Is it better to be open or closed-minded?
Would you rather be constantly learning, or stuck in your ways?
The answer seems obvious, but we don’t act like it.
Instead, we seem to have settled and dug into our positions, and have become aggressively intolerant of dissenting opinions. This is unwise.
Being open-minded, a life-long learner, and capable of changing one’s mind are the marks of a wise person.
If you’d told me five years ago I would be thinking and writing about how to change your mind, I wouldn’t have believed you. But here we are.
I love changing my mind. I do it all the time. In fact, it’s become an important part of who I am. If I can help you learn to better change your mind when it’s appropriate to do so, that would make me very happy.
And the appropriate part is an important part. I’m not going to advocate for flip-flopping, or for casually shifting your thinking or beliefs. I am a staunch advocate for interrogating reality and working hard to get to the root cause of what’s going on.
“There are a thousand hacking at the branches of evil to one who is striking at the root.”
-Henry David Thoreau
Here’s what we’ll cover:
- What it takes to change your mind
- Getting your arms around your identity
- What if the opposite of what you believe is true?
- A framework for thinking and problem solving
Let’s get started.
What it takes to change your mind
It takes courage, wisdom and maturity to change your mind. It takes very little effort, if any, to remain stagnant in your thinking and beliefs.
Changing your mind is a sign of strength and leadership. When you tell others you’ve taken in new information and changed your opinion or beliefs on a topic, you empower others to do the same. Too often, we do the opposite, and we do so because of outside pressure.
Far too many of our elected officials, instead of changing their minds and admitting a mistake, double down on bad thinking. We’ve come to view apologizing or changing our stance as a sign of weakness, and something never to be done.
“Pride is tasteless, colorless and sizeless. Yet it is the hardest thing to swallow.”
-August B. Black
Letting pride and ego stand in the way of pursuing truth is a giant mistake. In order to confidently change your mind, you must set your ego aside.
Getting your arms around your identity
You are not your thoughts, your thoughts are not you.
Do you know anyone who has adopted a blind adherence to an ideology? Who has made that ideology their identity?
CNN and Fox have cultivated large swaths of the population who appear to be doing exactly that. We have people fighting a culture war who it appears would rather cut off their pinky finger than change their opinion on Donald Trump.
Why not become someone who pursues truth as your identity?
Become a person who is a lifelong learner. Become a dynamic person who is capable of changing their opinion and their thinking.
Doesn’t that sound better than the opposite? No one wants to be someone who is stuck in their ways. Someone who is static in their thinking.
Shouldn’t we be learning more as we get older, not less?
I mentioned earlier that I’m not advocating you flip-flop between positions or casually change your mind. In fact, I want you to be firm in your values and beliefs. Just not so firm that nothing will move you from them.
What if the opposite of what you believe is true?
This is a really powerful question, and one that I want to dig deeply into.
To start with, a belief is an acceptance that a statement is true or that something exists.
We constantly have thoughts running through our heads, but the only ones with real power are our beliefs. Beliefs have immense power because we accept them as truth.
We have the free will and ability to turn most any thought into a belief. Along with that, we can also choose to change our beliefs.
A thought process is what we do when we take the time to carefully consider something.
Critical thinking is a process which seeks to improve the quality of our thinking. We take into consideration all of our assumptions and biases that can cloud the way we view and think about something.
It’s a skill which can be improved upon and refined.
The result is clearer, better thinking. I’m constantly trying to improve my critical thinking skills and I strongly urge you to do the same.
The more you can ask yourself, “What if the opposite of this is true?” the sharper you’re thinking will become. You’ll more fully strengthen your position and develop your own thoughts and beliefs.
A framework for thinking and problem solving
In service of helping you to be a better thinker, here’s a framework that can help you look at and solve problems:
- Examine the symptoms and identify the problems.
- Fact find and gather as much information you can about the problem.
- Try to get to the root cause(s).
- Start to come up with solutions.
- Decide which solution is best and most effective.
- Explore the implementation of the solution.
- Execute the implementation.
- Monitor and make any necessary changes.
Taking any problem you’re struggling with through this process can help you get to the bottom faster and more accurately. It can help you check your thinking for the biases and blindspots we all suffer from.
The pursuit of truth is a noble and important one. Becoming a better thinker and knowing how to change your mind is a massive step in that direction.
Instead of parroting ideological talking points, think for yourself and formulate your own beliefs. Once you’ve done that, ask “What if the opposite of this were true?” This is sure to bring you closer to the truth.
Here’s to being an independent thinker capable of changing your mind!
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