My dad was a philosopher. This wasn’t a part time role; it came through in his parenting, in his job as an engineer – in fact, in every aspect of his life.
Philosophers are teachers. Of all the lessons we learned as kids, the one that remains strongest in my mind, life and work is what Dad called, “being open.”
In life, he said, you must have an open mind – that is how you acquire wisdom; and you must have an open heart – that is how you show compassion. These are the two things you need for a great life.
With an open mind you become wise. With an open mind you expand what you consider and know. You ask great questions (because this is how to gather information); then you listen intently. You are always learning. Some information you’ll disregard as not meaningful, other information could be life changing.
Author and mindfulness expert Jon Kabat-Zinn says that when you become aware and mindful – you are in the moment – you give yourself the opportunity to use all you know (your wisdom) to determine what to do in the very next moment. So, when you are wise, you expand the options and opportunities you create for yourself – and from these options you can decide with greater clarity what your very next action or response will be. Your world becomes larger. Your choices become greater. An open mind is how you become wise. And being wise gives you greater opportunities and options.
With an open heart, you show compassion. Like the Nationwide Insurance commercial says, Life comes at you fast. In life, we get what comes our way – the easy and the difficult, the good and the bad. Sometimes we are up, sometimes we are down. Having an open heart allows us to see when others are down and need our help. And when the tides are turned and we are down, we can look for compassion and help from others.
On its best day, life can be difficult. It regularly requires compassion to make it through the day – to see others who need what we do best, and to be open and appreciative when others see and respond to what we need.
My personal perspective is that today’s world is built by those who are here, in this moment. If we are wise (always learning and growing) and compassionate (always caring and valuing others), we can create a world that learns and appreciates, shares and cares, guides and consoles. in short, a great world.
I think Dad was right – the two things you need for a great life are an open mind to learn and an open heart to care. Everything important in life comes from these.