Rule 10: Be open to having your beliefs challenged.

Be open to having your beliefs challenged.  In other words, hold loosely to your outlook.  That does not mean that you have no beliefs, only that they will change and evolve over time.  That is the nature of everyone’s outlook or “worldview.”  Perhaps authors are more aware of this than others, since we have our words recorded for us to see as we evolve.  I often read what I wrote in the past and just sit and wonder “what was I thinking?”  Funny thing is, I don’t ever really remember choosing a difference in my beliefs.

Paradigms (a big, overused word for our worldview or outlook) are like that.  They are ever-changing and evolving.  As we process more information, we tend to make shifts along the way, many quite invisible.  Sometimes, but not often, we have our belief system turned upside-down, an event we often refer to as “life-altering” or “life-changing.”  So, setting those brief moments of life aside, I am thinking more about those small shifts.  The ones that move us closer to clarity and reality, those are the ones I am pointing toward.

So why hold loosely?  Because we usually notice and look for events that confirm our beliefs, and we ignore or undervalue and avoid that which contradicts our beliefs.  That is “confirmation bias.”  We look for what confirms our bias.  And we all have biases, as much as we would like to think otherwise.

We are awash in information, and our senses are only able to process so much of it, so we all take shortcuts.  These mental shortcuts end up molding and shaping our beliefs as time goes on.  It then becomes what we notice, and don’t notice, that creates our bias.

Being open to having your beliefs challenged (not the same to “let your beliefs be changed”) means that we accept that our perceptions are just that:  perceptions instead of reality.  There are others with different views of reality.  We may not accept them, but we do need to be open to the challenge.  It is too easy to merely dismiss someone as “irrational,” “crazy,” “senseless,” or any other dismissive label we tend to us.  The challenge is to let them be a challenge.  What if they are correct?

A lack of our own imagination does not negate the imagination of others.  Think of our current financial situation.  The “tipping point” was the risky bundling of even riskier assets by financial institutions.  Few people saw the crisis coming.  The few that did were somewhat quiet in announcing it — they knew that in those boom years, their voice would be underappreciated and seen as pessimistic.  Now, looking back, we see that the signs were there.  It is all-too-obvious now, but we missed it then.  Lack of imagination.  Unwillingness to have a belief challenged.  Either way, we were not noticing what was going on until it became inevitable.

Paradigms are like that:  our own incapacity to imagine something else keeps us from seeing what might be coming.  It is nothing new.  Even with mounting evidence, many (especially the religious leaders) refused to hear that our planet was circling the sun.  As observation after observation mounted evidence on top of evidence, it took a long while for the shift to happen.  But once the Copernican Revolution finally happened, it became nearly impossible to see things the other way.

So, Rule 10:  be open to other possibilities.  Let your beliefs be challenged.