This blog may be about lifestyle design. It may be about how to relocate, travel and nomad abroad with success. But every so often I have to write a post that deals with none of that, at least, not directly. I have to write a post that deals with how we think and what mindsets we carry as we navigate our way throughout the world and life.

This post is one such instance. I truly believe it’s one of the most important pieces you can read on this site. Once internalised, it’ll pervade your decision making and modus operandi wherever you go. You’ll hold a mindset that very few can. And to top it off, reading this will be short but sweet. Welcome to the concept of malleable beliefs.

Reflection exercise on malleable beliefs

I’d like to begin by inviting you to take a short moment to reflect. This exercise in self-reflection is focused around one central question: what’s a belief you previously held that you no longer have now?

The more ideological the previous belief the better. For instance, maybe you held a particular political position but no longer do. However, the belief doesn’t have to be something ideologically strong. It could be something you disliked about your place of origin but being abroad has given you a new found appreciation for it in your home country. Or perhaps it’s a change of opinion about a specific career path when you thought it used to be your ideal vocation.

The other angle to approach this from is to consider a belief you hold that you didn’t before. This is tantamount to the method above since both are ultimately changes in opinion positions from the past but this approach can make it easier for some to call to mind different beliefs.

Whatever the belief is, it probably didn’t take long to come to mind. If it takes you even more than a minute, you’re likely not thinking far back enough. We all had beliefs and opinions as children that we no longer hold as adults. But unless you’ve just turned eighteen, it shouldn’t take a trip down memory lane of childhood to find a belief you’ve relinquished.

As you recall the belief, think about how you felt when you held it and think about how you feel at present, now that you no longer believe in the position. This can trigger a range of emotions but a common one is downright surprise or even disbelief that you used to hold that point of view. Depending on the belief, some people even remark how stupid they must have been to think the way they did.

Finally, reflect on your present state and what the change in belief position means for you and your sense of self. You’re likely content with the change and your current range of opinions compared to the past.

Malleable Beliefs Reflection

Analysis – The nature of malleable beliefs

What’s the whole point of this exercise? It’s to show how most of our thoughts are comprised of malleable beliefs and opinions. Even the most ideologically driven person can find something they used to believe with such conviction that they no longer do. It’s a matter of fact that as the world changes and you grow older, you cannot retain the same number of static malleable beliefs. If you aren’t sensitive to inevitable changes, those beliefs alone won’t give you an accurate depiction of reality, you need to adapt.

This begs the question: how can we be so zealous in any particular belief once we know how malleable all of them can be? And that’s the point—avoiding ideological dogma is vital for your decision making and mind.

Think about it this way: at some point in your past you believed in something with absolute certainty. Yet for one reason or another, that belief’s indisputability was chipped away at until finally you changed your mind on it and regarded it as false or an incomplete depiction of reality. 

So what’s to stop any other current belief you hold from meeting the same fate?

Malleable Beliefs Analysis

At any age, we all feel that we know what’s right yet as time reveals, we have much to learn. The universe proves us wrong in some regard sooner or later no matter how old we become. The late great Charlie Munger used to speak about the importance of destroying at least one cherished belief every year, otherwise it’s likely you aren’t learning or thinking clearly enough.

Not questioning your malleable beliefs when you’re given evidence to do so is dangerous. It’s clinging to dogma because the cognitive dissonance (short version: pain from having to actually think even if your emotions don’t like it) is too great to bear so you shutdown any refutation because it makes you feel better.

But this isn’t a recipe for any smart person. It isn’t a sign of a clear thinker. It isn’t a road to success.

So next time you defend a position so vociferously, think about how right you actually are. Remember, in the past you used to assert with conviction at least one thing (but probably more) that you no longer believe in. Perhaps this is the next opinion you’ll change your mind on in the future.

Embrace the cognitive dissonance of a non-dogmatic approach to life. It’s a signal that you’re updating your priors. That you’re learning how the world really is. When so few can sit in the dissonance and allow their cherished malleable beliefs to be questioned, you will stand out among others with your insights into the nature of things.

Malleable Beliefs Insights

Summary – Malleable Beliefs

There’s an under-appreciated beauty to a non-dogmatic approach to life. So much of travel, relocation and lifestyle design abroad is about encountering a broader spectrum of malleable beliefs than the ones you grew up with. Everyone has changed multiple malleable beliefs at some point proving blind adherence to ideology is risky and downright wrong.

It’s vital we hold an open mind when coming across opinions that differ from our own. If not to discover a better way of thinking and operating then at least to increase our empathetic awareness of the thought positions of others and the context they believe them in. This is an increasingly rarer demonstration of maturity in the modern world.

The valuable takeaway is that proof in the nature of malleable beliefs and of our ability to adapt our thought positions show the futility of ascribing to any dogma.

Adopt a non-dogmatic approach to life, you’ll be a better person for it.