Embrace the challenge

Photo Cred: Julia Joppien

One of the most valuable tools we have as humans is our capacity to be open-minded and consider new, potentially conflicting information.  An open mind benefits each of us as individual practitioners, the groups we belong to (workplace, family, etc.) and society overall.  This does not come easy, but it can be developed over time by deliberately increasing and diversifying our intake of perspectives and experiences – especially ones we may disagree with. 

To start, we must embrace the challenge of not viewing our differences as a conflict but as an opportunity for synergy that leads to an increased generation of innovative solutions for all.  People we disagree with or otherwise oppose may have things we can learn from, which is why it is crucial we:

  • deliberately seek out opposing viewpoints
  • separate the idea from the person
  • listen with empathy, and
  • disagree civilly

It is essential to avoid mistakenly bundling all of someone’s opinions, thoughts, or ideas into a single package.  Someone’s view on one subject does not automatically disqualify or discredit them on another.  In instances where the person lacks credibility on the matter, that certainly must be considered. Unfortunately, many of us lack the emotional and mental discipline to objectively evaluate someone’s credibility. We will often discredit people solely because they disagree with us.

Through practice, we have to develop this ability to objectively evaluate each one based on its own merit.  Of course, it is easier said than done since we humans have unfortunately come equipped with mental roadblocks.  These roadblocks are explained in Principles by Ray Dalio under his third life principle: “Be radically open-minded.”

Dalio explains our two most significant barriers to seeing objective truth and making the best possible decisions, our ego and our blind spots. The ego is our subconscious defence mechanism that makes it difficult for us to accept our mistakes and shortcomings and interprets any criticism or opposing ideas as threats.  The ego works much like our immune system that would attack a virus that has infected our bodies.  The second barrier is our blind spots, representing our unique view of the world, making it more challenging to see things objectively.  Both barriers are so powerful because we often don’t recognize their existence – especially in real-time or heat-of-the-moment situations.  That said, we can overcome them with practice and a mindset of finding truth over being right. 

Ego and blind spots get in our way of entertaining ideas that contradict our own. Still, the rewards for us all overcoming these are great. Doing so at scale allows us to cast a wider net when formulating ideas and strategies, building and creating, etc. Simply put, an open mind gives us all the best chance to achieve the best outcome, which is why we all must step up together and embrace the challenge.