Question Everything: 6 Reasons It Pays to Think for Yourself 

When I was sixteen years old, I was riding in the backseat of the car with my family on the way to church.

“I really don’t want to go to church anymore after this,” I blurted out. “I’m not sure I believe in all of it.” 

There was a moment of silence in the car while I waited for my parents’ reaction. 

“Well, that’s your decision,” my mom said. 

“If it’s not working for you, you don’t have to come,” my dad agreed. 

I was surprised in the moment—especially because my dad was the pastor of our church. 

But upon reflection, I really shouldn’t have been shocked, because my parents raised me to question everything—even them. 

From early on, they taught me to think for myself and follow my own thoughts wherever they led me, and I’m so thankful for it.

In this particular case, it gave me the freedom to explore other spiritual pathways in life, something that has brought me much joy and peace. 

Learning to think for yourself makes a huge difference in life, and the sooner you start developing the brain muscles needed to question everything, the easier it will be. 

But don’t worry if the adults in your life weren’t as encouraging as my parents. It’s never too late to work on your critical thinking skills and to reap the benefits that come with it.

 

The 6 biggest benefits of thinking for yourself

I’m going to explain how to start thinking for yourself later in this article, but first, let’s explore why you should start this practice.

In no particular order, here are the six biggest life changes you can expect as you begin to question everything.

 

You will live a richer, more meaningful life

The unexamined life is not worth living. —Socrates

This is the big one—thinking for yourself is the only pathway to true depth and meaning in life. 

It’s natural for our brains to choose the easy path, which means not questioning things, and instead just going along with what others expect of you. Those “others” might be your parents, your peers, your employers, or other influential people you encounter. 

Those who don’t question everything often fall into lifelong patterns that others assign to them. Go to work, come home, sleep, get up, do it again. 

For some people, that kind of repetition is ideal, but many people who fall into these kinds of routines burn out after a few years. (This is what often leads to a mid- or quarter-life crisis.) 

On the flip side, people who are curious and question conventions are more likely to discover truths about themselves, and to develop a more complex and nuanced worldview. 

Ultimately, this benefit is what makes all the other benefits on this list possible.

 

You will discover new avenues for what you want in life

“Why not go out on a limb? Isn’t that where the fruit is?” —Frank Scully, journalist 

Every day, you make decisions that impact your future. Some of these decisions are small (What should I have for breakfast?) and others very significant (What should I major in at college?).

Each decision you make will dictate what happens next in your life, and the more open-minded you are, the more options you get. 

The data you use to make big life decisions will be broader and richer when you start questioning things. As a result, the opportunities available to you will also be broader and richer. 

For example, many people find themselves having to make lots of decisions when they’re thinking about life after leaving home for the first time. 

A person who questions everything might consider studying abroad, or taking a gap year, or exploring a new city, or saving money by living at home to invest later—those are just some of the options that might crop up if you are the kind of person who thinks for yourself. 

Failing to think for yourself, on the other hand, means you’re more likely to only consider the options that your parents, friends, or other adults lay out for you—even if those options don’t excite you at all.

 

You will tap into a network of interesting, inspiring people

“It is not our differences that divide us. It is our inability to recognize, accept, and celebrate those differences.” —Audre Lorde, writer and poet

If you want a life that is filled with a diverse range of interesting people, then thinking for yourself is the only way forward. 

When you question everything, you naturally gravitate toward people who share your curiosity and willingness to explore new ideas.

And something magical happens when you start meeting people like this—because of your relationship with curiosity, you begin to question things together, and question each other. 

This enhances your ability to think for yourself and opens you up to new perspectives that can radically change the course of your life. 

Moreover, these relationships tend to be more authentic and fulfilling. When you build connections based on mutual respect for each other’s independent thinking, the bonds are stronger and more meaningful.

Networking with interesting and inspiring people isn’t just about personal growth—it also has tangible benefits for your career. 

