I originally posted this on January 12, 2015:
One of the characteristics of successful people is they are slow to speak, but quick to listen. Since my post about the characteristics of successful people I have thought a lot about this trait and I have wondered why it is talked about in every article I read on the topic. One of the reasons behind this is successful people are, by and large, very open-minded. Which led me to ask myself if I were open-minded and why is it so important?
There are so many issues that arise when attempting to self-assess, the most obvious is one’s inability to be objective. So in order to tackle the topic I want you to assume you are closed-minded, which may be more accurate than you may believe as some resources I read stated 95% of the population is closed-minded in some shape or fashion. Anyway, here we go…
When I enrolled at UNC-Charlotte I was accepted in the math honors program. My plan at that time, if memory serves me correctly, was to find a job after college through the job fair in the numbers business. I do remember with clarity that I really had no plan at all except to get a degree. Math was something I was decent at and a mathematics degree would probably land me a high paying job. The problems I ran into were twofold: first, I found that college mathematics was much more difficult than high school, and secondly, high school had not equipped me for the independent study necessary to be successful in college.
I made it through 7 semesters until I just couldn’t take it any longer and switched my major to Religious Studies with an emphasis on first century Cristian origins. I had found my stride! I loved learning Greek and Hebrew, the history, the background to the Jesus movement and learning about other religions around the world. Coming from a Christian upbringing I had a view of the world that revolved around a Christian worldview and I was fine with that. Soon I would find my views challenged as I would be required to enroll in classes in Hinduism, Islam, Buddhism, Taoism and Judaism.
I struggled at first until one of my professors helped change my thinking forever. Dr. Edward St. Clair made one statement that allowed me to learn and keep my personal views, “Learn to study all religion’s myths not to determine truth or falsehood, but to better understand how the myth shaped the believers worldview.” This changed my life forever. I was able to discuss many different topics with many different types of people without arguing, but listening to them to better understand their thinking.
I never realized prior to that how closed-minded I was! Prior to this I would be talking to someone with differing religious views attempting to form rebuttals in my mind instead of listening to what they were saying; I was debating! My immaturity, youth and limited knowledge had led me to believe that I had it all figured out, had all the answers. Life was black and white, right and wrong. But, as we all learn, life is a rainbow of color and is rarely as simple as right and wrong!
I still practice this today and this skill has allowed me to hold to my belief system, yet have a friend group that is probably as diverse as any I know. It is difficult to know if you are open-minded or closed-minded, as we usually think we are right and surround ourselves with like-minded people. Here are the differences:
Closed-minded people tend to:
1. be obsessed with being right
2. dislike those that disagree with their worldview
3. be intolerent
4. be stubborn
5. deal in absolutes; generalize
6. be selfish
7. lack the self-confidence to allow others self expression
8. be judgemental
9. have difficulties socializing outside of their own circle of friends
10. be argumentative
11. pinpoint others shortcomings
12. be closed to new ideas
13. struggle with friends once a negative personality trait is discovered
Whereas open-minded people tend to:
1. be compassionate
2. enjoy learning
3. be approachable
4. be a team player
5. be unselfish
6. be flexible
7. be non-judging
8. be forgiving
9. be accepting
10. be patient
12. be self-confident
13. accept criticism
14. not discriminate
15. not deal in absolutes
16. be able to appreciate opposing views without compromising their own personal beliefs
I can honestly say that I have closed-minded tendencies sometimes, but I work hard to fight it. Being open-minded is essential to finding success in any part of our lives and must be exercised like a muscle to keep conditioned properly! When I was struggling trying to find something to get me out of golf, I was determined to throw every idea against the wall until I found something that would stick.
When you say, “that’s not for me” or “I could never do that” or “I couldn’t even consider that as an option,” you limit yourself and thus will have limited options and limited success. When you have this attitude you are saying to the world that you are not willing to learn, grow or experience new things and without these things there can be no change or progress; your life will never change!
The one single advantage you will have as an open-minded individual is the ability to react to change quickly and take advantage of opportunities when they present themselves. Develop the attitude to consider all options, take nothing off the table, assume you do not know, constantly challenge what you think you know and try harder to recognize your weaknesses! Once you learn the practice of being open-minded the world will open up and opportunities will be abundant!!
With an open-mind…dream big, dream often!