It’s time to reflect upon this 2016 US presidential election. We have been waiting a long time to reach this point, and I think all of us will agree, we are glad it’s behind us.
Some of us were shocked, some saddened, some angry, and some of us felt like we prevailed and our voices were heard. All of these emotional responses are common after any major election. But, we want to discuss a different response, a more curious one. One that is filled with wonder and is driven to understand this week’s events and all the events leading up to this point, because in the space of curiosity, answers are found.
Sadly, we often live in isolation, even with the use of technology, we isolate from ideas which differ from our own, and this is very dangerous. “This is the problem with America today, the technology that was supposed to bring us together actually isolated us into echo chambers and drove us further apart.”
Many of us aren’t comfortable enough to get outside of our comfort zone, or to question the news and information that is constantly pushed to us. We aren’t listening to each other. We aren’t trying to understand points of view outside of our own. We aren’t inquisitive enough.
Curiosity is healthy and empowering. We can learn so much, not just about the other side, but about ourselves. We can get curious about the past, and look back and question why Donald Trump was elected president (I personally believe this act of reflection is necessary and important).
To begin our quest to remain open-minded, we can use our emotions to propel us forward and to motivate us. If we channel our anger, fear, frustration, or confusion into wonder and intrigue, we can redirect what might be holding us back.
We can ask ourselves reflective questions like: What important signs and events throughout our society and around the world did we miss? What did we see and know about, but dismiss as unimportant? Why? Did we make false assumptions? If we would have asked ourselves these questions a month ago, would we have felt more prepared today?
Questioning the past is useful to understand patterns and causality, because the emergent properties which arise from complex systems, like a political system, don’t become apparent to us until later, in hindsight. These moments of reflective questioning can also release us from strong biases and open us up to the truth, truths we may not like. Questioning the past also helps us practice resilience, so we can become more equipped to manage uncertainty as we move forward. We can learn how to approach uncertainty with a new, more open attitude. It’s healthy for us to work through the past, but we should not live in the past or dwell on it for too long. After practicing open-minded curiosity and working through our emotions and uncertainty, we need to practice mindfulness and awareness in the present.
Awareness helps us figure out what happens next. By focusing on the present moment, we can recognize when we are stuck in an echo chamber or feedback loop which is only reinforcing ideas similar to our own. We can push ourselves out of our comfort zone and we can make a conscious effort to see things around us differently. Small changes within our everyday lives will lead to lasting impacts. Every interaction is a chance for us to practice our awareness. We can ask ourselves questions like: Am I making an assumption about this person? If so, am I assuming good intent, or fearing the worst from people? Am I being empathetic? Do I really understand this person? Am I listening to understand, or just to reply?
There is very little in this world we can actually control beyond our own actions, but we have to practice mindfulness everyday in order to earn even that level of control. Pause. Breathe. And, think before you respond.