We all do what we do for a reason.
If you’re reading a book or browsing a blog or watching the evening news, you’re in quest of other points of view. This journey, this discovery of new world views, is paramount for personal growth.
But there are at least three reasons why people seek out other POVs, some more steroidic (in terms of personal growth) than others:
Validation. Most of the time people simply want to validate their own opinions. And so we read reviews of a movie we just watched to see if other people felt the same feelings we did. This type of validation is OK—to a point. But too much validation stifles creativity; it kills individual growth. That’s because if we’re constantly chasing validation—if we need our views to always match with someone else’s—then we’ll accomplish scant original thought, for we get stuck in a state of perpetual crowd-think (“What would so-and-so think about this?”) instead of forming our own standpoints based on cerebration and logic and reasoning. Ultimately, the habitual hunt for validation leaves little room for rumination, and thus, little or no room for growth.
Answers. Other times people search for alternate viewpoints when they themselves can’t form an answer. We’ve all been on the fence before, and sometimes a trusted outlook is all we need to tip us toward the right side. But like validation, endeavoring for answers via others leaves us holding the bag for other folks’ decisions. It’s easy to give advice, but taking our own advice is often the hardest pill to swallow.
Alteration. Every once in a while some people will examine a contrary attitude or sentiment not to validate their own opinion, and not even to find an answer, but rather to change their own mind. This is where real growth happens: when we’re willing to step away from dogma, to step back from our own opinions and examine the world through a different pair of eyes. Sam Harris, Stephen Fry, and our friend Cal Newport all do a phenomenal job of providing slants that force people to ponder one’s canon and, often, change their mind.
Soliciting other perspectives is not only important, it’s a necessary part of living a fulfilled, well-rounded life. But we needn’t rely solely on others’ beliefs to shape our existence. We must think on our own, too. We must rely on ourselves first and use other POVs to augment our own positions. And sometimes, when we don’t have a good answer, we must simply follow our hearts.
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