Entitled to my opinion?

I have an opinion about opinions. Being human, I have an opinion about almost everything.

The old saying, “I’m entitled to my opinions,” misses the mark. It makes as much sense as, “I’m entitled to my thoughts.” Got a brain? You’re going to have thoughts. I can’t remember where I read this to give proper credit, but someone once pointed out that your brain secretes thoughts the way your pancreas secretes insulin. It’s just what it does.

Wisdom comes in not believing everything you think. Examine your thoughts. Recognize that you have thoughts, but you are not your thoughts.

For the sake of discussion, though, let’s leave the original expression in place, and look at corollaries.

Students hear this from me: “You’re entitled to your opinion, but you’re not entitled to have it taken seriously.” Just because you express it doesn’t mean it’s worth anything. Want someone else to take it seriously? Offer the underlying evidence that supports that opinion. The mere fact that you have an opinion will not sway anyone but the weak-minded. The underpinning for that opinion may make a difference to someone who incorporates it into their own mental structure and make it his/her own.

But go beyond that. “You’re entitled to your opinion. Whether it’s wise to hold onto it and cultivate it is a different matter.” In “I Wanted to Like It,” Karen Maezen Miller points out that opinions and their expressions have consequences. I know an opinion is just a thought, not a fact–but it often doesn’t feel that way. Everyone is entitled to his/her opinion, entitled to express it–endlessly, it seems. And because we don’t recognize the difference between thought and reality, we take our own opinion and the expressed opinions of others to heart, where it can set up shop and kill us.

We equate having an opinion with caring. It’s not the same thing.

Furthermore, we tend to be happier when we understand an opinion is a preference, not a need.

Here is something that goes beyond opinion to the level of experience (still not the same as fact): I am happier when I hold my opinions lightly, and there’s seldom a time when I am happier expressing my opinion than just keeping it to myself. Maybe that’s why blog posts have tended to taper off. 🙂 In any case, an unexpressed opinion held lightly seldom damages anyone or anything; an expressed opinion held strongly often does.

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Learning to work right

At first glance this article would seem to have little to do with college, academics, learning, etc. In fact, it gets at the whole point of higher education, in my opinion. My students often here from me that college has never really been about preparing a student for a job; it is about helping a student learn to live more effectively (which, by the way, generally makes a student more attractive to an employer).

Here is how Cal Newport expressed the insight: “Finding the right work pales in importance to learning how to work right.”

As both my students and my children probably get sick of hearing: it’s not what happens to you but what you think about what happens to you that determines your experiences.

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Spending may have permanently shifted

This is the first post on this blog in a new category, which I’ve simply labeled “Bliss.” It’s in support of the use of this year’s common book, The Geography of Bliss. I’m still not quite sure how I’m going to develop it for use in my own classes, and I’m still reading through it myself. But as I’m reading it, I’m getting sensitized to articles, posts, Web pages, etc., that perhaps connect to it. Posts here related to the common book will not go into any discussion of the concepts (I don’t want to impose my own view on whatever it is students are doing with the topics), but will simply point to the related resources with perhaps a brief explanation of what provides the relevance.

Today, I would like to point you to But Will It Make You Happy?, an article that first appeared in the New York Times, that has been shared from them via Yahoo Finance. There is some depth here around recent research that suggests you are better off spending on experiences rather than things, and also that the way you spend has more to do with happiness than does your income.

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