Open-mindedness: Lack of Prominence Despite Its Importance

Over the last few months, we have observed and heard about several instances where a close-minded person has caused more harm than good. Whether it was personally, societally, or professionally, we recognized that most people are close-minded. As discouraging as that sounds, we would like to focus on its inverse: open-mindedness. This post will focus on why being open-minded is important, why most people lack it, and what can we do about that.

Open-Mindedness

Before we get too far into this post’s substance, we wanted to focus a little on open-mindedness and its meaning. We could give the Oxford or Merriam-Webster dictionary definition for it, but that would dilute the importance of this post’s message. Instead, we will give our own definition for it. Open-mindedness is the willingness to entertain new ideas, try new things, and have new experiences. It is also entails to ability to refrain from imposing one’s own interests, ideas, hobbies, and lifestyle choices onto others. It basically embodies a constitutional principle of a right to be left alone, i.e., we will not force our choices onto you, and you will not force your choices onto us.

We recently experienced a high amount of closed-mindedness, and it got us thinking. Open-mindedness is basically the foundation of progress. An entity cannot grow or progress without a willingness to embrace to the new and/or change. As uncomfortable as it may seem at first, open-mindedness goes a long way in enhancing both personal and professional life. That statement brings us to the next part of this post: open-mindedness’s importance.


The Importance of Open-Mindedness

Most people suffer from close-mindedness for various reasons. Some cannot fathom or understand an alternate way of doing things. Others feel threatened by anything that remotely diminishes the efficacy of lifestyle, way of doing things, or viewpoints/values/beliefs. Xenophobia runs rampant in close-minded people. For example, those who have not tried meditation think of it as a waste of time, stupid, or flimsy in its effectiveness. Little do they know that meditation, or mindfulness, sharpens attention, helps with unintegrated memories, and creates higher likelihoods of happiness and bliss. This example outlines why open-mindedness matters.

Every day, we hear people say that their lifestyle/job/car is better than everybody else’s, and there is nothing anyone can do to change their minds. We admit willingly that we used to have similar close-mindedness. Growing up in the middle of nowhere, we thought that life could get no better than what we had in rural America. We had land, could see the stars, and could do whatever we wanted. Our little plots of nowhere were bliss. Looking back on those years, we recognized that we were ignorant to other ideas and cultures and unwilling to try new things or have new experiences.

Our close-mindedness led to us to disregard any advice or insights that conflicted with our worldviews. In our youth, ignorance was our bliss. But we realized years ago that that is not the case. We have discovered the benefits of keeping an open mind. While we specifically have our dislikes and what will not try, we keep an open mind in reading new books, listening to different viewpoints, and having new experiences. This open-mindedness has allowed us to develop new and substantive relationships, try new things that have since become mainstays in our lives, and grown personally and professionally.

While it might seem uncomfortable, open-mindedness makes change easier. Like we said in our post, Navigating the Seas of Change, change is a natural part of life. Growth that comes naturally makes uncertainty more bearable and exciting. And keeping an open mind facilitates that excitement. Otherwise, one slogs through life in a rut, growing more bitter and resentful when they see someone they used to know having a much more exciting life than them. Resentment, bitterness, and stagnation highlight why keeping an open mind matters. Getting stuck in one’s ways is not a way to go through life.


The Lack of Open-Mindedness

Open-mindedness matters, and people develop habits. But habits differ from close-mindedness in two respects. First, one can take steps to develop beneficial habits that become second nature and enhance life like reading a book or journaling. It takes an open mind to try them out, but they evolve to become ways of doing things. Second, close-mindedness is the inability to recognize the inefficacy of any particular practice, idea, or experience. Even the worst habits are not as bad if someone recognizes the need for change. Close-mindedness exacerbates the problems accompanying bad habits or unnecessary and toxic turmoil, which brings us to why close-mindedness permeates everyday life.

