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Thought Piece

Why Keeping an Open Mind When Volunteering is Important

By Rianna
Successfully sending volunteers abroad for 10 years

Charity work volunteering is a great idea. You are able to help others in different ways whilst simultaneously gaining great experiences, skills, knowledge and lessons for yourself. When deciding to volunteer, although it may seem like an easy enough decision, there are plenty of factors to consider, such as where to volunteer, how you will volunteer, how much time to commit and so on. However, when committing to the idea of volunteering you may not realise you’re deciding to keep an open mind. 

Keeping an open mind can be challenging and hard to practice at times. It’s natural for us to sit in our own comfort zone and be closed off to new opportunities that come our way. Research has shown that we’re hardwired to be close-minded. Don’t let this stop you from being open, though. 

Here’s why keeping an open mind when volunteering is important. These will help you understand the good reasons behind it and make it easier to practice. Reminding yourself of these reasons will enable you to embrace new experiences easier.  

You Learn and Grow

Often, we dislike feeling vulnerable because it may make us feel scared. However, by being open to feeling vulnerable you are allowing yourself to learn new things. For example, I was open to volunteering abroad alone. I have felt vulnerable in the past, but this type of vulnerability felt different. When I allowed myself to open up and grow I learnt that I was capable of doing something big and I gained confidence from this. As a result, I experienced personal growth from being open-minded to new ideas and possibilities. 

It’s important to be open because it allows you to immerse yourself when volunteering because you open yourself to everyone and everything that you face. You will be meeting new people and be learning new ways of doing things. Every individual has grown up differently and come from different backgrounds. You’ll be able to learn their ways and being open to this allows you to decide what works for you and what doesn’t. A good example of this is experiencing a new culture. For example, we may be biased into thinking ‘West is Best’, so by immersing yourself in a new culture in different countries, you challenge your preconceived notions about how things work.  

You’ve pulled yourself out of your comfort zone and challenged these thoughts. This is important because it helps you grow and understand more than what you’re used to back at home. From this, it creates a new path, you have better knowledge and understanding of cultures and the world and so you are able to decide what method works for you and what doesn’t. For example, learning a new education system in a different country may inform you to start learning and teaching back home using a different method you think works better and vice versa. 

Experiencing Changes and Making Mistakes

Change is the only constant in life. Change is inevitable. Sometimes it may be harder to accept change, but there is nothing we can do about it. It is part of life! It’s important to be open because we are allowing ourselves to be free; free to experience changes, and this can feel liberating. By doing so we are allowing ourselves to make mistakes. Although this doesn’t seem much like an advantage, it really is. 

By allowing yourself to learn other individual’s ways, we are putting ourselves in their shoes. We start to see things from a different perspective. This is beneficial for us and others because we then create a greater sense of belonging. We are able to better understand others. This is helpful when volunteering because often we may help those who need an extra pair of hands, by putting ourselves in their shoes we build better relationships. This works both ways as they can also start to see things from our perspective. 

Experiencing changes and being open to making mistakes means that we recognise we aren’t always right. This is okay. Making mistakes is how you learn. 

Living in The Moment

Letting go of control and allowing yourself to go with the flow makes living in the moment easier. By opening your mind, you aren’t in complete control of your thoughts, feelings and views. Doing this can help you live in the moment and take in new experiences. 

When volunteering, it is important to live in the moment so you can gain as much as you can from it and give back wholeheartedly. However, you can’t do that if you hold onto your beliefs and opinions so strongly that it holds you back from participating in tasks and activities fully. For example, if you believe that working individually and alone is the best and produces better quality work this may stop you from learning that working in groups is great and hold you back from learning from others and building on new friendships. Whereas, if you were to open your mind to group work and teamwork you realise that working in a team can be efficient and produce better quality outcomes in some cases and work can be fun with other people, too. 

Once you let go of your beliefs and open yourself to new ideas and beliefs, naturally you’ll notice more things you may not have noticed before. When we are close-minded, we close the doors to both bad and good things, whereas, with an open mind we can take both good and bad things in. The difference is that we have the option to decide to filter out the bad ideas we don’t approve of, being close-minded doesn’t give us that opportunity.

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