Is your brain trying to trick you into thinking you’re always right? Is this trickery doing you more harm than good? You might be suffering the consequences of Cognitive Dissonance.
Cognitive dissonance is that uncomfortable feeling you get when something you believe to be true is challenged by new information.
For example, you might believe you’re a masterful manager only to be reprimanded for wasting time, money, and effort on a new project.
As you hear more evidence of your wastefulness, you get an uncomfortable feeling in your stomach. But that feeling is really coming from your brain, which has just fired up your belief and emotional centers in an attempt to defend against this new truth.
See, your brain doesn’t want you to feel ashamed or embarrassed, and it certainly doesn’t want you to feel out of control, so the first thing it does is offer you a chance to change your cognitions, the things you think about the project, so that the outcome better aligns with that masterful manager you believe you are.
For example, you will decide that the project didn’t really take as much time as stated, that the effort is being overstated and that with a little more work, you could still be successful.
You may say that the effort had big benefits in other ways, like what you learned about the process or the strengths of your team.
Or you might just tell yourself that the project WAS successful even though it did not meet other people’s expectations.
With the introduction of each new cognition, you start to feel better and better about yourself as your thoughts realign with the person you believe you are.
The problem is that if you really are a bad manager, it’s going to take a hell of a lot to get you to change. If we can’t change we can’t grow and if we can’t grow then we’ll never become the people we want to be.
So, how can you protect yourself from a BRAIN that is hell bent on telling you you’re always right?
The first thing you can do is simply recognize that physical feeling of emotional distress and embarrassment. Rather than respond to anyone or any new information, just sit with it.
Then ask yourself, am I feeling this feeling because I’m truly right or am I feeling this feeling because I’ve found an opportunity to grow? If you can reframe these feelings from “right and wrong” to “right and grow” you’ll create a positive correlation between the uncomfortable feelings of cognitive dissonance and the positive benefits they can create in your own life.
In doing this you’ll become a mentally flexible person, rely less on emotion, and make better choices moving forward.
I’d love to talk more about this and any other roadblocks to your happiness. Contact me and we can chat about a discounted personal coaching session. You can see my bio and learn more at travisluther.com.
Image courtesy of Fernando Jorge