Not Knowing is Okay.

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“Brilliance in a scientist does not consist in being right more often but in being wrong about more interesting topics.”

We love to be right. And we all think we’re right, all the time. You can see this in Facebook comments and endless Twitter debates. People on the Internet will argue for days about politics, religion, or anything and everything else.

These online conversations seem to expose something about the human condition: we don’t like to be wrong. Someone telling us we are wrong about something is taken as a personal attack rather than just part of a conversation. 

There are plenty of reasons why we love to be right. It makes us feel good. It makes us feel like we’ve won or like we’re better than someone else intellectually.

Being right feeds our ego. And our ego never has an empty stomach so we just keep feeding it.

Being wrong, on the other hand, can make us feel insecure. Uncertainty is scary. Not knowing can make us feel lost or confused.

But what if being right isn’t all that? What if being wrong sometimes is okay? What if being wrong is actually a good thing?

Let’s do our best to look at being right from an objective standpoint. Let’s say you’re in a meeting and you’re discussing your company’s plans for a new hotel. You have the idea to build the hotel on a certain street, but one of your colleagues argues that that particular area of the city is not in high demand for a new hotel. You continue to go back and forth about the matter until you all come to an agreement.

What really matters in this situation? Does it matter whose idea is the right one? No, it matters which location would most benefit the company.

Point being: it’s okay to be wrong or to not know. It’s okay to submit and say “yeah, maybe you can do it better”or “you’re right your idea might be more effective.”

Being right is not important. Having the answer it not important. Doing the thing that is right (whether a moral decision or a practical one) is the most important thing.

Yes, being right feels good, but objectively it just doesn’t matter in most situations. Your goal should not be to be right, rather it should be to find out the best way to do a task and use those means in doing so.

Growing up going to Christian school I was taught to believe certain things. I was not to question these beliefs or ask questions, I was to simply believe. I was taught to have faith. During chapel services the pastor would often ask “if you died today do you know for sure that’s you’d go to heaven?”

While I tried to convince myself that my answer to his question was yes, I always had this thought process going on. How am I supposed to know for sure? Is God supposed to reveal it to me or appear in a dream or a bush on fire or something? 

As I was thinking about this I’d look around the room, wondering if anyone else felt the same way. While I never had the guts to ask, my assumption is that many of the kids in the room felt the exact same way, they, like myself, we’re just scared to admit it. They, like me, felt uncertain, yet we all acted like we knew our soul’s destination.

We all fear the unknown. We love to pretend like we have the answers. Having the answers is comfy and makes us feel good. Doubt feels nasty and annoying. But what if not knowing for sure was okay too? What if asking questions and not having answers was just another part of life?

This applies to all areas of the human experience, not just religious belief. Doubt is a virtue. Not knowing is powerful. If we never have doubts or ask questions, we will never learn or grow. Change begins with doubt. Change begins when we ask if there’s a better way to do something. If we never doubt, or never think we are wrong about something, we will never improve.

If we want to be successful at anything, we must be a student first. A student does not go into a class already knowing the material, a student goes into a class with humility knowing that the teacher is superior to them in the subject matter. For us to improve in life we must admit that we are not gods, there are things we must take the time to learn. There are things we don’t know or understand. When we learn to think in this way, to walk in humility and curious doubt, we can then begin to change and become the best versions of ourselves.

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8 Ways to Improve your Mindfulness & Self-Awareness

mind•full•ness

{noun}
the quality or state of being conscious or aware of something. a mental state achieved by focusing one’s awareness in the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and acknowledging one’s feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations.

In a world full of noise and distractions, it is hard to be mindful. It is hard to be present.We are constantly being bombarded with information as well as social pressures to be ___ or do ___.

It is hard to be mindful in the world of smartphones, high-speed internet, and Netflix, but it is not impossible.

In this article, I’m going to give you several techniques you can use to improve your mindfulness on a daily basis. Mindfulness, like any other skill, takes practice.

