I just read a blog entry on MySpace that a friend wrote about contradictions in her life, on finding direction after college and the admittedly sad state of this country. One of her points was that critical thinking is no longer rewarded or encouraged, we are taught how to take tests rather than learn and how to become "cogs in the machine."
In a lot of ways, I'm not sure critical thinking has ever been encouraged. People are often threatened by those who go against the grain; those who speak out in a new direction.
And then I thought about the free thought/ hippie movement of the 60's...was that rewarded? In a lot of ways, counterculture of every kind has become important in hindsight. I wonder what the non-hippies, those who needed to be providers, those part of a conservative society, thought about the people who will always be symbols of that time period. Did hippies create change or simply point out what needed to be corrected?
It is easy to look back and say, "I should've done that differently" or "why did I waste so much time?" If you are not willing to act, if you are paralyzed in some regard, you cannot grow. Changes do not need to be ground-breaking or even noticed by others, but they need to happen.
We cannot be the same person we were a decade ago.