As I spend time researching and developing my creativity, one of the problems I encounter is that if we want to be creative, we need to be open-minded. And unfortunately, the more I look around the country more I see how much harder it is to retain open-mindedness as we grow up.
Meanwhile, my kids are great at the open-minded mindset. They entertain all the wild ideas sometimes even, especially the bad ones.
By the very definition of creativity, making something new and original, we need to have a mind that’s open to new ideas and new ways of thinking and seeing. If we hold on tight to our outdated or incorrect beliefs, we’ll never come up with new ideas that transform the world. And sure, change isn’t always good, but growth usually is.
(Lessons from one of my favorite children’s books: The Little Tree by Loren Long)
Let’s dive in and talk about open-mindedness. How did we lose it, how can we reclaim it, and what impact might that have on our creativity? As we walk through this do me a favor and try to keep an open mind, will ya?
Open-minded vs. close-minded
Being open-minded means being willing to consider new ideas. It doesn’t mean you have to let those ideas in to trample your existing beliefs or that you have to immediately adopt other perspectives without investigating them properly. It just means you’re willing to keep an open mind and listen to ideas, beliefs, or opinions that might be new to you.
As you can see, an open mindset is essential for personal growth. But there the first step needs to be a willingness to admit that we don’t already have all the right answers in the first place. The possibility that we might be wrong. We need to be flexible.
In contrast, close-minded people are not willing to consider alternative ideas and perspectives. You might think that open-mindedness is part of your personality or it’s not. However, like everything else, we can choose who we want to be. Read Personality Isn’t Permanet by Benjamin Hard or Mindset by Carol Dweck.
Openness to experiences is the personality trait associated with open-mindedness. It’s also the personality trait that research has most associated with creative people.
Characteristics of open-minded people
If you think about open-minded people, it’s not that they don’t have an opinion, it’s that they are willing to listen to the opinions of others. Open-minded people are willing to be wrong and have their own beliefs and ideas challenged by listening to other perspectives.
Additionally, open-minded people are interested in going out of their comfort zone. Only by expanding our knowledge and experiences through being curious and adventurous can we continue to grow. Open-minded people tend to be open to learning.
Open-minded people are curious, adventurous, good listeners, flexible, adaptable, agreeable, empathetic, compassionate, humble, inquisitive, and considerate.
How to be more open-minded
Understand our mind
We’ve established that being more open-minded will lead to more creativity. Not to mention it will make us more likable, so how do we cultivate it? One of the first steps is to look at our own opinions and investigate where they come from. The more we start to become aware of our beliefs about the world and how they were formed, the more we can see where we might tend to be close-minded.
If we notice that we are closed-minded about a certain subject, for example, we can practice considering a different perspective and see what our resistance to it is.
Consider the opposite viewpoint
It also helps to practice seeing both sides of an argument and not from your point of view but from the other side. If we learn to give people the benefit of the doubt and take our bias off of an issue, we can generally see where someone is coming from even if we still don’t agree. I feel like closed-mindedness comes from being a bit closed off in general, someone doesn’t want to consider something different.
When you practice considering opposite viewpoints you’re bound to find some merit in even the most polarizing issues. Remember debate class in school where you had to be prepared to defend both sides of an issue? Close-minded people aren’t as good at getting into the mindset of the group opposite the one they would normally fall into.
When you welcome members of the opposite viewpoint into your space you can view it as research. Maybe it will change your thinking and maybe it will solidify your opinion. But you won’t be able to recognize where they’re coming from and have compassion for their life if you remain close-minded.
When we start to feel defensive, instead of turning that emotion towards the other person, what if we turned inward? And then we could try to identify why we feel so strongly? In learning more about our feelings we can learn to be more empathetic toward others. When we allow ourselves to actually listen, consider, and see all sides we encounter we might find ourselves even stronger in our beliefs. Or willing to grow and change.
This is an important part of the process because it allows us to be honest with how and why we are feeling a certain way. Most people don’t even know why their beliefs are so strong. They assume it’s because they’re right when actually it’s because of an experience they had in their life.
benefits of being open-minded
A willingness to hear new ideas and viewpoints can increase our knowledge and understanding of a subject. The more angles from which we can look at something the more we might have the ability to come up with a creative idea or solution.
One of the biggest benefits of being open-minded is an increased ability to problem-solve.
It’s hard to be creative when we believe there is only one right way of doing things. It’s hard to be tolerant of other things when we only accept one answer.
And it’s hard to undergo any personal growth when we’re committed to being stuck.
Being open-minded doesn’t mean that we avoid arguments but rather that we’re constantly challenging ideas including our own. Instead of just having strong opinions because that’s how we’ve been our whole life, what if we have strong opinions because we’ve challenged ourselves to listen and grow?
I’m not a big fan of arguments when no one listens to the point someone else is trying to make. Instead, to me, good arguments happen when someone is ready and willing to be proven wrong.
Being open to other ideas could lead to incredible creativity.
How to encourage open-mindedness in others
I’d love to tell you that I have the answer to how to encourage others to be open-minded. I fear this is one of those lead-by-example situations. I have also decided that if I value being an open-minded person, it actually helps if I surround myself with other open-minded people.
Hmm, that doesn’t sound very open-minded of me, does it?!
I’m not saying we should be closed-minded towards closed-minded people or other ideas. What I’m saying is that if we want to hear and be heard, it helps to have a group of friends that are interested in the same process. It’s no use arguing, debating, speaking, or trying to learn with someone who isn’t interested in learning.
Openness to experiences and creativity
As I mentioned, openness to experience is the personality trait associated with creativity. That means being open-minded but also being adventurous and willing to try new things too. In fact, trying new things might increase your open-mindedness. Once you’ve experienced an adventure you might have a whole new perspective on it.
Adventure is in my blood, it’s in my brand.
It’s the tagline of my business, and something I do every day. That doesn’t mean it’s always easy, in fact, it’s often scary. But like open-mindedness, adventure pushes us out of our comfort zone to where it’s possible to grow, learn, and create.
If you want to be more creative, it’s generally considered a good idea to write down all the ideas during your brainstorming session. And instead of congratulating yourself on practical ideas congratulate yourself on the wild, crazy, off-the-wall, adventurous, and ridiculous ideas.
The world is a big place and the more we expand our minds the more we can integrate to come up with some truly creative future ideas.
About the Authors
Marc and Brenda Bergreen are Colorado-based photographers, focusing on weddings and commercial work. This husband and wife team is all about love and adventure, and their photography sure reflects it. Make sure to check out more of their photos on their websites (adventure | wedding), and follow Marc and Brenda on Instagram. This article was originally posted here and shared with permission.