It’s ok not to know where you are heading, just so long as you are open to what you find along the way. After all, being closed to new ideas keeps us ignorant, sheltered from new opportunities and connections.
Think of the good things in your life. Were they all expected and planned? Did they arrive on time, as expected? Or did they appear on those days, when you were a little more open, a touch less jaded and open to what life has to offer?
But why is it important to remain open?
Openness reflects who we are, our outlook regarding new opportunities — our readiness to engage in change. It even predicts whether we experience chills from something aesthetically pleasing — that piece of music, a sunset, a smile from someone we love.
And yet, while openness is one of psychology’s Big 5 personality traits, there is even debate over its name and how its constructed.
We do know that it shapes intellectual curiosity. The 90-year old using the internet, and the young child exploring the piano’s sounds, are both open to experience.
And yet, Dutch research suggests that as we age, we become less open to new experiences. We could be missing out on a much richer experience in our later years.
So, how do we stop the decline?
Surprisingly, we can rebuild and maintain openness. Making time for cultural activities, such as art, music, and museums appears to preserve and foster openness over our lifetime. Such cognitively stimulating encounters expand the breadth of the individuals’ behavior and the depth of their experience.
But why culture? Well, art reflects being human, our capacity to go beyond the concrete and engage with the abstract.
And there are other ways, too, for increasing our openness. That Sudoko puzzle book that you never opened and the crossword puzzle at the back of your Sunday newspaper will help. Research from 2012 confirmed that you can teach an old dog new tricks by using mental challenges to challenge the brain.
Lastly, increasing our exposure to other cultures broadens our minds and breaks down narrow perceptions. Additional interaction with people and places different from what we are used to reduces our prejudice while making us more ready for new experiences.
Openness may be your best way of maintaining humanity throughout your life.
Remaining open to experiences, encounters, feelings, and thoughts leads to a richness that adds something special to every day.
Being open is that first smile at someone new, remaining vulnerable, and seeing life as the gift it is.
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