Being open-minded allows you to connect with people who exist in different fields and industries, or are at different stages in their career journeys. These are the folks who will introduce you to that crucial new contact, or give you a leg up during the interview process, or team up with you on an exciting project or business venture. 

For more tips on networking, check out these resources: 

 

You will unlock more career opportunities, faster

“Change is the law of life. And those who look only to the past or present are certain to miss the future.” —President John F. Kennedy 

In the professional world, nurturing your individuality is crucial. Being able to stand out from others will help you ace interviews, get promoted, or launch your own successful business

When you think for yourself, you naturally differentiate yourself from the crowd. This uniqueness catches the attention of employers, colleagues, and customers alike.

Independent thinkers are often seen as innovators. They bring fresh ideas and perspectives that can drive a company forward. This reputation for creativity and originality can open doors to opportunities that might not be available to those who simply follow the status quo.

(Think of how many job descriptions you’ve seen that ask for someone who “thinks outside the box”—that’s corporate jargon for “thinking for yourself!”)

Additionally, thinking for yourself means you’re more likely to take initiative. You won’t wait for others to guide you; instead, you’ll forge your own path. This proactive attitude is highly valued in any workplace and can lead to faster career advancement, or give you the confidence and drive you need to carve a non-traditional career path. Speaking of which… 

 

You will have more confidence and self-reliance

Questioning everything has a funny side effect: It builds confidence.

You gain this confidence from knowing that your opinions and decisions are truly your own. You trust your gut because you know your ideas are based on your independent thinking, not someone else’s influence.

This self-reliance translates into every aspect of your life. You become less dependent on external validation and more assured in your capabilities. This inner confidence can empower you to take on challenges that otherwise would be out of reach. 

Moreover, self-reliance fosters resilience. When you rely on your own critical-thinking skills, you’re better equipped to handle setbacks and obstacles. You know how to adapt and find solutions independently, which makes you more resilient in the face of adversity.

Yes, building confidence and self-reliance in this way can be painful. As you begin to question everything, you will uncover challenging truths and unanswerable questions about yourself, your family, and your past. 

But the discomfort and pain you get from these discoveries are essential if you want to become a stronger, more resilient person.

 

You will reap all the rewards of creativity

“Creativity is intelligence having fun.” —Albert Einstein

When you start thinking for yourself, you unlock a wellspring of creativity. Independent thinking allows you to explore new ideas and perspectives that others might overlook. This willingness to question everything is the bedrock of creative thought.

In day-to-day life, this can look like embracing new hobbies, developing a sense of style, or taking on unique projects that others wouldn’t try because they seem too “out there.” 

But as a free thinker, you won’t be as hesitant to try making that enormous paper mache puppet, or tinkering away at the piano until you find a melody, or attending that free sailing lesson. Those who don’t think for themselves would reject such creative risks, and stick to the easy (and less creative) paths in life. 

Creative endeavors like these are how you build community and make friends as an adult, and furthermore, creativity is also one of the most sought-after soft skills in many work settings.

 

How to question everything (while keeping your wits)

With so many clear benefits, hopefully you’re convinced that it pays to think for yourself. 

But I never said it was easy. 

Questioning everything isn’t a skill you can develop overnight—not when you’ve been internalizing ideas and concepts since the day you were born. 

On top of that, there are some very serious pitfalls that you should be well aware of as you begin this practice. Here are my tips:

 

Sharpen your research skills

Before you can start questioning everything, you have to brush up on your ability to research information, and set guidelines that will help you determine what information is trustworthy. 

Scientists, medical professionals, journalists, academics, and legal professionals all go through extensive training and certifications, and are often beholden to laws and regulations.

Does this mean people in these industries are infallible and should automatically be trusted? No, of course not—all humans are capable of making mistakes, and corruption knows no bounds. 

But if you’re trying to vet a certain piece of information, and you find that many doctors or scientists agree on something, that is likely more trustworthy information than something you hear from a YouTuber trying to get more views, or a friend of a friend who saw something on TikTok. 

