Changing Your Mind

Everything in life changes.

  Everything in life changes.  ( Photo by me)

Everything in life changes. (Photo by me)

I have noticed recently that there seems to be an increasing culture in the world that promotes verbally and emotionally attacking people who change their mind.

In relationships if you change your mind, for example to decide you do not love someone any more, then you are treated like a harpie or callous prick.

At some workplaces that are driven by fear of failure changing your mind is considered an admission of being wrong; a mortal sin punishable by firing [squad].

In politics the people who are given positions of power and trusted to make the best decisions for the greater good are aggressively lambasted by the media (and piled upon by bored members of the public) anytime they say something remotely different to their past statements.

This is wrong. This is backward thinking and we need to crush it if we want to grow as individuals, and as society as a whole.

Changing your mind is actually a great thing to do.

Changing your mind is great

Changing your mind means you have learned something new. You have some new facts, data, experiences, or opinion that challenges your previous view so strongly that you are willing to change it. This is great.

Ignoring this new data would be horribly stupid.

Holding on to your previous viewpoint simply because it was there first does not make sense. Beliefs should not have more strength simply because of age. Sadly, this is what most people do and our society encourages this behaviour. Don't fall for it.

Being open to changing your mind, being swayed by good new information, is an important part of developing the growth mindset that will yield positive results throughout your life.

Thought exercise: Santa

A simple way to view why changing your mind is good is to consider Santa Claus.

As children most of us would have held the belief that there was a jolly fat man in a red suit who lived at the north pole with hundreds of elves. These elves made toys for all the children and once a year that jolly fat man would travel the entire world (in one night mind you) using nothing but some magical reindeer and a sleigh. Then he physically squeezes himself down chimneys to leave presents for all the good children in the world.

What a fantastical story. As an adult, even as I was typing that, I cant help chuckle at how absurd that whole thing is. And I didn't even get to the point about how he can watch every single child simultaneously for the whole year to check on their behaviour. Absurd and creepy.

The point here is that as we grow up and learn more about the world, maybe even have a few tough experiences where our naivety was taken advantage of, and finally get told the truth from our parents we realise that Santa Claus is only a story. It might hurt at first but we get over that initial pain and come to accept know the real truth of the matter.

This is a great example of where we trusted our initial source (damn parents!) and we wanted to believe Santa existed so we dove in head first. We lived a lie but we were happy.

Later, as we were presented with new information we were forced to consider our long-held belief and see if it held up to the vast new information that we had gained since we first formed it. In those few years much had changed in our reality and as such we had to change our mind about Santa.

When it comes to simple things, like believing in Santa, we change our mind relatively easily. Consider how weird it would be if we found an adult who wanted to vehemently argue that Santa does actually exist.

santa-elf-movie.gif

Unfortunately this pragmatic approach to changing minds seems to elude many people as they grow up, especially as they delve into extreme beliefs, political concepts, and polarising topics. I'm looking at you flat-earthers.

These dicey topics often attract poeple and behaviours that are not open to change. They aggressively argue a point until their blue in the face ignoring anything that goes against their beliefs. They are rude, call people names, and throw adult-sized tantrums that a toddler would proud of.

But, as we know with our experiences with believing in Santa, even toddlers are better than this. After the initial shock wears off a toddler accepts the new information and willingly changes their mind.

Toddlers could show adults a thing or two about a changing mind.

Your mind is changing whether you like it or not

Another way to look at the positive reasoning for changing your mind is that, well…your mind is already changing.

Every second you live your brain is experiencing a new set of sensations, gathering a new set of observations, and processing a new set of data about the world. Each moment in time, whether you like it or not, changes your mind.

"Change is the only constant in life" - Heraclitus

If you choose to ignore this, to try to fight it, to cling to old belifs, to remain stagnant, then you are resisting the essence of life. Life means you are constantly changing and growing. Every day you get older and you grow. Your body is constantly changing and so is your mind.

Without this constant growth of mind I would still believe all sorts of crazy things; that I have dormant magical powers, friendly monsters live in the forest near my house, and I am a smooth and charming man. Ok, I'm still holding out hope for the magic powers.

Rules for living with an open mind

Here are my rules for living with an open, and constantly changing, mind.

  1. Listen to all input. Don't reject anything just because it's different to the current mental model
  2. Process and analyse it later. Don't solely rely on gut responses in the moment.
  3. Assess the strength of the source and verify/research new ideas.
  4. Acknowlege and announce your changes to hold yourself and others accountable
  5. Encourage others to be open to changing their mind

Good luck and happy mind-changing!