Four Common Mind Traps To Avoid

It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it.

– Aristotle

I’ve always considered myself to be a pretty open-minded and flexible person, but when I read this quote from Aristotle, it led me to question if my mind was really as “educated” as I would like. As you work with your life coaching clients, consider whether these common mind traps may be part of the reason they are “stuck” and not making the progress they want.

Often, a mindset shift is one of the most powerful steps you can help your life coaching clients take. It can quite literally change the way they see and experience the world.

To me, this definition of an educated mind means not being afraid of differing ideas and viewpoints. Not feeling threatened by intellectual challenges that may bring into question some of your beliefs, values, ideals, goals, or even your purpose.

Do you ever find yourself rejecting ideas or thoughts that challenge your beliefs right off the bat, without even considering whether they could be true?

Here are 4 common traps that may be preventing you from being as open-minded as you might like to be…

1) You gravitate toward people that agree with you and reject those with differing viewpoints. I recently saw an interesting story by George Stephanopoulos about the polarization of America. According to the report, our nation is more divided today than at any previous point since the Civil War.

“In interviews with political leaders, media analysts, and people in communities around the country, ABC News found what appears to be a new phenomenon: the polarization is feeding on itself. It’s not just politicians, business or religious leaders, liberals or conservatives – or the media: It’s each of us. And it’s alarming.”

They call it “The Big Sort,” surrounding ourselves with people who are like us. It’s happening in cities, towns, and even neighborhoods. And it’s not just in politics where this phenomenon occurs.

It’s probably even more prevalent online, where it’s easy to reject or ban those with different viewpoints by calling them trolls or ‘disruptive.’ The lack of civility and common courtesy in many online communities aggravates the problem on both sides. I see it happening online all the time.

You can read the whole story and watch the video here:

Small step you can take: Expose yourself to differing ideas and viewpoints. BookTV frequently has interesting discussions from authors representing all sorts of viewpoints on relevant issues. Check out the weekend schedule and see if you find a topic that intrigues you.

2) You get all your information from the same sources. Do you get all your information from the same news channel, websites, blogs? Do you only watch Fox News, or MSNBC, or CNN?

Is it because of convenience, or because you know you won’t find any “threatening” information or differing viewpoints?

Small step: Watch 10 minutes of the “other” news channel, or read a story from a different website or blog than you normally would.

3) You label people who don’t match your way of thinking. There are two extremes for this… Labeling people as crazy, loony, far-out, or the other extreme, labeling people as close-minded, “asleep,” or lacking awareness.

Then there’s all the labels in between… liberal, conservative, right-winger, far-left, progressive, etc.

Some people really are crazy, far-out, or close-minded, but many are not.

Small step: Catch yourself when you are about to label a person or group.

4) You fail to realize that people have different experiences, backgrounds, and perspectives, and most of us do things for a good reason. Not everyone sees the world as you do, and that’s usually a good thing.

Psychologists have discovered that most of us tend to assume that we have a good reason for our behavior, while at the same time believing that other people do things because of the “kind of person” they are. This phenomenon is called the fundamental attribution error.

Small step: Consider that other people may also have a good reason for doing what they do.