When we practice being more open, we are becoming mentally stronger and smarter. When we are open, we have better control over the fluctuations of the mind, or stated differently, our thought patterns. Mental control is a powerful and essential quality of great leaders. It means we are not controlled by our own beliefs and ideas and are able to truly listen to those of others using new information to build upon our base of knowledge. Being open increases our intelligence.
My Closed-Minded Story
It’s not easy to be open all the time. Being open is a practice. My first experience with the public-school system was with my son’s entry into first grade. We were new to the town and the school. At the back-to-school night orientation the PTO co-Presidents spoke about the upcoming year. I was surprised to see that both co-Presidents were men.
I somehow established the mindset that mothers and particularly mothers that did not work outside the home were the parents that assumed leadership roles in the PTO. Perhaps that’s the way it was when I was a kid or perhaps I was influenced by certain movies. Or perhaps it was because my Mother worked full-time and did not have the flexibility to fit PTO duties into her life. Or maybe she just didn’t really want to. Whatever set of impressions that fed my mind helped me to develop a certain mindset.
Of course, I think a Father’s involvement in the school is wonderful. But I expected to see Mothers in that role. Further, my instinct was to try to justify their decision to serve in this role, instead of simply seeing that they are so committed to their children that they wanted to contribute by volunteering their time in this way. The point is that my rather narrow perspective, initially influenced my thoughts and actions and my judgment.
Being more open involves practice and intention. In this example, I needed to do two things:
- Acknowledge my thoughts and perspective, which is a form of self-awareness and
- insert new thoughts to shape a new perspective.
New thoughts that I could say to myself include:
- A PTO president is a gender agnostic role.
- Volunteering at the school is an appropriate way for both Dad’s and Mom’s to support their kids.
- It is possible to have a full-time successful career and be a PTO co-President (those two men certainly do).
The Practice of Becoming More Open
If we want to open our minds to new ideas and possibilities, we can first cultivate an ability and willingness to examine our current worldview and perspective. This includes how we live our lives, choices we make, and the vision we establish for our future. Taking time to explore what you believe, where that came from, and how it shapes your current attitude and behavior feeds your intelligence.
Some of these beliefs are imprints in our minds that we accumulated as a child. As such they become part of our subconscious mind. We’re not even aware of these particular beliefs and perspectives because they are so deeply etched that we simply function with them as though on auto-pilot. And they shape our everyday habits, words, and thoughts. Acknowledging this is another important step in cultivating self-awareness.
There are ways to become better at examining our perspective. It’s difficult to examine our perspective and become more open when our mind is distracted or when we feel anxious or stressed. We are most open to learning and changing belief states in deeper states of relaxation when our brain waves slow from beta, our active thinking state, to alpha and even theta. Young children operate in an alpha state, which is why they are sponges for new learning. As adults, the more we practice slowing our brain waves, the more quickly we can learn to do it. Traditional practices like meditation, chanting, and relaxing yoga movement classes move us into a state where our nervous system relaxes and when the brain waves slow down. With regular practice of relaxation and dropping down into alpha we are better able to consider why we think the way we do and be open to other ways.
Consider cultivating a regular practice of meditation or a yoga movement practice. Choose a yoga movement practice that relaxes your body and mind. Some people need more movement to find relaxation and others need to simply lie on bolsters (pillows) to relax. It’s an individual choice but there are yoga classes and teachers to support any need. At work, try to practice centering yourself each day until you begin to relax and feel your mind slow down.
A few opportunities for examining your perspective include:
- When you observe or read something different that makes you uncomfortable or anxious.
- When you become particularly curious about a topic.
- When you notice that you are becoming very judgmental or fixated on doing things the way they’ve always been done.
- When you are having trouble moving forward with an initiative.
- When someone comes to you with a new idea or opinion and you feel like disregarding it.
Each of these situations offers an opportunity to ask yourself why you feel that way. When we question our perspective and intentionally re-examine it, we are armed with new information feeding our stores of knowledge and adding new imprints in our mind. This process doesn’t necessarily mean we change our mind, to the contrary, it can serve to validate and empower current beliefs as well. We simply become more intelligent and discerning. Most of the time though, with a broadened base of knowledge we will naturally reframe our perspective in a more open way. This process of examining perspective, questioning, then expanding perspective while in a relaxed state will allow you to feed your intelligence while opening up to new ideas and possibilities.
Inspiring leaders have great habits of health and wellbeing. They invest in their success by investing in themselves. Serving as a great example every day is the best service we can offer the world.
To download Five Keys to Unlocking Health, Happiness, and Meaning in Life, sign up for my mailing list www.tarramitchell.com. For more of my thoughts on leadership, personal growth, and success as find me on Twitter: @tarrammitchell and/or Facebook: @tarrammitchell.
Tarra Mitchell is incorporating her distinctive background in business and yoga to contribute to the great conversation around leadership and consciousness. Her upcoming book, The Yoga of Leadership, shows how personal wellbeing is connected to success to inspire and empower leaders to lead healthier, happier lives, and better connect with and engage their teams.
Watch Tarra’s author video below to learn more about The Yoga of Leadership.