Article by Cecilia Meis
In the wake of an economic recession, our natural response is to tighten the belt and wait for the worst to pass. However, open-mindedness — our ability to remain receptive to new ideas, perspectives, and solutions — is truly crucial at a time like this. The world is never riper for innovation than in times of uncertainty.
Plus, those who see an abundance of opportunities in the world often experience benefits beyond the economic. In a 2017 study, researchers found that people who are open-minded report increased and prolonged levels of happiness. They also found that those people are more “flexible, curious, creative, and open to exploring the world.”
The best part? Openness is not an inherent trait, but a learned one. Just as you learned to ride a bike or balance a budget, you can learn to let go of preconceived notions and approach the world with a childlike openness. Start with these tips.
1. Embrace Variety
Sure, switching up your Friday night dinner spot would count, but think bigger. If you take a trip to the beach for every vacation, try heading to the mountains and — with a guide — challenging your physical and mental capacity. If you haven’t met new people outside of the office in the past six months, sign up for a local cooking class or volunteer to teach art at a nursing home. This openness to new experiences can increase your integrative complexity, which is how the brain makes new connections and patterns between seemingly unrelated pieces of information.
2. Quiet Your Mind
The act of meditating can be a mind-opener for many. If it’s your first time attempting meditation, you may feel pretty uncomfortable, maybe even silly. Lean into that feeling and accept that anything new comes with a tint of fear and uncertainty. Research has found that mindful meditation — focusing on the breath — changes the activity in our brains. Breathwork calms our bodies and quiets our minds, allowing us to take in other perspectives without judgment, fear, or preconceived notions (the enemies of open-mindedness).
3. Promote Thoughtful Disagreement
No, keyboard warriors, this isn’t permission to troll your newsfeeds for political soapboxes to knock over. In The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen Covey writes that “you seek first to understand and then to be understood.” Imagine if you walked into every new conversation with the priority of understanding the perspective of the person speaking before inserting your opinion. It’s harder than it sounds.
4. Remove Your Blinders
Routine is good. It can help us stay productive and fight decision fatigue. But routine for the sake of routine can make it as if we’re wearing blinders. We go into autopilot while the world fades from view. What important details are we missing?
If you work in a solo environment, spend one day per week working from a coffee shop. Schedule a weekly brainstorm session that promotes outside-the-box thinking. Meet with peers, mentors, or industry colleagues on a regular basis to learn about different methods and perspectives that could be critical to your growth.
A challenge for the go-getter types we write about in this magazine, daydreaming is anything but idleness. Research on daydreaming is a burgeoning field, but those who study it have found possible evidence that daydreaming increases creative thinking, compassion and self-awareness — in other words, the tenets of great leadership.
Schedule time to let your mind wander. Keep that time as sacred as a board meeting or client presentation. Keep a journal of the thoughts that arise during these times and let your unconscious mind work through problems and come up with creative solutions