Advertising

Published on April 6, 2021

How To Train Yourself To Be More Open-Minded

How To Train Yourself To Be More Open-Minded
Advertising

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]

Advertising

“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.

Advertising

“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.

Advertising

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]

Advertising

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.

How To Train Yourself To Be More Open-Minded 10 Critical Lessons To Learn When You Feel Like a Failure 9 Ways to Be Intentional Every Day to Change Your Life How to Stop Playing the Victim in Life And Fight for What You Want What the Marshmallow Experiment Teaches Us About Grit

Trending in Personal Development

1 What Is SWOT Analysis? 5 Ways It Accelerates Your Self-Improvement 2 When You Never Stop Learning, These 5 Amazing Things Happen 3 20 Best Books on Personal Development 4 10 Best Self-Improvement Classes in 2021 5 8 Most Important Life Skills For Adults To Build

Read Next

Advertising
Advertising

Last Updated on July 21, 2021

What Is SWOT Analysis? 5 Ways It Accelerates Your Self-Improvement

What Is SWOT Analysis? 5 Ways It Accelerates Your Self-Improvement
Advertising

If I told you that there was one activity that you could do frequently that would dramatically accelerate your rate of self-improvement, would you do it?

SWOT Analysis may very well be the solution to your problems of feeling lost, unproductive, worried about the future, and the general struggle that inevitably arises on the road to personal development. It is quick to carry out, reliable in terms of changing your perspective, and effective in getting you the results that you desire.

So what exactly is this SWOT Analysis? You will find everything you need to know about it below as well as how to do it and all of the amazing benefits that it will bring to your life.

What Is SWOT Analysis?

SWOT Analysis is a business term that has steadily made its way over into the world of personal development due to its effectiveness in getting things to improve — whether that be a company or, more recently, a person.

S.W.O.T. is an anagram that stands for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats. When assessing these four key pillars in life, it gives a very good picture of which direction you should be heading in and even highlights some of the best ways to do it.

All in all, it is a great way to reflect on past actions and to decide on the best way to move forward.

How to Do a SWOT Analysis

Carrying out a SWOT Analysis is relatively simple. The best way is to take out a pen and paper and write down four columns: Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats. From there, you can begin to fill out each one and apply it to whatever situation you find yourself in.

If you are considering expanding your enterprise, you might want to write down the current strengths and weaknesses of your business as well as the opportunities that you could possibly move into and the threats that you might need to minimize.

If you are an individual looking to improve yourself, you can carry out a SWOT Analysis either on the micro or macro level. A micro example would be focusing on one specific area of life. For example, you could write down your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats when it comes to dating, productivity, or changing your job.

Advertising

You can also take it to the macro level. You might simply write down your current strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats across all areas of life — or simply the areas that you want to focus on for now.

SWOT Analysis is very easy to do and is excellent for the bigger picture stuff. Here is a rough template with a few questions across various areas of life that you can use for your own personal development purposes:

Strengths

What professional qualifications do I have that make me stand out from everybody else?

What do I exceed at where most people are either average or below average?

What achievements have I been awarded?

What struggles have I overcome in the past that give me hope for the future?

Weaknesses

Where do I fall short where others seem to excel?

What bad habits do I have?

What thoughts tend to hold me back?

Advertising

Opportunities

Is there any significant advancement happening or about to happen that I can take advantage of?

Is there a new position in a company that maximizes my skillset?

Is there a gap in the market that I could potentially fill?

Is there an opportunity that is low-risk (i.e. I can fail fast and decide if I want to keep pursuing it)?

Threats

What competition do I face in a certain area?

What is the most likely thing to throw me off course? Is it me?

If there was an economic downturn, would I be in a position to survive? Could I even turn it into an opportunity?

Benefits of SWOT Analysis for Self-Improvement

Now that you know what it is and how to do it, you may already start to see all of the benefits for your personal growth that can come from a SWOT Analysis. If you haven’t already started to think about how to use it in your own life, here are a few ideas to get you started.

1. It Gives You an Actionable Plan

One of the most obvious benefits of doing a SWOT Analysis is the fact that it gives you an actionable plan. It is rare for someone to actually sit down and write out their strengths and weaknesses as well as the opportunities and threats they are facing, so you will be getting well ahead.

Advertising

More importantly, taking the information from all four of these areas allows you to create an effective plan for yourself going forward — whether that be doubling down on your strengths, a plan to overcome your weaknesses, or how to leap at one of the opportunities in your life.

SWOT Analysis is designed specifically to drive actions and decisions — it is not simply a discussion exercise that you put to one side once you are finished with it.[1]

2. It Allows You to Zoom Out

Far too many people are so trapped within their day-to-day activities that they forget to see the big picture. Not being able to see the forest for the trees is one of the things that hold many people back from reaching their full potential.

SWOT Analysis allows you to take a moment of reflection, see the big picture, and then to make an informed decision about what your everyday tasks and activities are going to be, rather than the other way around.

It is important to be able to zoom out from time to time to make sure that you are on track with whatever your objectives are in each area of life. SWOT Analysis is the best way to do just that.

3. It Helps You Recognize New Aspects and Patterns

One of the unique things about SWOT Analysis is that it manages to combine different areas of your life and lets you see patterns, opportunities, and much more that you wouldn’t have otherwise seen.

An example would be the combination of your strengths and your opportunities. When you look at both of these side-by-side, you get a good idea about where the crossovers are, and, as a result, you get a clear picture of what opportunities are worth pursuing based on your strengths.

Another example would be looking at your strengths and threats next to one another. When you have a decent idea about what your strengths are in a certain situation, you can start to see how those strengths might come in handy when it comes to mitigating certain threats that you might face.

The truth is, any combination across SWOT Analysis creates a unique perspective that will be extremely useful for your own self-improvement.

Advertising

4. It Minimizes Risk

Branching out from the previous point, a SWOT Analysis is carried out to help minimize risk [2]. Although this is primarily a benefit from a company’s standpoint, it can also be helpful from an individual’s perspective as well.

On a personal level, risk can come in a variety of forms. It might be an imaginary risk that feels real, like asking your crush out or asking your boss for a raise. It might be an actual risk where you are thinking of expanding your business or entering a new market where you have little experience. Either way, seeing the threats you face as well as the strengths, weaknesses, and opportunities you have allows you to go down the path that minimizes risk and maximizes gain.

5. It Can Marks Stages of Your Path

An interesting way that companies use SWOT Analysis is that they carry it out every month or every quarter in order to reset and recalibrate their destination. It can be used in a similar way by you as well. Just like there are certain times when businesses use them, there are certain times when you should use them.[3]

Every month or every couple of months, take the time to do a SWOT Analysis to see how you are progressing. What strengths have been added? What weaknesses have been discovered? What opportunities have revealed themselves or been lost? What new threats are you facing and which have been removed from the picture?

Not only will carrying out a SWOT Analysis on a frequent basis accelerate your self-improvement by helping you see where you want to go with less distraction, but it is also nice to see how things change and, hopefully, get better.

It is also worth looking back at your SWOT Analysis from the start of the year when you reach the end of the year to see how far you have come.

To Wrap Up

So there you have it. SWOT Analysis might just be the tool and technique that you have been waiting for to truly take the next step in your self-improvement journey. It is practical, easy to carry out, and effective in terms of planning your next moves.

Whether you do it on a consistent basis to ensure that you are moving in the right direction or you only do it when you feel lost, SWOT Analysis will always be right there waiting to help.

Featured photo credit: Kyle Glenn via unsplash.com

Advertising

Reference

Read Next