“The unexamined life is not worth living.” In the 5th century BCE, Socrates was charged with corrupting the youth by getting them to challenge the norm and think for themselves. But the story of a man being sentenced to death because he challenged the world to think for themselves goes back much farther.

A millennium earlier, the patriarch Abraham had to flee his homeland because of a death sentence put on him for the very same reason. He looked at the world and realized it made no sense. He questioned everything and came up with vastly different conclusions about God, the universe, and morality than what was commonly accepted at that time. Rather than keeping it to himself, he began to engage with the locals until he amassed a following of devoted students.

Throughout our life, we are meant to constantly upgrade, deepen, and refine our beliefs about what is true and what is false, our perspectives about what is good and what is bad, and what we consider right and wrong.

This process of learning how to think independently is connected to the inner element of wind, the intellectual level of our inner world. Wind creates movement just as the intellect has the power to create change in a person. The movement of wind also represents the constant movement of our thoughts and development of ideas, as a person needs to be open to analyzing their beliefs again and again. Wind also represents speech, which is the external manifestation of our intellect, as the process of searching for clarity requires asking questions and engaging in dialogue with other people that we can learn from.

There are many aspects of our belief system that constantly require upgrading. Included in this is

  • how we understand God and our relationship with the Divine;
  • how we determine our values and set goals;
  • what causes and rights we believe are worth fighting for;
  • how we invest our time, energy, and resources;
  • what we are living for and who we are meant to be.

The comparison of our intellect to wind also brings up a challenge. Just as one can let go of a false belief in the pursuit of truth, so too, we become vulnerable to letting go of truth when we are influenced or pressured to take a new position. We also need to be careful not to fall into the trap of groupthink, going along with what everyone else believes without giving it the proper analysis.

We have a disadvantage. By the time we are mature enough and our brains developed enough to really think independently, we have already been “indoctrinated” with beliefs about how things “should be” and “have to be,” about who we are “supposed to be” and “need to be.” To look at the world with fresh eyes requires us to push back on those limiting beliefs and think fresh about who we are and what our world can look like. This is a process that does not come naturally.

The following are some of the tools to use in our pursuit of self-mastery in this area:

1. Ask Questions

Question everything around you. Know why you are living the life that you are living. Clarify your beliefs and your identity. Explore your roots. How do your beliefs line up with those of your parents and grandparents? What beliefs do you carry with you that are nothing more than ideas that you digested before you were mature enough to really process them? And if you come up with your own individual perspectives, are you brave enough to pursue them? And are you ready to pursue a life of individuality?

2. Go back to the source of all truth – the Torah

Rabbi Moshe Chaim Luzzato in The Way of God, speaks about the powerful effect found in Torah study:

For behold, the Master of the world put together a compilation of words and statements that constitute all of the five books of the Torah, and after them the Prophets and Writings. And He bound His Divine energy in such a way that when these statements would be spoken, this energy would be brought down for the one speaking them.

The process of Torah study involves deep exploration into the ideas, analyzing the situations, and dissecting the language of the Torah and the Rabbinic Sages. It is a constant search for truth that involves a dynamic give-and-take of differing opinions and conflicting viewpoints. Nothing is accepted as is, and nothing is black-and-white.

In Jewish life, blocking out time every day to study Torah is part and parcel of the life of even the busiest people. Many have made it the practice to wake up earlier to study Torah, while others have used their commuting time to consume all sorts of Torah content. Research has shown that one of the most common habits of the most successful and wealthiest people in the world is that they time-block large chunks of time every day to learn something new. If the busiest people can see the great value in expanding their mind, certainly engaging in an activity that not only expands the mind but awakens the soul is worthy of time-blocking significant chunks of time.

3. Meaningful Conversations

The wind element is the root of both the intellect as well as the ability to communicate. Speech is in fact nothing more than the wind that flows from inside of us in the form of our voice. But it brings our abstract ideas into the realm of time and space so that our ideas can make their impact on the world. Our conversations are, therefore, opportunities for articulating our most valuable thoughts, listening to others, and learning new ideas.

The saying goes: “Great people discuss ideas. Average people discuss events. Small people discuss other people.” “Great people” understand that every conversation is an opportunity to learn something new, to solve a problem, to get inspired, or create a deeper connection with the person they are speaking with. They use small talk only as a springboard to get to those deeper conversations, where they can discuss things that are more meaningful and valuable.

One who goes through life always questioning, searching in the Torah for the most truthful answers, and speaking through those ideas with others is certain to transform their intellect into a wind that will guide them on a path of truth and lift them above the confusion and falsehood of the world to a life of clarity and conviction.

Based on the new book Four Elements of an Empowered Life A Guidebook to Discovering Your Inner World And Unique Purpose. Click here to order.