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Published on April 6, 2021

How To Train Yourself To Be More Open-Minded

How To Train Yourself To Be More Open-Minded

Think about the last conversation you were part of. What was the context and how did you show up? Was it exploratory? Did it feel like a debate? How much time did you spend speaking versus listening?

Chances are good that you had an opinion and you found a way to share it. Most of us do. In fact, we are all hard-wired to develop one about almost everything. What’s your favorite color? TV show? political party?

It seems that from the earliest stages of our development we are asked to take a stance. Having a point of view is not only encouraged, but it is also often expected so that people can make sense of how to relate to one another.

I agree with you or I don’t. We align or we don’t.

Ambiguity, the middle ground, and gray areas make people nervous, and our inability to spend extended time in this space pre-disposes us to closed-minded consumption of the world. Still, we know that being open-minded is a desirable trait we should all seek to channel.

But why?

“A psychological study conducted by researchers Anna Antinori, Olivia L. Carter, and Luke D. Smillie revealed that open-minded people may live in a completely different reality. They found that openness and mood can affect how you visually perceive the world, which can affect creativity. Research shows that your personality traits (patterns of thinking, feeling, and behaving) not only change your outlook on life but also change the way you perceive reality at work, and how you relate with family, friends, and romantic partners.”[1]

That’s right, heavy stuff. It turns out that open-mindedness has an incredible impact on our own self-efficacy, longitudinal success, and happiness. But if it were easy, wouldn’t we all just do it?

It also turns out, being open-minded takes work and it is easier for some personality types than others.

According to Anna Antinori’s study of 123 volunteers given the big five personality test, where openness was among the criteria measured,[2]

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“people who find it hard to consider other alternative realities in life and work take longer to make a significant improvement in life.”

Does this mean it is impossible to change? No.

The good news is that all people, regardless of personality style, have the capability of building new schema through a process known as accommodation. You can effectively learn something new, adjust the way you categorize prior learning, and file it away safely as a new/added perspective.

Of course, this does not happen without work. It starts with a very real commitment to practicing growth step by step. Here are 10 tips on how to train yourself to be open-minded.

1. Slow Down

If you really want to access new ways of thinking and being, you can’t be in a hurry. Opening up your mind requires you to take a pause. It requires you to be intentional about seeking new information/data/possibilities beyond your own instincts.

As the host of The Stubborn Heart Network, every Thursday, I open up space for folks across lines of difference to login and connect with others to explore ideas, offer support, collaborate, and learn from one another. I call this time “Thursdays at 1.” Together, we press the pause button on life. Log into Zoom, dig deeper, and new perspectives surface.

Terry Johnson, one of the participants, described his pursuit of open-mindedness as an undertaking- saying that,

“I am not imposing my emotion on others because it makes me feel better. . . being open-minded means being willing to accept others feel differently than I do.”

Vicki Moore, a fellow participant and author of the upcoming book Life Beyond Should, explained that open-mindedness requires us to interrogate our “why.” She said that she thinks of it like a business root cause analysis: why do I think this way? why am I having a visceral response to an alternate way of thinking? Continuing down the why path helps her to acknowledge closed-minded thinking and get back on the path to listening with intention.

When we are in a rush, we take shortcuts, make assumptions, and miss the chance to change.

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“Thursday’s at 1” is a formal place to take the time to practice having an open mind, but it isn’t the only way. Slowing down at the moment, slowing down in life, and slowing down our thinking makes space for more inquiry.

2. Get Curious (Genuinely Curious)

Aim to learn something from every exchange. Without meaning to, many of us set out to confirm our own thinking rather than access a truly new thought. We take comfort in knowing what we think we know.

Our overwhelming desire to snag an “I told you so”, is wrapped up in a cognitive tendency known as confirmation bias. We must overcome the urge to seek data that corroborates our thinking while simultaneously combing out information that challenges our already developed thoughts.

We can do this by approaching the world with wonder and child-like curiosity. If we get deeply curious about everyone and everything around us, we open ourselves up to content that widens our perspective.

