• Thursday, June 20, 2024
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BusinessDay

Open-Mindedness: A pathway to light

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Our ability to be able to refine our human qualities, change them, and moderate them on a daily basis indicates that we, humans are amalgam of qualities. Some of these qualities are at the forefront, depending on the situation, and other times are held back. Humanity in this way tends to flow and conform to the outline of its environs.

However, on certain occasions, we get lost in ourselves as our own personal worlds become so small, modest and significant that we forget what else is out there. So quick, we interred the fact that there are billions of other people on earth also possessing billions of other combination of personalities, experiences and upbringings as well. We become the centre of our own personal universe, having our own definitive truths and ideologies. We form opinions and become staunch in them. Can anyone blame us? We only have
knowledge of one life, one perspective.

But, I bet you, what’s just as important as managing our own qualities and personality traits is the ability to understand someone else’s. It is important to focus on becoming better in what we do whilst learning to connect with others. It is at that point open-mindedness comes in.

Open-mindedness is a characteristic we must have. It is a tendency to tolerate or overlook opposing or shocking opinions or behaviour. To be open-minded means to remove your personal biases and prejudices from any situation and completely immerse yourself in another experience or situation.

Open-mindedness is a muscle. Such inclination involves practice, since we have been indoctrinated since birth with everything we currently know. You must actively place yourself in another person’s head, allowing yourself to think their thoughts and see things from their point of view. And it may not come with age.

Open-mindedness takes time, energy, and patience. Open-mindedness is important. One day, you most likely will dwell in a world that forces you to question many things
you’ve come to know throughout your life. I remember being a freshman in the tertiary institution, college of education 11 years ago in the northern part of the largest black nation in the world before I attended University, I experienced this very phenomenon. For the first time, not everyone around me shared my personal beliefs, my values, and
my psychological and political views, my definitions of life. It should have been natural to assume that I would be around people who were different from me, since obviously not every single person shared my upbringing in the south-western part of the country, Lagos in particular. But for some reasons, this thought didn’t cross my mind. It shocked me that the people I met did things I disagreed with and believed in things that I didn’t understand. I became angry and pejorative, and it felt awful at the time.

Despite all, I loved these people. It confused me. In my secondary school days, I was always quick to separate people into “good” and “bad” categories, into these rigid and defiant classifications that determined if I was going to like them (“good”) or not (“bad”). I was so set in my beliefs. Then, once the next levels rolled around in, the people whom I considered “good” also possessed qualities of the “bad,” and I hated myself for continuing to judge the people I loved. I felt uncomfortable all the time, ripped from my little
suburban bubble, always working to silence the disapproving words that kept enveloping my thoughts. Living in my own head became exhausting. Why couldn’t I be as carefree and accepting as everyone around me? Why did I care so much about what these people are doing, listening to, engaging in? Who was I to judge someone on how s/he lives his/her life? Who was I to assume that everybody had been brought up under similar influences and values as I had? Who was I to create a rigid definition of Normal, and then classify people who obscured from my own personal definition as Abnormal?

Who was I?

I am tempted to say that “I have no right to do this,” but the reality of the situation is that I, like every one of these people that I have met and will meet in the future, I am also a person with his own beliefs, ideologies, values and truths. I am somebody with my own “Normal”.

However, the difference between ‘Me’ of Secondary School days and ‘Me’ of tertiary institutions is that higher institution ‘Me’ has learnt how to understand the background, where people are coming from. Higher education ‘Me’ realised that people have grown up under a wide variety of circumstances that has influenced their choices of life; thoughts, entertainment, movies, music, beliefs, values, and more. University ‘Me’ was tired of feeling horrible for thinking such negative thoughts about his loved ones, so he worked hard to sharpen his ability to truly understand other peoples’ perspectives. At this point, College ‘Me’ had been exercising his open-mindedness muscle for the past 11 years, and is confident that you can now probably talk to him about anything in the world and he will listen attentively and openly, infect in open-mindedness.

Being open-minded is relaxing. Your, brain doesn’t go through the stress of racing with judgmental thoughts that make you feel multiple guilt, and you are not aggressively working to hide a instinctive reaction that has been programmed into you for so long.

You must remember that an undrilled open-mindedness muscle is not your fault. It is neither naivety nor ignorance. We are just a product of our environment and of the interactions we have with people around us, so growing up in the same kind of place for our entire lives would certainly put us around the same kind of people who would influence us similarly every day.

I conclude with Henry David Thoreau’s thought that “It is never too late to give up your prejudices” it is a grand step to Open-mindedness.