Flexibility in your beliefs and mental models is a key part of intelligence and leadership. Your beliefs influence how you see the world. Only being able to see things one way confines you to a mental jail and keeps you from solving problems.
Think of the 4-minute mile. When everyone believed breaking it was impossible, almost nobody tried. Once the first man did, within months another followed. Now high school boys have done it.
Do you want to trap yourself below your potential by limiting your beliefs?
I don’t know what beliefs’ changes will help you improve your life most, but I guarantee that developing the skills of flexibility of beliefs and openness to new ones will enable you to change more and be trapped less.
I find that challenging ever more fixed beliefs develops the skills of changing beliefs like lifting ever heavier weights develops muscles.
A change in belief
What belief could be more solid than what motherhood means. We all know maternal means nurturing, caring, and sensitive, right?
The other day I was reading a post on how nasty some people get in criticizing others and pointed out that an important part of being maternal among mammals is a mother’s viciousness in attacking threats to her babies. I’d never thought of it. At first, vicious attacks seemed the opposite of maternal, but then, as happens when you open yourself to alternative beliefs, the new belief started making sense.
I couldn’t help but think of the bear scene in The Revenant. The clip below doesn’t show the man stumbling on the bear cubs, only discovering himself caught between the mother and the cubs. Few people would describe the bear’s behavior as maternal, but that’s exactly what it is. A quick web search showed that Hugh Glass, the man Leonardo Di Caprio played, did stumble on a mother and her cubs.
I don’t mean to put down motherhood. Most of us love our mothers, after all. But I was surprised at the big shift that happened when I expanded my belief to include vicious attacks to threats to her babies. But now I can’t help but see that bear as being maternal. And other behavior I’ve seen of, say vicious online attacks from otherwise nurturing, caring, sensitive mothers, makes more sense. They are being maternal under this other model. Making yourself appear a risk to a mother’s babies is risky.
(I should clarify I’m talking in general, not about any mothers in particular, certainly not mine).
It fit with a pattern I’ve found that adopting some beliefs is hard and makes you feel uncomfortable. Lifting heavier weights is hard and makes you feel uncomfortable too, but that discomfort is physical. With new beliefs, the discomfort is emotional.
Flexibility in beliefs leads to more flexibility in beliefs
I started thinking of what paternal meant too. Usually we don’t like people being “paternalistic.” We think of fathers as stern. Many of us would describe the men in the pictures below as showing their maternal side.
I suggest that they aren’t being maternal, but are being completely masculine and paternal, but that the mainstream view of maternal and paternal don’t encapsulate how mothers and fathers actually are in nature.
That’s not good, bad, right, or wrong—just different ways of viewing the world. Nor does looking at the world differently change it. It only opens yourself to new perspectives.
What new beliefs can you accept?
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