Accepting New Ideas

Much of the time when a new idea comes to us, we handle that idea and move on, without ever becoming consciously aware of the process. During the times when we are consciously aware of the process of handling a new idea, we often reject that idea without understanding why we rejected it, or sometimes without even understanding that we did reject it.

How can this be?

To understand this, lets briefly review the mechanics of how our minds work. When a new idea comes to us, it comes into our conscious mind. It can be as a result of our own thinking, or it can be from an outside source. Immediately, and sometimes before the new idea is even properly formed, our sub-conscious mind starts to evaluate that idea.

Now this evaluation is happening in our sub-conscious mind. That means that we are not consciously aware of it, but it is happening anyway.

So how does our sub-conscious mind evaluate an idea, sometimes before the idea is complete, and without us being aware that this is going on. To understand this we need to understand a characteristic of our sub-conscious mind.

Our sub-conscious mind has no ability to reason. If that is so, how can it evaluate a new idea? Well one way is to ask itself, does this new idea fit with what I already 'know'. If it does, then the new idea will not be immediately rejected. If it doesn't then the sub-conscious mind will send a message to the conscious mind to say that this new idea doesn't fit. Usually at this point, the conscious mind will believe what the sub-conscious mind is saying to it, and reject the idea.

There are a number of problems with this. What if the information that the sub-conscious mind is evaluating the new idea against, is wrong?

A common example of this is when a new idea comes into our conscious mind, and our sub-conscious mind starts to evaluate it. The sub-conscious mind says, 'I already know that'. Now that 'I already know that' message is sent to the conscious mind, and what happens then?

Often the conscious mind stops considering the new idea at that point, and moves on to something new. But did the sub-conscious mind really know that it knew that? Maybe sometimes, but often the new idea is not even properly formed yet, so how could the sub-conscious mind be sure that it 'knew' that.

Unfortunately when the conscious mind gets the 'I know that' message, it usually stops receiving or processing the new idea, and that means the opportunity to learn something new is lost.

What can we do about this? How can we interrupt our sub-conscious mind so that it does not stop us learning from new ideas, when we are exposed to them. I suggest that there are two easy ways.

Firstly, when we hear our sub-conscious mind saying 'That doesn't fit', or 'That can't be right', or something similar, we can simply say to our sub-conscious mind 'Thank-you for that information'. This means that we have decided not to act on the message that our sub-conscious mind was sending. Our conscious mind is then free to continue considering, reasoning and thinking about the new idea.

The second thing we can do is ask our conscious mind to think about the new idea in a way it may have not done before. Usually our conscious mind thinks 'Is this idea right?', or 'Is this idea wrong?'. Instead of those questions we could ask 'Could this idea change or improve my life in some way?'.

This allows us to look at a new idea in a completely fresh way, without being influenced by all the things that we have learnt before, or that we already 'know'.

It was Will Rogers who said many years ago that "it's not what people don't know that hurts them. It's what they do know that just ain't so."

Tony McGlinn runs personal development programs, writes and is a personal coach and consultant. You can visit him and subscribe to his newsletter at

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