If you want to make a change in your world, start with the facts. It is up to us to continually ground ourselves in facts to better integrate with the world around us and thus be more successful in whatever we do at work, home or in our social lives. To make big changes in the world it is incumbent upon us to work with the facts of the situation. To make big changes at work, we have to understand the interplay of power, responsibility, accountability and communication of information. It’s up to us to gather the verifiable facts before making a decision. Often this requires us to ask questions and find out where the facts come from. These sources of verifiable information are the experts in specific areas or data systems with validated data. Once verified we must trust our sources and make decisions appropriately. In our personal lives, it’s up to us to ask questions to understand where information is coming from. Where is the energy coming from? What provoked her response to me? Often emotions are reactions to situations with a factual basis. Without understanding the facts, we simply react to other’s reactions and perpetuate the beliefs and misinterpretations that abound all around and within us.
We are constructing our reality every moment of ever day. We construct our reality using information both internal and external. By fact, I mean measurable information that may be independently verified. The problem with our internal information and much of external sources is that it is guided by cognitive biases having evolved over millions of years. What worked in keeping us safe on the savanna from a predator hiding in the grass just doesn’t work anymore. These biases directly effect our decision-making, beliefs and behaviors without our conscious awareness. As an example, the attentional bias affects our reality through our recurring thoughts or what we continually give attention to. When we focus on negative thoughts we see negative in the world. When we focus on positive we see positive. When we look through both positive and negative thoughts towards facts, we enable ourselves to wade through the ups and downs that occur everyday. There’s the bandwagon effect where we believe and do as others do. This is also known as groupthink and herd behavior. The bias blind spot leads us to see ourselves as less biased than others. The illusion of control has us overestimating our degree of influence over what’s happening. The normalcy bias or normalization of deviation enables us to think everything is okay because nothing bad has happened before which leads to the creep of what’s normal into situations with higher and higher risk. The list of biases is quite large. when reading through the list on wikipedia or other websites, it’s easy to become disturbed at how automatic our behavior really is. This undermines the concept of free will if you believe in that sort of thing.
Reality is based on our interpretation of the world through the biased lenses. The information we get from outside is also biased which exacerbates the issue. We are primarily not based in facts but we can be with a little focus of our attention. There are many mindfulness techniques out there from meditation and tai chi to self-help and coaching. The key to the techniques is to recognize your thinking as it unfolds in the moment. This is the first step to becoming less biased. The second step is to learn how not to react to the continual stream of random thoughts and events. The third step is to ask questions about what’s happening with the intent of determining the facts underlying the experience whether that be internally or from external sources. Sometimes we may have to do some estimation of the situation or ask questions of others who may know more than ourselves. Once we start seeing facts instead of biased information we can start making better decisions that reflect how things naturally happen or unfold as opposed to our reactions or how we think things ought to be. This first approach can be summed up as stopping to ask questions. Another approach instead of mindfulness or stopping to ask questions is simply to eradicate the following words from your vocabulary: should, would, could, always and absolutely. A third approach is to learn more about probability. Probabilistic thinking will serve you extremely well in whatever decision you are making whether that be at work, home or in your social spheres.
Working with factual information is a fundamental precept of quality. When there are problems with product or how we are doing things, we seek to understand the root cause of what happened. We do this so we may take action to prevent recurrence of undesirable events. This factual approach is not just for the business world but also our personal lives. This is especially relevant to current events as we have an explosion of information, misinformation and disinformation in news, media, print, internet, government, and our social lives. How is one to know what’s true anymore? It’s quite simple. It is the responsibility of each and everyone of us to create our own knowledge with verifiable facts and data. DON’T JUST TAKE THINGS AT FACE VALUE. Look under the hood so to speak. Just as the houses we live in require good foundations, so does the reality we create in our heads. We create a solid foundation for reality by understanding the difference between information based on facts versus opinion and groupthink. As we grow old we have to deal with the facts of the aging process and our genetic backgrounds.
So when you read a headline or are confronted with alarming feedback from your spouse, friend or doctor, ask yourself some questions.
- Is this real?
- Is the information factual?
- How can I verify this information?
- Are the facts something I can act upon to bring about desirable change?
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