We have seen that close-mindedness begins with the following phrase: “If it isn’t broke, don’t fix it.” This phrase works in some respects, like sending an email after a cooling off period (if the email enflamed one’s emotions) or repairing a leaky faucet. The same technique or strategy works, and it works better than any other idea. But the phrase loses its effectiveness when applied to societal changes. The Internet changed the people interact, do business, and spent their free time. The electric car will revolutionize the automotive industry while minimize humanity’s carbon footprint. Brown v. Board of Education, the seminal U.S. Supreme Court, changed how classrooms looked and students discussed various issues. These revolutions would not have happened if society remained close-minded.

This brings us to why close-mindedness is so prominent today. We identified two reasons: 1) comfort; and 2) education. First, close-mindedness is so prominent today because people do not leave their comfort zones. We have learned that anything people do not understand or agree with make them uncomfortable. Because this discomfort makes them uneasy, people choose to recede further into the ideas, customs, and practices that always worked for them. These might include social traditions, inherited prejudices, and even gatherings with like-minded people. As social creatures, humans gravitate to those who are like them, choosing to outcast anything, or anyone, remotely different. This only perpetuates the vicious cycle of close-mindedness. It also normalizes bad practices in both life and work.

Second, education–specifically tailored education–contributes to the greater prominence of close-mindedness. We learned from college and interacting with highly educated and successful powerful people that knowledge is power. We also learned that a liberal arts education facilitates the deliberate acquisition of knowledge. But this acquisition of knowledge requires critical thinking, which in turn requires having an open mind to explore new (or old) ideas differ from the ones one grew up with. In today’s society, the heavy inundation of information has led to people to sacrifice critical thinking in favor of being told what to think. When cultivated at a young age, this “this is what you should think” leads to normalizing close-mindedness. And because of the challenges associated with discerning fact from fiction, most people keep to what makes them feel comfort. Thus, most people gravitate towards developing worldviews that suit their comfort level based on educational environment.


How to Become More Open-Mindedness

Cognitive ease, upbringing, challenges in discerning what works and what does not, and comfort level factor into open- or close-mindedness significantly. Personal growth depends heavily on to what information one has access and how encouraging one’s immediate social group or family is. But from personal experience, we find open-mindedness easier to develop than one might think. Oftentimes, a little bit of perspective makes all the difference. For us, it was going to school in a city, traveling to Europe, and thinking for ourselves.

The first step to developing open-mindedness is realizing on your own that there might be more out there than meets the eye. The world does not just entail the 100 square miles of your immediate neighborhood. There are rural, urban, and suburban environments; different cities in your respective state; and vastly different cultures in the world to might have some characteristics that you might like.

The next step is accepting that a change in pace, practice, belief, or value is not a betrayal. While you might meet backlash and skepticism from those around you, you are the one whose opinion matters the most at the end of the day. It might feel uncomfortable at first since you are changing a part of yourself. But that discomfort is temporary at most and nervously exciting at least. Accepting that change might be necessary underscores any push for greater open-mindedness.

The third step is figuring out how this new experience, habit, relationship, or belief/value benefit your life. For us, reading and journaling felt really uncomfortable at first because of slow reading speeds and thinking journaling was most like having a diary. But we got into both quickly because it scratched a learning itch for us. We learned new worldviews and human nature through reading, and we learned about ourselves through journaling. Each also taught us the importance of being present. Having a open mind facilitated this.

The fourth step is sharing the new idea, practice, experience, belief/value, or habit with a trusted friend or loved one or your partner. People foster open-mindedness most through encouraging relationships. Sharing anything new also gives you a chance to have an effect on another person, presenting them the opportunity to grow by personally or professionally too. The more open-minded people you are around, the more enriched life becomes. Take a European vacation with a loved one or friend and try something new and tell us that you do not feel exhilarated.

The final step to developing open-mindedness is ignore all those other people who chastise or criticize your decisions. Ignoring those who try to diminish your decision to try something new and grow as a person shows those people’s true colors and their close-mindedness. You will often find that the world really is small- and close-minded, choosing comfort and stagnation over growth and generativity.


