Intellectual curiosity also helps because it encourages you to simply pursue knowledge and dig below the surface level of information you are bound to find.
View people as sources of complex, fascinating knowledge and seek to discover it for your own benefit.
To lower your guard enough to properly learn, you also need to learn to avoid the echo chamber, which is where your opinions and viewpoints get amplified.
Instead, you need to get into the habit of seeking out opposing and alternative viewpoints to avoid confirmation bias.
The final aspect of humility is to tell yourself that you are never quite at your destination.
This isn’t to lower your self-esteem; rather, it’s to put you into the mode of constant learning and always striving for more, as opposed to being satisfied with adequacy.
We are all unfinished products; at least view yourself that way in order to feel that continual learning and progress is necessary.
- The Art of Intentional Thinking: Master Your Mindset. Control and Choose Your Thoughts. Create Mental Habits to Fulfill Your Potential (Second Edition) By Peter Hollins
- Get the audiobook on Audible at https://bit.ly/IntThink
- Show notes and/or episode transcripts are available at https://bit.ly/self-growth-shownotes
- Peter Hollins is a bestselling author, human psychology researcher, and a dedicated student of the human condition. Visit https://www.PeteHollins.com to pick up your FREE human nature cheat sheet: 7 surprising psychology studies that will change the way you think.
- For narration information visit Russell Newton at https://bit.ly/VoW-home
- For production information visit Newton Media Group LLC at https://bit.ly/newtonmg
The Echo Chamber
Speaking of challenging what you think you know, there’s a phenomenon that’s snared a good portion of the population roughly since the dawn of the new millennium, especially those with rather strident and unshakeable belief systems.
It’s the echo chamber.
This runs counter to the intellectually curious mindset, in which the most important part of learning is learning from people outside your immediate comfort or knowledge zone.
The echo chamber is a closed-off precept in which humans of all stripes and kinds tend to circulate in packs whose beliefs match their own.
Rather than reach out to hear alternative or opposing viewpoints, they seek to find more “information” that supports their own opinions or standards.
In reality, they only end up hearing echoes of their own viewpoints and opinions.
This kind of mindset is called “confirmation bias.” Confirmation bias leads someone to seek out and legitimize “proof” that confirms the beliefs and theories we already espouse—and to shut out, declaim, and often berate evidence that disproves our beliefs.
You see this quite frequently in current political discourse, which often leads to the acceptance of “fake news” that validates our own views.
If you want to find evidence that smoking is healthy, all you need to do is type “smoking is healthy” into a search engine and you’ll have found your echo chamber.
But it also occurs on more personal levels.
If you’ve decided that a casual acquaintance is a philanderer, you might ignore testimony about their committed relationship and believe that friend of a friend who might have seen them possibly hook up with someone else from a distance.
The confirmation bias mindset can lead to far more than just intellectual rot; we’ve seen it damage relationships and long-time friendships.
Avoiding confirmation bias and seeking to challenge your own beliefs is akin to the humbleness that one needs to learn, which takes a drastically different approach than merely finding only people to agree with.
It’s tough and truly requires being open to the fact that you might need to humble yourself.
One method in doing that is to take a certain belief or inclination that you have and to come up with two different hypotheses that differ from it—so you have three different theories to work with.
Not only do you want your original belief and its theoretical opposite, but you also want a third explanation that might float between the two extremes or occupy a certain gray area that neither extreme necessarily considers.
Seek out opposing perspectives or something that will prove the opposite of your assumptions or views.
Collect as much information as you can, and make sure you’re learning instead of confirming your biases and subconsciously seeking out your own echo chamber.
Then go to town and research your beliefs, finding evidence or explanations that support all three hypotheses.
There’s a good chance you might find yourself slightly updating or revising your original theory—and that’s a win.
It reflects your ability to understand from all sides, and you’ll find out which of your core beliefs are the most important.
As an example, I’m going to try and pick a “controversial” topic that’s so ridiculous it will make nobody upset: let’s say you have a firmly held belief that the Abominable Snowman actually exists and is causing trouble for dwellers in the Himalayas.
That’s your one hypothesis.
Coming up with an opposing hypothesis should be pretty simple.
The Abominable Snowman does not exist, and Himalayans are doing just fine.
A third theory might be trickier, but it could be that the Abominable Snowman didn’t quite exist as we knew him: he was in fact an extremely tall, antisocial, and hairy man that most of the Himalayans didn’t like.
The first thing I’d do is find as neutral of a source as possible to find what we definitely know about the Abominable Snowman.
I no doubt would have plenty of sources confirming my beliefs (websites, sympathetic friends), so I would go to them to find statements that support my own view.
Then—and this is where we all experience discomfort— I would seek out information from sources who diametrically oppose my point of view (other websites, friends who tell the truth, most mountaineering experts) and try to summarize their viewpoints.
