Reminder: Keep an Open Mind

By: Darren Hoevel

Homophily: Birds of a feather flock together.  A large number of network studies have shown we generally surround ourselves with people that are like us– those who enjoy the same things we enjoy, entertain similar ideas, have about the same level of education, hold the same values, etc.  It’s not a bad thing; we’re comfortable with familiarity.

Familiarity has its limits, though. If we generally surround ourselves with (and follow on social media) people who share our same views, we’re limiting our chances for thoughtful conversation, restricting our perspectives, and hindering opportunities to grow. The hard part, though, to inviting in outside perspectives is keeping an open mind, listening–fully listening– with curiosity, and asking inquisitive questions. 

How often do we go into conversations with our personal bias in tow, a predetermined reaction/outcome/viewpoint in our minds? As hard as I try to remain curiously open, I’m often guilty of it!  I was reminded of my open-minded shortcomings when I sat in on the 2019 Mindful Leader Summit Debate last fall. 

In the spirit of healthy debate and to welcome outside voices and hear different perspectives, Mo Edjlali, President of Mindful Leader, orated a debate around two topics:

Mindfulness in Schools— Even with ample evidence of the benefits of mindfulness, is mindfulness religiously based and therefore cannot be introduced as a secular practice in schools?  

Mindfulness and Capitalism—  Is mindfulness changing capitalism or is capitalism changing mindfulness?

Being a proponent of mindfulness and an entrepreneur, at the beginning of the debate I had a pretty good idea of how I felt about each of those topics. It would have been easy to skip the event and grab a cup of coffee, but instead I sat back and listened with an open mind. What I heard were valid points from both sides of the issue.  What I came away with was a better understanding of the “other” side and empathy for their viewpoint.  My perspective was broadened. I grew as an individual.    

Fast forward a month or so.  Fresh off the humbling realization that as much as I try, as much as I evangelize continuous improvement and growth mindset, keeping an open mind is something I have to continuously strive toward. I stumbled across this article from Fast Company:  4 Ways to Train Your Brian to be More Open-Minded. I’ll paraphrase for you (and me).

Talk to a Neutral PartyTalk about your concerns or struggles with a new idea to someone who simply listens and repeats back what they hear. The process helps you hear your own reasons for resistance, gaining some objectivity about the situation.

Reframe Negative Thoughts Sometimes hearing a new idea causes an automatic negative reaction, like “This will never work?”  Instead, train your brain to reply to unhelpful thoughts with more realistic statements, reframing the situation. Look for evidence that your efforts may be a success.  “What are the good aspects of this plan?”

Get Out of your Comfort Zone Add more experiences and points of views to your schema.  Don’t read or watch one point of view. Make a point to expand your circle, sharing time with friends who are diverse racially, culturally, politically, and generationally.  Once a week, listen to a different genre of music or try a food you’ve never tried before. 

Practice Mindful MeditationMindfulness meditation is becoming well known for its ability to open our minds to new ideas, while letting go of old ones that no longer serve us. Practicing mindfulness meditation in which one sits in curious awareness of the breath literally trains the brain to become more open-minded.

Warning: practicing the above may not be easy!  Especially listening to someone else with an opposing viewpoint. Be prepared to sit with your emotions without shutting down.  

Anyway you slice it, we’re much better leaders, team members, friends, parents, teachers, relatives, people when we approach situations with a more open mind. So that’s my challenge for you this week.  Try something new. Pick up a new magazine. Change the radio station. Listen with an open mind to an opposing perspective.

Start by checking out the mindfulness debate below!

Mindfulness in Schools:

This debate features David Forbes, PhD, an emeritus in the Urban Education Doctoral Program at the CUNY Graduate Center where he teaches a course on critical mindfulness in education. He has written on and consults with K-12 educators about pivoting from neoliberal to transformative integral social mindfulness practices in schools and Rich Fernandez, PhD, CEO of the non-profit Search Inside Yourself Leadership Institute (SIYLI), an organization developed at Google that offers mindfulness and emotional intelligence solutions to communities and organizations around the world. He is also the co-founder of the workplace wellness company Wisdom Labs.

Mindfulness In Capitalism:

This debate featured Candy Gunther Brown, PhD, Professor of Religious Studies at Indiana University. Dr. Brown is the author of Debating Yoga and Mindfulness in Public Schools: Reforming Secular Education or Reestablishing Religion? and  has served as an expert witness in four legal challenges to school meditation and yoga—testifying for both parents and school districts and Barnaby Spring who  is currently spearheading the work in the largest education system in the world, striving to respond, mindfully, to the emergence of mindfulness in education in the New York City Department of Education. As Director of Mindfulness in Education in the Office of the First Deputy Chancellor, Mr. Spring is inspired to serve as a “glocal” – global and local – thought partner, champion and connector around the cultivation of a social mindfulness in these times.

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