Changing your mind doesn’t have to be impulsive or accidental; you can purposefully choose to put your beliefs to the test too.
First, decide what your most fiercely held beliefs are. Then, throw your very best arguments against them until you believe something else. Going out of your way to change your mind in this way is the key to growth.
As physicist Richard Feynman explained: “The first principle is that you must not fool yourself, and you are the easiest person to fool.”
He also said, “We are trying to prove ourselves wrong as quickly as possible, because only in that way can we find progress. I’m talking about a specific, extra type of integrity that is not lying, but bending over backwards to show how you’re maybe wrong.”
The more you challenge your beliefs, the more accurate they will be, leading you to make better choices. This is the larger benefit changing your mind offers, but there are many more.
The Hidden Benefits of Changing Your Mind Often
Deliberately trying to contradict yourself is immensely important.
In some sense, the strength of sciences like physics comes from not only an acceptance of being incorrect, but the quest for being wrong. Experimental physicists spend considerable time trying to disprove theories so they can arrive at the most accurate conclusion.
Committing to changing your mind helps you do the following:
Make Data-backed Decisions
Not all of our beliefs are grounded in facts, and this often leads to error-prone decisions. When you challenge your beliefs, you’re forced to examine the data at hand and then make a final call. This leads to more rational decisions.
Let’s say you believe “There are at least 100 people who want to use my web app,” or “We’ll work better if we do a daily stand-up.”
This is your starting point, also called your “working hypothesis. ” The next step is to gather evidence, experience, or data that confirms or disproves this hypothesis. Otherwise, you may end up building an app no one wants or running unproductive team stand-ups.
Changing your mind gives you the chance to refine your beliefs and subsequent actions and decisions.
Avoid Confirmation Bias
Even data-backed decisions can be biased — you may be looking at only the evidence that confirms your theories.
This often happens when you’re conducting user research and only look for data that proves your hunches.
But if you make it a habit to go out of your way to look for contradictory data, you’ll end up seeing the other side of the coin too. Only then can you make fair and accurate decisions.
Make Learning a Priority
Being flexible with your decisions allows you to develop a learning mindset — one where you believe there are no bad decisions, just lessons to be learned.
As a leader, you’re faced with several choices in a day: which marketing strategies to focus on, which features to build, which payment methods to offer. Not every choice you make will be ideal, but giving yourself the intellectual flexibility to pivot ideas allows you to learn new and better ways to do things.
Let’s say your team isn’t getting much out of their daily stand-ups. As a flexible leader, you might choose not to run them for a while. In this case, you may find your team misses the daily interaction.
Thus, you’ve learned that daily stand-ups are important for your team, but also that you need a better agenda to make them productive.
Actively questioning your decisions helps you refine systems and processes consistently.
Changing your mind often is not necessarily a sign of indecision or impulsiveness. More often than not, it shows flexibility, empathy, and a willingness to learn.
The Cost of Always Changing Your Mind (and How to Do It Anyway)
Unfortunately, changing your mind isn’t always pretty pink unicorns. We think the process is healthy, but it can be frustrating too. Poking holes in your beliefs constantly has an unavoidable side effect: You may always be changing your mind.
Declaring your change of mind isn’t free. If you change your mind about what your team should be working on, it will annoy them. If you change your mind far too much, you’ll be a pain to work for and even be seen as less of a leader.
Each time a team or a company is steered in a new direction, the gratification of achieving goals and milestones is delayed. Furthermore, with each swerve, work gets scrapped and people can feel their time is being wasted. All of this leads to disengagement among employees.
Ultimately, the cost of changing your mind out loud is lowering the morale of your team. This isn’t a small price to pay.
Paul Graham once said that startups run on morale, while a recent study found that teams with high morale performed better. If you want your team to do good work, you need to keep their spirits high too.
The best way to be flexible in your decision-making while not frustrating your team, is to be more upfront about why you’re changing your mind in the first place. Transparency goes a long way in mitigating the morale costs.
If possible, involve your team in the new decision-making process. Acknowledge the facts of change. Allow them to contribute ideas. This will make them feel valued and more receptive to a change of direction.
When you’re finally presenting new ideas, explain the information or thinking within the context of the old — here’s what we thought, here’s why we no longer think that, and here’s the new thinking.
Your Brain Doesn’t Like Change, but You Should Do It Anyway
Your brain craves the comfort of familiarity. Each time you introduce an intense change — a new job, a pivot for your startup, a change in attitude — your brain resists and throws up red flags.
But changing your mind, beliefs, decisions, and actions is vital for your long-term success. Only when you have the courage to contradict yourself often can you forge a path to true enlightenment.
Rebecca Minkoff, owner of a global fashion brand, calls the willingness to change your mind a “superpower.” She credits this superpower with her ability to build a more agile and resilient company.
For you, it may lead to finding your dream job or becoming more empathetic or self-aware.
Don’t be afraid to change your mind, even if it means getting out of your comfort zone. It’s the only way to grow.
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