A Title is Only a Title

Bill Abbate

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As we mature, we often experience more and see more in life. As we continue to grow, we think in new and different ways. The more active we are, the more we experience, and the more our world and thoughts expand, helping us see new things and think in new ways. What can we do to foster this growth and ability to develop our minds further? Plenty!

One day when advanced age hits, our world will begin to shrink. I witnessed this as it happened to my stepfather and, more recently, to my mother. Their health declined, and they lost their mobility shrinking their world considerably. They once traveled extensively and suddenly found themselves confined to one room. Then the end comes. That is life, and it is reality.

Hopefully, that time is a long way off for us, and our world will continue to expand well into the future. What can we do in the meantime to keep our minds sharp and growing?

What is different for you?

A big part of keeping sharp and growing our minds is to learn to increase and expand our perspectives. Perspective growth leads to thinking more deeply and differently. To think differently, we must do differently. Are you doing more and seeing more this year than last? How about in the past decade? While your answer is entirely subjective, it is your reality. How can you make sure your world is not shrinking and that what you think continues to develop and grow?

One of the most significant ways I have found to expand this ability to see more and think differently is by escaping the comfort of home. We can do this virtually or physically.

The use of technology

With all of the technology available to us today, we can experience the world from the comfort of our homes. The virtual world makes this possible, allowing us to travel instantly to the ends of the earth. We can now see and learn about things that would have been impossible only a couple of decades ago.

We can endlessly explore a subject, place, thing, or anything else if we have enough curiosity. The entire world is available at our fingertips! While this virtual exploration can help us expand our world, there is an even better way.

Travel

The best way to expand your ability to think differently about life and the world is by visiting new places and countries. Traveling opens your mind because it gives you opportunities to see and experience more in life. When you travel, you can engage all of your senses and experience things you didn’t realize existed. The only way to gain such experience is to leave your little part of the world behind.

Spending a good part of my childhood in Asia and the Mediterranean, I learned how different cultures in other countries are. Back in the 1960s, I would have never been exposed to foods like boiled octopus and dried squid if I had not lived in Japan. Because I grew up with some very exotic foods, I acquired a taste for dishes that make some Americans squeamish. Having these foods available made them a part of my life and normal.

Then there were the languages. I’ll never forget the first time I was at the Paris airport. After living in the Pacific region for nearly nine years, I was in what seemed like a different world. Although the people looked like me and not like Asians—they didn’t speak English! The only languages I was around up to that point were Japanese, Korean, Chinese, and Filipino, but hearing a foreign language from Caucasians for the first time was oddly disorienting!

While living in the Mediterranean area for more than three years, I learned to enjoy hearing Italian, French, German, Spanish, and North African Arabic. I also got to experience more new foods.

Being exposed to so much as a child, I continue to have a great deal of appreciation and respect for people worldwide. Oh, and I continue to love a variety of foods as well!

Imagine a mature adult doing even a fraction of the traveling I did as a child. Talk about experiences and learning to see more in life! If you can travel and explore the world, don’t hesitate to do so, although there is another way.

Fostering new thoughts

Do we need to travel the world to expand our thinking and think in new ways? No, but some travel is usually necessary, regardless of how local it is. A vast world exists outside our door, in our town, city, and locale. But to explore it, you must go into it. You may be amazed at what you will find.

What happens in your mind when you see something you have not seen before? For many such things, we simply allow them to pass unnoticed. If we consider it worthy of our attention, we may snap a picture or capture a thought by writing it down. As the old sayings go: “a picture is worth a thousand words” and “a short pencil is better than a long memory.”

Yet there’s another option when what we see is of enough interest: we can mull it over in our mind. When we do this, we often receive two benefits. We deepen the thought, so it influences other thoughts, and we expand the thought, allowing us to see even more.

“The mind is not a vessel to be filled, but a fire to be kindled.” L. Mestrius Plutarchus (46-119 AD)

Let’s look at an example of this in the following story.

The Vet

You’re walking down the street and meet a homeless man. Your first thought is he’s a drunkard who deserves to be on the street. But then you notice a tattoo on his arm, and you realize he’s likely a veteran who served our country.

Now that you’ve seen a glimpse of this man’s life in that tattoo, you consider his situation isn’t as cut-and-dried as you thought. You stop to talk with him and find the war left him with severe PTSD. This has made it difficult to get a job, and you discover he has no family that can help him.

You begin thinking about all the other homeless people on the streets who might be suffering from a similar illness. What you saw in that tattoo led you to think deeply and make meaning of what you saw. You now apply those thoughts to other people in similar situations. Noticing that tattoo leads you to change other assumptions in your life.

As a result, you begin volunteering at a homeless shelter, making friends with the people there. These people further change your worldview and, therefore, your life. You no longer make hasty judgments of others and become far more thoughtful and thankful for what you have. This true story resulted in a changed heart who now helps many people in need.

Thinking differently

Following is a brief list of ideas that can help us think new thoughts. What would you add to it? Please leave a comment below, as it will help all of us!

To enhance your ability to think differently (and more deeply), you can:

  • Read books, articles, essays, opinion pieces, etc. Many of these can be found online for free.
  • Travel to new places, locally and far away. Take in the experience of all of your senses, and pay attention to things you have never seen before.
  • Join new groups of people with similar or different interests for more variety.
  • Work on developing your curiosity. Approach the world with awe and an eye for its limitless wonder.
  • Take up a hobby that you find interesting.
  • Spend time learning in the limitless online virtual universe.
  • Journal to capture thoughts that you would otherwise lose. One of the greatest benefits of journaling is it can help you think deeply and broadly about a subject.
  • Try to enlarge your perspectives by interacting with people who have different viewpoints from yours.

Final thoughts

All that is needed to think differently is to slow down, pay attention, quit making rash judgments of others, become more thoughtful, and begin seeing people as the valuable human beings they are.

A great clarifying question you can use in many situations and circumstances is to ask yourself, “What am I missing?” Asking such a question is especially important when it comes to other people. Try to learn something about them to understand them better. Always treat those who are down and out as worthy and not some object of no worth. Imagine how far a little more compassion could go in the world? It all starts with you and me.

I challenge you with one person you meet or one event that happens this week to stop and ask yourself, “What am I missing?” or “What am I not seeing?” Then give it some thought. You never know what may happen. It could become the first step in a new direction and may just change your life forever!

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Semi-Retired-Leadership/Executive Coach -Personal & Career Growth Expert -Editor and Leadership Writer at Illumination -Author

Richmond, VA
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