There are public resources available that allow you to fact-check evidence quickly and easily. Here are a few to check out: 

There are also tools that can help you detect AI in writing and imagery: 

When something sounds too outrageous to be true, it’s not a bad idea to search for it on these websites, or look for multiple trustworthy sources that say the same thing. 

On the flip side, be wary of anything that doesn’t have its sources cited—if you can’t trace the information back to more than one trustworthy resource, it’s worth questioning until you’ve got more evidence. 

Ultimately, it’s up to you to decide what information is trustworthy, but questioning everything without performing thorough research is a recipe for disaster—one that can lead to paranoia or belief in absurd conspiracy theories. These are distractions that will prevent you from truly thinking for yourself. 

 

Be skeptical of those who show hate and prejudice

As you’re learning to think for yourself and starting to vary the sources you use to gather information, you will almost certainly meet some unsavory characters along the way. 

On social media, major news networks, and in casual conversations, you will come across people who hold prejudices against certain groups, or speak from a place of hatred, misanthropy, or sheer contrarianism. 

Beware these people, who often claim that they reached such conclusions about their fellow humans by thinking for themselves. They are lying, because it only takes a bit of genuine research to cause prejudicial claims to fall apart. 

When someone is making claims that are ultimately designed to denigrate and isolate other groups, you should automatically be highly skeptical of their motivations.

 

Always ask “Why?” and use it to discover motivations

The most important word for an independent thinker is “Why?” When you think for yourself, you’re trying to get to the bottom of why things happen, or why people behave a certain way. 

Sometimes, thinking for yourself feels like exploring a dark cave, with only a rope to guide you. Each time you ask “Why?” you reach forward to grab more of the rope, and go deeper into a subject or question. 

Whenever you are listening to something that sounds incendiary, questionable, or untrue, ask yourself: 

  • Why would that be the case? 
  • Why would this person/newscaster/business/influencer want me to believe that’s the case? 

Both these questions will serve you well as a person who questions everything. And you might be surprised how often the answer to the second question boils down to: “Because this person wants to sell me something.” 

 

Be prepared for challenging questions

As I’ve mentioned, questioning everything will lead to some uncomfortable moments—some that are internal and some that are external. 

The external conversations will happen with the people in your life who have been very influential thus far—this includes parents, siblings, guardians, relatives, teachers, and peers. 

Some of the ideas and behaviors you question will run in direct conflict with what others have taught you. This can cause pain for you and the people who influenced you. 

Internally, you’ll be asking questions about your own behaviors, and this can be just as difficult, if not more so. 

For example, my own journey of questioning everything helped me see that I was drinking too much—something that felt very shameful to admit at first. 

Only through a practice of self-kindness and patience was I able to get over that shame, and ultimately cut back on my alcohol consumption—something my body and brain have benefited from immensely. 

To succeed as a person who questions everything, you must build up your ability to empathize with others, set boundaries, and be kind to yourself. 

All of these things are lifelong practices, and I have resources that can help: 

 

Become a lifelong learner

Questioning everything isn’t solely about casting doubt on new information. Rather, it’s about expanding your mind to consider many different angles and perspectives. 

This is the truly joyful part of thinking for yourself—giving yourself the freedom to explore and try something new whenever you feel like it, for as long as you live.

I’m not talking about following a traditional path through college, either, though that is certainly a viable path for many. 

No, there are many ways to be a lifelong learner, and I’ve covered a bunch of them in these resources: 

 

Thinking for yourself is a powerful skill that can transform every aspect of your life. By questioning everything, you build confidence, resilience, and creativity, all while connecting with inspiring individuals who share your curiosity.

The journey to independent thinking isn’t always easy, but it’s undeniably rewarding. Embrace the discomfort, sharpen your research skills, and stay wary of those who spread hate and prejudice. Commit to being a lifelong learner, and you’ll find that questioning everything leads to a richer, more fulfilling life.