On Changing Your Mind

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I mentioned in my thoughts on hypocrisy that many consider changing your mind a flaw.

For example, it’s rare that a politician will change their mind, at least publicly, for fear of a backlash.

And yet, changing your mind is one of the most important things we can be capable of doing.

It needs to be celebrated, not derided.

A phrase I read somewhere captures a wonderful reframing of the concept:

Discovering you were wrong is an update, not a failure.


What a brilliant concept, particularly in this technological, software-based world we live in. Software is updated constantly as new information is discovered and flaws are found.

We should update our own “software” regularly; constantly, even.

As new information comes in, and flaws in our thinking or knowledge become apparent, it’s time to update our beliefs, ideas, and way of thinking. We should strive for the truth, whatever that might be, rather than trying to maintain some comfortable status quo.

I get the reluctance in politics, specifically. Promises are made, and individuals are elected, based on that candidate’s professed thinking and beliefs. How else would we know whether they are worthy of our votes? (I’ll set aside those politicians pandering to various degrees –sharing not their honest thoughts, but what they believe their audience wants to hear.)

And yet a rational person — and I’m sure there are rational politicians out there somewhere — should be open to new information. They should be willing to re-examine their positions on anything when new facts appear or when situations change.

When that happens, it’s quite possible that a politician with integrity (not an oxymoron, just uncommon) would update their position. They might change their mind.

Unfortunately, that risks pissing off the people that elected them based on their prior beliefs. That puts their re-election at risk. (If there’s a more fundamental flaw in the US political system than the need to be re-elected, I don’t know what it is.)

This transcends politics and appears in many different walks of life.

For example, updating your beliefs regarding politics, religion, or even pineapple on pizza is likely to offend someone somewhere. In the worst case, you can even be ostracized from your community or tribe because of your changed mind.

That’s a huge disincentive to never change your mind, or at least not do so in a way others would see.

And yet, remaining open-minded, accepting new input and data, and being willing to question yourself and your beliefs is critical to not just your personal growth, but to humanity’s progress as a species.

2 thoughts on “On Changing Your Mind”

  1. So true! I remember back when Ed Koch was the mayor of NYC. At press conferences he might make some statement, after which a snarky reporter would yell out, “You said the exact opposite last week!”, to which Koch would shrug and reply, “I know. I’ve changed my mind.”
    I used to love it when he did that, because any intelligent person will always be willing to form a different opinion if new information comes to light.

  2. Updates are a necessary activity as “facts” change, but sometimes are avoidable if more time is taken before initially publicizing support of the “fact”.

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