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The Problem of an Open Mind

Telling someone (or several someones) that they aren’t “open minded” can be just as judgmental as any other assessment. I agree that it’s important that people show willingness to consider different views. It’s also important to remember that scrutiny and critique are valuable as well. If we abandon what works too quickly, we may actually cause damage rather than expand opportunities. This touches on a point I made in an earlier post on judgment (see link below).

Avoiding Resistance

I find that when people talk about having an open mind, they’re generally reacting to resistance in general rather than a specific problem. Not all resistance is about having a closed mind. Sometimes, we need to reject ideas that don’t fall into our goals or are simply not personally fit for us. We need both preservation and change. We need both tradition and opportunity. We need both common ground and unique viewpoints. These are what make us truly capable and release our potential as creative beings.

What’s an Open Mind?

It’s really not very clear what having an open mind is all about. Is it being so carefree there’s no sense of responsibility? Is it just considering more than one option at any given moment? Does it mean constantly challenging what your views? What does it really mean to have an open mind? I think it’s helpful to define an open mind in at least three ways.

Keep an Unassuming Mind

One way to stay open is to remember that we are only a part of something larger. It’s easy to get caught up in our own successes and what works for us. Why shouldn’t we be happy about the things that work? Of course, we should stay happy about those things, but we should remember that what works for us isn’t all there is in life. There is a lot that can work for a lot of people, and our own way of life isn’t necessarily the way of life for anyone else let alone everyone else. It’s important that we remain unassuming and affirm that while our life works, there could be many other people who live differently in equally successful ways.

Keep a Curious Mind

As we encounter people and situations that are new to us, we need to watch our insecurities while we investigate the possible. There are things we take for granted and things that seem so novel, we end up gawking or “spectaclizing” them. Yet, we must remember that we are the ones who don’t know everything. If we sink into patterns of insecurity, we may react to the “novel” very critically or judgmentally, just because feel insecure. However, if we open ourselves to investigation, we may realize a sense of wonder about ourselves as well as others as we learn to let curiosity teach us.

Keep an Attentive Mind

We should always pay attention to our experiences, but rather to help make important determinations rather than to be defensive. It doesn’t help when we deny what is in front of us. However, it also doesn’t help to try to push something away out of defensiveness. There may be times when we feel uncomfortable with what we experience, but it’s important to experience it. Only when we stay attentive can we make more useful and effective determinations about our experiences and what they mean. This helps us address experiences that can be a threat to our well being somehow as well as experiences that can enhance our well being.

Stay Open to Opportunity and Wisdom

Whether you’re more carefree or certain, casual or critical, think about keeping an unassuming, curious and attentive mind. It may help you stay open to new opportunities while also helping you maintain the wisdom of experience. If you can balance both to feed your growth, you may find yourself getting just about the best you can out of life.

Read Being Right with Wrong

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