3. Be Mindful

Jason Johnson, host of the Own Your Space podcast and a participant in “Thursday at 1,” noted that in pursuing an open mind, there is a benefit to learning how to be present. He said that being present helps him to achieve greater awareness. He likes to engage in meditation that propels him to the here and now, thinking about the moment at hand, not yesterday or tomorrow.

According to Deborah Norris, neuroscientist and author of In the Flow: Passion, Purpose and the Power of Mindfulness,[3]

“practicing mindfulness meditation in which one sits in curious awareness of the breath literally trains the brain to become more open-minded.”

4. Explore!

When you take yourself out of your comfort zone, you create new opportunities to be surprised—surprised by the things you see, learn, and absorb outside of your typical surroundings.

In the era of remote work and the new ways of being and doing at our fingertips, exploring doesn’t have to mean literally packing a bag and leaving for a trek. It is possible to explore new relationships, virtual experiences, and collaborations from our own homes. Take the time to try out a program, take an interactive course, or participate in a networking event.

When you explore new settings, you showcase a willingness to experience the world in a new way, thus, opening yourself up to others’ perspectives, lived experiences, values, and stories.

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5. Find Opportunities to Think Creatively

Push the boundaries of your own thinking by positioning yourself to use your brain in new and different ways.

In our daily lives, we become known for our strengths and people typically seek us out for the thinking they know they can count on us for. It is up to us to stretch ourselves. Try an improv lesson, sign up for a pottery class, or simply try to learn the latest dance routine circulating on Tik Tok.

When we practice creative thinking, try to solve problems in new ways, and experience what it is like to succeed in other ways, we often become open to the possibility that there are many ways to be good at something. There are subsequently many ways to be “right.”

6. Practice Zooming in and Zooming Out

Perspective is everything. Sometimes, we are in the weeds examining the details, and other times, we have to widen the lens to see the big picture. Each perspective offers us valuable and unique information. Our ability to meaningfully radiate between the two to access multiple perspectives allows us to expand our scope of understanding.

You can practice shifting your lens regularly to prevent yourself from becoming single-minded in your interpretation of an idea, event, or exchange. Challenge yourself to zoom in and zoom out, imagine all of the possibilities, and consider multiple interpretations before adopting any one interpretation too permanently.

7. Try “Yes, and…”

Open-mindedness isn’t all fun and games, but it can be fun. Try “Yes, and..”

This is an improv game that teaches the value of accepting each other’s ideas and cooperating. Classically, the game is played in pairs or with the whole group in a circle.[4]

You can play this as a literal exercise or channel the central message to inform your own thinking processes. When you hear something new, different, or confusing, approach it with a desire to understand, add on, complement, or develop a deeper understanding to further the collective goal of the exchange you are part of.

8. Ask Questions Whenever You Can

Furthering your understanding starts with asking good questions. Inquiry is the root of all learning.

Socrates is an early Greek philosopher, known for the Socratic method. The Socratic method is “a form of a cooperative argumentative dialogue between individuals, based on asking and answering questions to stimulate critical thinking and to draw out ideas and underlying presuppositions.”[5]

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His goal—like yours—is to be expansive, explorative, and open in our thinking.

When you are asking questions to seek learning, “make sure your questions are open-ended enough to promote inquiry. Good questions guide people to explore different perspectives. Each question should lead to a discussion, rather than one answer.

9. Assume You Are Never the Only Expert

That’s right, you are never the only expert.

“When people think that they are an authority on a topic or believe that they already know all there is to know, they are less willing to take in new information and entertain new ideas. This not only limits your learning potential, but it can also be an example of a cognitive bias known as the Dunning-Kruger effect. This bias leads people to overestimate their own knowledge of a topic, making them blind to their own ignorance.”[6]

Don’t fall victim to this. When you consistently seek to find value in the thoughts of others, the likelihood that you will find something to appreciate increases exponentially. You don’t have to adopt everyone’s ideas but seeing every exchange as a chance to learn primes you for a more fruitful exchange.

