Wisdom//

Your Personality Traits Don’t Just Affect Your Outlook on Life, But The Way You Perceive Reality

Openness to experience changes what people see in the world

rdonar / Shutterstock
rdonar / Shutterstock

Human awareness is highly limited. What gets your attention also prevents you from seeing the whole picture — unexpected objects go unnoticed when attention is focused elsewhere.

We subconsciously ignore specific facts, data and knowledge because of what we are conditioned to observe or look out for.

Mounting evidence suggests that our personality traits affect our experience of the world and shape the course of our lives — it determines the information you choose to focus on.

Your reality determines the choices you make in life.

There are two kinds of people in the world — those with a closed mindset and those who are ridiculously open-minded to new experiences.

A psychological study by Antinori, Carter, & Smillie revealed that open-minded people may live in a completely different reality. They found that openness and mood can affect how you visually perceive the world, which can affect creativity.

Research shows that your personality trait (patterns of thinking, feeling and behaving) not only change your outlook on life but also change the way you perceive reality at work, and how you relate with family, friends, and romantic partners.

Even your life satisfaction, emotional well-being, physical health and longevity are largely influenced by your personality and life circumstances.

“Open people appear to have a more flexible gate and let through more information than the average person,” says Anna Antinori, lead author of a study where researchers from the University of Melbourne in Australia recruited 123 volunteers and gave them the big five personality test.

As the researchers note in The Conversation, an earlier study shows that those who score high in openness are less likely to experience “inattentional blindness.”

In another study that followed couples over time, the researchers found that choosing a spouse who is responsible and emotionally resilient will substantially improve your chances of maintaining a stable and satisfying marriage.

Open-minded people see things differently than people who are closed to new experiences. Openness to experience is characterised by flexible cognition — open people are more curious, creative and motivated to explore the world and engage with possibilities.

People high in openness are more likely to experience the world differently to the average person as a result of their “breadth, depth, and permeability of consciousness, and …[their]… recurrent need to enlarge and examine experience” according to the Journal of Research in Personality.

People who find it hard to consider other alternative realities in life and work take longer to make a significant improvement in life.

In his book Principles, Ray Dalio, a self-made billionaire argues that “Closed-minded people don’t want their ideas challenged. They are typically frustrated that they can’t get the other person to agree with them instead of curious as to why the other person disagrees.”

Ray encourages us to embrace different perspectives not only at work but in all areas of our lives. He recommends we develop the art of thoughtful disagreement.

He explains, “When two people believe opposite things, chances are that one of them is wrong. It pays to find out if that someone is you. That’s why I believe you must appreciate and develop the art of thoughtful disagreement. In thoughtful disagreement, your goal is not to convince the other party that you are right — it is to find out which view is true and decide what to do about it.”

People with a narrow perspective are more interested in proving themselves right than in getting the best outcome. They often focus much more on being understood than on understanding others.

When you find yourself exhibiting these behaviours that may be hindering your progress in life and at work, acknowledge what’s happening and deliberately make the effort to correct it.

Don’t blame yourself. Everyone has blind spots (our way of thinking that prevents us from seeing things accurately). We can only aim to improve our realities, and outlook in life.

The good news is, while personality traits are relatively stable over time, there is mounting evidence that personality is malleable — they can and often do gradually change across the life span. If you focus on improving your realities, those changes are usually for the better.

One study has shown that meditation can affect binocular rivalry, and training can make people more open to new experiences.

Openness to new experiences is not impossible. Look for opportunities to improve, broaden and expand your realities. Enhance your cognitive abilities by raising your level of open-mindedness.

Make time to think about everything you do — are you just doing the same old thing you’ve always done or could you embrace new experiences, or liven up the way you do things with a slight effort?

F. Scott Fitzgerald once said, “The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function.”

You’re acting mindfully when you don’t simply dismiss activities and thoughts because they seem unappealing or even silly at first,” says Ellen Langer, Ph.D., a Harvard psychologist.

Change your perspective by practising open-mindedness. By learning better ways to make your life awesome, not only do you grow but also encourage your colleagues and loved ones to become better versions of themselves.

This article was originally published on Medium.

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