Most people live in a prison of their own making.
They have materially or emotionally chained themselves to others — their parents, their spouses, their friends — and are now dependent on their support.
If that is you, it’s time to take action. You must learn how to be independent.
Learn why it all starts with your mindset, what direct alternatives are, and how you can reclaim your autonomy.
1. Fix Your Mindset
All the truly independent people I have ever met shared the same three basic beliefs. You must adopt these as well.
a) You Are by Yourself
You should never expect other people to take care of your problems. Ultimately, you are by yourself.
The dependent person laments this. The independent person plans for it.
b) Attention Is Everything
We become what we constantly think about.
Thus, it is imperative to stay clear of all personal drama. If you let others get to you, they will dictate where your attention goes.
c) You Can’t Change People
You can’t change other people. Don’t hope for them to behave in a way that is not in alignment with who they are.
Focus on the only person you can change — yourself.
2. Seek Out Direct Alternatives
To be independent is to choose direct over indirect alternatives.
The masses believe that the individual is powerless and that change can only be systemic. You are supposed to organize protest marches and change the legislation.
That is called an indirect alternative.
In contrast, an individualist understands that whatever problem they face, there is always a course of action that only depends on them.
That is called a direct alternative.
For example …
… the masses will demand minimum wage. The individualist will increase cash flow.
… the masses expect the police to protect them. The individualist will arm oneself.
… the masses need medical treatment. The individualist will invest in prevention.
When you pin your hopes on systemic change, you are bound to get disappointed:
- Any type of movement you start will soon be riven with infighting.
- You might not see the desired change in your lifetime.
- If you see change, it will not at all be what you had imagined.
When you opt for direct alternatives, these problems evaporate:
- There won’t be any infighting (it’s only you).
- The change will be immediate or almost immediate.
- You have control over the result.
3. Become Financially Independent
As long as someone else is paying for your life, you won’t feel free. That’s for three reasons.
First, during confrontations, they will hold their financial power over you. They will let you feel your dependency.
Second, they will dictate your way of life. The financially dominant person will decide how you must behave, what you can say around them, etc.
Third, you can’t leave. If your parents like to patronize you, you will have to take it. If your husband likes to sleep around, you’ll have to grin and bear it.
So, how do you become financially independent?
The first step is to accept that it is your fault.
You put yourself in a position where you took their money. Nobody else did that.
I mean, I get it. Work sucks. There is nothing fun about showing up at an office every day.
If there is a chance to avoid that, many people will take it. They will move in with their parents, find a sugar daddy or a sugar momma, get pregnant, etc.
But whenever you choose the easy way out, you pay for it later — and tenfold.
So, get over it. Get a job, at least for now. There are ways to break free from that particular prison, too; we’ll talk about that later.
As soon as you have some cash flow, start to save at least 20–30% of your income each month. Build up a solid financial cushion, i.e., enough money to live on for a year without having to work.
This is what some people call “Fuck you money.” You can stop tip-toeing around other people for fear of them cutting you off.
4. Learn To Talk to People
Most people who are codependent on others are so because they don’t have options.
This is especially true with romantic relationships. We will stay with someone we loathe, simply because we fear being by ourselves.
The solution is to learn how to talk to strangers. Granted, that is easier said than done.
For men, the problem is anxiety. They are afraid to get rejected by an attractive woman. The male ego is fragile.
Therefore, you must systematically desensitize yourself.
Here is a basic training progression:
- Several times a day, make eye contact with attractive strangers.
- Every time you see an attractive stranger, smile and say hi in passing.
- Next, give them a quick compliment (“I just had to say you look really attractive.”)
- Ask a follow-up question, to keep the convo going (“You seem a bit artsy. If I had to guess, I would say you are a film major. Am I right?”)
Practice each of these phases for at least two weeks, before you move on to the next phase. By taking baby steps, you will gradually expand your comfort zone.
This will make you untouchable. If someone threatens to leave you, you won’t budge. You can easily find someone new.
For women, the challenge is not so much anxiety, but passiveness. The attitude is, “I want to be swept off my feet.”
It’s ironic. We endlessly talk about equal pay or body image. But when it comes to making the first move, suddenly, we are back to the 1950s.
Don’t fall for this. As long as you expect to be conquered, you can never be independent. Become the conqueress.
This takes initiative. It’s way more comfortable to adopt a wait-and-see attitude. Also, if you dare to act upon your sexual interests, some people will try to slut shame you (not least of all other women).
One trick to make this easier is to find other free-spirited women. Then, when you all go out, nobody will raise an eyebrow if you make a move on a guy. Your friends will be too busy with their own conquests.
5. Avoid Groupthink
Most people cannot think for themselves. They will repeat whatever cultural narrative is currently in fashion.
If the consensus is to bemoan cultural appropriation, they will do that. If the consensus is to further the cause of the master race, they will do that.
Even when they try to break away from one dogma, they will soon join another dogma. They go from being a woke disciple to being an alt-right disciple (or vice versa).
There is no nuance.
To overcome this, you must become an eclectic. You must gather the best ideas from everywhere and create your own system of thought, beyond societal labels.
Consider everyone, no matter what their official ideological affiliation is. Reading Marx doesn’t make you Marxist. Reading Spengler doesn’t make you a nationalist.
Dare to think for yourself.
An idea that is not dangerous is unworthy of being called an idea at all.Oscar Wilde
6. Learn To Fight
A big part of how to be independent is learning to deal with violence.
