I love being exposed to new ideas. Sometimes they’re challenging or even scary to contemplate, but always, whole new worlds are revealed. I don’t want to miss out on that, so I’m alert for habits that can limit my ability to think well.
Clifford Nass, a professor of communication at Stanford University was quoted in the New York Times as saying “We tend to see people who say negative things as smarter than those who are positive. If I tell you that you are going to give a lecture before smarter people, you will say more negative things.”
Notice Professor Nass doesn’t say that negative people are actually smarter, just that we tend to think they are.
A well-thought-out argument and lively debate are excellent ways to sharpen your intellect and ability to think critically. But critical thinking doesn’t mean one has to be negative. I can certainly give a reasoned argument that’s positive.
Being constantly negative and critical, especially if it’s done simply to try and impress others (or yourself – yikes!) with your intelligence, is a surefire way to limit your ability to see what’s good and working. It’s also a mental habit that diminishes happiness. No smart person would do that to themselves.
We are never done changing and growing as human beings.
Psychologists say that by the age of five our personalities are fixed. That may be true.
But our experiences, perceptions, responses, opportunities and consequences are very much in flux throughout our lives, and the people around us can profoundly influence us.
Remember as a teenager when your parents didn’t want you to hang around So-and-So because he/she was a bad influence? You rolled your eyes in response and thought (or said) “No one is going to make me do anything I don’t want to do.” Maybe So-and-So couldn’t make you do things, but they could introduce you to ideas and activities you didn’t even know you wanted to do – and some of those things could be questionable, stupid or dangerous.
Conversely, people in your life can introduce you to brilliant, stimulating, uplifting ideas and experiences.
Studies show that spending time with the same social group can limit your growth. The reasoning is that your exposure to new information and ideas is limited. Media coverage on abuse and bullying, which happens at home, school and the workplace, reminds us daily of the low self-esteem, anger, depression and despair these situations produce.
People will come and go in your life and they will help shape your understanding of the world and of yourself.
Don’t underestimate the influence of the outside world on your growth and well being. And never forget you have the power to change who and what you keep around you. Choose well.
p.s. I mean no disrespect to dogs; I love them all – even the ones with fleas.