Have you ever felt like you were in an echo chamber? Where all around everyone was saying the same thing. No one seemed to have a different opinion, they all seemed to be parroting a common theme -like they were reading from a script? Talking points we call it sometimes. A group of people, be it a political party, a social group, or a religious organization, seemingly spouting the same message with no dissenting voices. In the pre-social media days, we had the chain letters that spread rumors that way and you would have people blindly sending on to the next contact the same message without a shred of analysis or thought.

It is good to build consensus and have shared opinions, but that grows out of discussion and debate, not simply stamped out and passed around as the “approved” script. When companies and organizations want to have a consistent message to their customers and consumers they have PR people put together packages. But in society at large, there needs to be healthy debate and discussion and room for disagreement. We don’t all agree and we don’t have to.

And that is where personal courage and deep thought comes in. True, there are boundaries we do not cross and extremes to which we should not go. But in between, there should be freedom for free thinkers. Especially when it comes to challenging the established line of thinking, of well-established patterns and institutions, and practices. We only grow by stretching ourselves, by learning not only new things but new ways of thinking and being.

So when was the last time you challenged yourself? When was the last time you disagreed with someone, especially someone near and dear? How did you feel and were you able to defend yourself and your point of view? Not that you have to defend yourself necessarily. But when you step out of the norm you will want to marshall your thoughts and be on solid ground,, just for the sake of your own confidence.

It is okay to be out of the norm or ahead of your time. We don’t always grow at the same rate, mentally, emotionally, or physically. I have encountered that with my wife. We have evolved in our thinking and attitudes on several issues over the years. And though we have in most areas arrived at a similar place, we didn’t always get there in the same time frame.

So be a deep thinker, freely examine what you know and believe. Seek to expand your knowledge base – learning is a lifetime activity. Keep on asking yourself the ultimate question- why? It’s not just for kids first getting to know the world around them.

Be a voice, not an echo. Feel free to stand out from the crowd. Be a leader in seeking to change the world in your own small way. Great change comes from lots of little movements when we least expect it.