This might seem strange as we live in a society where most of us have never been in a physical confrontation, besides maybe a schoolyard brawl.
Yet, on a subtle level, violence is omnipresent.
Whatever situation you find yourself in — a meeting room, a bar — some people will be perceived as more dominant than others.
That’s because unconsciously, we understand they have a greater potential for physical violence. We can tell by how they carry themselves.
It doesn’t matter that in these social contexts, no one would ever raise a hand against you — the potentiality is enough to make you act timid around these pack leaders.
If you don’t match their violent potential, you will be at their mercy. They will out-negotiate you, they will make you give way, and they will steal your date.
Then there are instances of actual violence. While they are rare, they are traumatic. It is a burden that you will carry around forever.
For all these reasons, you must learn how to fight. You must not be afraid of anyone.
For men, I recommend training in some type of combat martial art. Boxing, Muay Thai, Wrestling, and BJJ are all great choices. Stay away from nonsense martial arts like karate or Krav Maga.
For women, I recommend some type of weapon training. It’s very hard to overcome the physical difference otherwise.
Also, with women, we are mostly talking about sexual violence. That means that the stakes are even higher. Not only will you have to deal with the trauma, but also with a potential pregnancy and/or an STD.
So, take no risks. Learn how to use a weapon to equalize the playing ground. It doesn’t have to be a firearm; just being able to correctly use a pepper spray might be sufficient. But you, too, must train regularly.
7. Quit Your 9 to 5
A 9 to 5 and personal autonomy don’t go together.
First, there is the time waste. Half of your time awake each day goes to your employer. That is massive.
Second, you are forced to do nonsense work. Does it really matter if you attended that meeting or created that Excel sheet? It doesn’t.
Third, you must put up with people you didn’t choose for yourself, aka your colleagues. Some of them will make your life hell.
Fourth, you cannot travel. Even with the recent trend in remote work, most people still have to show up at the office a few times per week.
Bottom line — you are company property.
What’s the way out then?
If you don’t want to be a slave, you need to become a slave driver. In other words, you need to start your own business; preferably an online business, so you have the freedom to roam.
I wrote a long article on the subject. Here are some key takeaways:
- Don’t start with a lofty passion business like content creation or coaching. Save that for later.
- Instead, start a service business. Think copywriting, graphic design, programming, and the like.
- Choose a skill that works 100% online. Even if you have no intentions of traveling, it is good to have the option.
- Don’t try to become perfect in your chosen field first. Build your skill set while you are already hiring yourself out.
- Most service providers offer subpar quality. If you put in just a little bit more effort, you will be drowning in work.
- Be reliable. Always reply to messages. Never miss a deadline. Take your customer’s feedback into account.
8. Organize Yourself
A large reason why people are codependent on others is that they don’t have their lives together:
- They’ll lose that big account because they forgot about the customer’s deadline.
- They’ll skip over crucial details in contracts, and then get screwed by the other side.
- They’ll find themselves in financial straits because they didn’t save money for their tax return.
If you never take the time to order your affairs, you will live in crisis mode. At some point, someone will have to step in to put out the fires. That’s how you become dependent.
To overcome this, you must first fix your mindset:
- Disorganized people all succumb to the same fallacy. They think they can do it all, whatever tickles their fancy. They cannot.
- You must pick and choose. The fewer projects you have on your plate, the more attention each project will receive.
- Make peace with the fact that you can only be good at a few things and that you will fall short in most other areas of your life.
- Learn to say “No:”
- Say “No” to new projects.
- Say “No” to random coffee meet-ups.
- Say “No” to pointless dates.
- Say “No” to social media.
On the practical side of things, you must “download” your mind into an external system.
Whatever recurring thoughts you have — write them down. Otherwise, they will keep eating up your mental bandwidth.
If you keep thinking about how you must still buy cat food — write it down. If you keep wondering if you should learn Russian — write it down.
Once you have everything out of your head and in front of you, you must transfer these items to the right lists:
- Time-specific events go on your calendar.
- Urgent/important items go on your action list.
- Less urgent/important items go on a “someday” list.
Every day in the morning, you sit down with your lists, review them, and write yourself a daily to-do list, picking just a few items from your inventory of tasks.
Of course, you will never get around to everything on your lists. But by having all the options in front of you, you won’t miss anything.
This will give you control over your life back. You won’t have to rely on other people saving the day anymore.
If you would like to learn more about my system for self-organization, check out my article on dealing with overwhelm.
9. Fix Your Health
When you let your health deteriorate, you automatically become dependent on others.
You become dependent on doctors to treat your symptoms and relieve your pain.
You become dependent on your insurance company. Serious illnesses cost serious money.
You’ll also have to rely on outside help. When you cannot buy groceries for yourself or go to the bathroom, family, friends, and nurses have to fill in.
You are no longer the master of your life.
The problem is that our health-related choices rarely have immediate consequences. Only much later do we connect the dots. But then it’s usually too late.
Do the smart thing — think long-term. Make better choices, so you can remain independent, even later in life.
That entails three areas:
- Physical fitness
Here are a few quick pointers.
Eat non-processed foods.
If it has four legs, eat it. If it swims in the sea, eat it. If it grows in your garden, eat it.
b) Physical Fitness
- Walk a lot.
- Do a few minutes of mobility work every day.
- Lift weights 2–3 a week.
- Every once in a while, sprint.
Go to bed at the same time, every day, without fail. Our bodies need that regularity to get the deepest sleep possible.