Think for yourself

As a child, I had parents who were opposites in their thinking on politics, religion, and race relations. My dad was very conservative, while my mom was unusually liberal for her time and place (Louisville, KY in the 1960s).

Jack, Sara, and Frances Doyel
Neither parent tried to force me to take his or her point-of-view. It was left to me to choose for myself between two clearly-articulated sets of beliefs. For this freedom, I am grateful, as my parents implied to me that I was capable of choosing wisely.

As the years have passed, I've often thought about how people prefer to be told what to think. Why would anyone give up the freedom of choice that lets us decide for ourselves what is important and what is not? What is truth and what is nonsense?

What I have concluded is that it takes tremendous effort to learn something, to truly change one's thinking. For people who don't have the urge and drive to understand, it's just easier to let someone do your thinking for you. 

As a teacher of writing, I've always had to resist those students who want to think like me. They may want a good grade, or they may see me as a role model.

"Think like yourself!" is what I tell them, both explicitly and implicitly. The only unbreakable rule for their writing is that they must back up their point with proof. Any statement is acceptable if it can be defended with facts.

My goal as a writer, a teacher, and a career coach has always been to lead people into defining their beliefs, values, skills and accomplishments so that they can examine them objectively and use them to develop personal and professional goals. 

This system works: armed with a clear-cut set of tools, including a well-defined personal philosophy of life, a person can move forward with confidence into all kinds of difficult situations.

But some people will always, unfortunately, choose the easier path and adopt someone else's ideas and philosophy. It takes time and energy to know who you are. Many people will not take the time to learn what is inside them and will, instead, imitate someone else. 

This is a sad waste of talent, as well as a catastrophic weakness for the society in which these people live. Whatever they might be able to contribute will be weakened, distorted or completely lost.

So think for yourself. This is not a guarantee for an easy life, but it will result in a unique life, lived with the capability for great deeds that reflect your own personality. It's a privilege to be able to take time to discover who you are, so take that time and use it well.


Popular Posts