Why is it that some people make continual progress in their personal and professional lives, while others constantly encounter challenges and repeatedly make the same mistakes?
While there are many factors at play, I’ve noticed a fascinating mindset difference between the two groups: they approach challenges very differently.
The first group of people who seem to continually succeed are open-minded – they show an eagerness to learn from others, embrace new ideas and can admit when they’re wrong. The second group are closed-minded – they are stubborn, believe they know the answer and can’t even consider the possibility that they’ve gotten something wrong.
The way each group approaches challenges and obstacles in life is what separates them, and you may be surprised to learn that closed-minded people are often the ones who believe they’re open-minded.
In fact, this is what makes closed-minded people so dangerous. They’ve learned that open-mindedness is a desirable attribute, and have embraced it in the way closed-minded people embrace anything in their life. They stubbornly believe it and would rather die than admit they are closed-minded.
The question I have for you is this:
Are you someone who believes you’re open-minded? How do you know that you are?
In his book Principles, Ray Dalio, self-made billionaire and founder of the world’s largest hedge fund, lays out 7 powerful ways you can figure out whether you’re open minded.
While reading through each section, consider the extent to which you really are open-minded. In my experience, the attributes of open-mindedness are essential for living a successful life.
1. Closed-minded people focus more on being understood than on understanding
What happens when you disagree with someone? Do they immediately try to rephrase what they’ve said to change your mind, or do they listen to you to find out why you disagree?
When someone repeats what they’ve just said, even if in different words, it means they assume you don’t understand them, rather than simply disagree with them.
On the other hand, open-minded people feel compelled to see the world from other people’s perspectives. When you disagree with them, they’ll quickly assume it is them that doesn’t understand something and will explore with you where that disagreement stems from.
2. Closed-minded people will more likely make statements rather than ask questions
These are the people who will quickly tell you what they think about something, rather than asking you what you think.
You can recognize them because they often make statements and offer their opinions. Think of the last group meeting you attended. Were the people who were speaking making statements and sharing their opinions, or asking questions to learn from others?
Open-minded people genuinely believe they could be wrong, so they ask better questions that will actually help them better understand something.
While an open-minded people may well know a good amount about a topic, they’ll have a natural curiosity to learn more – whether they’re around experts or someone new to the topic.
3. Closed-minded people have trouble holding two thoughts at the same time
As F. Scott Fitzgerald once said, “The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in mind at the same time and retain the ability to still function.”
It’s in our nature to close our minds to new possibilities. If our brains took in all of the information available to our senses, we would literally go insane.
We need to operate using concepts, which filters new information that may be helpful to us in coming up with new ideas.
Open-minded people, however, are better at taking in the thoughts of others while also having their own thoughts. They’ll hold multiple thoughts at the same time while considering which is most useful.
4. Closed-minded people block others from speaking
They’re more interested in speaking than listening, and don’t want to hear anyone’s voices but their own.
Dalio says he has a “two-minute rule” to get around this: everyone can speak for at least two minutes without being interrupted.
Open-minded people, on the other hand, are always more interested in listening than in speaking. They even take the time to encourage people to speak up so they can learn more from others.
5. Closed-minded people often say “I might be wrong, but…”
Here’s what Dalio has to say about this:
“Closed-minded people say things like ‘I could be wrong … but here’s my opinion.’ This is a classic cue I hear all the time. It’s often a perfunctory gesture that allows people to hold their own opinion while convincing themselves that they are being open-minded. If your statement starts with ‘I could be wrong’…, you should probably follow it with a question and not an assertion.
“Open-minded people know when to make statements and when to ask questions.”
6. Open-minded people are see disagreement as a thoughtful means to expand their knowledge
Closed-minded people don’t want their idea to be challenged. They’ll often be frustrated that the other person doesn’t immediately embrace their idea rather than show curiosity about why they disagree.
Open-minded people are more curious about why there may be disagreement and will see this as an opportunity to improve their ideas. They know there’s always the possibility they may be wrong and that it’s worth taking some extra time to learn more about the other person’s views.
7. Open-minded people are humble
This for me is the most important point. Closed-minded people lack a deep sense of humility.
Where do people get humility from? Usually it comes from failure. From crashing so badly they don’t want to repeat it.
Closed-minded people have trouble seeing that they’ve failed. They justify their actions and usually blame external circumstances, or other people, for what happened.
Open-minded people approach everything with a deep-seated fear they may be wrong. Fear is their strength. It results in humility.
Do you recognize some of the qualities of closed-minded people in yourself? If you do, don’t beat yourself up. Being able to question yourself and recalibrate is a great sign and shows you are relatively open-minded.
Also, keep in mind there is sometimes wisdom in closed-mindedness. You can’t be open to everything. If someone presents a business opportunity that may defraud people, close your mind. By the same token, if someone wants you to do something that is unkind, it may be worth thinking twice.
Yet consider this: being open-minded is an active process. It’s not something that can be achieved.
You need to cultivate the attributes of open-mindedness over time. Questioning yourself, listening to and learning from others is the path to living a successful life.
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