10. Observe the Benefits of Expanding Your Perspective

Pay attention to the personal development and growth you experience as a result of seeking to approach life with an open mind. When you experience renewed energy, deeper connections, meaningful learning, and purposeful advancement, you’ll continue to make the effort.

As we navigate a world-changing before our eyes, each one of us wakes up with a choice to open up our hearts and minds.

Final Thoughts

We know that being open-minded takes practice, effort, and intention, but we also know it is well worth it. Just follow these 10 tips on how to be open-minded and you’ll be better equipped to tackle life with better perspectives.

More Tips on How to Be Open-Minded

Featured photo credit: Adam Eperjesi via unsplash.com

Reference

More by this author

Staci Taustine

Founder & CEO, Stubborn Heart Consulting LLC.

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Last Updated on April 22, 2021

10 Best Self-Improvement Classes in 2021

10 Best Self-Improvement Classes in 2021

Even during the midst of a pandemic, self-improvement is still a crucial aspect to our lives today. There are tonnes of articles that you could be reading from our site or from others. However, the articles aren’t able to provide the depth and the growth you need when compared to courses or programs.

So if you are looking to step up your own self-improvement and invest in yourself and the life you want to lead, here are some of the best self-improvement classes to consider.

But before getting to that, here is the criteria that we use to determine these courses. All of these qualities have been present in the best self-improvement classes we could find:

  • Little commitment – All these courses can be done in the comfort of your own home and at your own pace as well. Most of these courses recommend spending a few hours each week on their material.
  • Prestigious – These courses are done by recognizable institutes with good reputation on their education quality.
  • Leverage on skillset – Each of the courses focuses on one area of your life, however it also helps develop other areas of your life at the same time.

1. Lifehack Mastercourses & Free Fast-Track Classes

Lifehack isn’t just a blog but rather a hub with all kinds of resources at people’s disposal. You may already be familiar with our particular workbooks, but we also provide courses of our own.

The first set of courses are free courses that are designed to teach you about your full life skills – the Fast-Track Classes. Specifically, we’ll be focusing on skills that multiply your time, energy, and the overall quality of your life. There are four courses that are about 20 minutes long each ensuring you have the tools and resources you need to achieve your goals fast:

Our second set of courses are the courses where we help you break free of your limitations to become the best version of yourself. These courses aren’t free, but each course goes into extensive detail on everything from motivation, overcoming challenges and staying focused to improving your overall learning capabilities, controlling your emotions and mindset:

2. The Science Of Well-Being

Yale University has been around for over 300 years at this point and one of the most popular classes in that time span is this one: The Science of Well-Being. After all this time, Yale is providing this course to everyone for free.

In this class, Yale Psychology Professor Laurie Santos introduced this class as “Psychology and the Good Life” in spring 2018. The class was designed to help students in navigating anxiety, depression, and stress in their lives. The class at the time was so popular that roughly a quarter of Yale undergraduates enrolled in it that spring.

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Going into more detail about this course, this 4-week course is designed to provide a step-by-step process for boosting happiness. The course heavily focuses on positive psychology – what misconceptions we have about happiness and what has been scientifically proven to make us happier.

Enrol in the course here.

3. Learning How To Learn

Another notable course to consider is the Learning How to Learn course. On the platform Coursera, it is one of the most popular and loved courses on the platform with nearly 2 million students enrolled since it’s been there. It’s taught by the distinguished professors Dr. Barbara Oakley and Dr. Terrence Sejnowski.

The premise of the course is what you’d expect, the goal of this course to teach you to learn more. It’ll ultimately lead to you training your brain to effectively process information and learn complicated subjects even. All of this is done through various tools and methods – from stories to goofy animations like surfing zombies, metabolic vampires and an “octopus of attention”.

Enrol in the course here.

4. Mindshift

Another course developed by Dr. Barabara Oakley is this course: Mindshift. If you’re planning to take the course Learning How To Learn, this one builds off of that popular course. Overall, it’s meant to help learners boost their career and life by shifting their mindset to a learning one.

Dr. Oakley firmly believes that any person can train themselves to learn at any stage in life. She believes that from personal experiences but also how this course is designed. Through this course, you learn how to be seeking out mentors to learn from, how to avoid common learning pitfalls, career ruts, and the general ruts in life.

