Have you ever met someone who always seems to have a unique perspective on things? Someone who’s brave enough to challenge the status quo and think outside the box?
Chances are, you’ve encountered an independent thinker.
In today’s noisy and divided world, it’s refreshing to meet one.
Independent thinkers reject the common ways we form our opinions; instead, they have their own process for arriving at their opinions and making decisions.
They are curious, open-minded, and always seeking knowledge and understanding.
And while their approach to life can be inspiring and enlightening, it can also be a little unusual for some people.
In this article, we’ll explore 12 traits of independent thinkers that might seem unusual to some, but are integral to their unique way of thinking.
Let’s dive in!
1) Independent thinkers are curious and constantly seek knowledge
Here’s the first thing you need to know about independent thinkers: their brains are wired to ask questions.
They don’t do it just to be contrary. They do it because they like having all the information they need to arrive at a well-informed decision.
They just love exploring new ideas and have a lifelong passion for learning and growing.
Whenever I think about curiosity, Stephen Hawking immediately comes to mind. He was just insatiable in his desire to explore new ideas, never letting his physical limitations get in the way.
He had this intense passion for understanding the mysteries of the universe, and he stayed curious until his last day on earth, leaving behind a body of work that revolutionized modern physics.
That’s just how independent thinkers are – they will never grow tired of seeking out experiences and information to broaden their understanding of the world!
2) They question the status quo
For an independent thinker, the phrases “because I said so” or “because that’s just the way it has always been” just won’t wash.
As we’ve established earlier, they love asking questions. They don’t just accept things as they are – they want to know why things are the way they are and whether they could be improved.
In fact, if you’re someone who hates being questioned, you’ll probably find it difficult to get along with an independent thinker. You won’t like how they are always asking questions and seeking the truth.
Now that’s not to say they don’t respect their superiors; they do, but they also know that a superior status doesn’t translate to universal knowledge.
Thus, they won’t have any qualms about questioning authority. They do this not as a way to rebel, but simply to gain more information before accepting instructions or conclusions.
This trait might seem upsetting to some because they disturb the status quo.
But think about the good side of it – without independent thinking, we won’t have the movers and shakers of the world like Mahatma Gandhi, who challenged British rule in India through non-violent protests, or Marie Curie, who broke down gender barriers in the field of science.
3) They embrace ambiguity and uncertainty
Unlike people who prefer certainty and stability, independent thinkers embrace ambiguity and uncertainty.
They see it as an opportunity to explore new possibilities and gain a deeper understanding of the world.
Steve Jobs was the perfect example of this. He was known for his willingness to take risks and embrace uncertainty in his pursuit of innovation.
And you know what?
We now have a whole range of insanely innovative Apple products, thanks to this guy who just leaped into the abyss and came up with something revolutionary!
This leads me to my next point…
4) They think outside the box
Here’s the great thing about independent thinkers – not only are they curious, but they’re imaginative as well.
They are not afraid to challenge conventional wisdom and find creative solutions to problems. They look beyond what’s accepted as normal and explore alternative perspectives, which is exactly what Steve Jobs did.
Another example is Albert Einstein, who fundamentally changed our understanding of the universe through his unconventional thinking, and Elon Musk, who has disrupted multiple industries through his imaginative and innovative thinking.
In fact, there’s a word for these kinds of figures: disruptors.
Being disruptive can take on a negative meaning in highly structured environments like the classroom. But in the real world, disruptors have a really significant impact. They change the way we think and talk about things in life.
After all, if we all thought the same way, nothing in the world would ever change.
5) They are non-conformist
Obviously, the word “independent” means they don’t subscribe to popular notions of how things should be or not.
Independent thinkers don’t follow the crowd; they march to the beat of their own drum. They don’t conform to societal norms and expectations and, instead, live life on their own terms.
Bob Dylan was one such person. As a non-conformist, he broke with traditional music conventions and became a legendary songwriter in a class completely his own.
He marched to the beat of his own drum (or rather, his guitar), and his independent way of making music was so unique that he even received a Nobel Prize for it!
6) They are adaptable
Of course, since they are non-conformists, “disruptors,” and out-of-the-box thinkers, it follows that independent thinkers are able to adapt to new situations and challenges.
They are flexible and open-minded, and can quickly adjust their thinking when necessary.
Think about it – when you’re exploring new ideas and trying out new things, you rarely have a neat and linear path, right? Things happen in the course of exploration, like you uncover new evidence that contradicts your current thoughts on something.
