How many times in our lives – at work or personally have we known that something isn’t quite right be it about a particular situation, a business transaction or a person and yet we have chosen to be willfully blind. According to Margaret Heffernan in her insightful and engaging book, “Willful Blindness” – why we ignore the obvious at our own peril, this is far more common and pervasive than we would possibly care to think about. With real case studies, she answers questions like, why do we choose to keep ourselves in the dark, what are the forces at work that make us deny the big threats staring at us in the face and not heeding the warnings and why as individuals, companies and countries we regularly look back in the mirror and howl: How could we have been so blind?
Here are nine factors at play that she covers in this highly recommended book: (These are her words, edited only occasionally for the sake of this blog).
1) Affinity and beyond – familiarity does not breed contempt. It breeds comfort and a sense of safety. Madoff’s crime is described as an affinity crime, preying on people like him who knew others like themselves, who didn’t ask questions because their level of comfort was so high that they felt they could take shortcuts. Our blindness grows out of the small, daily decisions that we make which embed us snugly inside our affirming thoughts and values. We think we see more but in fact the landscape has shrunk.
2) Love is blind – we blind ourselves to inconvenient or painful facts. Because our identity and security depends on our loved ones, we don’t want to see anything that threatens them. It is easier to be blind than deal with uncomfortable feelings. Neuroscience shows that love activates those areas of the brain associated with reward such as food, drink, money or cocaine. The chemical processes stimulated by love disable much of the critical thinking about the loved one. There is the paradox of blindness – we think it will make us safe even as it puts us in danger. We make ourselves powerless when we pretend not to know.
3) Dangerous convictions – Psychologist Anthony Greenwald called this the “totalitarian ego.” It operates like a police state: locking away threatening or incompatible ideas, suppressing evidence, and re-writing history, all in the service of a central idea or self-image. Read more »
How many times have you really wanted to do something – take your leadership the next step up, follow your heart’s desire, committ to a new goal but have shied away? Pulled back because you felt you weren’t ready, the time wasn’t right or you got distracted from what really mattered?
It is one thing, if there were legitimate reasons for not taking action. However, many a time, we have also not done what we really wanted or taken that next step because of our limiting self-talk and underlying beliefs. Thinking and beliefs like – “I just need to do one more course before I am ready” (then another and another!); “can I really do that” or “what if it doesn’t work out?”
We talk ourselves out of things even before we begin. Our dreams, desires or goals beckon but we don’t honour them sufficiently; instead – prioritizing it to a vague another day, another time, maybe never. Read more »
It was a birthday week last week. And yes – I am happy to admit –despite the passing years; I stretch it out and lap it up like I was still in my teens! A day is far too short to do birthdays any justice, don’t you think?
More seriously, this time it hit me that birthdays are only made special because of our loving family and friends. Their warm wishes are like a wrapping of love. It made me feel like the perfect gift. As my heart expanded, I was able to extend these feelings of appreciation and gratitude back to them. I was also left questioning how most of our days we madly rush around, rarely savouring or letting in the gift that our loved ones are to us.
According to Dr. Barbara Fredrickson, Psychology Professor and author of Positivity, true gratitude is heartfelt and unscripted, not mindless manners or tit for tat reciprocity. The film and social movement Pay it forward is a great example of gratitude in action.
Gratitude is one of the essential pillars of positive psychology. It has a direct hit on our feelings of positivity and well-being. Research shows that people, who are more grateful have higher levels of subjective well-being are less stressed, less depressed and are more satisfied with their lives and relationships. Our resourcefulness and capacity also expands when we are in a more positive frame of mind and we are better able to deal with life transitions. Read more »
Last week, a girl friend visiting from out of town, posed this question “Jas when is it appropriate to say things as they are versus not saying anything for the sake of maintaining the relationship?” As you can imagine, this led to an engaging conversation on what the context of the question was including the nature of the issue, how long the issue had existed, what she was feeling and what she really needed from her partner. My friend was obviously grappling with some relationship issues as we do from time to time. However, it got me reflecting on how similar dynamics show up in organizational life with our clients, colleagues, managers, leaders and or suppliers?
Let us take our colleagues and bosses. How free do we feel to openly communicate our thoughts and feelings with them? How often do we not share with a team member that their annoying and seemingly disrespectful behaviours perhaps borne of poor EQ skills are getting in the way of a potentially good working relationship?
My experience is that we cannot avoid and gloss over issues and our rumbling feelings for too long. Sooner or later things do catch up and bubble over at inopportune moments and in inappropriate ways. When this happens, it is generally not a good look and typically does more harm than good.
The other down side of not being able to discuss and share our concerns is that it does not call for a good, healthy and robust team and or relationship where differences can be voiced, feelings can be heard and decisions still made for the greater good. In fact, what is “present” but not spoken becomes the “pink elephant” which is very much present but everyone ignores and carries on regardless. Read more »
“It is easy to dodge our responsibilities, but we cannot dodge the consequences of dodging our responsibilities.”
-Josiah Charles Stamp
Being responsible for our lives is a no brainer. If we are asked the question of whether we take responsibility for our lives, the majority of us would say, “but, of course.” Seems pretty obvious, doesn’t it? But this can be a question worth exploring deeper. In my earlier work as a clinician, then as a consultant and coach, I discovered that even the most successful person invariably had an area or issue that they had sidled away from taking responsibility – whether consciously or unconsciously.
Here are a couple of examples–a top executive while “hitting the numbers” and running a very reputable and successful business, gave up responsibility of “being a father” and spending much quality time ( or any at all!) with his young kids. His rationale – his partner was super organized and while holding down her own demanding job also managed the home life including the children. Given one of his top values was family, the irony of this hit him sharply and he consequently committed to making time with the kids before they were put to bed. A solution that he felt was realistic and achievable especially the weeks he was home and not out of the country.
Read more »