While it may seem like common sense, changing your mind can be really uncomfortable.
But we need to get comfortable with uncomfortable if we want to be happier and less stressed.
So in this article we are going to talk about how situational differences affect us when we change our minds, why we need to be aware of the differences, and how we can build up our mind muscles so we are comfortable changing our mind no matter the situation.
Changing Your Mind: Situational Differences
Picture it: You’re on your couch. Your partner is on the phone with a pizza place. They ask what kind of dressing you want for the salad you ordered (to feel better about the fact that you’re about to shove half a pizza down your face).
First you say vinaigrette. But then change your mind and say, “wait, Ranch!”
Now picture this: You go into a store but there is nothing you want to buy. It’s a small shop and the only employee is staring at you. You feel weird and like you’re supposed to buy something.
On the surface the two situations seem completely different. In one you’re about to pig out on the couch and in the second you’re feeling awkward at a store.
But under the surface both situations are the same: you changed your mind.
Changing Your Mind: Emotional Differences
We feel more comfortable changing our minds in situations when it will lead to good or neutral feelings.
In the first situation it was easy to change your mind because there were no real, perceived consequences—it was a reasonable change before a pleasurable experience (pigging out on the couch).
In the second situation, even though you know it’s OK to go into a store and not buy anything, you feel the need to buy something.
This feeling originates from the thought that if you don’t buy something you will contradict yourself or you will show the shop you do not appreciate their items.
Changing Your Mind: The Uncomfortable
Most people are uncomfortable changing their minds because they identify with their thoughts. We see this a lot with political parties. People will dress their house, cars, even themselves in images to identify with their political party.
So when situation changes, or if the person’s perspective changes, it will be difficult for them no longer follow the party. If they made a switch, or decided not to focus on politics as much, it would feel like they are losing their identity and sense of connection to the world.
This will be especially difficult if they were very vocal about their preferences. To them, their vocalization grabbed the attention of a lot of people. So switching parties or no longer following politics will feel like walking out of the store without purchasing anything while 100 shop keepers stare at them.
Not just politics, this can happen in simpler situations like if you say you want Italian for dinner and then decide you want to try the new Israeli place. Will your friend agree?
We also see this when people identify with a movement. It may feel to the overweight person who says “fat is beautiful” that they cannot lose weight or else they will lose their beauty.
Changing Your Mind: Getting Comfortable
We get comfortable changing our minds (even in difficult situations) with a few acknowledgments.
Acknowledgment 1: I Am Not My Thoughts
You are a holistic being who makes mistakes, learns, course corrects and grows. So if you were once adamant about something but now change your mind (because of new information, etc) it does not make you bad or a contraction. It makes you human. Stop limiting yourself and allow yourself to grow!
Related Article: #1 Thing You Need to Know to Build a Growth Mindset
Acknowledgment 2: Life is Complex
So you wanted Italian and now you want Israeli. Yesterday you didn’t know the new place opened and with new information you want to change course. Or so you say “fat is beautiful” but you want to lose weight. Life is complex and two things can be true at the same time. You are allowed to think “fat is beautiful” and also want to lose weight. You are allowed to want Italian but crave Israeli more!
Acknowledgment 3: Life is Continual Growth
A thought that might have helped you or seemed logical at the time may be harmful and illogical now. The important thing here is to be open to new information and to not identify by your thoughts so you can freely incorporate that new information into your life.
Changing Your Mind: Letting Others Know
If you change your mind about something that affects others, or how you connect with them, it will likely create confusion and questions.
Changing your mind can be uncomfortable so any question about the change can feel like an attack. Many people feel the urge to ignore the questions or shut down.
But the best way to handle this is by owning it: “yeah, I know, I was super into xyz. But with new information I realized they were no longer aligned with my morals and I decided to switch.”
Or for your friend who thought you wanted Italian: “hey, I know I said I wanted Italian but this new place just opened up and I really want to try it. Thank OK?”
Or to the people who think you are abandoning them because you want to lose weight: “People of all sizes are beautiful and my choice is losing weight has nothing to do with that.”
Or to the shop keeper: “thanks so much, didn’t see anything that called out to me, will be back again!”
Sometimes we can feel pressure to stay with the status quo. And you might feel like changing your mind will hurt your reputation or connection with others. But the right people will see how courageous you are in changing your mind. They will respect you.
Changing Your Mind: Changing Your Mindset
Changing your mind and changing your mindset are very different things, but they both have a major impact on your life. Focusing on how you feel when changing your mind (and why you feel that way) will help you change your mindset later.
So get comfortable with the uncomfortable. Realize you are here to learn and grow and explore with curiosity.