“Everything we hear is an opinion, not a fact. Everything we see is a perspective, not the truth.” – Marcus Aurelius
In the movie “Vantage Point” there is an explosion at an outside address in Spain, and the US president is shot. The movie then follows the movements of eight people before, during and immediately after the event, and with each “replay”, more of the puzzle pieces begin to fit. Eventually the story that was presented in the beginning has completely changed, and a much bigger plot becomes obvious. But without all of the perspectives, it would be impossible to have pieced it all together. Life works like that, although very often we tend to think that our perspective constitutes the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.
Remarkable people have cultivated the art of stepping outside of their own paradigms, and accepting that there may be other views that are as important, if not more so, than their own. They have trained their minds to be agile, to be creative, and to question the basic assumptions and contexts upon which they build their beliefs, habits and opinions. They realize that they form part of a greater whole, and that they alone do not hold the whole truth.
What is remarkable about this trait is that it requires much more than just a shift in perspective – it requires a shift in the heart. If you are to be mentally agile, you need to be teachable, which requires humility, respect, curiosity and maturity. You need to accept that any other person on this earth, no matter what age, race, gender, faith or station, is someone you can learn from.
But how is it possible to be mentally agile, and also have strong convictions? Last week I wrote about remarkable people standing for something. And here is the catch: Mentally agile people will be able to see someone else’s point of view, and even respect that point of view, without necessarily agreeing with it. In fact, is that not precisely the cornerstone of freedom of speech? A strong standpoint, or conviction, is made much stronger when tested and compared, than when blindly defended and protected.
The easily offended person cannot be mentally agile. Mental agility means not seeing every idea that is different to yours as a threat, but rather as an opportunity to learn.
After all, how can you learn something new if you aren’t willing to listen?
And speaking of learning something new, this year’s Live2Lead conference in October features five mentally agile leaders! Get inspired at www.live2lead-capetown.co.za.
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