The value of an open mind

Personal arrogance and close-mindedness have led way to some of the most laughable and dangerous decisions in recent history. It’s also led to anger, violence and wars that didn’t need to be.

There is so much to be gained from opening your mind and letting new ideas and beliefs come in. It is my personal belief that open-mindedness is the single most important characteristic we have as human beings.

What does it mean to have an open mind?

Having an open mind doesn’t mean you have to change who you are.

Embrace being wrong

Making mistakes doesn’t seem like it would be much of a benefit, but it truly is. We all know we make mistakes. If we all do make mistakes, why is it so difficult to admit it? 

We are taught from a young age that being wrong equals failure and that it’s shameful. We are thought that being wrong makes us bad people. Embarrassment and shame aren’t pleasant to experience. Since none of us wants to feel humiliated or that we are failures, we tend to resort to defensiveness when faced with our mistakes. Being defensive pits people against each other instead of working together to find solutions. Embracing being wrong makes for a kinder and more positive world all around.

The enjoyment of being right can also intoxicate us and affect our entire worldview. If we believe we are generally right, we also assume that people who disagree with us are generally wrong. We become close-minded. We refuse to see reality for what it is and replace it with our own version of facts.

“The one who follows the crowd will usually go no further than the crowd. The one who walks alone is likely to find himself in places no one has ever been before.” – Albert Einstein

When you open your mind and allow yourself to see things from someone else’s perspective, you allow yourself to recognise potential mistake you might have made.

Attachment to our own rightness keeps us from preventing mistakes when we absolutely need to and causes us to treat each other terribly.” – Kathryn Schulz

We are wrong a lot more often than we are right. Embracing being wrong creates learning opportunities. Let’s be wrong and/or embarrassed and learn from it instead of pretending we know it all and go through life arrogant and misinformed.

While it may be uncomfortable and unfamiliar at first, embracing being wrong ultimately makes us more open-minded and better human beings. Being wrong, understanding why and accepting it are important characteristics that every human being should learn to be at peace with.

Free yourself of illusions

To be open-minded we have to remove our personal illusions (bias & prejudices) from any situation and completely immerse ourselves in another experience.

Our perception of the world influence the way we act and interact with other people and events. Every interaction and experience we encounter is measured by the mind in order to analyse and determine it. We are a product of our environment and of the interactions we have with people around us.

In a world of fabrication, intended deceit, accidental error and oblivious intellectual mediocrity, it a daunting task to keep ourselves free of illusions. The unfortunate truth is that we are highly susceptible to influence from others.

Most of us are brought up with a set of beliefs and values and, throughout our lives, tend to surround ourselves with people who share the same values and beliefs. Our own personal worlds become so small and important that we forget what else is out there.

We become the centre of our own personal worlds and we define our own definitive truths. When this happens, it becomes very easy to blame others for one’s own failings. We always have to question ourselves and make sure that we aren’t blaming others in order to make ourselves feel better. It’s important to be brutally honest with ourselves in order to free ourselves from illusions and keep an open mind.

It simply a difference in perception. If the mind is free of illusions it will typically approach interactions and experiences with a clean slate. Open minded individual avoid getting snarled in pointless arguments to protect these illusions which make you more happy, healthy and wise.

How do we free ourselves of these illusions?

Check your own feelings about subjects regularly. Doing this can allow you to start to build practice and skills in letting go of the illusions, able to overcome it through investigation and attention. The best way to free yourself of illusions is getting informed. The more knowledgeable you are, the less vacuum can be filled with illusions, falsities. We grow as individuals by learning and developing traits, habits, facts, talents based on information that we acquire.

Who cares what others think of you?

Worrying too much about what others think of you can be debilitating.

If you care what others think of you, you will be far more inhibited and far less spontaneous and joyful than you could be. Constantly wondering what others think of us can evoke anxiety, leading to neediness and insecurity, which in turn drive others away from us.

How do we stop being bothered by what others think of us?

Understanding that the opinion of others is often not a reflection of who you are or your failings, but rather a reflection on where the others are coming from. Recognising this can help you lower your worry about what others think of you.

If you are proud of the person you are, then you will worry less about what others think of you.

Question everything

Having an open mind requires asking questions, being genuinely interested in people’s thoughts, and accepting people for exactly who they are.

Sometimes the truth is not funny. Too many people live in their own bubble rather than allowing themselves to absorb facts that contradict what they thought.

If we were encouraged to maintain a child-like curiosity into our adult years we’d all grow up with a far better understanding.

Our world is constantly evolving. It requires new skill sets, new approaches. People who question everything are lifelong learners and adapters. Those who embrace questions find change less scary. They view it as a welcome opportunity to inquire, learn, and self-improvement.

“Governments don’t want a population capable of critical thinking, they want obedient workers, people just smart enough to run the machines and just dumb enough to passively accept the situation.” – George Carlin

Problem solvers work through a series of questions. “What steps cause the problem?” and “What if?” and “How might I?” questions to hypothesise about possible solutions.

“I would rather have a mind opened by wonder than closed by belief.” – Gerry Spence

Opening our minds and keeping them open takes time, energy and patience.

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