I meet defensiveness throughout my day. It wears so many different guises and yet serves the same master – the ego. Just last evening, I received a long email in connection with one of my volunteering roles detailing how both a decision-making process and all the people involved in a particular decision were wrong. A careful reading led straight to defensiveness and an inability by the parties in question to accept that they could have acted differently and that their own actions had solely contributed to the problem in question. They were basically saying “we are right” and “everyone else is wrong”.

Why make such an effort and spend countless hours trying to shift blame? What is so precious that needs to be defended?

The question then, for each of us, is what barriers have we set up? Where are we being defensive? And, critically, what are we defending?

Acceptance is therefore key. What if you did make what is called a “mistake”? What of it? Indeed, such acceptance is a step on the journey to transcending our upper limits and reinventing our sense of self.

Questions in the Image:

  • How am I being defensive?
  • What barriers have I set up?
  • How open am I to change?
  • How am I right and everyone else wrong?

Want to Read More Around This Topic?

Radical Acceptance: Awakening the Love That Heals Fear and Shame by Tara Brach (link to Amazon.co.uk). This book focuses on the practice of acceptance and compassion, helping readers understand their defensive mechanisms and finding ways to overcome them.

Nurturing Curiosity – Daily Practice: This is part of the Nurturing Curiosity series of tools, insights and questions designed to help nurture curiosity as part of our daily practice. In point of fact, every interaction we have is an opportunity to question what we are observing and how we and others are seeing the world. Also remember that questions come in many forms throughout our day – a creative change requiring a whole set of rework brings up the question of “Why didn’t I think of that earlier?” Self-criticism is natural to some extent and yet can be unreasonable. In truth, we have come to where we are because of the decisions we made. Expanding it out even further, the whole history of the universe has been condensed into this one moment. Everything has been leading up to this. Doesn’t that feel amazing?

About Tom O’Leary

My mission is to help others think differently – meaning more broadly and deeply – and thereby make better decisions. The key to thinking differently lies in our curiosity.

The more we question, the more possible answers we uncover, and the more we expand what we thought possible. Life has taught me that possibility lies not so much in seeking answers but in learning to ask better questions – the ones that help prioritise what is truly essential.

And yet, in a culture obsessed with efficiency and productivity, the paradox is that much energy and resources are wasted by a bias towards action over contemplation. If you are answering the wrong question, it doesn’t matter how ‘hard’ you work, you are still answering the wrong question.

That is why I am a big advocate of nurturing curiosity and innovative thinking at all ages, particularly amongst leaders because of the impact they have on us all. In my vision, leaders aren’t boxed in by traditional thinking or established playbooks. They are curious, open to fresh ideas and diverse perspectives, fostering a culture of exploration and learning.

How Might Tom Help?

  1. My first invitation is to take maximum advantage of the free content on this site.
  2. I also endeavour to answer every email so if you have any queries do reach out – you will find my address if you are curious. Your future self will thank you!
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