WEEK 9: Always Be Open-Minded

“If you keep doing things like you’ve always done them, what you get is what you’ve already got.” — Anonymous

I have always considered myself to be a fairly open-minded person. I will, for the most part, always listen to someone else’s point of view and, even though I might be getting just a teensy bit set in my ways, I will usually consider a different way of doing something, if it seems to make sense.

So when I stumbled upon an internet quiz, “How Open Minded Are You?”, earlier this week, and only scored a 65%, I was a little surprised by the result. It seemed pretty low – kind of like getting a D on a math test (which I’ve had some experience with) and I just couldn’t understand how I did so badly. Was I really that wrong about myself? Well, just to be sure, I decided to take another look at the results, and noticed that along with the number score came the following description: You are tolerant and flexible, and appreciate most lifestyles and viewpoints.” Well, ok, phew! I guess 65% wasn’t so bad after all…but it definitely got me thinking about the other 35%. I decided that this week was the perfect chance to take a look at the areas in my life where I may be just a little less than open-minded.

I seem to have reached a ‘certain age’ when I often may do something more out of habit than anything else. Take the kinds of food I eat. Being a fairly picky eater, I don’t usually ‘experiment’ with anything new…in fact, I can pretty much decide if I’ll try something based solely on the look of it – sad, but true. So the other night when I was offered an appetizer at a party, my first inclination when I saw it was to say no thanks. But then I remembered what week it was, so I took a deep breath, cut one in half (I know, a little wimpy) and popped it into my mouth. And, well, as much as I would like to say I loved it, to prove my point, I’m afraid I can’t. I just didn’t like it. It was really spicy, and as anyone who knows me understands, I am just not a spicy food kind of girl.

So, even with an open mind, the fact is that there are just some things I don’t like. And that’s got to be ok – we’re allowed to not like things, right? What’s important, though, at least for me, is that I remember to consider trying new things, whether it’s food, or ideas, or whatever, even though it might take me out of my comfort zone. I think that a lot of times, whether out of habit, or laziness, or maybe even stubbornness(!), it is often just a lot easier to stick with the status quo.

For example, much to my son’s dismay, I am pretty set in my ways when it comes to how I get my news. He has suggested, a few times, that it might be good for me to broaden my horizons a bit and check out some alternative sources. Up until now I haven’t been too receptive to his suggestions, but in honor of ‘Always Be Open-Minded’ week, I spent some time looking through a few of the websites he had told me about.

Well, it was certainly an eye-opener! Reading about some of the issues we are facing, from a totally different perspective, made me realize that maybe he had a point, and I have had some blinders on, so wasn’t able to see the whole picture. And even though I can’t go so far as to say those websites are any more right than the mainstream media I usually watch, I will absolutely agree that it’s important to open my mind to some other points of view more often. Especially in this day and age, when there are so many ways of distorting the truth with technology (i.e. digital imaging, Photoshop, etc.), and so many people with their own agendas, I think it’s going to require a certain amount of conscious effort to really understand all sides of an issue. It’s not like in the old days when there was Walter Cronkite and…well, Walter Cronkite. Today there are so many choices about where we get our news that it’s almost paralyzing.

So I realized this week that being open-minded, at least for me, is really about my willingness to acknowledge that there is a possibility of another way of looking at something, whether I agree with it or not.  What can be hard, though, is that in order to acknowledge that possibility, I have to let go of my need to be right, and, unfortunately, my ego sometimes gets in the way of that. And I don’t think I’m alone in this. In his book, “The New Revelations; A Conversation with God”, Neale Donald Walsch has a lot to say about this human tendency to always want to be right. He believes that if we could let go of that need, and open ourselves up to the possibility of some new ways of thinking, then we might actually have a chance of getting ourselves out of the mess that we’re in:

So long as you believe that there is such a thing as Right and Wrong, you will be willing to risk everything to be ‘right’. You will not change your beliefs if you think that doing so will make you, or someone you love, wrong. Yet as soon as you change the Right-Wrong axis to a What Works-What Doesn’t Work paradigm, the difficulty of critically analyzing – to say nothing of changing – basic beliefs is eased.”

Maybe if I could let go of my need to be ‘right’ a little more often, and replace it with a need for ‘what works’ instead, then my ego wouldn’t care as much. And without my ego in the way, maybe I could be open-minded more than 65% of the time.

Then who knows…by opening myself up to other possibilities more often, I might actually end up with something that works even better than what I started with.

And I think that is definitely worth a try.

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