Letting go of control. When you open your mind, you free yourself from having to be in complete control of your thoughts. You allow yourself to experience new ideas and thoughts and you challenge the beliefs you currently have.
Experiencing changes. Opening up your mind to new ideas allows you to the opportunity to change what you think and how you view the world. Now, this doesn't mean you necessarily will change your beliefs—in fact, the process may actually reinforce your current beliefs more strongly–but thinking with an open mind gives you the option of creating positive change and stronger results.
Making yourself vulnerable. One of the scariest (and greatest) things about seeing the world through an open mind is that you make yourself vulnerable. In agreeing to have an open-minded view of the world, you're also admitting you don't "know it all." This vulnerability can be both terrifying and exhilarating.
Making mistakes. Making mistakes doesn't seem like it would be much of a benefit, but I (and other Forbes contributors) have continually made the case that it is. When you allow yourself to see things from others' perspectives, you gain the opportunity to "fail up".
Strengthening yourself. Open-mindedness provides a platform to build upon, piling one idea on top of another. Everything you experience collectively "adds up," strengthening the person you are and what you believe in. It's very hard to build on experiences without an open mind.
Gaining confidence. When you live with an open mind, you have a strong sense of self. You are not confined by your own beliefs, nor nor the beliefs of others.
Being honest. Being open-minded means being honest enough to admit that you aren't all-knowing. This understanding creates an underlying sense of authenticity that permeates the character of any person who lives with an open mind.
For some, being open-minded is as easy as breathing. For most others, it's a challenge–something they have to think about constantly and make a continual effort to keep and obtain. The majority of people struggle with this concept. But making the effort to think openly and embrace new ideas—if you approach it truly–will produce untold benefits for your business and career (your personal life as well) in the seasons to come.
Since we're all facing this challenge together, what can we do? The following are the top 5 things successful people do differently in this regard. They are simple tactics you can use and adopt as well to become more open minded in 2013 and beyond. Follow them carefully, and you will achieve unprecedented success. Here they are:
- Listen More Than You Talk This idea harks back to Stephen R. Covey's 7 Habits: Seek first to understand, then to be understood. This single truth makes strong and obvious sense; yet is still far too often ignored (particularly by bosses—but ignored by spouses, team leaders and employees as well). We don't learn new ideas while our own mouths are moving. We learn when we listen intently, thoughtfully, and silently. Stop typing. Stop texting. Stop multitasking at all. Listen genuinely and deeply for at least 70% of the time you are interacting with others, and like the Grinch's heart, your brain will explode with the new ideas and new approaches you'll learn as well as the sensitivities you'll gain about how to make those ideas most successful with the individuals you work with. Each individual is different in their thinking and their motivation. These are critical nuances that you miss entirely when you jump in too quickly to speak.
- Avoid Making Snap Decisions How many times has an occurrence hit you straight in your blood pressure? A call goes unanswered. An email goes unreturned. A bad surprise happens that you learn about through a second party, through a memo, or—worst of all—in the press. What do you do? Typically, you react immediately, with guns "loaded for bear." I am here to assure you, it's a bad idea. Imagine the possibilities that open if you suspend judgment until you've carefully, and without bias, gone to the source to pursue the actual facts. Early in my career, a wise boss made a profound set of statements: "I just heard XXX. Before I draw any conclusions about this, I need for you to tell me about it. What happened?" What a great boss! Without judgment or anger, she was able to determine exactly what had happened, sleep on her decision, and then decide how best to proceed. If only we could adopt this policy for living, always, when emotions and tempers are high. Beyond getting the facts and considering them carefully, consider this question as well: "What is it that I want to happen? Is what I'm about to do the best and clearest path to that outcome?" I am personally convinced that 95% (at least) of angry words, punishments, and damaged relationships would melt away if we were to take this one simple step. Worst case—even if the situation really is as bad as it looks—your angry tone (emotion) will become emphatic (a position of strength and power) instead. Can you see the difference?
- Thank People for Their Suggestions One of the biggest causes of consternation in business settings is the lack of gratitude for a great idea. Employees feel a great sense of injustice when bosses "steal" their good ideas to present as their own, without stopping to give credit where due. Will your employee or team be likely to offer their best creative thinking again? Likely not. Oh, they'll still create—but they'll save their ideas and thinking for their own company—or for somebody else's company—where they can feel respected and appreciated for the work they have done. We should never fail to keep this common and underlying courtesy in mind.
- Encourage Frankness How many times has someone asked you to give them the straight and unvarnished truth, and it's then been immediately evident that they didn't really want to hear it? A wise executive noted recently that he'd come to realize he had sensitive feelings—he knew that criticism—particularly in the press—would affect him deeply, and knew that in his leadership decisions, this factor would be a weakness for him. Knowing this in advance allowed him to compensate for his known weakness with greater care within his executive team, to prevent it from slowing his company down. However, one of the greatest traits you can assume–and can teach others to assume with you—is the ability to speak the truth with high diplomacy and tact. The respect you hold for another person should be evident, and with it, your motivation for sharing a strong feedback should be evident as well. If you can master this skill, your ability to speak, to hear, and to share fully and with an open mind will increase many fold.
- Hunt for New Opportunities If you have an open mind, one of the most tremendous results of that trait will be your ability to perpetually seek and discover new opportunities, new ideas, and new approaches to solving the challenges you face. There are no new ideas? Really? You've looked at every possibility and every angle for solving a problem? I sincerely doubt it. The world's greatest inventors have a single trait in common—they realize that when you think you've tried every approach to solving a problem, inevitably you are wrong. How many attempts did Thomas Edison make before he invented the lightbulb? Reports say it took him 10,000 tries. Colonel Sanders reportedly tried his chicken recipe 1,009 times before his 1,010th idea met with success. Truly open-minded people are never weary of the effort, and always alert to new ideas and opportunities to try.