Someone with a fixed mindset would struggle with this, but not independent thinkers. The latter group has the open-mindedness to adapt their thinking to these new discoveries.
That’s what Charles Darwin did, for instance, when he found new evidence that challenged the way the scientists of his time viewed the natural world. And thus, the Theory of Evolution was born.
7) They reject cognitive biases and are impartial
Speaking of the pursuit of knowledge leads me to this next point…independent thinkers are also heavily invested in the pursuit of truth.
For them, it doesn’t matter what society says. They don’t fall victim to groupthink.
Because they aim to be impartial. They know that truth can only be found if they keep their minds free of the outside-world clutter that can cloud their judgment.
In fact, they are so determined to stick to the facts that they even take the time to examine their own cognitive biases, looking for any hidden influences in their own minds that could affect the way they perceive something.
As if that isn’t enough, you know what else they do?
8) They do their research
Knowledge is power. This is something independent thinkers really take to heart.
They understand that the more you know, the closer to the truth you are.
But there’s a caveat to that: “more” in this case isn’t just about quantity, it’s also about quality.
With tons of information at our fingertips these days, it’s easy to fall prey to fake news and false “facts”.
That’s why independent thinkers take the time to evaluate and analyze the information they get to determine its authenticity and reliability.
9) They can admit when they’re wrong
Even the best fall down sometimes. Ain’t that the truth?
No matter how much independent thinkers try to be factual and correct in their opinions and statements, they, too, can be occasionally wrong.
But here’s what’s unusual about them: they’re okay with admitting when they’re wrong.
That’s because they don’t let their ego stand in the way of, again, their pursuit of the truth.
And remember when I mentioned that they’re adaptable? That trait helps them admit their mistakes and adjust their thinking to the right one.
10) They are comfortable with solitude
What else are independent thinkers okay with? Spending time alone.
Unlike those who feel the need to always be surrounded by people, independent thinkers value their alone time for reflection and contemplation.
They do have a point. Solitude does make you a better thinker!
As the English writer and philosopher Aldous Huxley said, “The more powerful and original a mind, the more it will incline towards the religion of solitude.”
11) They are focused and persistent
Walking the way of the independent thinker trains you to be more focused and persistent.
That’s not something everyone has. In today’s digital world, where everything is practically instant, it’s so difficult to stay focused and persevere when the going gets tough.
But independent thinkers understand that the willingness to work hard is vital to their pursuit of knowledge and original thought.
So, no matter what obstacles or distractions stand in their way, they can maintain their razor-sharp focus on what matters most to them.
Take Malala Yousafzai, for example. Born in Pakistan, she could’ve toed the line and quietly slipped into the role expected of her as a Pakistani woman.
But no, as an independent thinker, she had her own ideas of how girls like her should live their lives.
Unfortunately, these views were met with much anger by the folks in charge, and Malala was attacked for her activism.
You would think being shot in the head would be enough to shut anyone up, right?
Not Malala. Her independent-thinker streak still stayed strong despite this setback, and she bounced back quickly, resuming her advocacy with as much conviction as she’d always had.
12) They are unapologetically themselves
Lastly, here’s something to remember about independent thinkers – they will always be true to themselves. You won’t find them pretending to be like anybody else.
They are confident in their own beliefs and values and don’t conform to the expectations of others.
This can be quite upsetting, or at the very least, unsettling for those who aren’t used to people refusing to go along with the rest.
The artist Frida Kahlo, for example, certainly had her share of criticism from people who didn’t like the way she looked, dressed, and behaved.
But you know what?
She remained unapologetically herself in her art and life, embracing her individuality and creativity. Over time, she became an icon for defying beauty standards and breaking down gender stereotypes.
Truly, those who have the courage to walk their own path are those who make the world so much more interesting and colorful!
There’s no doubt about it – the world needs more independent thinkers. They possess unique and sometimes unusual traits that set them apart from others.
From questioning the status quo to embracing ambiguity, independent thinking leads to a more fulfilling and enlightened life.
So, don’t be scared to embrace your own independent thinking and let your unique perspective shine.
And if you’re not there yet, don’t worry, it’s never too late to start breaking free from habits like groupthink and the bandwagon mentality.
When you put truth and knowledge first above emotions or society’s approval, you’ll be on your way to becoming an independent thinker!