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June 22nd, 2018
Our brains have a finicky relationship with facts.
Logically, rationally, it would make sense to gobble up as many facts as we can. Each new fact increases the accuracy of our mental model of the world. And a more accurate map means you can travel around the real terrain with far more ease.
This is not what we do though.
If we come across a new fact. Particularly one that is especially at odds with the way we look at any particular subject. What do we usually do?
We stick to what we know, what we believe, and everything we’ve been doing based on that set of thinking.
One of the reasons that beliefs are so sticky, is that usually when we come across information that contradicts what we think we know. Usually it’s false. (like what the crazy person on the street corner says)
But not always.
And there’s the catch. We ignore almost all information that contradicts our ideas. This means we are also missing out on small bits of important information that could aide us. We miss out because the habit of ignoring contradicting information is predominately an emotional reaction.
How do beliefs change?
Beliefs change due to emotional reactions. It’s the emotional experiences that easily influence how we think, believe and act in the future.
Back in the days of the saber tooth tiger, this was bloody useful.
Those days are long gone though.
The best way to learn is not through our emotional experience of the world. That mechanism is still useful, but it can also be very misleading. Calmly, quietly and thoughtfully considering facts gets us to where we’re hoping to go much faster. Much MUCH faster than simply reacting to what’s going on.
Research shows that information contrary to our opinions and beliefs even hardens those preexisting beliefs. Even if that new information is widely replicated as fact. The polarization over Climate Change is a prime example.
What is the antidote?
It’s not easy:
It requires slowing down and being skeptical about our own beliefs. It requires entertaining the idea that our beliefs might be wrong, that our beliefs might even be damaging.
It requires thoughtfully considering.
Taking the spotlight off of the quick emotional reaction.
Practicing humility. Remembering:
We know far less than we feel we do.
There’s a whole lot of world out there.
We only have two eyeballs worth of it. When those two, limited, windows through which we experience the vast universe come across something new. Maybe different. Potentially threatening to some entrenched believing system we have. How do we react?
Do you underscore?
Or are you willing to erase?
Write something new.
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