Those who can’t change their minds can’t change anything.George Bernard Shaw
You’re not as open-minded as you think.
I don’t mean to insult you by saying that. It just happens to be true for just about everyone, including me.
If you still don’t believe me, isn’t that in itself evidence of your close-mindedness?
Ask yourself this:
When was the last time you changed your mind?
And no, asking the waiter to change your order from the burger to macaroni or switching out of one dress and into another before a hot date doesn’t count.
When did you change your mind about an opinion or belief that matters?
If nothing jumps to your mind, don’t despair. Most people can’t come up with anything on the spot. Because most people aren’t as open-minded as they think. Accepting that is the first step to being more open-minded.
This post on how to be more open-minded will help you find the next steps to take today.
1. Warm up your mind before opening it.
Get the blood flowing and work up a little bit of sweat with some easy mind-changers.
- Napoleon was above average in height.
- The spiciest part of chili peppers isn’t the seeds.
- Buddha was not chubby.
- Bats are not blind.
For more proof you aren’t as smart as you think, scroll through Wikipedia’s extensive list of common misconceptions. Then maybe try something a little bit heavier like this: Why 5 x 3 = 5 + 5 + 5 Was Marked Wrong.
2. Plant seed of doubt in your brain.
If you haven’t already put some thought into the question from the intro, “When was the last time you changed your mind?” please do.
Then try wrapping your head (or unwrapping it?) around these next two:
1. When was the last time you told someone, “You were right. I was wrong”?
Most of us have punched a wall out of frustration more recently than we’ve said those six words in that order. Punching a wall hurts less.
But punching a wall will always hurt. Unlike walls, our ego softens so saying, “You were right. I was wrong,” becomes less painful over time.
Saying it can even start to feel good. Doing so:
- Means you’ve learned something new, and,
- Makes the smarty-pants you had to admit it to happy.
So get started by saying, “You were right. I was wrong” to someone today.
2. What fact would change one of your strongly-held beliefs?
For instance, in my case:
Belief: Following the news is counter-productive.
What would change my mind: A study finding that news junkies in similar professions to mine are somehow better off—whether that be increased creativity, productivity, or improved social interactions—than people like me who don’t bother with the news.
Belief: Men should pee sitting down at home.
What would change my mind: Strong evidence that doing so causes some sort of urinary tract or bladder issues or that sitting on the toilet seat is so dirty that I’m better off avoiding it (which it isn’t).
Now you try.
It’s not as easy as you’d think, but it opens a crack in your strongly-held opinions that helps you be more open-minded.
3. Do some blind-spotting.
“The brain is designed with blind spots, optical and psychological, and one of its cleverest tricks is to confer on us the comforting delusion that we, personally, do not have any.”Carol Tavris and Elliot Aronson, Mistakes Were Made (But Not by Me)
Like a kid tampering with their report card to make a D look like a B before showing it to their parents, your brain’s always trying to hide the truth from you.
It’s a well-intentioned trickery. Your brain creatively fills in the gaps to protect you from crippling doubt and indecision. But if you let it rampantly lie to you those blind spots will become nasty stains.
Catch your brain in the act:
Do this quick exercise to see your blind spot. Don’t be lazy like Kim when she first proofread this. It takes five seconds:
- Move your head to about 20 inches / 50 centimeters from whatever screen you’re looking at this on.
- Close your right eye and focus on the + with your left.
- Watch the red dot with your peripheral vision. Notice how it disappears and reappears as it moves in and out of your optical blind spot.
Too bad seeing your own psychological blind spots is not so easy.
But others can see your blind spots as clearly as they can smell your bad breath. So ask someone you trust today to help you find your psychological blind spots and be open-minded enough to actively listen.
It’s the only way outmatch your brain’s trickery.
Assisted Blind Spotting Example:
Kim: “Chris, what do you wish I was more open-minded about?”
Chris: “I wish you’d consider that there is a line between clean and too-clean and that you might cross it every once in a while.”
Kim: “You mean my personal cleanliness or the wine glasses I made you re-polish?”
Chris: “Both. You don’t have to be a slob like me, but maybe try wearing a t-shirt a second time before putting it in the laundry. And try drinking out of a ‘dirty’ glass to see if there’s a difference. “
Kim: “Ok. What if I get sick or something?”
Chris: “Then I’ll give you great pleasure by telling you, ‘You were right. I was wrong.'”
Bonus Brain Trickery
These strawberries are not red:
Zoom into any pixel and you’ll see these “red” strawberries are actually grey. Your brain’s tricking you again. It’s showing you want you want to see to be consistent with what it’s seen in the past.
The same happens with your beliefs. Your brain prefers consistency over accuracy. And, just like seeing red strawberries, it’s nearly impossible to stop it. Being open-minded enough to accept it’s happening is a good start.
4. Change something other than your mind.
“It’s easier to act your way into a new way of thinking than think your way into a new way of acting.”Jerry Sternin, The Power of Positive Deviance
If you change everything else, your mind will feel FOMO and follow suit. Here are some things to try changing today to be more open-minded:
- Clothing. What we wear affects how we think and act. So maybe try dressing like a hippie or, if you work from home, do so naked to be more vulnerable and open to new ideas.
- Identity. Challenging your beliefs and opinions challenges your identity. That’s hard. So change your identity entirely by pretending to be someone else. It frees you up to see and believe things from different angles without challenging your identity. (PS: Role play’s also a fun relationship hack.)
- Exercise. Ditch the gym and work out outside. Do a handstand. Brush your body. The fresh air will have added mind-opening benefits.
