Free thinker was a term coined during the hippie movement. Because of that, it is stereotypically understood as having groovy beliefs and loving, naturalistic core values. While this may be true for some, the realistic definition for ‘free thinker’ is an individual who is able to alter or change their beliefs based on new information presented to them. An example being if I used canola oil for cooking all my life but a credible vegan blog told me virgin olive oil was better for me, I would switch to virgin olive oil. This is easy to do with cooking, but harder to do with very personal beliefs such as the normality of homosexuality. We have to realize though that being a free thinker is beneficial to ourselves and the people around us as it makes the world a more accepting place. So here are five ways to become more of a free thinker.
1. Evaluate your core values
Core values are ideas that are most important to you – love, family, wealth, spirituality, success, giving, and so on. If your core values are ones like love and justice, you may feel that gay marriage is right to be legalized. If you feel it should not, perhaps because of your religion, then your core values may be spirituality and conformity. Recognizing that one or some of your core values hinder your ability to think freely and correcting this is one of the first steps to being a free thinker.
2. Learn to Listen
There’s a difference between hearing and listening. You may hear your mom tell you to take out the trash, but that doesn’t mean you’ll do it. Listening is about understanding what you hear. If you listen to your mom tell you to take out the trash, you’ll make a mental note that she wants you to do it, and you will. Another key to listening is paraphrasing your conversation partner’s statement once they finish speaking. Your statements will start as “What I hear you saying is…” or maybe “So I understand you mean…” This makes your conversation partner feel validated and gives them the chance to clarify any misunderstandings. This will help to prevent tension or aggression from common, honest misunderstandings.
3. Don’t Talk to the Same People About the Same Issues
Having a close knit inner circle is completely fine. There’s nothing wrong with being introverted either. However, you have to get out there. Go to poetry events, Grand Rapids Pride, college, wherever. Let information penetrate your mind bubble.
4. Find a Life Motto
My personal life motto is “if it isn’t hurting anyone, it’s okay.” Women wearing hijabs? Okay. American troops killing Syrian children? Not okay. Two women in love and want to get married? Okay. Young teens killing themselves? Not okay. It’s as simple as that. Here are just a few more life mottos:
- Do not harm and take no shit.
- Wake up. Kick ass. Be kind. Repeat.
- Life isn’t about finding yourself. It’s about creating yourself.
- Life begins at the end of your comfort zone.
- I walk slowly, but I never walk backwards.
5. Learn something new every single day
Look for new information wherever you can find it. Don’t wait for it to plant itself in front of you. You can’t be woke with your eyes closed. We live in an age of information. If you are reading this right now then you are gifted with literacy. Use it! You can read the internet, posters, books, magazines, anything in the language you are comfortable with. And we let all this information blow past us every single day.