Theories about who you are, what you think you can and cannot do are shaping your present and future — those perceptions are dictating your experiences in life. They either hindering your progress or changing your life in a spectacular way.

John Cleese, an actor, voice actor, comedian, screenwriter, and producer explains, “We all operate in two contrasting modes, which might be called open and closed. The open mode is more relaxed, more receptive, more exploratory, more democratic, more playful and more humorous. The closed mode is the tighter, more rigid, more hierarchical, more tunnel-visioned. Most people, unfortunately, spend most of their time in the closed mode.”

There is nothing worse than thinking back on the missed opportunities and experiences in your life just because you stuck yourself in your own little box.

Many of us are not as open-minded as we think — each path we take is typically defined by our own life experiences, beliefs, social reinforcements, physiological reactions, and understanding of a concept, topic, or idea.

We make mistakes because we get misinformed, misunderstand things or choose to ignore the ugly truth. Our limited worldview informs our choices.

“Our preconceptions challenge our ability to take in new information. This makes it hard to keep an open mind to new ideas” says Thorin Klosowski of Lifehacker.

We are all inherently biased — it’s really hard to see both points of view at the same time. But you choose to think deeper, your chances of making a good choice increases significantly.

“The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function.” F. Scott Fitzgerald, a writer said that in 1936.

First-rate intelligence allows you to gain a fresh perspective on ideas, products or analyse information better, and to power really creative, breakthrough thinking.

In the “The Crack Up”, Esquire Magazine (February 1936) Fitzgerald wrote:

One should, for example, be able to see that things are hopeless and yet be determined to make them otherwise. This philosophy fitted on to my early adult life, when I saw the improbable, the implausible, often the “impossible,” come true. Life was something you dominated if you were any good. Life yielded easily to intelligence and effort, or to what proportion could be mustered of both….

I must hold in balance the sense of the futility of effort and the sense of the necessity to struggle; the conviction of the inevitability of failure and still the determination to “succeed” — and, more than these, the contradiction between the dead hand of the past and the high intentions of the future.

We can use his approach to life to explore ‘what ifs’ or ‘why nots’ around barriers, downsides, and upsides.

Closed-minded people view their career options, habits, and personality traits as permanent — so they stop working on themselves and keep doing the same things but expecting different results.

They refuse to consider other decision models, principles, frameworks, and patterns that question their perceptions about life and living it.

People with closed minds about life and living are limiting themselves to a few options — when they could consider other proven models, options that can help them improve their chances of success or make progress quicker.

People with open minds view life as mutable instead of permanent — and guess what, they are inclined to work on themselves. With an open mind, we, at least, stand a chance of considering sufficient variables before moving down the appropriate path for us.

Stanford psychologist Lee Ross explains, “People’s inflated belief in the importance of personality traits and dispositions, together with their failure to recognize the importance of situational factors in affecting behaviour, has been termed the ‘fundamental attribution error.” This mindset creates mental traps that make it difficult to grow, change or make significant progress.

Identify Your Blind Spots and Learn to Conquer Them

When you can’t see a situation clearly, when you have doubts about your next steps in life, or when you’re feeling overly confident, remind yourself to dig deeper, consider objective options or better still seek counsel from an expert or neutral party, if you can. The process helps you gain some objectivity about the situation.

Being-open minded can be a constant struggle against what your brain is used to, but in the end, you will come out better informed to make smart judgements. “Becoming more open-minded is actually a counterintuitive mental task,” says John Brown, psychologist and organizational development consultant for EPIC Insurance Brokers & Consultants.

“Our brains think in whole ideas, the famous cognitive psychologist Jean Piaget taught us. These whole ideas are called ‘schema.’” Schema includes our life experiences, beliefs, social reinforcements, and personal worldviews.

It can be tough to change your mind about long-held beliefs, but the quicker you acknowledge that something is not working, the sooner you’ll move on to the right course of action. Being open-minded also makes you approachable and interesting to others.

It takes time and practice to cultivate true openness, and most people never succeed 100% of the time. To maintain an open mind, you have to strategically work at it. Once you know your own biases, it’s easier to access new ideas, principles, interesting opportunities and experts to advance your life and career.

The smartest people analyze what they’re told, what they read, or hear (either immediately or overtime) and assemble a raft of truth that they can justify intellectually.

You are constantly changing, for better or worse — you won’t be the same person tomorrow, so why try to shove yourself in a single box. Give yourself the chance to become a better version of yourself by being open-minded.

Originally published on Medium.

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