On the subject of open-mindedness we have raised the idea that listening to others is good for us as we hear new ideas and new ways of doing things. If everyone was closed to new ideas think of the many inventions and other things that may have been delayed or never happened in our world.
Some are closed off though due to fear of change or they may just not want to be seen as having been wrong in the past. Sometimes we just like to hear ourselves talk and we may even be trying to impress others with how much we know and so never get to hear the thoughts of others.
There is a story in the martial arts world of a student who is visiting a master instructor who he really wants to impress with his own knowledge, thinking that this would bring special privileges as a student. After listening for quite a long time the master instructor invited the student to have some tea. He poured the tea continuously until the cup was overflowing. He continued to pour until the student could no longer stand it and screamed for him to stop. The teacher did stop and the student asked him why he poured to such an extent. The masters answer is telling. “Like this cup you’re full of your own ideas. How can I teach you anything unless you are willing to first empty your cup?” Is our cup empty or are we only filled with our own way of thinking?
Its not that all new ideas are good ideas. Its not that all ideas are good for everyone. It could be that some ideas may be good for some and not for others. But unless we are willing to hear them out we will not be in a position to think about them and make a choice.
The choice should be ours from a position of knowledge. When we hear about something new or a way of thinking about something that is different than our present way of thinking we need to choose if this is a good or bad choice for us. By the way just because an idea is new, bold, exciting, or innovative, does not mean that it may also be foolish. Only by using our own mind and careful consideration can we come to a conclusion that would be good for us or our family.
Recently we had a motivational speaker visit our school and he told me how he asks young children How many of you know how to color? They go wild telling him how they know how to color. Then he asks them How many of you know how to dance? Again the same reaction. But when speaking to a group of executives at a large conference he asked the same question and the question received a very timid response, many of them waiting to see if someone else was going to put their hand up.
As many of us get older we become very concerned about what others think and if we are going to fit in. In fact it many times stops us from trying new things or looking at new ways of doing something. What do you think goes through someones mind when they are thinking about trying something new, whether it is an idea, getting to know someone new or a new food? Well I am not sure if this is everything, but I am sure they are wondering if they are going to like it, is it going to be easy, am I going to be good at it, are others going to laugh at me or it looks a bit scary.
Someone once said, ” Don’t fear failure so much that you refuse to try new things. The saddest summary of a life contains three descriptions: could have, might have, and should have.” I would be surprised if I ever met anyone who told me that they have never spoken those words. But wouldn’t it be a shame if we got to the end of our life and we said I should have tried to be an artist? I should have learned to play an instrument. I wish I had earned my black belt.
Most of the time the stories we make up in our head are worse than the reality. Once we get ourselves involved then we enjoy it much more than we even imagined. You will never know if you are going to like something until you try it and we must remember that even our favorite food or thing to do was once new to us. So here is the question for all of us. What is the answer when a person is fearful or nervous about trying something that they are not used too? As a friend or a leader how can we help? How about you as an individual, what could you try this month that would challenge one of your fears?