In 2000, the average human’s attention span was 12 seconds. That number has dropped to 8 seconds – less than that of a goldfish. What to blame for this decline? The Internet, according to Microsoft.

Psychology experts are also warning that technology is impacting our ability to empathize and display humanity.

Indeed, more than ever before, our brains are under the influence of technology.

But that’s far from the only man-made thing our brains are under the influence of.

Processed substances like sugar are also changing the way our brains work, making us crave unhealthy foods our ancestors would have scoffed at.

Our overworked, stress-packed lifestyles change our values and speed up our brains’ aging.

And then there’s the world of pharmaceuticals, which can change one’s entire brain structure.

Indeed, more than ever before, we are altering our brains with our own inventions. On one hand, it’s remarkable. But on the other, it’s… well, scary.

Are we really in control of our brains anymore? Do we process individual thought to the same degree we did for most of human existence?

We just celebrated Independence Day – for our nation.

But I think it’s time we each begin to celebrate our own “Independence Days,” where we force ourselves to look inwards and figure out our values, goals and ambitions – independent of man-made stimuli.

Here are 4 questions to help you do just that!

1. What do I really value?


It’s easy to be swept up in the views of other people when you’re constantly exposed to them via the internet, social media and our largely interconnected society.

But each day, why not take a look at one of your values and figure out where it really comes from? Sometimes you’ll be able to say ‘yep, that’s totally me.’ But other times, you’ll realize you’ve adopted a method of thinking that isn’t quite as heartfelt.

2. How do I truly feel about the day ahead of me?


This is a good one to ask yourself every morning.

Think about the day you planned. Who are you going to meet? What are you going to do? Where are you going to go? What are you going to eat?

How do you really feel about those choices?

Do you have a solid, self-sufficient reason for making them, or are you just going along with the flow?

3. What would my ideal world look like?


Steve Jobs used to look in the mirror every morning and ask himself if his life matched his ideal for it. If there were too many days where the answer was a no, he would change something.

Of course, we all don’t have the level of luxury Steve Jobs had. But we all have choices.

It’s easy to feel like you have little say in things – that you have to log onto Facebook and visit your rival’s page.

It’s easy to think you have no choice but to take whatever pills your doctor puts in front of you or work whatever job puts food on the table, no matter how much you hate it.

But have you ever tried to make a change? Have you even thought about how you might do that?

4. What can I do for myself today?


The key here is to do something totally for you. Even if nobody else cares in the slightest. Even if it’s not worthy of a Facebook status update.

It can be tough to forget the world around you and just let yourself live. But that’s one of the biggest steps you can take towards happiness that is independent of others’ expectations, opinions and values.

National Institute on Drug Abuse
Time Magazine