Challenge your opinions for a new outlook.
PBS recently aired the documentary Raise Hell: The Life and Times of Molly Ivins. I was familiar with Ivins but had never read her work, even though my sister had urged me to do so many. For those who aren’t familiar with her, Ivins was a newspaper and political columnist and humorist. She was what I call “spicy”: Controversial and opinionated. She died in 2007, leaving me to wonder how she’d fare in today’s volatile times.
As I watched the program, I realized that many of her views, though often extreme at the time, weren’t as offensive to me as I had previously thought. It made me realize a lot of the information I was making decisions with in the 1980s and 1990s turned out to be wrong.
This made me think about today’s society, fraught with disagreements about facts, opinions, and beliefs.
To get us all on the same page, here are some definitions:
Facts are pieces of knowledge that can be proven and verified.
Beliefs are convictions based on cultural or personal faith, morality, or values.
Opinions are your judgments based on the facts you know and the beliefs you hold.
With these definitions in mind, I first had to re-frame what I had called my ‘beliefs.’ Yes, some of the information I’d received in my lifetime through studies, media, and discussions led to beliefs as I defined here. But most of it, I now realize, led to faulty opinions.
I was drawn to the idea of re-thinking my opinions, especially as I get new information. Time has a way of correcting and cleaning up our mistakes. Hindsight is 20/20, after all. But what do we do with the new information uncovered through that insight?
Years ago, I heard this advice: “Don’t hold people captive to their past.”
This reminds us we can change, and that there is benefit to it. I know “they” say everyone fears change. But stay with me for a minute. Think about it: Do you want to be thought of in exactly the same way you were 10, 20, or even 30 years ago? Do you want to be the perfect expression of what classmates wrote in your yearbook decades ago?
Haven’t you learned a thing or two during your journey on earth? I’m guessing that you have read, studied, discussed, watched, and taken in information on a huge variety of subjects during your lifetime. How has all that information changed your beliefs and opinions?
I personally don’t want to be held captive to my past. I have grown, evolved, and learned. I have begun to intentionally sit with new information when it arrives.
If a news report challenges an opinion I hold, I take a moment to reflect on it. Why do I feel uncomfortable? What opinion has it challenged? Does this new information make obsolete my previous thought, or does it spawn a completely new and different idea?
This new process of re-thinking my opinions is exciting and energizing! It allows me to revisit subjects with a fresh set of eyes. I’m evolving and find the journey, even at this “later age,” to be quite an adventure.