Being open-minded helps us to grow. Measure your willingness to listen to the people around you with our quiz and learn how to develop an open mind. Scroll down to take our personality test…
Annika Rose shares her tips to help you step outside your usual comfort zone so that you can learn to embrace new experiences in life. Learning to see through other’s eyes can help you to learn, develop and empathise.
How to stay open to new ideas
Are you willing to listen to the opinion of others, even if their viewpoint is drastically different to yours? Would you reflect on their suggestions or ideas, or would taking these on board be a step too far? The extent to which you can listen to, and recognise value in, the input of others is a good indicator of how open-minded you are.
An open mind is one that wants to grow. If you’re open-minded, you are also more likely to be flexible, curious and enjoy the novel – seizing opportunities to listen and learn, discovering some interesting new perspectives in the process.
In contrast, a closed mind is one that is fixed, firm and already made up. Being closed off to novelty, the owner of this kind of mind is more likely to judge and dismiss rather than discover something new and interesting about themselves or the world around them.
Over thousands of years, our minds have evolved to make quick judgements which keep us out of harm and feeling comfortable; think good or bad, hot or cold, safe or dangerous. While these judgements each play an important role in keeping us alive and well, they can also hinder our progress in the modern world as a partner, friend, parent or leader.
When the time comes to make a judgement on who to talk to, what to do in a tricky situation or which path to take next, you might find your mind closes down. You return to default behaviours if your mind isn’t open to exploring the situation. Rather than taking in new information as the event unfolds, your actions will instead be based on past experiences, and you may end up projecting them onto a future that doesn’t exist yet. Fear of the unknown is likely to influence your plans, projects, experiences and even the people you choose to surround yourself with.
If you’re not open to taking on different perspectives or trying anything new, your judgements, repeated in similar situations, could leave you in the same place, repeating the same patterns time and time again. There are also a number of different cognitive biases, or errors in thinking, that can get in the way when it comes to processing information and deciding what to do next. These are perfectly natural but include things like being more sensitive to negative information than positive (negativity bias), expecting a person to act a certain way based only on basic information about them (stereotyping) or choosing information that confirms your existing belief and overlooking information that does not (confirmation bias).
These kinds of thinking traps and unconscious blind-spots are there to help us filter out irrelevant information and make our decisions simpler. But by discarding opportunities to explore new connections or solutions before you realise they’re there, cognitive bias can make it tricky to keep an open mind when making momentary decisions.
Bringing a sense of mindful awareness to the situation can help. By noticing your thoughts, you can begin to suspend judgement and instead observe each situation with curiosity as it arises. This will start to transform the way you see and interact with the world around you. Cultivating this level of flexibility from the inside out will make your thinking a lot less rigid, broaden your perspective and offer new points of view. In time, you’ll become much more adaptable, empathetic and open as a person.
5 ways to foster an open mind
Give it a go
Be curious to try new experiences and go beyond your comfort zone. Who knows what you’ll learn and who you’ll meet along the way?
Take time to listen to others in a way they feel deeply heard and understood. It’s a great way to learn something new about them, yourself and the world at large. Be present with others and be open to their view on a situation, even if it’s vastly different to yours.
Before you jump into doing things the same way you always have, take a moment to pause and consider if a different approach would be beneficial. Notice when you’re operating on autopilot and refresh your approach if you’re not happy with how things keep turning out. Be open to trialling a new way of working, take a different exercise class or have a meaningful conversation, and see if adopting this flexibility leads you somewhere new.
Drop the judgement
There’s lots of ways to look at a situation, and while you might be convinced your way is best, there are endless perspectives to be taken. Try looking at your issue through someone else’s eyes and be curious if this vantage point can offer new insights.
Each new day offers us the opportunity to grow a little more. Life is best lived when you are able to embrace this by learning, loving, sharing and being flexible enough to evolve as a person over time. Be open to growing from your experiences and use them to become the best version of yourself.