Thinking Without Limits
Have you ever found yourself believing something that turned out to be totally different to what you expected? It’s a familiar experience. But why does it happen?
I mean, if we know what is going on then we can expect circumstances to follow along with what we think. This seems reasonable, considering years of experience should enable to predict most things.
But that’s not how it always works out. Events unfold with unexpected twists. Beliefs we have nurtured with certainty get turned on their head. And, in the process, we can be left feeling confused and distressed.
Foremost and fundamentally, human beings have a natural tendency to live in the land of assumptions. Your team is best. Your family matters more, and what happens to you feels more important than it does to the person next door.
Yet these perceptions are not a true reflection. Things change with a shift in viewpoint. Suddenly, what was rock sure from one angle becomes a matter of uncertainty in the light of hindsight.
This need to pin things down into a consistent view is the psychological equivalent of creating solid ground. Expectations firm up the foundations of our life so we can get on with the business of living, paying bills, and discovering shopping trolley dings in your front fender.
Which is why people who question our certainties are often looked at with suspicion (if not downright contempt). How dare they suggest we are not happy, not living properly, or sending our kids to the wrong school?
I’d like to throw a fresh idea into the ring. One that lets us keep our beliefs but also allow for other possibilities).
Suppose we always make a space in our thinking for what we don’t yet know. That pigeonhole can allow for things we didn’t expect, consider as yet, or even comprehend.
Allowing for the unknown in your decision-making really is a small thing. Yet it makes a big difference to the way we shape our expectations.
For instance, I might be wedded to the belief that everyone at work loves me to bits. But when it comes out in the wash that it was all a pretense and they were secretly throwing daggers behind my back, not only would that be deeply painful (daggers are sharp after all), but it would rattle my confidence to the core.
That’s where a spare space for other potentials comes in. The reality of life is that none of us are all-seeing and all-knowing. So it is right to allow room for what we don’t know, even if we feel we do.
When situations unpredictably flip, allowing for surprise can help you both to cope and start enlarging your understanding with additional insights.
Of course, some people cannot cope won’t like this idea. Why? Well the prospect of saving a space for unknown factors leaves them feel uneasy. They’d much rather everything be locked down with 100% ironclad certainties, even if that could never be a true reflection of reality.
To be resilient takes more than a bulldozer approach that barges through every obstacle with a “just be happy regardless” mentality. A more balanced appraisal of what we see, coupled with unknown possibilities gives us something useful: an approach that lets us bend and flex to be our best.
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