Do something you would never do, but that is not too far from you because the essence of open-mindedness – which leads to excel in what you do and live better – is a mix of knowledge and experience

Laura Leone, Humanistic Coaching

The strongest signal of one's openness is not being sure of being truly open to what's different. Being so, in fact, means giving yourself the doubt, seeing ourselves and the world from a point of view whose existence we were unaware of.

Why should we make this effort? The answer is: to live better, to excel in what we do and to discover new horizons. Essential characteristics for those who design. But how do you open up to what's new?

Openness is a passage

If you are looking for a definition of openness, you can easily find this: open is a place that allows passage, entrance, communication, or even just simply the view of an additional space. Open means accessible.

The place of an open mind is then a place where thoughts, emotions, ideas, feelings, can circulate freely, see what they are and communicate with each other. This definition is very reminiscent of a key concept of neuropsychology: that of brain integration. Brain integration is a characteristic of a mind that enjoys good health because each system that composes it, in addition to being specialized or differentiated, is connected with the others. Integration is harmony in the orchestra.

Fantasy + creativity vs logic + rationality

Openness is also what allows you to connect the two cerebral hemispheres, the two natures of the human being that have always been seen and treated as opposed: that of logic, rigor and precision (attributed to the left hemisphere) and that of fantasy, imagination and creativity (right hemisphere). We have been mistakenly used to thinking about this dual world. But those who know great artists, engineers, sportsmen, political and business leaders know that what makes them important characters is the ability to mix these two natures. The ability to plan, programme and evaluate must be able to speak with that of having vision, autonomy of thought as well as with a good dose of empathy (let's not forget the heart!)

Open-mindedness: right hemisphere and left hemisphere are played like a piano and violin duo, like the two hands when they create.


A home with doors and windows

Now let's get out of the mind and take a tour in the space of our houses, our cities, our countries. Here, open-mindedness is useful for understanding how much the world of one's own interior experience and that of relationships speak to each other, can protect each other or otherwise be damaged. To traverse the space of the external world and the relationships between diversities, the simple, clear, and in some ways reassuring definition of openness is once again useful: an open place is what allows us, first of all, to see. To dare to know, filled with doubts and working to overcome them. Knowing that this process will never be completed, but it is still worth the effort.

Creating borders and time for knowledge

If open-mindedness were a profession it would be that of the researcher. A good researcher, set epistemological boundaries, travels to unknown territories trying to find proof of the erroneousness of his hypothesis.

The border helps, indeed: it is fundamental. In the history of men, borders have made it possible to avoid wars and conflicts. Where their presence is decided by both parties involved, borders are a great test of open-mindedness. I don't know the other, I don't understand it, I don't tolerate it: I therefore establish a space (and a time) within which we can both be free and waiting for the moment when mutual knowledge allows us to evaluate the quality of our relationship. Physical distance is not social separation. Sometimes we must and we can love each other only if we are far apart.

Being open means embracing necessarily what's new?

Considerations on openness inevitably lead to the ancient dispute between what's old and what's new, restoration and innovation.

In Eastern philosophy, the future and the past exist only if we can see the present in all its depth, if we are in the hic et nunc: thus openness of mind does not only go in favor of innovators, as it would be simple to think, but returns to being that meeting place, the middle ground where the journey can go in both directions. Obviously after knowing in the best possible way what is around us. Understanding what has been and what we want it to be is fundamental to creating the new. The true innovator is in fact the one who has made a journey so long and deep in the past, so thoroughly explored his desires, that he or she can generate an informed but renewed, and unique point of view. Psychologist Mihály Csíkszentmihályi would say that it takes those famous ten thousand hours of exercise to give birth to a truly new motion.


Mental openness in relationships: how to generate a grand present

Even psychoanalyst Massimo Recalcati speaking of love relationships, says: the new often has the face of the old. Recalcati refers to being dragged into situations that are already known when starting a new relationship when the past has not been sufficiently explored and understood. Past and future, experience and imagination must therefore meet to make us open to what is different from us and generate a great present.

How then is open-mindedness trained, which – now is more clear than ever – is such an essential ingredient for happiness? A piece of advice comes from a book, Italia Spensierata (Carefree Italy), in which Francesco Piccolo urges us to do something that we would never do but that is not too far from what we are. The reason is simple. Going too far there implies the risk of closure because you need a lens to glimpse the place where you have gone. Finding the right amplitude to make the leap (i.e. knowing and analyzing the past and personal and collective desires in an objective way), on the other hand, is a guarantee to skip even higher.


The photos illustrating the article are part of the Like Sunshine’ photographic project by the Italian journalist Silvia Molteni, made in London during the lockdown. Protagonists are Londoners who, thanks to a prolonged and unusual sunny climate, sunbathe in living spaces usually ignored: entrance stairs, window sills, bow windows and even roofs.