There exist many wonderful quotes about what an open mind is and what it comes to represent to different people. To start this blog on an inspirational note, I thought I’d mention a couple of them – and I’ll mention especially those that resonate with me (apologies for not being sure who the authors are):
“An open mind is a mind of curiosity, wonder, learning, infinite possibilities and a beautiful desire for understanding.”
“A person open to all things and ideas is by default wiser than the one that is not.”
“When you are open to everything, nothing is impossible.”
And while these quotes are probably enough to confirm that open mind is very important in order to be happy as an expat, I’d still like to explore a bit further. I’d like to explore what it is that closes our minds.
Making assumptions and passing judgments – these two attitudes are often to blame for keeping our mind closed rather than open. Let’s look at making assumptions first.
We live our lives by making assumptions. Sometimes we are right and sometimes we are not. After living in a culture for a long time (or for our entire life) we are full of assumptions that have been created by our experience with that culture. When we move, we automatically assume the same about the new place. For instance, if in my “old home” colleagues didn’t bother me when I closed my office door, then I am going to assume that things should be the same in my “new home”. And why not? Should not people know what a closed door means?
You see how this idea about “what people know about closed doors” becomes an assumption based on previous experience? And if we take this assumption to be the truth (which is what we do most of the time), then we encounter a lot of frustration in dealing with the new situation. Instead of keeping an open mind and inquiring about the meaning of a closed door in the new culture, I may assume that it’s the lack of respect and the lack of manners that makes people come in freely when I have my door closed.
And now about passing judgments. The new country we’ve ended up in has been in existence long before our plane deposited us there. People here are used to being and doing things their way. No matter how much it may bother us and no matter how much we disagree, a judgmental attitude will get us nowhere. Remember we don’t own the absolute truth of how to be. There are many different truths and realities out there. And when we have an open mind – free of judgments and assumptions – we are more able to see the different truths and realities.
Where do you assume? Where may you judge? And how does that affect your learning and your life as an expatriate?
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