An independent variable is the variable you have control over, what you can choose and manipulate. It is usually what you think will affect the dependent variable. In some cases, you may not be able to manipulate the independent variable. It may be something that is already there and is fixed, something you would like to evaluate with respect to how it affects something else, the dependent variable like color, kind, time.
Example: You are interested in how stress affects heart rate in humans. Your independent variable would be the stress and the dependent variable would be the heart rate. You can directly manipulate stress levels in your human subjects and measure how those stress levels change heart rate.