I’d then try to find information supporting my third hypotheses.
It’s likely I would find enough information to at least revise my opinion of the Abominable Snowman’s existence or change it altogether.
I would take a note of that.
(Once again, I urge you to come up with an actual belief or controversy that’s not this unbelievable.
Also, I apologize to any hardcore Abominable Snowman believers.) This approach to tackling confirmation bias is supportive of another extraordinarily helpful mindset to cultivate: the humble, inquisitive mindset.
Humility is often confused for weakness of character, whereas qualities like presumptuousness, arrogance, pretension, and closed-mindedness are considered outward signs of inner strength.
This is possibly the biggest fallacy of philosophy in the present world—the truth is the exact opposite.
Humility and curiosity show strength of character and the self-confidence to investigate the world and not be shaken down by new understandings or beliefs.
In contrast, people who exhibit arrogance and narrowness almost always do so out of insecurity—they’re covering up something that makes them very, very vulnerable.
Intellectual curiosity suffers under the delusion of arrogance.
While the humility mindset offers access to deeper understanding and gained knowledge, the opposite mindset courts failure because the need to be “right”—or not even that, but just to be “certain”—is a need of the ego.
The ego cares only about insularity and protection.
It cares not one whit for learning, which in turn has nothing to do with ego (because you know nothing, remember?).
Intellectual curiosity leads to learning, even if it’s not the kind of answer you were expecting to find.
The egotistical approach leads to failure because of the arrogant “need” to be correct.
The point of the humility mindset is to check your pride during the course of learning.
You don’t have to chuck all of it out the door at other times (though it probably wouldn’t hurt), but at least in the act of finding new things, listening to others, and discovering new truths, set your pride aside.
Confronting our own beliefs isn’t easy because we fear the prospect that we’ve lived under false impressions for most of our lives.
Adopting the always-learning mindset relieves a good deal of that fear—and makes eliminating confirmation bias more of an opportunity than a risk.
You’re Never There: Perpetual Progress vs. Achievement
Finally, here’s some stone-cold truth that will bug some of you but hopefully relieve most of you: you are a work in progress and always will be.
You will experience monumental changes in the way you think, feel, and behave over long periods of time.
Most of these will be improvements and developments on your way to becoming an amazing human being.
But you will, unfortunately, never quite be there—at least in mindset.
It’s not that you won’t accomplish great things or shouldn’t show some pride in your achievements.
It’s just that you can’t stop there.
Albert Einstein published his theory of general relativity—arguably the most significant scientific moment of the 20th century—in 1915.
He could have stopped right there and cemented his legacy forever.
But he continued to refine his theory throughout the next decade and a half, incorporating information about electromagnetism and finally updating his findings with the theory of distant parallelism in 1929.
Only when he felt he was finished did he move on to other theories.
Our actions are highly susceptible to the labels we give ourselves—the short and terse descriptors that we use to identify who we are.
This is especially true with negative identifications: “lazy,” “stupid,” “weak,” “unstable,” “angry,” or “unimportant.” That’s why I suggest a change in your mindset of self- identification: the elimination of the phrase “I am” and the adoption of the phrase “I’m working on it.” When you say “I am,” you’re immediately giving yourself a label that frankly acts more like a stamp: “I am lazy,” “I am stupid,” and so on.
You’ve crystallized that belief and made it part of you.
That makes change so much harder.
If you really are lazy, the “I am” statement has boxed you in that corner and branded itself to you.
But changing that statement to reflect what you want to become, you’ve flipped the momentum.
Instead of saying “I’m lazy,” say “I’m working on being more industrious and productive.” Instead of saying “I’m stupid,” say “I’m working on improving my knowledge and study skills.” Instead of saying “I’m unstable,” say “I’m working on knowing my triggers and how to react more evenly.” Even if you’re completely broke, don’t say “I’m broke”—say “I’m working on managing my finances and finding ways to earn income.” Will some people think that’s just a roundabout way of saying “I’m broke”? Probably.
But that’s their label, not yours.
They’re just being judgmental—or I should say, “They’re working on being more empathetic and accepting of people in challenging circumstances.” This way of thinking also keeps you in line with the humility aspect of the learning mindset if you flip it toward your positive traits.
Instead of saying “I’m smart,” try saying “I’m working on being smart.” Instead of saying “I’m talented,” say “I’m working on developing my talents.” You’re not saying you’re not smart or talented.
You’re saying you’re working on improving yourself— which can and should be an unending process.
In turn, it might increase your enthusiasm for learning and discovering new things rather than stunting your enthusiasm with the idea that you already know it all.
Not only are you removing the disparaging quality from your identity, but you’re also articulating your purpose every time you say you’re working on something.
And you’ll always be working on it—because we never stop learning.