Do You Know How To Think For Yourself?

Thinking is a real skill.

And while you may have answered the subject question “Do you know how to think for yourself?” with “Of course I do”, many have no idea on how to do this.

While it sounds pretty simple, it is something we are never yet is a must-know skill if you would like to succeed in life.

So, why don’t some people know?


They are never taught how to think. They are only ever taught “what” to think.

Let me explain.

As a young child, you are told by your parents what to do, when to do and how to do it. Your parents recognise you do not have the ability to think so constantly tell you what to do. You are told where you can and cannot go, when to go to bed, what you can touch and where to play. If you do a task often enough, it is hoped you will learn and be able to do it without being told.

At school, the teachers tell you what to learn, when to learn it and how to learn it. You are then examined on how well you have learnt the designated work.

On leaving school, you get a job and the boss tells you what to do, how to do it and when to do it. You simply have to follow orders. You may even be told “I don’t pay you to think” and “Just do what you are told”.

One day, you fall in love, get married and your partner tells you what to do, how to do it and when to do it. 

As you can see, it is possible never to have to think. You become an adult expecting others to continue to tell you what to do. Because of this, making a decision can be difficult and you have to ask “What do you think I should do?”

Many years ago, a friend who owned a security company related a story to me. His foreman was away so the owner took his apprentice out to install an alarm system.

The owner asked, “Where do you think we should install the detectors and the panel?”

The apprentice had no idea. When asked why, he said the foreman always told him where to put things and what to do next. This apprentice was learning nothing.

The owner then asked, “Where do you think we should place the detectors and why?” He got the apprentice thinking and learning.

Here are some other responses that identify the inability to make a decision:

“I don’t care”,

“I’m not sure”,

“Whatever you feel like”,

“It doesn’t worry me”,

“You decide”.

How many of these do you say?

You hear many parents say “Think child!” wanting the child to be responsible. You also hear bosses saying “Just think about it” which indicates the employee is not thinking.

When you fail to “think”, you fail to take responsibility for your thoughts and actions. You want someone else to take responsibility.

This failure to think occurs because you have never been given the responsibility of thinking for yourself or you fear the consequences of making a decision. Sometimes making a decision can produce the wrong result which then instils fear. Whenever another decision must be made, you fear it will produce the wrong result.

Instead of telling people what to think, teach them how to think and how to be responsible for what they think.

If a person is unable to make a decision, identify “why” and deal with that. If they fear the consequences of making a decision, alleviate the fear. For example, if they fear they will be punished for making the wrong decision, instead of initially letting them make the decision, you may ask “What do you think you should do in this instance?” Once they gain the confidence to work it out, they no longer need your input.

You’ve got this.