Final Thoughts

When one has developed open-mindedness, the world truly unfolds. Experiences have more excitement, food has more flavor, and life has more happiness. Open-mindedness facilitates personal and professional growth, which in turn influences one’s decision-making. Life need not have routine, monotonous, and stress-inducing characteristics. The world have so much to offer, and it is our choice to make the most of it. Close-mindedness leads only to stagnation, resentment, and bitterness. What activities we engage in, the relationships we cultivate, and the experiences we have are the other certainties in life. Why not take some risks now and then to make the most out of life? It will facilitate our own happiness and cultivate a healthy mindset for success.

Do you know someone close-minded who negatively affects your life? Let us know in the comments and share what you have done to foster open-mindedness.

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64 thoughts on “Open-mindedness: Lack of Prominence Despite Its Importance

  1. What an interesting post! Have you noticed less openminded behavior since COVID? I feel that some aspects of life have become far more polarized. Thanks for sharing.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Amazing post and very thought-provoking! I think I’ve been very close minded in my life until the pandemic started and I started to be more open-minded, embraced new ideas and uncertainty too. You worded it right;” Open-mindedness is basically the foundation of progress.” Very true! I agree with all these points you have made. Thank you so much for sharing this! – Penny | http://www.whatdidshetype.com

    Liked by 2 people

    1. We are glad that you enjoyed the post and hopefully found it valuable. Thank you for sharing your personal experiences, and we hope you continue trying new things and using open-mindedness as a catalyst for progress and growth!

      Like

  3. I definitely know a few people like that. I try to just live as authentically as I can and get enough self care when I’ve been drained by their negative energy.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I was brought up to be open-minded and that is exactly how I will teach my future child or children. It is so important to not close yourself of. Being close-minded or discriminative is such a negative behaviour. Thank you for sharing.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. This is such a great post! I’ve always tried to be as open-minded as possible, but I think we can all do with being more open-minded every now and then. No one knows everything and it can lead to so many other wonderful experiences and discoveries! Thank you so much for sharing.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. I totally agree with you, it’s really important to be open-minded! Unfortunately it’s so easy to be closed-minded due to numerous reasons. It’s something I’m working on! Thank you so much for sharing with us Xo

    Elle – ellegracedeveson.com

    Liked by 2 people

  7. I think having an open mind is very important in life; being able to identify when we don’t have one is also key (sometimes it can depend on the situation or experience) as we can see where our blind spots are then examine why we have them, etc. Very interesting post!

    Liked by 2 people

  8. I consider myself as an open-minded person and I believe that this is one of the reasons I can make friendships with many different people. I do agree with you that open-minded approach towards life leads to progress. thank you for sharing such a thorough analysis on open-minded life approach.

    Liked by 2 people

  9. Thank you for sharing such a beautifully written post. Being open-minded does challenge you and make you uncomfortable at the beginning, but life’s about stepping out of your comfort zone and pushing yourself to grow. Great steps on how to develop an open-mind!

    Liked by 2 people

  10. Being open-minded is very important to your personal growth. It will determine whether you can show compassion to others and engage in a healthy discussion instead of an argument.
    Great post and thanks for the steps.

    Liked by 2 people

  11. A very thought-provoking post, thank you.

    I suspect that an element of the problem is that when we go to school we are, to a large extent, simply taught to remember things rather than being encouraged to actually think. I understand why it is this way – 1) There are certain things that we need to know, and 2) It is fairly easy to test whether a pupil has memorised some facts but it is not easy to test their ability to think. I do, though, think that a larger proportion of school time should be dedicated to actually thinking rather than memorising.

    Liked by 2 people

  12. Being open minded is so important. It’s still something I can struggle with in certain areas, like music taste, but I’ve found embracing new & different ideas a real eye opener over the last 5 years especially.

    Liked by 2 people

  13. One of the things I like most about traveling is that it forces you to have an open mind about things. It also teaches you more about the world around you which also fosters being more openminded. It’s no coincidence that people who are closedminded also tend to not ever leave their little bubbles.

    ““Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness…” – Mark Twain

    Liked by 1 person

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