- Sleep surface. Sleeping on the floor messed up my sleep but sparked my creativity.
- Food. Teach yourself to like a food you don’t like, like I did with black licorice. Or go out for a type of cuisine you’ve never had before. Or cook it. Or don’t eat at all.
- Routine. Put your socks on before your pants (or vice versa). Take a different route to work.
- Environment. Trade desks or offices with a colleague. Work from a hipster café if you’re not a hipster. Work from a Starbucks or McDonald’s if you are. Escape into nature.
For more ideas, inspiration, and detail on ways to “act your way to a new way of thinking,” see our list of new things to try and sign up for something fresh every 10 days from my newsletter, Consider This.
5. Do a blind taste test.
These days, everyone’s a foodie. And to be a certified foodie you must have strong preferences on a certain type or brand of cheese, beer, ice cream, wine, coffee, whiskey, or whatever.
Or you think you do.
A blind taste test will tell you if that’s true or not.
If you conduct your blind taste test well and honestly (our guide can help), you’ll almost certainly discover some surprises. You’ll be forced to open your mind about your taste preferences. And maybe it’ll open your mind up enough for something else to sneak in, too.
Advanced level taste testing: Do two taste tests. First, do an open-eyed taste test in which you see the brands. Record your preferences. Then, days or weeks later, do a taste test of the same products but blind. Compare your preferences to get a clear look at your mind’s biases.
6. Go but-less.
Saying “but” in a conversation is a refusal to acknowledge that your conversation partner’s opinion can be just as valid as yours. It’s close-minded, so get rid of your buts. Get your howevers outta here, too.
Replace them with “Yes, and…” or, if you truly can’t acknowledge the truth of your partner’s position, “Interesting, and…”
For example, your annoying fiancée may tell you, “Chris, you can’t wear flip flops to dinner. It’s not polite.”
I could respond with, “But I hate shoes and it’s uncomfortable.” We can all guess how well that will work out for me.
Or I could respond, “Yes, and what do I do about the fact that it’s really hot out and my feet get uncomfortably sweaty in socks and shoes?” This will lead to a more open-minded discussion on both sides, even though we all know it’s one I’m destined to lose.
Try it. Go but-less for a whole day. It’s not easy.
And see our post on how to keep an open mind for another language-related way to be more open-minded.
7. Get some perspective.
The Voyager 1 space probe took the below photo of earth, the little white dot halfway up the white stripe, from about 6 billion kilometers away.
Look at it and reflect on these words:
“Look again at that dot. That’s here. That’s home. That’s us. On it, everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you have ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives.”Carl Sagan
Would you argue with someone who knows everything?
If the previous perspective exercise doesn’t inspire you to be more open-minded, try this related thought exercise:
Imagine the all-knowing being who created everything in the photo above appears next to you, leans over, and whispers, “Hey, hate to break it to you but [insert any of your rigidly-held beliefs here] is wrong.”
Would you be like that person who blames their computer for making a mathematical mistake and argue? Or would you be open-minded enough to question your belief and ask this being the truth?
Assuming the latter, you have to admit that you could always be wrong. Remember that.
Watch me open my own mind:
8. Ask yourself better questions.
Asking and answering the right questions is like getting signal on your phone’s GPS when you’re lost. It change change your mind and your direction.
Here are a few:
- The Un-Settler: What would your 20-year-old self think about where you’re at today?
- The Problem Solver: What problem are you solving in your life?
- The Strategy Setter: What is your definition of “winning at life”?
See 10 Questions to Ask Yourself to Ensure Your Life’s On the Right Track for more.
9. Learn tactics to keep your mind open.
We need to regularly push the “open door” button on our mental elevators. If not, more and more “wis-dumb” gets trapped as we age until we’re stubborn old cranks who rant and rave about how everything was better in the good ol’ days.
Here are five of my favorite tactics from our post on how to keep an open mind (and be right more often):
- Separate yourself from your beliefs
- Admit mistakes early and often
- Adjust the dials of your beliefs
- Seek challengers
10. Commit to keep challenging your status quo.
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About the author
I'm Chris. Grinding for conventional super success was exhausting, so I zagged. Now, my life's getting better and better—and part of that involves pushing you to work toward the same.
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Here are a few things I’ve shifted my beliefs/changed my mind about:
–Sleeping in separate beds is underrated. I used to think couples that didn’t sleep in the same bed had some serious relationship issues. But since Chris started experimenting with sleeping on the floor back in Valencia last summer, our sleep quality has improved ten-fold and our relationship is the same as it used to be. Only, we’re happier! 😉 No more sheets tug-of-war, no snoring, and no waking the other person up while tossing and turning. Still not sure, try it yourself and use a Fitbit or Oura ring to track your sleep quality.
–Airbnbs aren’t going to replace hotels. I used to think Airbnbs were amazing and were eventually going to make hotels go out of business. But I’ve come to realize that the “convenience” of Airbnbs isn’t so convenient. They have strict cancellation policies, inconvenient check-in/check-out times and inaccurate reviews with relatively unhelpful hosts that are strictly in it for the money. Read our post about its pros and cons of hotels vs Airbnbs and let us know what you think.
–Reusable bags might be hurting the environment more than we think. After listening to a couple of podcasts about the topic, it’s apparent that these reusable bags actually take more energy to create and decompose than regular plastic bags. And it’s not the bags that are filling our oceans with plastic. Interested in the podcast? Listen to the Skeptoid one here.
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