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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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Published on May 11, 2021

20 Best Books on Personal Development

20 Best Books on Personal Development

Let’s face it—transformation isn’t always easy. Getting from where you are to where you want to be in life requires a lot of personal growth and development. It can require everything from letting go of old beliefs to speaking up for yourself and setting boundaries to even recognizing your own unmet needs. These aren’t exactly skills we’re taught in school, so it can be incredibly overwhelming to even know where to start.

A few decades ago, most personal development information was locked behind thousand-dollar seminars and coaching programs. Fortunately, the industry has absolutely exploded in the last decade, and a large part of that is driven by books. For under $15 or with a library card, we now have access to priceless wisdom from some of the most brilliant minds and best books on personal development.

By reading the words of experts in the field, we literally can think their thoughts and benefit from decades of experience to improve our own lives. So, how do you get started?

Here are the 20 best books on personal development that can completely transform your life.

(Links are listed for accessibility, but remember to check your local library to see if these books are available for free. And don’t forget to support your local bookstore, if possible.)

1. The Artist’s Way: A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity by Julia Cameron

    Celebrated by everyone from Martin Scorsese to Elizabeth Gilbert, The Artist’s Way has been one of the most important books for artists and non-artists alike for decades. It guides you through a 12-week process of morning journaling and self-dates to unlock all of your blocks to creativity and intuition and live a life that feels like you.

    Whether you are an artist or not, this is an insightful book that will bring so much clarity to what you really want out of life and why you’ve been holding yourself back.

    Get the book here!

    2. The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are by Brené Brown

      Researcher and storyteller Brené Brown has been a leader in studying vulnerability. In The Gifts of Imperfection, she shares research and encouragement that helps you release the definition of who you think you’re supposed to be to become who you actually already are.

      Brené encourages you to let go of shame, open up to vulnerability, and live a more authentic life. This is an inspiring and important book for anyone struggling with the shame of being radically yourself.

      Get the book here!

      3. Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action by Simon Sinek

        In Start with Why, author and TED speaker Simon Sinek shares the secret that united Martin Luther King Jr., Steve Jobs, and the Wright Brothers—they all started with “why.” They realized that people won’t truly buy into a product, service, movement, or idea until they understand the “why” behind it.

        While this book is primarily focused on work or business, Start with Why makes a compelling case for the power behind a strong motivation that people can get behind and how it can inspire more innovation and support.

        Get the book here!

        4. Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi

          For decades, psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi has famously studied the concept of “flow”—the highly-focused psychological state that Olympic athletes, great artists, and brilliant scientists all find themselves in at moments of groundbreaking success.

          By breaking down decades of research into bite-sized actions, Flow reveals the process to create this state for yourself and get “in the zone” to achieve your optimal potential.

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          Get the book here!

          5. The HeartMath Solution: The Institute of HeartMath’s Revolutionary Program for Engaging the Power of the Heart’s Intelligence by Doc Lew Childre and Howard Martin

            Touted by Deepak Chopra as the book that “saves you years of therapy,” The HeartMath Solution pulls together decades of Institute of HeartMath research on how to be less stressed and make better decisions, making it one of the best books on personal development.

            This practical, easy read will change the way you view the relationship between your head and heart. The techniques in the book are incredibly simple and can help you calm down from some of the stressful moments in a matter of seconds to tap back into your best decision-making.

            Get the book here!

            6. The ONE Thing: The Surprisingly Simple Truth Behind Extraordinary Results by Gary Keller

              If you’re overwhelmed by too many things to do and never seem to accomplish the stuff that really matters to you, then this is an invaluable book. The ONE Thing argues that until your most important task is completed, everything else is a distraction that diffuses your energy and makes you frantic.

              This book helps you focus on what you really care about and want to accomplish and then, organize your life around accomplishing the “one thing” before moving on to something else. This is one of the best books for personal development, especially for anyone who’s struggling with overwhelm and productivity.

              Get the book here!

              7. Codependent No More: How to Stop Controlling Others and Start Caring for Yourself by Melody Beattie

                Codependent No More has been an international bestseller for more than 30 years, and the reason is that we all struggle with codependency somewhere in our lives.

