Change your mind

Man will occasionally stumble over the truth, but usually manages to pick himself up, walk over or around it and carry on.

– Winston Churchill

One of the biggest challenges I faced in the area of my work is to convince my clients to adopt new ideas. This is not an easy task as many have very fixed mindsets built over the years. But I do have a couple of clients who are just willing to explore anything. We would sit down to discuss, brainstorm and see how far we can go in our creative thinking. O, how I love to brainstorm. My mind will be whirling with creativity as I explore new possibilities; my heart will be pumping with excitement with lots of adrenalin flowing!

To defy our fear of change is a scary thing. Having our boats rocked is nerve- racking, least of all stepping out of it. Business Strategist and International Speaker, Jim Kwik once said this: If an egg is broken by an outside force, life ends. If broken by an inside force, life begins. Great things always begin from inside. How true. If you really want change, it has to first start from you. You must first decide to break the shell that surrounds you. It is easy to keep staying in your own comfort zone but the longer you do, you rot and die.

However, if you are willing to change your mindset and to come out of the shell, you will soon discover that there are indeed new horizons, new grounds you can break into. You will begin to find new hope, exciting beginnings and perhaps discover a new you.

I don’t know about you but I am easy on my hairstylist when it comes to my hair. I have told her since day one to style my hair whichever way she likes. Trim, crop, layer, fringe, colour, highlight… whatever she thinks is good, I am open. Being an artist myself, I do understand the need to be given the freedom to create and not be inhibited by what one can or cannot do. After all, it is only hair not plastic surgery, so I see no point in fussing over something that will outgrow within a couple of months. No, I have not gone bold in colouring my hair blonde but I might someday, just for the fun of it!

Well, some months back, I needed a hair cut badly so I paid a visit to my hairdresser. As she was busy working on my head while I was slowly drowsing in my chair, in walked this lady wearing long straight hair. She threw herself on the chair just next to me and soon after, a hairdresser hurried over to serve her. The hairdresser asked, “So what can I do for you today?” The lady rattled in her ethnic accent and said, “I would like a new look. I am tired of this.” The hairdresser thought silently, ran his fingers through her strands and said, “I suggest we crop the length so you have a bob look.” Immediately, she rebutted, “No, I like it long.” The hairdresser tried again. “Ok. Mm…how about I do some layering at the side so that there is more shape and style.” The lady again rebutted, “No, it’s very hard to maintain.” This exchange went on for at least 10-15 minutes and I could tell from the reflection in the mirror that the hairdresser was getting a little impatient. As much as he tried, he could no longer convince her to change. He could only adhere to whatever she wanted. Well, about an hour later, I was awakened from my stupor by the buzzing sound and smell of hairspray. I looked up and realised that the lady next to me was done. I peeked at her so- called ‘new look’ and realised that it was EXACTLY the way it was when she first came in. Nothing much has changed. The style remains the same, the length just slightly shorter.

Have you ever tried talking sense to a person only to realise, after a while, that you are hitting a wall? The mindset, beliefs and convictions are so ingrained that it is impossible to penetrate through, least of all line a crack. Muhammad Yunus, Economist and Nobel Peace Prize recipient and the man behind the idea of microcredit and microfinance once said this: My greatest challenge has been to change the mindset of people… We see things the way our minds have instructed our eyes to see. I couldn’t agree more. In his book, The Green Bench II, author Dr Matt Rawlins, who also happens to be a good friend of mine, illustrated the fact that we build our perceptions and beliefs about our world based on the meanings we add to the data/observations we received in and around our lives. Based on these meanings, we begin to make assumptions and therefore draw certain conclusions. With these conclusions, we begin to adopt beliefs about the world we live in. Our actions eventually is based on such beliefs.

William James, an American philosopher and pyschologist once said: The world we see that seems so insane is the result of a belief system that is not working. To perceive the world differently, we must be willing to change our belief system, let the past slip away, expand our sense of now, and dissolve the fear in our minds. How true. A fixed mindset and a refusal to change is one of the biggest obstacle to growth. People with a fixed mindset and belief system are often intensely defensive when challenged with controversial ideas because their minds are so closed up, it leaves no entry for new ones. They become so concrete in their thinking, so conclusive on what they think is black and white, right and wrong, that they cannot see the in-betweens, thus shutting themselves from exploring new possibilities.

People with such mindsets may want to start a new chapter in their lives but their rigidity kept them from moving on. Instead, they keep re-reading the old chapters and eventually limit their own growth. They would rather die in fear than live in adventure and uncertainty. See, for a tree to retain its health, pruning is much needed. For it to grow and blossom into fruitfulness, dead leaves must be discarded, overgrown stems trimmed. Likewise, in our own lives – in order that we grow in every way, we must be willing to change our mindset and belief system. We must be willing to uproot any false beliefs and let go assumptions we have hung on for years. Painfully humbling it may be but we must allow others to help us pull out those dead weeds in our lives. Unless we are willing to go through all the painful process, change cannot happen and growth not realised. But if we are willing to be trimmed, it will be more than a hairstyle we are changing. It will be our entire life.

Nancy Lee is a creative director, who loves to act in dramas. She writes a monthly newsletter known as Earth Muse.


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