How to Be Independent: The Ultimate Guide

How to Be Independent: The Ultimate Guide

Congrats! You’re ready to own your life and be in complete control. Don’t worry if you’re at a total loss right now, because everyone – I mean everyone – has had to gain independence at some point. Start where you are, and take things one deliberate step at a time. With this guide, you’re going to learn how to be independent.

Why Worry About Becoming Independent?

Just about everyone relies on others to a certain extent and let’s face it, there are some perks that come with having others to catch you when you fall. It’s important to continue cherishing your relationships – you know, the ones you have with professional contacts, your significant other, and your friends, for example. At the same time, it’s very important to develop self-reliance. There are a ton of benefits associated with independence.

You Can Gain Financial Freedom

As you learn new skills and gain new abilities, you gain more opportunities. Many of these have the potential to help you earn more money, and over time, you’ll find that it’s easier to leave financial uncertainty behind.

Your Reputation Improves

If you’re known as a strong independent woman or man, your reputation will eventually soar to new heights. Even if it’s good now, it’s likely to get better as people start to recognize your contributions and see you as a powerful person worth knowing. This isn’t to say that you’re not enough right now, because you are. But even after you learn how to be independent, you’re going to continue to grow as a person. That’s worth its weight in gold!

Your Self-Esteem Soars

Most of us have felt the pain of low self-confidence at some point, even if only for a little while. Great news: As you work toward being an independent woman or man, you’ll notice that self-reliance is something that you feel proud of. Confidence, knowledge, and the ability to take on new challenges go hand in hand.

Independent People are Often Happier

No surprise here: Once you learn how to be more independent, you’re likely to enjoy life a whole lot more. Not only will you enjoy the happiness that comes with better self-esteem, you will take pride and joy in your associations with others. Knowing that you can rely on your own means eliminates all kinds of worries and doubts! Whatever bothers you now, it’s likely to be reduced or even eliminated once you have formed habits that leave you feeling strong and independent.

Independent Individuals Tend to Be Innovative

Because independent people are free to think for themselves in many areas, they tend to exhibit greater creativity and come up with innovative solutions to all kinds of problems. Whether you’re running your own business, working as a consultant, or employed in a traditional company setting, your ability to think independently and problem-solve will keep you a few steps ahead of whatever’s happening next.

How to Be Independent: Know What Your Brand of Independence Looks Like

The word “independence” holds different meanings for different individuals based on where they’re at in the great journey of life. If you’re a teenager, then you’re probably wondering how to be more independent as you get older until eventually, you’re ready to go to college or move out on your own. If you’re divorcing or newly widowed you might be wondering how to be an independent woman when you’ve always had a spouse to rely on. The same goes for guys: How to become more independent when you’ve always had a partner in life and you’re about to be on your own for the first time in a long time?

Make Plans and Set Goals

Whoever you are, and whatever your reasons for learning how to become independent, it’s very important to have a plan and set realistic goals that lead you closer to self-reliance. Consider drawing a mind map or journal with specific steps or milestones that you know you can meet along the way. Breaking the process down into chunks enhances your ability to believe in yourself, and it reduces the kind of stress that can lead to procrastination.

As you decide on goals, keep the acronym SMART in mind. Make your goals specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and time-oriented. Let’s use the common self-reliance goal of money saving as an example of how to become more independent with the help of goalsetting.

Specific:

Make each of your goals very specific. Don’t just say “I want to save money.” Instead, say that you want to save a certain amount. You might want to include your reason for saving that amount in your statements to yourself.

Measurable:

With the money-saving example, it’s very easy to see why each goal should be measurable since we’re talking about specific amounts. But other goals might include other metrics that make sense. If education is part of your independence plan, then you might need to quantify how long you’ll spend studying a certain subject each day.

Attainable:

You might ultimately want to be a millionaire or billionaire, but if you’re currently working for a low wage, the idea of gaining far higher status is likely to feel out of reach. When goals are out of reach we tend to give up. Make your goals easy to achieve. If you think you’d have a really hard time saving $500, set the bar lower. Save $50 or $100 just to prove to yourself that it’s possible. As you achieve your goals, your idea of what’s attainable will change and you’ll gain more headway, faster.

Realistic:

Be realistic about your goals. Using our money-saving example, you’ll find that it’s important to be realistic about just how much you can save each month – although the more independent you become, the more ideas about making money and saving you’re likely to come up with! Be realistic in other areas too. Using the education concept as an example, know that  If you hate math, it’s probably best to avoid making goals that are highly math-oriented, like choosing a major that has a lot of heavy math classes, or to maybe consider gradually immersing yourself so that you’re less likely to give up.

Time-Oriented:

Always have a “when” for your goals. A vague “someday” just won’t do! If you’re saving money, have a defined date or timespan, like “I’m going to save $100 this month.”

Plan to Meet Your Goals

As the old saying goes, “you can’t keep on doing what you’ve always done and expect to get different results.” As you work toward independence, come up with a plan for meeting every goal. Ask yourself how you’re going to do it and decide how best to set yourself up for success. Let’s go back to our money-saving example: If you want to save money, you’re going to have to make plans that you can turn into healthier financial habits. Some potential money-saving plans include:

  • Looking at your bank account to see where your money is going, then deciding which expenditures are necessary. The rest can probably be trimmed in some way.
  • Deciding to stop spending in a certain area, i.e. junk food, dinner out, etc. Packing your own lunch is a great plan. Come up with steps that you can easily follow, and you’ll see that you’re left with more money at the end of every week.
  • Looking at ways to make your money grow after you start saving. Can you get a savings account with a higher interest rate? Can you invest somehow? What steps do you need to take to carry out your plan?

