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3 minute read

Changing Your Mind: How to Rethink and Unlearn to Achieve Success

We often acknowledge intelligence, talent, and competence as important traits of successful people. But there is something more crucial: the ability to rethink and unlearn even their most deep-rooted values and beliefs. Challenging one’s beliefs leads to curiosity, and thereby the discovery of new knowledge. Grant, organisational psychologist and author of Think Again, wrote, “If knowledge is power, knowing what we don’t know is wisdom.”

Society often measures success by the accolades that lines one’s shelves, the Ivy Leagues one has attended, or the number of ground-breaking research papers one has written, and so on.

While these achievements are noteworthy, sometimes, our existing knowledge can be the very thing that hinders our growth. Cognitive skills might matter more: the ability to rethink and unlearn; recognising when to abandon your most cherished tools and parts of your identity when they are no longer relevant.

Rethinking starts with acknowledging what we don’t know. As we lay this out, we doubt how much we know – or think we know.

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Why is it so hard to shed our old views and beliefs?

People prefer the comfort of conviction over the discomfort of doubt. We tend to accept views that make us feel good, and we like it when people agree to our opinions without challenging us. On the flip side, we feel uneasy when new ideas shake our core beliefs and make us rethink.

There is also pride and arrogance – if and when you’re told you’re wrong or that there are better approaches, you assume people are questioning your intelligence and knowledge.

We reject what contradicts our beliefs because it makes us vulnerable, especially when those beliefs are tied strongly to our values and identities. However, we weren’t born with fixed values and ideas, and have the power to reshape these.

How do I ‘rethink’ – without overdoing it?

Grant wrote, “You can be confident in your ability to achieve a goal while maintaining the humility to question whether you have the right tools in the present. That’s the sweet spot of confidence.”

Constant rethinking and self-doubt may breed low self-esteem. Instead, maintaining humility is akin to having a reflective lens that helps us look deep within ourselves to conquer our weaknesses.

Let’s not be too fast to critique others when our beliefs are challenged, or when we believe to have found flaws in their reasoning. An open mind responds with curiosity and interest to discover and explore new territories. It encourages identifying problems, developing hypotheses and working on testing them.

Feigning knowledge is also a habit that must be eliminated. It’s where we lack competence but gloat in confidence. When we gain some experience on a task or situation, we assume we’re progressing and lose our humility, reinforcing a false sense of mastery. However, experience and some knowledge don’t equate to competence, and shouldn’t be mistaken for expertise.

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What good does rethinking do?

There’s joy in being wrong, for it’s an opportunity to be fed with accuracy.

A critical driver of success isn’t how much you know, but how often you update your mind.

Admitting to mistakes does not make us inadequate; it demonstrates an act of honesty and a hunger to learn.

Acknowledging what you don’t know requires humility. This motivates you to work harder, to find and use only accurate information that you have periodically updated in your knowledge tank. It makes you reliable because you will be armed with facts to prove that your statement is accurate.

Exercise discernment whilst being open-minded. Some situations require us to stand our ground if we truly know what and why we believe in it. The purpose of learning isn’t to assert our beliefs but to evolve them.

As Psychologist Carol Dweck wrote, “The growth mindset doesn’t mean everything that can be changed should be changed…especially the ones that don’t harm us or others.

This article is contributed by Good Job Creations.

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