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Monthly Archives: February 2015

We tell ourselves stories. This seems to be a basic condition of human existence. Everything that happens to us that rises to the level of awareness is fitted to an ongoing narrative we construct. Largely we are the heroes of our own narrative.

When we create ourselves as the hero we are subject to cognitive error. Say for example your boss hammers you on some point at work. Narratively that is hard to reconcile with your position as hero. In many cases, and particularly as you retell the story, your bias moves more and more toward the hero narrative and invents or embellishes the details needed to go along with that narrative.

A better approach is to construct a counterfactual story. Imagine the exact same scenario but construct yourself in the least ego friendly light you can manage. In the boss example, assume you were completely in the wrong and were actively deserving the hammering. What does that look like? What conditions would make it the case that this were true? By having this competing narrative you expose your thinking to other possibilities about what happened. It provides perspective on our natural tendency to want to be in the right or to be the hero. The goal isn’t to put yourself in the wrong or to tear yourself down but rather to find a balance.

Something to consider for your mental toolkit.

 

There’s an old clichĂ© about when everything is a priority nothing is priority. It’s actually kind of fun to see in action .

First they have the priority list. Then gradually everything becomes a priority. So they develop a new list, and this is the super extra priority list. And that lasts for a week or two. Then everything gradually migrates to the super extra priority list. So then you get the double extra super priority list. Wash rinse and repeat.
The mindset is really fascinating. It’s this gradualism in which they try to sneak just one or two more items on to that priority list (and then one or two more). Nothing else was supposed to make it on the list without something coming off. The thinking seems to be that somehow they are getting away with something; that just by adding those couple things to the list then somehow they’ll get done. This continues and it’s definitely a fooling yourself kind of situation. You might get away with it for adding one item on the list but as you’ve added your 10th or 12th item to the list it has completely defeated the purpose. While it’s occurring folks are watching this and nobody is stupid. They all know that the list keeps growing to a point where it is unaccomplishable.

You know that at some level they know that this is happening. You point it out to them, and  they can see it. They can’t help themselves. The urge to keep adding things, because of course its all important and also of course it all has to get done, proves too much.