So much about personal development and growth is based around our knowing ourselves, managing our thoughts, words and actions to create the life we desire. I am not disputing any of that. And yet what I have been thinking about lately is our abilities around understanding others. Sometimes, development and growth can come from focusing on bettering our ability to connect with others and understanding the greater world around us. That’s where open-mindedness comes in.
I see myself as a relatively open-minded person. For me, taking the ultimate quantum leap moving to a new country where we knew nobody, could not speak the language and had no idea of the culture or environment we were stepping into has been the most daunting and rewarding experience I have ever had. An experience that has expanded my open-mindedness 1000% to what it would have ever been remaining at home. Because the reality is that so many of us profess to be open-minded, when in reality we are only ‘open’ to things that we already like or know.
To be open-minded means to remove your personal biases and prejudices from any situation and completely immerse yourself in another experience. Not always as easy as we think, because we are all brought up with a set of beliefs and values that we cultivate through our life. We tend to gravitate towards and surround ourselves with those who share the same values and beliefs. And there is nothing wrong with that. Yet when confronted with change, with ideas that challenge our thinking, with new ways of doing things, it can be difficult and frustrating when it doesn’t fit nicely into the box we are used to. While we may want to be open minded, we may struggle with the actual reality of it. And to clarify exactly what we are talking about here…
Being open minded means:
- looking at things differently, to see what else may be out there.
- you consider other ideas or options that you may not have normally thought about.
- that you are open to all possibilities.
It does not mean you:
- try everything that’s going,
- compromise your ethics and values, and
- become “so open minded that your brains fall out”.
For me, the beauty of open-mindedness is that it allows us to seek out new ways of thinking and soak in many different perspectives, and all without judgement. It allows you to open different windows to the world, which ends up expanding your view of the outside world and those in it. It also helps in so many practical ways in our own personal development journey.
1. It helps us avoid the situation where what we know, or think we know, prevents us from learning.
2. It can heighten our awareness to change that may be going on around us and help us recognize that fresh ideas and a new approach may be required.
3. It means we will never become one of “those” people who cannot be told, because they don’t want to know, they think they already know or they can’t believe that they wouldn’t know anything worth knowing.
4. It involves listening and paying attention to others, the foundation of tolerance and respect.
Open-mindedness is a muscle. And muscles must be exercised in order to grow. Each of us are products of our environment and of the interactions we have with people around us. Growing up in the same kind of place for our entire lives, around the same people, philosophies and ideas can limit us. We have been indoctrinated since birth with everything we currently know, so to introduce something new and exercise it involves patience and practice. We must actively place ourselves in new situations, in another person’s head, allowing us to experience what they experience, think their thoughts and see things from their point of view. And while I think age brings a certain amount of open-mindedness, it doesn’t just happen. Open-mindedness takes time, energy, and patience.
Through my own experiences, I have found being more open-minded of huge benefit. The four most obvious changes that I have observed for myself, as a result of open-mindedness, have been:
- Letting go of control. It has allowed me to open myself up more and simply ‘be’ with new ideas and thoughts, especially those that challenged my beliefs.
- Greater Confidence. I have gained more confidence in my sense of self, no longer confined to one way of thinking. I am more willing to take on new ideas and decide for myself which ones I will hold true to. I am continually learning and along with the learning, strengthening my own belief in myself and my choices.
- Less Judgement/Guilt. My brain no longer (well not as much) races around with judgmental thoughts that make me feel guilty or wanting to change myself or others to ‘fit’ into that box. I no longer feel I have to know everything or have all the answers. I’m happier to just let things develop naturally, without having to change others to bring them to my way of thinking or to have situations happen a certain way.
- More Choices. It’s like only being able to see black and white and suddenly realising that many shades of colour exist. Your chosen colour is simply part of a beautiful rainbow of options. Your world expands from having two possibilities to now an expanded number of options. Your selections become more plentiful and you’re no longer boxed in with minimal choice.
Yes, I have some rather strong views about certain topics and being open-minded does not change this fact. No matter who we are, we should all stay true to what we believe. I don’t believe having strong beliefs necessarily means you are closed mind. It does not mean that we change who we are. It requires asking more questions, of others and ourselves, taking into consideration others thoughts and challenging our own conclusions and assumptions. It allows you to test out the many definitions of ‘normal’, allowing you to find one that feels right especially for you.
So today, look at how open-minded you are. If you chose to take it to the next level, here are some suggestions:
- Dig deeper. Become more inquisitive around your choices, become more aware of your judgments and question where they come from.
- Challenge your thoughts. Get honest with yourself around what are your true thoughts and thoughts that you have simply adopted from your environment.
- Practice meditation. When you’re in a meditative state, your mind opens, meaning you have heightened problem solving skills and can think outside the box.
- Learn something new. Broaden your horizons by educating yourself about other cultures, groups and customs. Try to see things from different angles and viewpoints.
- Take a Quantum Leap. Just do it! Scare yourself silly. Do something you never thought you could do. Learn from the unknown. Learn from your reactions. Learn how easy it can be to stretch your comfort zone.
When you have the ability to open-mindedly look at all options, you open up a whole new realm of possibilities and ideas. It’s like a new, more colourful world becomes available to you and it’s there for the taking!
Are you ready to open your mind further and make change happen? Book a 20-minute discovery session with me to see how I can help you build your confidence, create change and begin living the life you desire.
Join my facebook goup Quantum Leap for Women