How To Change Your Mind

change your mind

“Those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything.”

– George Bernard Shaw

Some people would rather hack off a limb than change their mind.

Perhaps a slight exaggeration, but it doesn’t change the fact that changing your mind is one of the hardest things you can ever do.

Once you have a specific idea in your head – whether it’s an idea about who someone is, the way something should work, the way something happened or the way something should happen – it becomes sticky.  Your brain becomes attached to it and expects it to be there, just like you with that limb of yours.

With a stubborn streak a mile-wide, I know this all too well.

But sticking stubbornly to your view of the world is like boarding yourself into your living room, switching the lights off and hiding under the sofa cushions.  It’s kinda limiting.

So here’s how to make changing your mind easy.

1.  Be Curious

Curiosity is the ultimate antidote to dogmatism.

There’s always another way to look at things and different ways that things can work, and being honestly, playfully curious about how things could be is how you spot something that works better.

In 2007 I threw out the way I was trained to coach people – a method my peers asserted was the very best – because I had a hunch there was a better way. I followed that hunch and took the difficult road of creating my own method that gets better results, and it’s curiosity that made room for that to happen.

The practice of sticking ceaselessly to your guns can’t be born or survive when you’re asking the right questions, and a curious spirit gifts you with possibility.

2.  Be Ready for Self-Justification

At some point your brain will shout at you “Whoa, hold on a second there peppy!  We already figured this out remember, don’t go and screw this up now

Your brain wants you to be right, so faced with the possibility of a new viewpoint it will do what it can to defend how it already sees things.  It will tell you that other people are wrong; it will tell you that changing your mind now would be wrong; and even if you have a vague notion that you might be wrong about something, it will tell you that sticking to your guns is what “strong” people do.

So prime yourself for this self-justification and see it for what it is – a bunch of hot air that’s focused on making you right rather making you happy.

3.  Embrace the leap

I refused to change my mind about my old career in corporate IT, and instead stuck with it and chose to believe it was what I was supposed to be doing. Eventually, my stubbornness and lack of insight caused a massive breakdown at a level I didn’t know was possible.

I consistently held myself back from that scary moment when you have to jump from one point of view to another, like you’re about to jump from one car to another when you’re barrelling down the freeway.

My amygdala fired and my brain told me that the safest way to go was to stick with the way things were or I’d end up as a hood ornament.

The same thing happens in your head – the thinking that stems from your brains’ safety cravings will hold you back from taking that leap until the outcome is certain.  It’s simply your brain trying to help you out and it’s nothing more than a legacy survival tactic.

So reassure yourself, take a breath and jump.

4.  Don’t Judge

You might find that you beat yourself up for not changing your mind earlier.  You might even judge yourself harshly for changing your mind at all, even if that change is a positive one.

Your brain doesn’t like to be wrong and will dismiss any inkling that you’re wrong by letting you know that you’ll look like an idiot if you change your mind.

This is, of course, complete nonsense.  Changing your mind in a positive context (i.e. not due simply to peer pressure or other irrelevant influences) is only ever a move that sees you expand.

Don’t judge yourself for flourishing.

5.  Fess up

It’s tempting to execute a cover up to hide any evidence that you changed your mind.  Can’t let people think less of you.  Can’t let it be known that you just did a U-turn.  Can’t let it be known that you were wrong.

But what if people thought more of you for changing your mind?  What if it didn’t matter what a few people might think?  What if having trust in your ability to choose was more important than your perceived status with others?

It’s tempting in my work to pretend to have all the answers and it’s ego-boosting to be seen as a guru. But there’s way more that I don’t know than I do know, and so when I try something with a client that I’m confident will work out great but simply isn’t working, I’ll hold my hands up, declare it a failed experiment and move us on.

That’s just as it should be.

Please don’t cover things up or pretend they never happened.  Admit when you’re wrong and cherish changing your mind.

6. Ride the curve

Staying rooted to the spot when life throws you a curve will guarantee a frustrated life full of “What If’s“.

Life IS full of curves, and to ride those curves you need to be willing to improvise.  Fortunately, you have the stunning ability to make up thinking along the way; an in-built mechanism to create your future.  It’s only by leveraging that ability – which requires you to acknowledge the magic of potentiality – that you get to see what life has in store.

I’ve been living with CFS/ME for over 5 years, and in order to help me integrate and live with the illness I’ve had to improvise so many new ways of doing things and thinking about things that I actually get a little dizzy thinking about it all. Riding the CFS/ME curve has benefitted me – and will continue to benefit me – in the most extraordinary ways.

Life’s curves can only be enjoyed by a mind that’s open to change.

What’s something you’ve changed your mind about? Please share your experiences in the comments below.

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25 thoughts on “How To Change Your Mind”

  1. This is so true and so self-defeating! You said: “Your brain doesn’t like to be wrong and will dismiss any inkling that you’re wrong by letting you know that you’ll look like an idiot if you change your mind.”

    I like your steps here. Especially being curious. With an attitude of discovery and adventure we can have a more flexible mind that simply wants to know and learn.

    I have a good friend who is a teacher and she simply wanted to believe that the moon always comes up when the sun goes down … always. Imagine, a teacher! That kind of rigid thinking doesn’t really allow for much change and doesn’t teach little munchkins how to have a flexible mind either I would say.

