When’s the last time you got mad or critical or said No without thinking? Weeks, days, hours, minutes?
I define being closed as either forming a snap judgment or even being unable or unwilling to reconsider a thought-out position. Being open, in contrast, means keeping one’s mind open even after forming an opinion.
Being open is hard from for many reasons for a lot of people, but so worth it. It’s hard because it takes time and energy to think out your opinion with care. It also requires that you might have to say you were wrong (OMG!). It’s simply faster and easier to have a few set of rules by which to live your life and apply them all around. To me, these are called principles and I have always felt applying principles is a good way to live your life.
Until it’s not.
When those principles start creating havoc in your life, it’s time to re-evaluate the process. I’m not saying we should abandon our principles when convenient. Rather, I’m saying that life is very nuanced and sometimes other factors that we may not have considered may be more important in some situations. These are called blind spots.
For example, as an administrator in higher education, I strive to treat all students the same way. We have rules and procedures and students must follow them, otherwise everyone will want an exception. Then what good are your rules? But adhering so rigidly to the rules when exceptional circumstances occur also sets a bad precedent, not to mention runs the risk of being unfair or inhumane. A student who must leave immediately to attend to a family crisis should not be penalized because he’s not here to make the proper requests via the required and endless paper (yes, paper) work.
Like so many things in my life I’ve had to learn this lesson the hard way. But since then I’ve learned that my life and the lives of those around me just goes much more smoothly and successfully when I’m not wedded to an idea or outcome. Simply by reserving judgment or opinion also allows room for positive emotion like curiosity and serenity when I might have chosen resentment or disgust in the past. In other words, forming no opinion, unless I must, actually requires less energy than making a snap decision and sticking to it. And I have a better outcome. How good is that?
In the category of embarrassing admissions, my ‘adaptability’ strength was at the bottom (#34) in 2005 and 29 out of 34 in 2013. So you can see I’ve made some progress and am demonstrating that we can change, evolve and grow. Being low in adaptability, like most of my other ‘lesser strengths’, simply means I have to put some effort into exhibiting that trait since it does not come naturally. Some more recent acquaintances are surprised when I tell them a certain strength is low for me. It makes me proud to know that I can manage my ‘opportunities for improvement’ effectively sometimes.
I’m even more proud when I see others learn that lesson and find the same satisfaction in improving in areas they never thought they could. So indulge me and work on a skill you once believed you could not change, then let me know how it goes. Simply ridding yourself of the belief you are powerless is a powerful and enabling move. Replace it with the belief that you will change and grow. Yes you can.