I’m sure we’ve all met those special people who take an open-hearted approach to life. In my experience they are the ones who smile at strangers, who listen more than they talk (and then when they do talk they ask questions about others). They are outgoing but not overbearing, openly kind to others – and not just because they want to look good. They are usually up for any challenge, however scary or difficult. And while they do care what other people think, they don’t let a fear of failure or criticism hold them back.
So what can the rest of us learn from them? How do we all become just a little more open-hearted?
Being less judgemental
A big part of their secret, for me, comes down to equanimity. By this, I mean their equal-handed approach to everything and everyone. Rather than bringing too much of themselves into every situation, making judgements on every interaction they have, they try to take each experience on face value. This is actually much harder than it sounds. It involves being very aware of our reactions – to people, or the situation we find ourselves in – and seeing when and where we are making judgements, good and bad.
Do we avoid speaking to someone because we find them annoying? Do we talk to someone else because we find them easy to chat too, or because they make us feel good about ourselves? Do we say certain things because we feel defensive or insecure about certain aspects of our lives?
Being able to recognise the mental baggage that we attach to every situation, in turn helps us to understand the things that are holding us back, as well as the things that motivate us. By being more aware of the judgements we make about everyone and everything, good and bad, we can begin to try and approach every situation with a more open heart.
That word ‘heart’ is an important one because there is clearly a big emotional angle to all of this. Taking a more open approach to life also comes down to opening ourselves up emotionally – in many ways, making ourselves more vulnerable.
By sticking to the people and situations that make us feel safe, by building emotional walls around the ways we interact with the world around us, we feel secure, but far less engaged.
In my experience, when we have a positive engagement with the world, when we try to bring as few judgements to each situation as possible, and when we push ourselves to do things that are outside of our comfort zone, we really begin to feel alive. And it’s something we probably all know to be true. When we stand up and deliver a presentation we feel nervous about and it goes well; when we go over to someone we’ve never met before at a party and then spend the rest of the evening chatting; or when we confront and resolve a long standing and difficult issue we have with a colleague – these are the moments when taking a more open attitude pays off.
Having a more open attitude can bring all sorts of benefits into our own lives and our relationships with others. It can help us to conquer our own fears and personal hang ups. It can help us to have a little more equanimity in our approach to other people and other situations, and encourage us to be kinder, more compassionate, less judgmental and more open to new people and experiences.
And, ultimately, it is just an exciting and invigorating way to approach things. When we take a ‘let’s just go for it and see what happens’ approach to life, that life suddenly becomes a whole lot richer and more interesting.
About Graham Tomlinson’s blog
Graham Tomlinson blogs regularly on his website, and has designed the perfect platform for sharing mindfulness & self-improvement tips with as many people as possible.