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Think for Yourself

Many life problems stem from failing to think for yourself.

It is often said that people are either followers or leaders. Unfortunately, if you think like this and consider yourself a follower, you are setting yourself up for failure.

Blind conformity is the root of much anguish and regret in this world. Many wars have been fought because citizens have placed their blind trust in national leaders. Slavery, Nazism, racism, sexism, religious extremism, cultism, organized crime, and other forms of violent or oppressive social institutions have thrived on blind conformity. Abusive and dysfunctional relationships stem from the same insidious root.

Do you tell yourself that you have to be in a relationship to be worthy; that you would be nothing without your significant other; that you deserve being battered or called filthy names; that it must have been your fault anyway; that things will be different in the future; that you simply need to try harder? Such self-downing thoughts are part of an oppressive socialization that can keep you in a dysfunctional relationship. But you can begin to look more critically at these beliefs and to see that they are groundless.

Do you find yourself demanding the approval of others, think yourself worthless unless you get it, and accordingly jump on bandwagon after bandwagon trying to “fit in”? Does your life feel “out of control” and your stress level through the roof? Then it’s time for a change! The change in question is not looking for another bandwagon to jump on or falling into another dysfunctional relationship, or relying on drugs or alcohol to get you through the day. Rather, it’s time to do some critical thinking of your own!

Socrates, the teacher of Plato, is well known for having said, “The unexamined life is not worth living.” We might revise this a bit and say that the unexamined life is likely to come with a lot of regrets and a hell of a lot of stress. Examine your life!

This blog is devoted to talking about how you can think critically about life issues. The first principle of critical thinking is to believe things only on evidence. In his classic essay, W.K. Clifford remarked, "It is wrong in all cases to believe on insufficient evidence; and where it is presumption to doubt and to investigate, there it is worse than presumption to believe." In other words, question, question, and question before believing. A successful life requires you to be a detective. This doesn’t mean that you should go to the extreme and believe nothing. This extreme can leave you in the same boat: not taking constructive actions to move your life forward. As Aristotle admonished, don’t go to extremes; you’re likely to act wrongly.

People do not fall into tidy categories of leader or follower. Lead yourself. Ask questions. Get the facts before you decide to believe and act. Think for yourself! Stay tuned!