Five building blocks for an open mind
Learning—taking on new knowledge and insight—is something I do fairly well most of the time. At least I think I do.
But sometimes? Not so much. Then I can be pretty attached to what I think I already know.
And our brains don’t exactly help. As we age, they grow physically less flexible. That’s no excuse—it’s more a motivation to overcompensate for this drop in flexibility.
I have five things that help me respond less defensively and be more open to taking on new ideas. My five building blocks for faster, easier learning. And who doesn’t want to learn faster?
You can always change your mindset. I believe that much of what you think about yourself stems from how you think about yourself. And that’s something you can influence. My book GRIP covers this in chapter 8: “Being yourself, but better.” The super short version? Don’t try to change what you’re thinking. Change what you’re doing. Want to call yourself a reader? Then read. Want to see yourself as a runner? Go running.
You’re never the best. Start from the basic premise that there’s always someone on the planet who knows more about any given topic than you do, and who you could learn a lot from. The trick, of course, is finding the people you need (and recognizing when you do). That’s a skill in itself. But this attitude helps you be open to new information near and far.
There’s something to learn from everyone. Any conversation gets more interesting when you know there are things you don’t yet know about the other person. A few years back, I read the book Couple Skills, which made me realize that’s even more true for people close to you.
And something else: everyone is better/faster/smarter than you at something. Your job is to never stop looking for those worthwhile insights.
Your take on the world is wrong. That may sound a bit harsh, and your perceptions are likely fine for the most part. But your idea of the truth is never 100% correct. It’s simply not possible to see and understand all the factors involved on your own. Just think: It’s hard to explain your own actions and reactions sometimes, let alone what others choose to do—even people close to you.
Starting from this assumption—that in all likelihood what we think is either wrong or woefully incomplete—helps make us more receptive to how others see things. And that helps fill in our own blind spots.
Your worldview is time-sensitive. No doubt you get some things right. But I’m going to saw away those chair legs too: Odds are there will come a day when your truth is no longer true.
Not long ago, people thought that radio waves moved through the air on ether, an invisible substance.
The ancient Greeks subscribed to a theory that your temperament was determined by the levels of four different substances present in your body, called humors. All illness was clearly an imbalance between these four. Only with the emergence of germ theory in the 19th century, did we abandon that idea.
And thunder? That was of course a reaction of the gods.
I’m sure our worldview is just as wrongheaded. Groundbreaking discoveries will shake up our world someday and make us rethink our assumptions.
I am by no means an expert at these five. But they help keep me grounded and open to fresh insight.
Have a good week!