Become smarter, challenge your beliefs

“If you don’t like the way we are bringing you up, find those who do better and copy them.” These were words from my mother when I was 13 or 14.

“If you don’t like the way we are bringing you up, find those who do better and copy them.” These were words from my mother when I was 13 or 14.

The message stuck and it has had a positive effect on my life. Perhaps if you consider her words of wisdom, you, too, might benefit.

“Happiness is largely a matter of contrasts,” according to Mary Pipher, Ph.D, in her book, “Reviving Orphelia.” That’s true. We judge our happiness by comparing previous good times or bad times with our present state. We usually do this without our awareness, but if you reflect for a few moments, you will find it is true.

Contrast is one of the most effective tools to increase intelligence. I use it all the time when I teach. Contrasting differing points of view brings issues into clearer focus and increases awareness.

Studies reveal that intelligence is not set, as many believe; that is, using IQ scores as the basis for the belief in fixed intelligence. We can grow in intelligence by asking questions and noting the differences between opposing views. When we contrast opposing arguments or themes we often are able to synthesize new ideas.

People who believe intelligence is set tend to make excuses for themselves and to cheat because they believe they can’t get any smarter, according to studies by Stanford psychology professor Carol Dweck in her book, “Mindset.” Being open to new ideas and better ways of doing things actually makes us smarter.

The idea of contrast can be seen in the writings of philosopher Georg Wilhelm Hegel, 19th century European philosopher. He came up with a theory called the Hegelian dialectic: it is defined as one perspective (thesis), which comes in contact with another opposing thesis (antithesis). From the interaction of these two opposing beliefs comes something new that is a combination (synthesis) of the two opposing views.

Perhaps that is why a competitive and open society like the United States has made such great strides in virtually every field – science, mathematics, technology, the social sciences, medicine – the list is endless. Closed and authoritarian societies don’t grow as quickly or create new things to make lives better. Dictatorships spend much of their resources and energy suppressing differences rather than encouraging them. As a result, the people do not increase their intelligence to become smarter.

Contrasting ideas can improve our lives and the lives of others. Ideas are infectious and they spread like viruses. Once an idea comes into common use, it is impossible to suppress.

One excellent ancient example comes from the book of Deuteronomy in the Bible. Moses taught the Israelites the law by putting half the tribes on Mount Gerizim to bless them for obedience and half on Mount Ebal to emphasize the curses from disobedience. The contrast between blessing and cursing was meant to clearly define good and evil. We only understand the good by seeing the evil.

Ever since my mother gave me that advice, I have sought out people who did things better than I did or were smarter than I was about some issue. Once I noticed they were successful at something where I had done poorly, I questioned them, trying to find out what thinking they were using to achieve success.

Usually they had some saying or thesis in their heads that they used as a guide. Over time they had developed that theme into action on many fronts, making them successful. My goal has been to try to absorb and internalize those thoughts and proverbs so I could develop those same patterns in my own life.

It usually takes a while, but once I learn the guiding principle, I reflect on it from different angles over time. It is like examining the different facets of a diamond. Each side gives a different perspective that deepens my understanding of the subject.

My mother’s advice was like that diamond. The longer I thought about it, the smarter I became. Contrasts open up whole new worlds and enrich us. Seeking differing opinions can do the same for you, if you have the courage to challenge your belief system.

More in Opinion

Suggestions for dealing with gun violence

Seems emotions run high at every turn and we have forgotten so much in our world of tragedies.

Amendments have changed constitutional values

Do you know why we have the electoral college to vote for the president?

Common ground found on prosecuting officers

Two dozen people tasked by the Legislature to provide guidance gathered for a final time in November to settle on recommendations.

Lack of respect, not guns, is the problem

All the laws that are on the books now and still criminals have firearms.

Trump’s luck may be running out

Nowhere in the world has seen improvement as a result of Trump’s actions. Eventually, Trump’s luck will run out and the chickens will come home to roost.

Choose love, show support for Florida victims

I want to walk out to show that I support the victims and their families. To show my school the consequences won’t stop me from showing that support.

Is technology taking jobs or creating new ones? | Noelle Neff

Despite the mistrust seen at the time, the Industrial Revolution can stand as a sign of changing times not bringing the world to its knees.

Black Diamond should move toward a seven-person council

The cost is almost nothing, as these are almost entirely volunteer positions, but the safeguards to our local citizens would be significant.

Weighing individual rights vs. the common good

The National Rifle Association’s rights are being protected at the expense of the majority of voters.

Most Read