How Can Being Open-Minded Help You Flourish?

Open-mindedness is considered the quality of being willing and able to consider alternative perspectives that are different or new to your own and to revise and even reject your own previously held beliefs in light of new evidence.

According to Peterson and Seligman (2004), “open-mindedness is the willingness to search actively for evidence against one’s favored beliefs, plans, or goals, and to weigh such evidence fairly when it is available”.

Being open-minded requires awareness of the existence of multiple standpoints and limitations of your understanding. In this sense, open-mindedness encourages you to not jump to conclusions but to consider alternative opinions and evaluate them on their merits.

Open-mindedness is an intellectual virtue. The opposite of open-mindedness implies dogmatism.

In a book written by John Lambie, he identifies perspective taking, such as considering more than one perspective and shifting between different perspectives, and critical revision of different points of view as features differentiating open-mindedness from dogmatic close-mindedness. Being closed-minded implies disregarding alternative perspectives and the evidence that goes against your favorable belief and no shift between perspectives.

How being open-minded benefits you

Open-mindedness is identified as one of the 24 character strengths included in the Values in Action (VIA) classification of character strengths proposed by Peterson and Seligman (2004).

Character strengths consist of a group of positive personality traits that emphasize constructive, adaptive, and growth-oriented personality aspects which play a role in individual well-being.    Character strengths enable positive psychological growth, contribute to individual flourishing and well-being, and promote resilience in dealing with adversities and difficulties in life by serving as a buffer against mental problems and resources for human flourishing (Mayerson, 2020).   

Open-mindedness, in this sense, is a strength of character which functions to counterbalance widespread weakness in thinking which is the tendency to be biased in favor of ideas that one already holds strongly in mind (Peterson and Seligman, 2004).

Open-mindedness and well-being

Well-being, with respect to psychological well-being, focuses on the process of living well, personal growth, and positive psychological functioning. 

Psychological well-being emphasizes meaning and purpose in life, self-actualization, and flourishing. According to Ryff’s (1989) categorization of psychological well-being, there are six key areas of optimal psychological functioning which are as follows: 

  1. environmental mastery, 
  2. personal growth, 
  3. purpose in life, 
  4. autonomy, 
  5. self-acceptance, 
  6. and positive relationships with others.

Study findings show the association between character strengths and well-being. With regard to open-mindedness, research reveals that it correlates with autonomy and personal growth (Harzer, 2016). 

Following Ryff’s (1989) categorization of the six key dimensions of psychological well-being, autonomy involves self-determination and independence; personal growth highlights continued self-improvement as well as openness to new experiences.

Similarly, Taylor (2017) suggests that open-mindedness as an intellectual virtue is crucial for the development of the capacity for personal autonomy and motivation to exercise autonomy. That is because open-mindedness enables individuals to improve their understanding and knowledge by seeking novelty and engaging positively with the perspectives of other people through critical reflection.

Martínez-Martí and colleagues (2020) conducted a study during a specific period of the Covid-19 pandemic, study results reveal that character strengths are positively associated with resilience. Moreover, their study findings suggest that all character strengths predict increased mental health, and the group of intellectual strengths, including open-mindedness, predicts better life satisfaction which is related to the need to adapt to a new way of life during the pandemic.

In conclusion

Exercising open-mindedness involves a willingness to challenge one’s already existing convictions which in turn encourage people to seek novelty, gain new insights and be open to new experiences. Maintaining an open mindset allows people to shift between and evaluate different perspectives and thus one’s knowledge and experiences continue to expand.

To know more about the practice of open-mindedness, check out Wellbeing Science Labs. Using the research of the Institute for Life Management Science, the lab produces courses, certifications, podcasts, videos, and other learning materials. Visit the Wellbeing Science Labs today.

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