    1. Picture a whole generation who are encouraged to think flexibly and be curious…children who grow up being okay letting go of thinking that doesn’t work and are as eager to explore thoughts as they are the world.

      A teacher who offered that to their pupils would be pretty darn extraordinary…!

      1. That would be extraordinary, Steve! It makes me think of math as example, because a problem can usually be approached in several ways. Most teachers, especially in earlier years of school and even through high school, tend to teach one solution for one problem. Think of how much more fun math might be if more students saw the creative side of it, developing their own solutions to problems.

  2. Excellent post Steve. Not admitting I am wrong has been one of my many faults over the years, thankfully I’m getting to grips with that and it’s incredibly liberating NOT having to be right ALL the time! I like your figure it out as you go coaching style too – there are many strategies, techniques and processes out there. Like you I like to mix and match and insert some stuff from my own life experience too. About 9 years ago I changed my mind. I always thought I didn’t have what it takes to go it alone – then I did. 9 years later I’m still going from strength to strength, and I dictate what I do most days now. Stu :)

  3. After my husband died, I decided I had to keep his memory alive for my children, his family, and myself by saving things he liked, clothes, furniture, collections, etc. I became so obsessed with this that I disposed of the wrong things or things I liked better – thinking it would be selfish. He and I had very different tastes. Many years later I realize how much work and stress I created for myself.Overwhelming. Turns out the kids don’t remember a lot of the things I kept, nor do they even want them. I am working on changing my mind and focusing more on the memories than the stuff. I have 3 garages full of boxes and things I need to get rid of. I have done very well this summer, but not good enough because the little voice in my head tells me my husband would be disappointed – even though I know he would not have done the same for me. My thoughts drive me nuts sometimes!

    1. I can’t imagine how difficult the process you describe is. Of course you want to honour your husband, and I guess that’s woven pretty deeply into thoughts and behaviour.

      I don’t think your husband would be disappointed at all. You’re doing the best you can, and I’ll bet that he loved that about you.

  4. Well Hello Steve, I can certainly relate to this post, we all make mistakes and it serves our communities better if we are honest about the mistakes we have made but do not allow our sub-conscious to use them as sticks to beat ourselves with.

    As Carmelo said our children are being taught with clinical efficiency that allows no room for imagination or free thought, in the UK this has been applied so rigorously that mental illness in children is on the increase!

    I spent far too long avoiding looking internally for the answers, relying rather on buying answers and forcing them upon my sub-conscious, of course that was an expensive lesson and now its time to listen and learn from myself.


    1. Completely agree re the UK school system. Occasionally the government change their mind about how to run things in that regard, but seem to do so without reflection or a valuable intention.

      Sounds like you’ve been on quite the journey Igor. Keep listening and learning.

  5. Liked your start point about being curious. If we all just worked on this then I think the world would be a better place. It’s just so easy to pick up dogma along the way whether that’s from the media, politicians or just our drinking buddies. Being curious is something to work at.

  6. Good one Steve. Like you I took the leap out of the corporate world into Life Path Mentoring about 5 years ago. It was tough to be seen as nuts for leaving behind the security, and to have people begin to see the real, deeper, me. It has been the most amazing journey and it was the best thing I have ever done. Life is change embracing it is the only way we can find joy.

  7. Great post Steve. I know for me, that sometimes I get so attached to a particular situation or outcome that I fight myself when I know that the best thing to do would be to just change my mind.

    To try another approach, go a different direction or just stop what I’m doing completely and do something totally different.

    I am learning that it’s ok to change my mind even if it means that I have to give up on my original plan and start over.

  8. Let’s be honest: changing one’s mind is one of the hardest things to do.

    You might have the best intentions to do just that, but unless you see (in the moment) what you’re doing in your head (and by doing in your head, I mean the thoughts you’re entertaining in the various representational systems) you’re going to be hard pressed to change your thought patterns.

    I have been traumatized quite a bit when I was younger, and that led me to focus my mind in many ways that did not serve me. In other words past trauma causes you to want to avoid danger, in order to do that you have to focus on danger, which sends a very powerful signal to your brain to create the very thing you’re wanting to avoid.

    The most powerful way to change your focus on a fundamental level is increasing your awareness, and I know no other tool that accomplishes that faster than a binaural meditation practice.

    Again, your best intentions are a drop in the bucket, unless you cultivate the witness. I have found that to be very true on my own path, and again, technological meditaiton is the means to accomplish just that, and much faster than a traditional contemplative practice.

    Mind control boils down to awareness, which is tighly tied to a meditation practice. Thank god for technology in that realm as well, making things easy and guaranteed right from the get go.

  9. Hi Farouk,

    to combat fears means to add further resistance. Fear is focusing on what you do not want, resisting is really the same thing.

    The key to change is awareness, that’s why I’ve mentioned meditation as a tool to create awareness.

    You might want to check out my website I am actually providing an amazing tool for dramatically accelerating the meditation process and creating increased awareness in a very powerful, effortless, and fast way.

    Regards, David

  10. I didn’t exactly change my mind about it ; I was in nursing school at an expensive university. I get kick out ..I made a mistake. .I tried rectify my mistake and nothing got me back in my program. So now I have a degree I am not sure what to do it I know …my lot in life has change but it’s really scary to be this unsure of my next step

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