One of the questions I received a while ago was: “What is the one thing that holds people back most from achieving whatever they want to achieve?” That’s easy. Misguided beliefs and opinions. Beliefs and opinions are not facts, they are the very opposite of facts. Beliefs are nothing more than feelings of certainty and opinions nothing more than inconclusive views – they resolve or prove nothing. So why do we love them so much then?

We want to be so sure of everything. Because that sureness gives us a sense of security. But behind all that sureness, strong convictions and beliefs is really a sense of insecurity. Insecurity of how little we really know and how little we are able to perceive with our senses and inspect with our minds. But the more that our perception grows the less sure we are of everything. We lean less to one side or the other and we observe more without trying to judge or intervene all the time. We become more open to embrace both sides and consequently see more clearly why both sides exist in the first place.

In our society knowledge is a virtue and so a knowledgeable person is a desirable trait. But because learning is hard and forming opinions is easy many people just form an opinion and fool themselves that they actually know something. What a mistake. When someone forms an opinion or accepts a belief it will be hard to change it later on when such a person receives new facts in the matter, especially if he or she is a very rigid person. So when we form an opinion or accept a belief we actually cut ourselves off from knowing the truth. Leonardo da Vinci said: “The greatest deception men suffer is from their own opinions.”

Even if we form an opinion or we copy someone else’s opinion that holds some merit, that is still not knowledge. It’s just one small part of it. One of my faculty professors would call that a “dotting knowledge”. You have one dot here and one dot there but you aren’t anywhere close to seeing the whole picture. That would be like trying to see a 100 piece puzzle by having only 5 pieces and imagining the rest. It just can’t be done.

The sentence “I don’t know.” holds tremendous power in itself. It is a potential for learning and knowing. When we say “I don’t know” we acknowledge the truth. And when we do that we open up. At that point, many things can come to us or happen to us. That is how we actually grow and develop. But today most people are just interested in the quick and easy answers. They want to fool themselves. They don’t really want to know the truth. They just want the constant reassurance that what they believe is the truth.

So the next time when you have this strong urge to form an opinion or express it, don’t. It won’t just benefit you it will also benefit the other person. Just say “I don’t know.” or “I don’t have any opinion on that topic.” or don’t say anything at all if you don’t have to. For a fool, this will seem like a foolish thing to do but for a reasonable person, it will seem very reasonable. When we stop thinking that we know something or trying to sound knowledgeable we actually open up to the potential to become that. Richard Feynman said: “The first principle is that you must not fool yourself, and you are the easiest person to fool.”

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