#237 How Am I Deluding Myself?
#237 How Am I Deluding Myself?

This is a question I always carry in my back pocket because it truly is one of the fundamental questions about the human experience. It is also one of the most difficult to answer.

It is unlikely that most of us will get a single moment of enlightenment when one answer comes to us. More likely, we will need to slowly chip away at the edifice of what we consider reality.

In truth, reality is simply a projection created by our brains based on inputs from our environment and our own experience, through which we have built up a whole series of heuristics (for example biases) to make the processing easier and ease our passage through the world.

The idea that we are somehow rational beings is simply that – an idea. Our system is much more designed for fitness – to survive and propagate the species – than it is for accuracy. We just think we can rewrite the user manual without changing the underlying wiring.

The evolutionary forces that shaped our brains did so with survival as the prime directive. In the vast, unpredictable expanses of our ancestral homes, quick judgments — even if sometimes wrong — often served better than slow deliberation. A rustling in the grass might be just the wind, but assuming it is a predator and being wrong costs less than not assuming and being right.

Our brains have thus become masters of shortcuts, favouring rapid responses over slow, accurate analysis. But in our modern world, where existential threats are less common, this tendency can lead us to misconceptions, biases and a skewed sense of reality.

While we might understand these broad aspects of human perception, how does it translate to the personal, to our own sense of self? Let’s just take one simple example that is ever-present: our sense of identity.

  • My name is Tom, and I am writing this.
  • But who exactly is Tom?
  • Were Tom to describe himself it would be primarily about his character and maybe basic biological details (age, height…) but little else.
  • For example, does Tom’s sense of identity include his hands that are doing the typing?
  • If so, can Tom please explain how he types? How he moves each finger? How he lifts his hands?
  • Indeed, where do the words come from? Who wrote this question? It feels like they just present themselves.
  • Who and what triggered these thoughts?

Who then is Tom? And, in turn, who are you?

Questions in the Image:

  • How am I deluding myself?
  • How am I allowing myself to be deluded?
  • How is my environment contributing?

Want to Read More Around This Topic?

The Self Illusion: Why There Is No “You” Inside Your Head by Bruce Hood (link to Amazon.co.uk). This book delves into the concept of the self, exploring how our brains create an illusion of selfhood despite the evidence that it does not exist in the way we traditionally believe. Hood discusses how the self is constructed from our relationships with others, and how this illusion of a consistent ‘I’ is pivotal in making us function socially.

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. My home environment is normally very quiet but just today we have roadworks in front and a crew in our house upgrading a bathroom. The sounds of machinery are floating through the air from all sides. I notice this “noise”, but I wonder “What don’t I notice each and every day?” The garden is full of birds and insects of all kinds. Do I pay enough attention? Equally, how can I not merely accept but actually welcome this new soundscape? Resisting or complaining about it feels futile.

About Tom O’Leary

I coach, mentor and teach leaders who are shaping a brighter future.

Leadership can be lonely, the challenges daunting, and the workload overwhelming. I help leaders feel heard, gain clarity, take action, build confidence and thrive! Leaders matter. Their work matters. We need them at their best!

The first step? Becoming more curious. I see curiosity as the key, allowing us to unlock deep insights that directly enhance our ability to think, act and lead.

This means spending time contemplating what might be possible so that when we take action, we can bring all our energy and power to bear.

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