                Whether it looks like addiction, people-pleasing, taking care of everyone around you, or just not giving yourself enough self-care, this book unpacks the roots of codependency and helps you break free once-and-for-all.

                This is an important book for anyone having challenges in friendships or relationships or struggling with people-pleasing or addiction.

                Get the book here!

                8. The Obstacle Is the Way: The Timeless Art of Turning Trials into Triumph by Ryan Holiday

                  Presenting ancient Stoic wisdom to a modern audience, The Obstacle Is the Way shows you how to turn your obstacles and challenges into massive opportunities.

                  Ryan Holiday draws from the same ancient philosophy that empowered John D. Rockefeller, Amelia Earhart, and Steve Jobs to succeed and breaks down the essential formula for not running away from obstacles but actually running toward them.

                  This is a really empowering book for anyone struggling with obstacles to get what they want.

                  Get the book here!

                  9. Real Help: An Honest Guide to Self-Improvement by Ayodeji Awosika

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                    Real Help isn’t your usual self-help book. Wildly popular Medium writer Ayodeji Awosika takes a no-BS, tough-love approach to developing mental toughness, finding clarity, and taking action to transform your life.

                    This is a great book if you’ve read dozens of self-help or personal development books but haven’t taken action to change your life. Real Help gets right to the point and gives you actionable steps to start implementing change right away.

                    Get the book here!

                    10. Year of Yes: How to Dance It Out, Stand In the Sun and Be Your Own Person by Shonda Rhimes

                      Year of Yes is a deeply personal and honest account of how the creator of Grey’s Anatomy and Scandal Shonda Rhimes started saying yes to everything that scared her.

                      This inspiring and raw memoir makes you reflect on what you’ve been avoiding or making excuses for out of fear and what would really happen if you started saying yes to all the stuff that terrifies you. It’s a relatable, casual, easy read, and is great for anyone who needs a little inspiration to start saying yes to life.

                      Get the book here!

                      11. The Big Leap: Conquer Your Hidden Fear and Take Life to the Next Level by Gay Hendricks

                        Psychologist Gay Hendricks unpacks why we all seem to self-sabotage when we’re so close to success and what it will take to leap to a life where you’re in your “Zone of Genius.”

                        In this highly motivating book on personal development, you’ll walk step by step on how to “go beyond your internal limits, release outdated fears, and learn a whole new set of powerful skills and habits to liberate your authentic greatness.”

                        Get the book here!

                        12. Power vs. Force: The Hidden Determinants of Human Behavior (5.2.1985) by David R. Hawkins

                          Hailed by Mother Teresa, Lee Iacocca, and Sam Walton, Power vs. Force combines spirituality and cutting-edge research to help you understand your emotions and level of consciousness.

                          In this seminal work, David Hawkins explains how to get a yes or no answer to any question you ask and how to understand what you’re feeling and why so that you can begin to change your life and the world around you.

                          While it’s not exactly a light beach read, this book is really eye-opening for those wanting to explore spirituality as part of their personal development.

                          Get the book here!

                          13. What I Know for Sure by Oprah Winfrey

                            Personal development as we know it would not be the same without Oprah Winfrey. For 14 years, Oprah shared her greatest wisdom in a monthly column for O, The Oprah Magazine called “What I Know for Sure.” This book collects all of those essays—a lifetime of Oprah’s greatest experiences and lessons—into a comprehensive work.

                            What I Know for Sure is honest, thoughtful, and deeply inspiring. This is a powerful book for devout Oprah Winfrey fans and soon-to-be fans alike.

                            Get the book here!

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                            14. Can’t Hurt Me: Master Your Mind and Defy the Odds by David Goggins

                              In this memoir, Navy SEAL David Goggins recounts his own life story from poverty, prejudice, and physical abuse to becoming one of the world’s top endurance athletes and military icon through pure will.

                              Can’t Hurt Me will inspire you to stretch and persevere to defy even the most improbably odds and realize that when you think you’re completely tapped out, you’ve only tapped into 40% of your capabilities—and there’s still so much more you can do.

                              It’s an inspiring, tough love book that will motivate you to take action toward your dreams.

