objectively listen to what others have to say as part of the process. Create a healthy dialogue. The capacity for critical thinking and analysis is within you and waiting for you to stretch your mind to come up with fresh ideas and perspectives.

Copyright Diane Wing, all rights reserved
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