Being open-minded can sometimes be really tough. Most of us are brought up with a set of values and tend to surround ourselves with people who think in a similar way to ourselves and share the same values. Therefore it can be a problem when faced with ideas that challenge our own, even though, cognitively, we know we should be more open to them.
However, holding onto entrenched ideas is not always a helpful strategy for learning new skills and seeing things from a fresh perspective. People who hold on tightly to long-held beliefs can close their mind and their thinking to any external input.
So ask yourself, what are those beliefs that you are holding on to? What are you defending so rigidly? What prevents you from being receptive to another’s viewpoint?
Let us consider a scenario in the workplace. You have always carried out your duties in a certain way and that seems satisfactory, to you. One day, however, a new graduate arrives in your department with different concepts and ideas.
Your first reaction might be one of rejection. ‘This has worked well for a long time, so we do not need to change it!’. So why is that so? It is probably because many of us are comfortable with the same routine and old method of doing things. However, sometimes it takes someone from the outside, with a new perspective, who can suggest a more efficient method of handling a specific project or task.
Unfortunately, the usual reaction is to be defensive and to automatically reject the view of an ‘outsider’, particularly if they are much younger! However, you need to listen carefully to any suggestion for improved efficiency from, wherever it comes, because to get a job done quicker and better is a win-win situation all round.
One of the traits of a good leader is to listen carefully before rejecting, or accepting, any suggestion or proposal. We all need to develop the crucial skills of self-reflection, observation and the effect of long-held personal perceptions, particularly if they challenge the status quo.
The plain fact is that change is inevitable, both in our work and in our personal lives. If you open your mind, and your thoughts, you will almost certainly reap the benefits of doing so. It may take you out of your comfort zone but that can be quite liberating for you when you start to see the world through another lens – a lens that is wide-angle rather than telephoto. Other objects come into your field of vision as your focus widens.
So let us now look at some of the benefits of being open-minded:
It helps you with problem solving: You may learn that there is more than one way to approach a problem.
You learn to let go of control: When you open your mind, you will free yourself from having to always be in complete control of your thoughts and you will start to experience new ideas and new thoughts.
You experience change: When you have an open mind, it will give you an opportunity to change the way you think or feel whilst not forgetting that once you have opened your mind, you may choose to stay where you were. But at least you will have tried.
Making mistakes: None of us really like to do this but if you learn from them, then that will help you grow in the future.
Show vulnerability: There is nothing wrong with this. We don’t all have the answers. Life is a journey and we are all learning all the time. This can be quite scary but there is often important learning that comes from it.
Build onto old ideas: Use the new idea to improve the existing and see it as growth and improvement.
Increase confidence: When you have an open mind, you develop a strong sense of self and are not held back from your own beliefs or those of others.
For many, being open-minded is a simple process but for others, it can be a real challenge that they have to work on throughout their lives.
However, the great benefits are that you will want to learn more and therefore be more interesting to others. And the chances are that you will experience less stress when you are more open to change.
The author is a BBC Guest-Broadcaster and Motivational Speaker. She is CEO of an international Stress Management consultancy and her new book, ‘Show Stress Who’s Boss!’ is available in all good bookshops.
1. Do you automatically reject change?
2. Do you have a wide focus or a narrow one?
3. Is your view of the world wide-angle or telephoto?