                              Get the book here!

                              15. The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin

                                In The Happiness Project, writer Gretchen Rubin documents her entire year of testing out research, classical philosophy, and common wisdom to find out what makes her truly happy.

                                This casual and accessibly written book inspires you to design your own happiness project to transform each area of your life as you follow Gretchen’s journey and contemplate research on happiness.

                                If you’re looking for an inspiring structure to change every aspect of your life, The Happiness Project is an easy read that can inspire you to experiment with what makes you happy.

                                Get the book here!

                                16. Unlimited Power: The New Science Of Personal Achievement by Tony Robbins

                                  The name Tony Robbins has been synonymous with personal development. In Unlimited Power, he reveals the exact techniques he has used to help Olympic athletes, movie stars, and heads of state to harness their own untapped power.

                                  This book breaks down complicated neuro-linguistic programming (NLP) techniques into simple visualizations that anyone can learn in literally minutes to start to change the way your mind processes information. If you’re looking to change your thinking or step into more confidence, this is an important book to not overlook.

                                  Get the book here!

                                  17. The Happiness Advantage: The Seven Principles of Positive Psychology That Fuel Success and Performance at Work by Shawn Achor

                                    In The Happiness Advantage, Shawn Achor flips conventional wisdom on its head. It’s not that we’ll be happy when we’re successful. It’s that we’ll actually be successful when we’re happy.

                                    Shawn presents research that shows us how to rewire our brains for positivity and optimism to be happier in our lives, our careers, and even our health. He also breaks down actionable strategies to retrain our brains, build a solid support network, and spread positive change to the people around us.

                                    If you’re looking to retrain your brain for happiness and success, this is definitely a worthwhile book to consider.

                                    Get the book here!

                                    18. Energy Leadership: Transforming Your Workplace and Your Life from the Core by Bruce D. Schneider

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                                      Renowned coach Bruce D. Schneider doesn’t just tell you what energy leadership is—he shows you. In Energy Leadership, Bruce recounts the story of how he helped a client to transform his failing business by systematically changing the energy of the business.

                                      At each new level, there are specific emotions, actions, and predictable arguments. By the end of the book, you’ll be able to identify exactly which level of energy leadership every relationship, job, and friendship in your life is at and how to begin transforming it for the better.

                                      It’s an eye-opening look at why we’re stuck where we are and how we can shift ourselves and those around us to get extraordinary results.

                                      Get the book here!

                                      19. Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear by Elizabeth Gilbert

                                        Bestselling author Elizabeth Gilbert digs into her own creative process in Big Magic to unpack the mysterious and spiritual nature of inspiration. She discusses the habits needed to cultivate creativity, go after our deepest desires, and confront our fears.

                                        With a casual, poetic tone and lots of encouragement, Big Magic inspires you to find the magic inside—whether that’s to create art, start a new business, or bring more mindfulness and passion to our everyday lives.

                                        If you’re looking for more inspiration and creativity, this is an important book to reignite that fire within.

                                        Get the book here!

                                        20. Enough Already: Create Success on Your Own Terms by Mike Iamele

                                          I’d be remiss if I didn’t include my own book on this list.

                                          Enough Already is a battle cry for the success seekers who are fed up trying to achieve someone else’s definition of success. Broken up into 12 steps, the book follows a journey through the 12 aspects of creating success on your own terms with homework and challenges at the end of each chapter to implement the work into your life immediately.

                                          By the end of the book, you’ll have a completed strategic plan to step up into the world and go after even some of your biggest dreams knowing that you are enough already.

                                          Get the book here!

                                          The Bottom Line

                                          You only need one good idea to change your life, and there’s so much important wisdom and inspiration in the 20 best books on personal development listed above. You don’t have to read all of them. You just have to start.

                                          Personal development is about taking action to develop yourself personally. So, scan this list, find a book that resonates with you, and then start reading.

                                          You don’t need to measure the magnitude—just the direction. If you take one tiny step toward the life you want, every day for a year, you’ll be 365 times closer to your dreams a year from today. But you just have to start.

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                                          Featured photo credit: Thought Catalog via unsplash.com

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