By the end of this 4-week program, you’ll have access to new tools and strategies to face any career challenge and seek better methods to surmount new learning curves.

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Enrol in the course here.

5. De-Mystifying Mindfulness

Mindfulness is something that we’ve all been trying to obtain in recent years and people are noticing it. Whether we strive for this for therapy, lifestyle choice, or for other technology, many of us consider this a pastime we do in solitude at this point.

But despite the number of us practicing mindfulness, not many of us fully grasp it. De-Mystifying Mindfulness is a course designed to help people get up to speed with it through various methods. This course gathers information from various disciplines in science, social sciences and humanities to help unlock and understand mindfulness in its various forms.

This is a truly unique course as it’s rooted in experiential learning mixed with evidence base of what mindfulness can do to people. And a conceptual base of what mindfulness might actually be.

Enrol in the course here.

6. Achieving Personal And Professional Success Specialization

The best way to explain what Achieving Personal And Professional Success Specialization is. is that it’s four of the most popular courses taught by Wharton School, the University of Pennsylvania wrapped into one Specialization. Through these four courses, you’ll be able to maximize your potential and be more successful in both personal and professional life. You’ll learn various techniques and exercises that this school teaches.

Going into more detail the four courses consist of these four:

  • Success – learn about defining goals, understand how goals connect to long-term images of yourself.
  • Communication skills – tools to improve communication with others. You’ll also learn to take other people’s perspectives, where trust comes from, and build relationships.
  • Leading the Life you want – skills that allow you to lead in the four domains of life: work, home, community, and private.
  • Influence – how to develop it and become more effective in achieving organizational goals.

Enrol in the course here.

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7. Think Again

Reasoning is another important aspect of life. Think Again is all about teaching you how to reason and argue well with people without raising your voice and getting flustered. It’s four short courses that explore the logic behind arguments, how we construct arguments and deconstruct them, how to identify and evaluate arguments, and what makes a good argument.

Specifically, you’ll learn about the vital rules to be following in thinking about any topic at all and common and tempting mistakes that people fall into all the time when providing reasoning.

Enrol in the course here.

8. Neuroplasticity

Amongst the scientific and psychology circles, this has become quite the buzzword: Neuroplasticity. The concept promises to rewire our brain and improve everything from health and mental wellbeing to our quality of life. Gregory Caremans teaches the concept of Neuroplasticity and how you can take action and use this to your advantage in the course Neuroplasticity. Through it, you can develop mental flexibility, change habits, stop procrastination and even alter memories.

Gregory is a psychologist with a Master’s in communication and is specialized in Neurocognitive and Behavioral Approach. And even though he comes from a complex field, his course is instructed in such a way that you can easily use this information and apply it in your daily life.

Enrol in the course here.

9. Become A SuperLearner® 2

Similar to Learning How To Learn, this Udemy course Become A SuperLearner® 2 is all about learning faster and unlocking the vast potential of your mind. This course is different though in that it focuses more on improving your ability to learn new skills, provide advanced memory techniques, long-term retention and application of information.

Another way to think about this course is that it looks into cognitive and neurological factors that make learning easier and more successful with longer retention of information.

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Enrol in the course here.

10. Get Beyond Work-Life Balance

The final course on the list is Get Beyond Work-Life Balance. As this course suggests, this is all about getting skills that help you to achieve balance and have effectiveness in both aspects of your life. This applies to both people in leadership roles and for individuals.

The course focuses a lot on the importance of inclusive leadership in creating flexible and productive work environments. Beyond this, the course provides a lot of research and real-work examples from various situations to deliver information and strategies you can apply in your life.

Enrol in the course here.

Final Thoughts

There are all kinds of courses that you can use to further enhance your life – be it personal or professional. And the beauty of personal development courses is the fact they are designed to be applied in your life more readily. You can begin to see the impact and change when applying this information from courses to real life.

As such, we encourage you to try out these courses. They could very well change your life.

Featured photo credit: Annie Spratt via unsplash.com

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