Unlearning beliefs and developing flexible cognition after the age of 25



After a certain age, our notions and sentiments become rock strong, unyielding. We stop ratifying feedback. Even if we do, we don’t acquiesce to it. Multiple communication theories stress that feedback is vital. The relationship between a message sender and the receiver can be substantiated better with constructive feedback. The very concept of communication can be ameliorated!

Human life has a unique gift. The capacity to understand our surroundings thoroughly while developing dexterous logical thinking. The abilities of imagination, perceiving critically, and adaptation have been developed significantly in us humans. And all this is despite the fact that we are among the weakest of all species during infancy. Comparing the offspring of a pigeon, which takes about 40-45 days to leave his nest, with a human child, which takes 6570 days; we can clearly observe the contrast.

While it takes a substantial amount of time for humans to develop physically; cognitive development requires a lot more. Until puberty, a person, ideally, has had enough life experiences to develop critical thinking. The rationale, however, is still flexible. For someone to fully substantiate their beliefs and develop their own (mental) voice, it takes about 25 years!


But if the experiences are mediocre, what happens then? What if everything that you have experienced in life was nothing compared to the REAL struggles of the “real world”? It happens to the best of us. When we reach a certain age, we look back and find out that we have been living someone else’s dream. We realize that all our life, we have survived in a protective bubble, but by then, it is too late to go back!

So, how to develop critical thinking? I wrote this article to develop a clear idea. It will not solve the problem but might help observe it a tad better. Here are some pointers:


1. Do not underestimate people

Overconfidence breeds foolishness. A manager leading a team of 4 – 5 executive must have the patience and the ability to have a coherent discussion. What usually happens is that the senior employee in an organization thinks that he knows the best. Similarly, in a family, the father rarely takes the opinion of his children or even his wife. This attitude results in a block that gets strengthened with time. It solidifies to such an extent that we stop considering anyone better than us. This borderline megalomania further breeds ego and finally leads to breakdowns like a midlife crisis!


2. Be open to suggestions

Continuing from the previous point – suggestions are important. The problem is that everyone has some. The solution is finding the people whose opinion matters. See, there is no Craigslist, or Justdial for finding such people. This is a manual job, which takes years. One way to go about it can be finding a person who tends to give constructive advice. If we think about us as eternal learners, students in search of true excellence; then it gets easier to ask people for advice. We all have a friend who is at a better place than we are. We all have more successful colleagues, loved ones, acquaintances et al. So we should benefit from their experiences. Inculcating the habit of asking for advice will help us find constructive criticism and thereby people who can give such criticism. And once we receive it, we should do it with open arms and mind.


3. Understand Points Of View

Our worldview might be sufficient for us, but more perspectives can definitely broaden our horizons. It is beneficial to think from other person’s perspective. In a media organization, for example, a newspaper company, the two major departments, i.e the reporting and editorial, ideally should work in tandem. This, however, does not happen. Opinions clash, creative differences occur, and a lot of stuff goes haywire. This can be avoided to a great extent if we imagine ourselves in the other person’s shoes. When we are children, we fight for meaningless reasons. The whole point of being an adult is being able to resolve conflicts peacefully.


4. Approach people with a positive approach

Everybody complains about the negativity around them but few do anything about it. Read self-help books. Almost all of them advise you to think positively, have a positive approach toward life, and the run of the mill ‘be positive’. It is virtually impossible to be that way all the time because negative thoughts are way more compelling and in fact, bring much more satisfaction than positive ones. Afflicting pain, taking back what is rightfully yours with force, thinking about someone else’s downfall et al. It all brings a smile to most faces. However, the collateral damage happens to no one but us. If you can’t stay positive, it is fine. But what you can do, is being congenial. Try to attain a wavelength akin to the other person. Do not waste much time, because if the wavelength has to match, it will do in a little span!

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5. Give people more chances. They deserve it

Helping yourself by helping others is one philosophical thought to ease your life. We get insistent as we grow up. We start retorting to others’ opinions in the worst way possible. And even if we try to accept their opinion, we only do so by giving them a minuscule span of time. Try listening, it works. Famous books on relationships, numerous agony aunts, and countless opinion columns in various media have suggested, time and again that ‘Communication is the key’.

There is, however, a fallacy in this thought. What if communicating doesn’t solve the problem? What if the other person is, for the lack of a better word, a fool? The answer is two-pronged. Either leave the arena and stop thinking about it all or try and give as many chances as you can. People have a tendency to understand others, the duration of it varies greatly, person to person. The human brain was programmed to work in tandem. We aren’t lone wolves, but apes who live and love in groups. Give people a chance, and several more chances. They will eventually come through. Remember, persistence is the key, and acceptance is its reward.


6. Introspect. It is crucial to do so

Enough about the other person. Let us talk about you, the reader. You are a culmination of multitudinous atoms, molecules, and subatomic particles. Similarly comprised are the table in front of you, the wind that is blowing outside, and the entirety of the universe. You are made of star matter, the garbage lying on the road is also made of the same. You are the embodiment of eternity. So, take time for others but more importantly, take time for yourself. Think and grow. Notice and observe little things about yourself, the little ticks that irritate you, the way people get attracted to you, the way you interact with others. The way you are, and the things that make you – YOU! If you get to know yourself, you will know the universe. Thereafter, stuff like opinions and the greatness of yours will seem trivial. Analyze yourself and ask someone to analyze you. Compare the analyses, and reach a conclusion. It only takes a little time. It will definitely benefit you and make you a better person. Trust a random blogger on that!


Everybody is struggling in their life. Some struggle more than us, some are a little better off. But everybody is struggling nevertheless. We should try and not add to the struggle. Obviously, we are not divine. We are also human and practically applying all this philosophical stuff is tough! What we can do, is take baby steps. Observe one person a day and imagine what their struggles might be. It is all visible if we look closely. Signs are everywhere and the truth is, barring minor differences, everyone is basically alike. This is a utopian statement, but it is truer than you think. Don’t believe me? Go on, observe. You’ll know what I am talking about.


One thought on “Unlearning beliefs and developing flexible cognition after the age of 25

  1. I think introspection is sort of rendered useless when you already hold a very high (a bit/almost baseless) opinion of yourself – which is THE very problem of someone who needs to unlearn.

    People need to unlearn that which is wrong/is harming them/others in seen and unseen ways. In an attempt to do the same, i think constructive external feedback could be of greater help, If people had the ability and intent to introspect, they wouldn’t have been so unaccepting of their shortcomings in the first place.

    Having said that, yes introspection is the perfect first step towards self discovery and changing for the good. Some people, however, might need excessive probing for taking it!

    Liked by 1 person

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