Though independent thinking can be confused with critical thinking, they are quite different. Critical thinking means making an unbiased evaluation of an issue in order to form a judgment. Thoughts should be reasoned and well thought out, whereas independent thinking is essentially the ability to think for yourself and not rely on others to form your own opinion.

Here we discuss what independent thinking (IT) really means, and how to cultivate such a mindset:

Be An Authentic Leader Rather Than A Follower– Independent thinkers don’t follow others’ opinion blindly. They analyze and synthesize all sources of input and information to form their own opinions. It’s not like you reinvent the wheel every time you make a decision. However, you aren’t a great thinker if you uncritically accept whatever values, knowledge or ideas you’ve been taught without taking into consideration that they may perhaps be outdated or have bias. All of us know that education shapes our personality and molds us into the human beings that we become, but education alone cannot shape independent thinking. You can teach people specific levels of knowledge or skill, but you can’t teach them how to think or how to be themselves. That will require personal discovery, life experience, and exploration.

Observe More Completely And Think More Profoundly – Until we’ve observed things completely, we shouldn’t react. It is only a true intellectual who can give an informed response.

Develop The Courage To Say “I Do Not Know”- Admitting upfront when there’s something we don’t know is the quickest way to learn. Transparency and simplicity go hand-in-hand. We can’t have one without the other. The inclination to think something, but say something completely contrary, is the biggest enemy of being an independent thinker. It takes courage to admit when you don’t know something, but it also puts you on track to learn faster!

Make Effective Decisions By Applying Critical Thinking Principles– Most people prefer not to think critically. Critical thinking is a very detailed process, requiring one to think about and explore the possibility of multiple possibilities – which makes some people very uncomfortable. An independent mind is not isolated from the resource, on the contrary, a great independent thinker leverages all sorts of information, is unbiased and objective, with a problem-solving mindset, focused on finding the best and alternative solution. Critical thinkers sharpen their skills by asking questions in a different way. They aren’t afraid to rock the boat, check their own assumptions, constantly, ask questions to draw out other’s assumptions, bear opposition and synthesize massive amounts of disparate information.

To be a critical thinker, you must first make good sense of the existing situation,  for yourself, and perceive differences in points of view to make a thoughtful inquiry simple for other people. If you are unable to discern what is important, beyond the surface, or what makes adequate sense in a situation. In short, you likely lean toward independent thought rather than critical thought.