Sometimes keeping an open mind feels nearly impossible. It is especially impossible for those of us who have a tendency to believe we’re always right. If I have an expectation about how an experience is going to go down, I have little reason to change that expectation. (After all, I know everything!)
However, countless studies have shown that having an open mind can have a drastic, positive effect on the human experience.
Contrary to popular belief, having an open mind doesn’t mean you need to be ultra-positive all the time. Let’s first define it:
According to the University of Pennsylvania, “Open-mindedness is the willingness to search actively for evidence against one’s favored beliefs, plans, or goals, and to weigh such evidence fairly when it is available.”
So open-mindedness doesn’t mean you need to tell yourself you’re going to have an amazing time at the party you don’t want to go to. Rather, it means you are open to the idea that maybe, juuuuust maybe, you’ll end up having a good time.
I like this. I like this very much. Whenever I try to convince myself of something I truly don’t believe, it doesn’t end well. With open-mindedness, you’re not saying your outcome isn’t going to happen. You’re just saying there are other outcomes that could happen as well.
Open-mindedness goes against nature
None of this is easy. In fact, we’re hardwired against being open-minded.
As humans evolved, we developed mental shortcuts in order to help us make snapshot decisions so that we could, well, stay alive. This may have served our ancestors well, as their problems were less about going into a dreaded social event with an open mind and more concerned with avoiding death-by-saber-tooth-tiger. Every day they had to assume the worst possible scenario because this was their method of keeping safe.
Alas, times have changed over the past million or so years.
The self-fulfilling prophecy
One reason that open-mindedness works is due to the self-fulfilling prophecy. The self-fulfilling prophecy is everywhere. It serves as the basis for the “law of attraction” and reinforces our beliefs about ourselves and the world without us even being aware of it.
The self-fulfilling prophecy works like this: Let’s say you go into a party expecting to have a terrible time. You’re worried you’ll be weird and awkward and you’d would rather just avoid it altogether. You then enter the party and immediately become a wallflower. Your body language says, “I DON’T WANT TO BE HERE.” You feel as though you’re trying collapse in on yourself and disappear. People feel this energy and aren’t necessarily drawn to you, so you’re ignored. You carry on in this way, reinforcing in your mind how much you DON’T want to be there.
After being ignored for two hours and avoiding social contact at all cost, you leave thinking, “See? I knew this party was going to be terrible.”
But it was you that caused it to be terrible.
See where I’m going with this? Now, let’s say you had started with an open mind. You walk in somewhat optimistic and maybe even eager at the prospect of accidentally having a good time. You smile at people. They smile back. You laugh, which draws people in. Your body language signifies you’re open to conversation, as opposed to wanting to just crawl inside of yourself.
By simply opening your mind, you have shifted your entire experience. That’s all! No fluff, no false motivation, none of that. Just by allowing the option of having a good time, you end up having a good time.
It’s not just good for parties
Think about all of the different scenarios you can apply this to; it’s not just for parties. Job interviews, relationships, new friendships, etc. are all places where you’ll find the self-fulfilling prophecy secretly at work.
Now, don’t get me wrong. Having an open mind does not guarantee that things will always go your way. But think of all the possibilities that will open up by you simply acknowledging that something could go better than you thought. Your body language, actions, and words will act accordingly, and you’ll be proving yourself wrong time and time again.