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Don't Be Closed-Minded

Colin Stuckert

"It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it."

-Aristotle

The definition of closed-minded is:

Intolerant of the beliefs and opinions of others;stubbornly unreceptive to new ideas.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to be intolerant to the beliefs and opinions of others nor do I want to be stubbornly unreceptive to new ideas.

And I bet you don’t either.

Of course, you and I both are invariably going to be closed-minded at times. We have to be or our brains would explode from the sheer number of possibilities there are in life. We have to be able to limit our choices so we can function. This is the only way our brain can function in the world. So, in that, we are wise to be closed-minded (or focused-minded, perhaps). The thing is, closed-mindedness can seep into the other parts of our lives where it does us a major disservice.

When you are intolerant to the ideas and  beliefs of others, you miss out on the opportunity to refine your own ideas and beliefs. You miss out on evolving into a more enlightened individual. The same happens when you are stubbornly unreceptive to new ideas (obviously).

I know what you’re thinking, “Duh.”

But what’s not so “duh” is the fact that you have a whole slew of cognitive biases that make you closed-minded without you realizing it—as do I. Confirmation bias, selection bias, groupthink, likability bias, and so on. There’s plenty more (and I recommend reading up on each).

So, how do you avoid being closed-minded at times when you may not realize it? 

Well, that’s a great question which, unfortunately, has no easy answer. To combat cognitive biases you must develop self-awareness, embrace vulnerability and possess the willingness to accept that you are wrong at times, among other things.

I have a few ideas that have worked for me, which are…

1. Read books on psychology, philosophy, as well as biographies and fiction. The more you read the more you learn about yourself.

2. Always question everything, especially yourself. The more you ask objective questions, the better you’ll be.

These are the main two tools I use in my life to be as open-minded and wise as possible. They both have served me wonderfully in my personal and professional life. I can’t recommend them more.

Read and question… and you hold raw power.