Added On: Sunday, November 04, 2007

Maintaining an Open mind

Few people in today's world would admit that they don't have an open mind. Of course, everyone has a different definition of what an open mind entails. There are some behaviours I'm sure you would find totally unacceptable, that others may think are okay. And vica-versa.

When it comes to religion, politics, morals, and rules of behaviour, most people's ideas are pretty much set in stone. If somebody starts talking in a way that sounds like an opposing view, the vast majority of us would simply switch off our ears and wait for a chance to use our mouths.

"How can we convince this person that they're seeing things the wrong way and bring them around to my point of view?" is what most people will be thinking when hearing an alternative viewpoint.

We're all so sure that we're right, that we're unwilling to even consider other people's opinions. This is a shame, because it seems unlikely that every belief you hold in your head is correct. In fact, it's certain that a large number of them are just plain wrong. You're only human after all.

But overcoming the weight of in-built attitude of always assuming the moral and knowledge high-ground is difficult for most people. It's so much easier just to stubbornly keep insisting that they're right and anyone who disagrees must be evil and/or stupid.

Here's a good trick for overcoming this disability. When you get into a discussion about difficult beliefs - religion, politics, moral codes and so on - ask yourself this one simple question.

What evidence would it take to convince me my beliefs are wrong?

This question first of all forces you to at least consider the possibility that you aren't the only fountain of truth in the universe. And once you've admitted that maybe, just maybe, you could be wrong, it leaves the door open to explore under what circumstances that might be true.

Say, for example, you're a strong believer in atheism. What would it take to prove you wrong? Some kind of verifiable miracle may be a good start, but I leave the details up to you.

Or, say you think military force is the only way to deal with rogue states. What might convince you otherwise?

This is a powerful question to ask yourself when examining your beliefs. Doing so honestly, will make you a clearer and deeper thinker. It can be the difference between a person who simply revels in wishful thinking, and a heroic seeker of truth.

Take a deep look into your own belief systems, and ask yourself what evidence it would take to convince you they were wrong. It's an uncomfortable exercise, but an important one.

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