Once, I asked a transgender man what his name used to be.
I was naive. I wasn't aware that this was an impolite questions to ask a transperson. Fortunately, the gentleman I was talking to steered me in the right direction.
"I don't make it a habit to answer that question. It isn't who I am, so it's not important for me to share," he said with a smile.
I paused. This was a new response for me. I opened my mind and made space for this new information. He was right, it wasn't who he is - in fact, it had nothing at all to do with who he is. With his kind words, I learned something.
It would be easy to put the blinders on and live my life without being in constant inquiry. I could wake up daily and not care about anyone else but myself. I could ignore the world issues, and I could turn a blind eye to the challenges of others. But because I have so many interesting and diverse friendships, I'm curious.
I'm also curious as a coach. One of the most important coaching skills is to ask the right questions, so I do that a lot both in and outside my practice. And each time I'm brave enough to ask a question that I don't know the answer to, I learn something.
Being truly, 100% open-mindedly curious has been one of the greatest mid-life discoveries I've had.
It can be incredibly scary to be curious - it requires you to gently put aside everything that you think you know in order to allow new information to arrive. For instance, in order to better understand the transgender community, I have to set aside the idea that bathrooms should have a gender-assigned picture on the door. In order to understand more about how to choose the best food for my body, I have to allow new information to infiltrate the part of my brain that is yearning for a Twinkie.
Being open-mindedly curious is the greatest gift you can give yourself as a heart-pounding human living among other heart-pounding humans.
There are a million reasons why being open-minded is awesome, but here are a few things that happen when you open your mind:
1. YOU GET SUPER VULNERABLE.
Being vulnerable doesn't SOUND awesome right off the bat, does it? Of course not. By being vulnerable, you open yourself to being laughed at, teased or even disliked. However, with vulnerability comes exhilaration.
Yes. Exhilaration. When you are able to be vulnerable, there comes this breathtaking moment when your eyes open wide, and you say to yourself "Wow! I had no idea!"
Almost immediately, you realize all the other possibilities that you haven't yet considered in life.
2. YOU LOSE CONTROL.
I'm not really making this look fun, am I? Hear me out. Losing control by opening your mind is like going on a roller coaster ride for the first time. You don't know how it's going to end, exactly, but you do know that you are not in control. And when it's over... you're going to want to do it again.
Being curious is exactly like that. Once you can relinquish the control that your mind has over your thoughts and assumptions, you're in for one hell of a joyous ride.
3. YOU CHANGE.
Here's where the fun really begins. Once you have new information, you move about in the world completely differently. You see things that you've never seen before. You treat people differently. You have entirely different conversations. You smile at strangers.
The world changes because you have changed.
4. YOU'RE TOTALLY GOING TO SCREW UP.
Yes, I said it. You're not going to get everything right all the time. When you're able to open your mind, and learn new things, it takes a while for that new information to become part of your everyday experience.
Be gentle with yourself as you change. Be gentle with yourself as you screw up. This is like learning to ride a bicycle - it's not easy at first, but after a while it becomes second-nature.
5. YOU FIND SOLUTIONS WITH EASE.
We all know the saying "when you do what you've always done, you'll get what you've always got." Being open-minded changes this cyclical nightmare.
By allowing yourself to be curious to solutions that you never even knew existed, you can solve problems faster, and with greater ease. The question "What else is available from here?" has limitless answers. How many are you willing to see?
6. YOU BECOME MORE PATIENT.
When you have an open mind, you forgive others with kindness and ease. By not passing judgement on someone or something right away, you free yourself to have more meaningful and powerful interactions. Your relationships become softer and more gentle.
Ultimately, you will find it easier to take a deep breath and know that you don't know.
I've shared a few benefits of being open-minded, but if you've never practiced this before, it can be tough to know where to start. Here are a few tips:
- ASK QUESTIONS. Ask as if you were a 4-year old (but kindly, of course). Be curious with others, but most importantly, be curious with yourself. Where do your judgements come from? What arises when you have certain thoughts about people or ideas that aren't identical to yours?
- LEARN NEW THINGS. One of the best ways to "know that you don't know" is to learn something new. We get stuck in our ways as we get older, and we forget that learning is available to us for our entire lives. Take up a new hobby, learn a new skill. Do volunteer work for a group that you don't know much about.
- SECOND GUESS YOURSELF. By challenging your own thoughts and actions, you open your mind to alternate possibilities. For example, if you are craving sweets, is it something else you may need instead? Challenge your own mind as often as you can.
- MEDITATE. Meditation gives you the tools to be gentle with your thoughts. It also allows your mind to open, and you're able to think with a broader embrace for possibility.
Wouldn't it be wonderful if we all asked an open-minded question today? I'd love to hear how being more open-minded has worked for you. Please share your stories in the comments, or you can contact me directly.
With big love,