1. Meditate

Meditation is perhaps the easiest and most efficient way to improve your mindfulness. Meditation allows us to learn how to be present and teaches us how to monitor our thought patterns.

I have been practicing meditation for about four months now and it has proven extremely helpful. I have found myself feeling less anxious and stressed on a day-to-day basis.

During meditation, you focus all your attention on either your breath or your bodily sensations. Doing so allows you to be completely present, rather than getting lost in thoughts about the past or future.

If you are new to meditation, I recommend checking out an app called Calm.

2. Do Nothing

A huge part of mindfulness is becoming more aware of how you think. You can do this by simply sitting down and your room and letting your mind run. It may be best to do this by staring at one spot on your wall, that way you don’t get distracted.

Take time to pay attention to your thoughts.

What are you thinking about?

Your to-do list?

What you did last night?

The more we quiet down and listen to our thoughts, the more aware we will become of them, and with awareness comes the ability to change the way we think.

3. Savor Your Food

Often when we sit down to eat we are either watching television or on our smartphones. We get so focused on what other people are doing that we don’t even take the time to really taste what we’re eating.

Next time you eat, just eat. Take time to really enjoy your food.

This is a great way to practice being present. Even more so, it will help you generate gratitude for the food you have on the table.

4. Do One Thing at a Time

To truly be present means to have our minds fully engaged in what we are doing right now. This is impossible if we are trying to do multiple things at once. In fact, the attention span of humans has become even shorter in the age of social media, according to the Telegraph.

Here are a few ways you can practice doing one thing at a time:

  • Don’t listen to music when you clean. Practice just cleaning. This will help you learn to live in the moment.
  • When you’re working, turn off your phone if possible. You don’t want to be scrolling through Twitter while you’re doing a project.
  • When you’re with a group of friends, do your best to really listen to every word they are saying. Be fully engaged in the conversation, rather than letting your mind carry you to another place.

5. Keep a Journal

Another way to become more aware of your thought parents it to keep a journal. When you journal, just put whatever is in your mind into the page. No filter.

After your finish writing, look back on what you wrote. What does it tell you about yourself? Are you thinking mostly negatively or positively?

The more self-aware we are the more mindful we can become.

6. Quite Down Your Life

Like I mentioned in the introduction, our lives are constantly becoming more complicated as we are feed more and more information.

One way to stay mindful in this era of distractions is to learn to quiet down your life. Set time aside to escape from the news and social media. Take time to go on a walk or sit outside.

Sometimes it is wise to turn off the television and music and just sit down and read a book.

When we learn to quiet down, and at times power down,  we can finally become truly present.

7. Get Out of Your Own Head

The opposite of being present is to be lost in thought. It is important that you learn to get out of your own head and live in the present moment.

You can accomplish this through meditation and through simply redirecting your attention in a given situation.

Here’s an example.

You are reading a book but you keep thinking about a test your have tomorrow. Simply and gently redirect your attention onto the book and stop thinking about the test.

This is not easy, but with practice, you can improve.

It is important that you don’t become angry with yourself during this process. Mindfulness is nothing without self-compassion. When you find yourself being distracting, gently bring yourself back to the present moment, extending loving-kindness towards yourself.

8. Don’t Let Your Thoughts Control You

For a long time, I believed that I was in control of my thoughts and that it was my responsibility to think the right way.

Now I’ve realized that thoughts, for the most part, are fluid. They are not really under our control. They come and go no matter what.

Because of this, the most important way to overcome negative thoughts is not to change the thoughts themselves, but to change the way you look at them. If you begin to realize that your thoughts are just a stream of consciousness, you can start to stop believing thoughts that prove to be untrue or not useful.

For more information on why we cannot control our own thoughts, check out this article from the Scientific American.

Closing Thoughts

The more mindful you become the easier it will be for you to be productive and happy. Living in the moment is the best way to live. If your mind is focused on the past or present, you will not be able to enjoy the beauty of now.

Now is the only thing you can change. Now is the only time that really matters.