Opinions are perfectly useful for…um let’s see.
What are they useful for?
I know: they keep you safe. So that’s at least one very good reason to have them. Without making an opinion about the merits of taking that dark alley on route home, for example, you’d probably get mugged.
Wait, or is that a judgment?
This post offers my opinion that most of your opinions are a waste of time – and what you might want to develop in their place.
The problem with opinions
The first problem with opinions is that they tend to keep your mind occupied with trivialities, or things that don’t require rethinking (and rethinking…and rethinking).
There is a difference between opinions and judgment calls, which are just quick and to the point. With opinions, there is usually some emotive element to them and often it’s negative.Opinions keep us distracted, deluded and unhappy Click To Tweet
Spending too much time in your head will have a tangible effect on your mood. Research into the benefits of practicing mindfulness show that being in the present moment more makes us happier.
Opinions are also really misleading. You can mistake them for the truth, when in reality all you’re having is a conditioned response. When they are about other people, opinions can be oppressive to an environment of compassion and acceptance, which is the one we all crave really.
Opinions and fear
There is a direct relationship between excessive opinion-making and fear. Because judging and analyzing are really attempts to get a sense of order and security from the chaos that surrounds us.
But opinions aren’t an appropriate strategy to making sense of life. It is like having a suitcase full of suits, but no underwear. If anything, they reduce our preparedness for the challenges of living, as they prevent us from thinking creatively.
We cannot become opinion-less. But we can notice our opinions and routinely seek to challenge them, especially if they are making us unhappy. Practicing mindfulness is the way to do that.
We can also let our opinions teach us about ourselves. Our private thoughts can show us Shadow material – repressed traits and desires. Without getting curious about them, they are an unexploited avenue for developing knowledge of the ego.
Are beliefs any better?
Opinions that are protected from examination, and nurtured over time, form unconscious beliefs. You might have the opinion that the guys you are dating are awful, for example. This could become the slightly more wholesale belief that ‘there are no good guys left’. Holding that belief becomes self-fulfilling, as our beliefs inspire our actions and demeanor.
What are your beliefs? Have you tapped them on the shoulder lately to see whether they are still legit?Beliefs are more empowering than opinions (if you are choosing good ones) Click To Tweet
Unfortunately, like food, beliefs are necessary; we cannot go on a diet of beliefs. Beliefs are what drag us out of bed in the morning (hopefully), and get us to bed at a decent time.
But you have to credit check them. The question to ask is whether they are in service of your higher values and aspirations (don’t know what those are yet? Read this)?
An example of a great belief: personal qualities are cultivatable. This is a belief from a growth mindset. An example of a useless belief: there isn’t enough to go around. This is a belief from a scarcity mindset.
(If you want to know how to overcome your dodgy limiting beliefs, guess what? I have an opinion about that too.)
Onto the weightiest contender in belief anatomy: convictions. Believe a belief enough, and it becomes a conviction.
Funnily, we are a breed of few convictions. Many opinions, many beliefs, but few convictions. We have it the wrong way around, because a conviction is the most conscious of the rigid thought forms. A conviction is like a value, a guidepost that helps you to know what to say yes and no to.Become a woman (or man) of fewer opinions, more convictions Click To Tweet
I have a conviction that writing and yoga support the person I want to be, more than using Instagram 24/7 and having copious promiscuous sex. What about you?
Where the beliefs and opinions can keep us stuck in place, convictions support freedom and personal growth. It is like having parameters for living the best life possible.
I’d encourage you to trade in your opinions and beliefs for a few convictions. Again, do this by developing a clearer idea of your values.
These days, I prefer convictions to opinions and beliefs. I just find that life tends to work better that way, plus I am happier.
If you’re interested in joining me, I’d tell you that it is a transition. It takes a while to unburden yourself of opinions and beliefs you never knowingly selected. Or it can happen quickly. One of the two.
When you’ve done it, maybe we can meet in the field that the poet Rumi spoke about, ‘out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing’.
‘Cause that sounds like an awesome place.