Being Dependent vs. Making My Own Decisions

Jeffrey Keefer

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Do you remember when you were a child, and everything happened to you, without so much as asking what you wanted? When you went out to eat, you never thought about having money in your pocket to pay for it, as somebody else did. When you wanted to play with friends, you had to ask, and somebody else decided to bring you or authorize your movements.

Perhaps you wanted something at the store, to watch a movie, or listen to music? Just ask for it, and often that was enough for it to be yours.

Dependency of Children

You were dependent on others for nearly everything, or at least what many of us consider those things of value.

Of course, most of us did not value being taken care of back then. If anything, we resented being told what to do.

When was the last time you were told what time to go to bed? Told what chores needed doing? Told what time you had to do nearly anything at all?

See my point?

It can be easy to romanticize the good old days, claiming life was simpler as we had fewer yet more direct options. However, in reality, when we were younger, we had fewer options since those in roles of power (parents, relatives, adults, older siblings, and most especially teachers) allowed us very few of them at all.

Independency of Adults

We knew we did not want to be told what to do or what we were allowed to do, though we often did not know enough to do otherwise. We did not have enough information or experiences to make informed decisions, and likely were not responsible enough to do our things whenever we wanted to do them.

When we were young, we were not enough on our own.

Eventually, as we grew older, we also succeeded in becoming independent. Age often has a relationship with independence, ready or not, regardless of being mature, prepared, and disciplined. Sometimes the only way we learn is after falling on our faces first.

Many options and decisions they did allow us ultimately helped make their lives easier. Let’s face it, how many times can we hear a child ask to go out and play with their friends while tellings us we are horrible people for denying them this right before we cave-in to have some peace?

In the process, they did help us learn to grow.

The sad thing is that while we grew up, we often were not taught how to make decisions and often still relish the opportunity to be cared for. As much as we want to do our own thing, nothing is so good as having others do things for us, saving us from not only acting like an adult but at times even from knowing what it means to be an adult.

I prefer to decide what or where to eat for dinner, but if somebody else will arrange for it on my behalf, booyah for me! Same thing with organizing travel logistics, managing my computer upgrade, or scheduling for my health and pharmacy needs. I am independent, though having another arrange for some of the things that arrive with being independent is terrific.

Successful Entrepreneurs Are Self-Directed

How many entrepreneurs do you know? Successful ones, based on whatever criteria you wish that is?

That may be one of the very things that separate children from adults. It is here that I posit that dependency is to children what self-directedness is to adults.

Throughout my personal and professional studies, I often came across the work of the adult learning scholar, Malcolm Knowles, advocate and developer of the notion of andragogy (the art and science of adult learning, in many ways the opposite of how children are fed information, namely through pedagogy).

Before you shriek in terror to yet another theory that has little to do with real life, let me calm your nerves! While a scary-sounding word, it begins with something that most of us can readily understand — our Self-Concept. At its core, this involves an adult becoming more self-directed and independent as they mature. We do not embrace being told what we need to learn, at least to the extent we are free to choose.

Who Makes Adults Learn?

Case in point — are you reading this article of mine because you were told to do so or want to?

It makes sense, as my personal self-concept has me independent and responsible for my own actions.

I chose to write this article; I was not told to do so.

I chose to learn a little about the assumptions for how adults learn. I was not lectured about them, forced to stay in my seat, a prisoner in the clutches of a great learning czar forcing me to expand my knowledge!

Voila, as that is what Knowles has in mind, too! Adults often prefer to choose what they want to learn, when they want to learn it, and how they want to learn. We may want to be taken care of at times, but don’t try to force useless, self-serving learning down my throat!

If I wanted endless riches found in this or that sales funnel, I would have done it all myself! Think about it, if it were that easy to generate 20-figure revenue in 5 minutes with 2 billion new followers after only a convincing commercial break, then I clearly do want to be taken care of!

Life is not that, and as a result, being dependent on others may make our lives seem more straightforward, yet it is far less rewarding than living our own lives and doing the actions we choose because we believe they will help us.

The less we do for ourselves, the more we live lives that are no longer our own.

So the next time you want to be taken care of and have somebody else decide something on your behalf, ask yourself what they may be gaining while you are supposedly being cared for.

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Educator. Writer. Open Knowledge Advocate. Institutional Researcher. I help people navigate their learning needs and take informed action.

New York City, NY
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