As you can see, there are a ton of variables!

More Tips for Becoming Independent

Since you’re about to become more self-reliant, you want to maximize your ability to take great care of yourself and anyone who might depend on you now or in the future, such as children or employees. Here are some ways to increase efficiency and productivity, which are two very important factors in becoming independent.

Practice Decision Making

Just about everyone makes bad decisions from time to time, and sometimes those terrible choices help us grow by leaps and bounds even if that growth is painful. The good news is that by learning how to make good choices, you can spare yourself quite a bit of suffering and get further down the road that leads to independence.

Start by identifying the decision and think about your desired outcome. Next, do some fact-finding. Come up with different choices and think about what the probable outcome of each choice would be. What’s the best that could happen? What’s the worst-case-scenario?

Think about pros and cons. If this is a big decision, make yourself a list, complete with bullet points. See if you can live with the consequences, or if you’d rather enjoy a more desirable set of circumstances. Ask others to contribute if you feel OK about it. Sometimes two heads are better than one, and asking for feedback and advice is a great way to make use of friends and family members, who are among your best resources no matter how independent you become.

Don’t Let Fear Stop You

Fear of the unknown plagues just about everyone, but don’t let it stop you from working toward your goals and making progress. Fear can make you feel stuck, so you end up doing nothing. It can also make you second-guess yourself instead of carrying out our plans. Remember that you can always go back a step (or a few steps!) and try again if things don’t work out the way you hoped they would.

Learn to Think Critically

Critical thinking is an important skill to gain no matter what your goals. Without it, independence isn’t likely to be in the cards. Let’s take a closer look.

What is critical thinking? There are quite a few definitions of the term but at its simplest, critical thinking is a method of looking at all the facts and forming judgments based on factual information rather than emotions, what advertisers or social media influencers are saying, or other things that get in the way.

There’s a very good reason why this might be a new concept for you. Simply put, there are certain people, influential organizations, and others who do not want individuals to think for themselves. They want you to accept and consume whatever is placed before you, whether that’s junk food, a certain set of beliefs that come with controlling limitations, specific political views, a certain slant on a news story that affects your community, or a game that eats up all of your time and some of your money.

When you think critically, you free your mind and you prioritize your own decisions. When others attempt to influence you, you’re able to see what’s going on and control the way you respond or react as well as the way you make decisions. You’ll notice which situations tend to lead toward more influencing and poor decision-making, i.e. scrolling social media makes you a target for powerful influencers who want your attention.

The Critical Thinking Process:

You can apply critical thinking to anything, and it’s a good idea to apply it to everything in the beginning since you’re trying to make a habit of thinking for yourself. I encourage you to take a critical thinking course when you can. For now, here’s a very simple critical thinking process that you can apply to just about any situation:

1. Formulate a question. Ask yourself about any potential arguments that might arise from the situation. “W” questions like “what,” “why,” and “who” are good to start with. What’s going on here? Who is going to benefit? Why is this happening?”

2. Find facts. Spend some time gathering information, using whatever resources you have available. The internet is a great place to look, but be sure to check multiple sources when seeking out the truth. The deeper you dig, the more you are going to learn.

3. Mentally apply what you learned and think about what it means. How do the facts inform your question?

4. Think about other angles. Look at different points of view, so that you’re aware of potential outcomes.

Remember, there’s no need to explain yourself – in fact, if others are argumentative, it’s sometimes best to leave them to their own devices and continue following your own path. After all, you’re becoming more independent! You are thinking about issues and how they affect you, but you don’t have to share your findings with others unless that’s what you want to do.

Invest Time Wisely

We all have the same 24 hours, and it’s up to us to decide how to use every minute. I’m not advocating for a life that includes no fun – in fact, far from it since recreation is vital to success. At the same time, it’s important to be careful about how you spend your time. Just like money, time disappears quickly when it’s being wasted.

  • Have a specific reason for doing things
  • Decide how long to spend on certain activities
  • Prioritize activities based on which goals are most important
  • Do the important things first – focus on what matters
  • Keep on doing things that work
  • Look into time management tools such as apps that help you determine how much time you’re spending on things like social media
  • Plan fun and recreation for yourself, with the future you in mind. Will you spend hours gaming or binge-watching YouTube when you’re independent? Probably not. Will you exercise, have meaningful conversations, and do activities that expand your mind in some way? These are a few fun ways that successful, independent people spend their free time. Even though it’s fun, they gain concrete benefits instead of merely letting time pass them by.
  • Be OK with saying “no” when others try to set their priorities ahead of your own, or at least give yourself an out by saying “I’m not sure if I can do that, but I’ll give you a call if I can.”

These are just a few examples of ways you can make the most of every day. The more time you spend working toward your goals, the faster you’ll become independent.

Know that You Don’t Have to Reinvent the Wheel

As you’re learning how to be a strong independent woman or man, conduct some research into others who inspire you. See what they did to reach their goals, and consider how you can formulate a plan that traces their steps in certain ways. What did they do, and what did they stop doing? How did they take care of time management? What tools helped them succeed?

Becoming independent should be a pleasure. It should feel good and life-affirming, and as you gradually enjoy success, you’ll find that one achievement leads to another until you’re living life on your own terms. With time, patience, and the will to succeed, you can build a life that feels joyful and authentic.