Gathering Evidence

Monday 27 August, 2012

We are not always who we think we are. All too often we allow those mischievous thoughts in our head to rule. The voices which tell us we can’t when actually we can. Or that we are, when in reality we are not. If we believe them, they can lead us to have an inflated opinion of ourselves or to dismiss our talents. The best way to correct such disparities is to gather evidence of who we are. Incontrovertible, undeniable evidence. Evidence of our abilities and qualities, but also our blind spots and shortfalls; the aim being to know ourselves as fully as possible. Beyond that pursuit, the goal is to have the picture which people have of us agree with the picture we have of ourselves. Congruency.

Recent journal entries from 11 years ago have focused on the preparation I did for a week-long workshop programme in Sicily. All participants had been asked to write three success stories. All stories were then assessed by all group members. The analysis (typified by the entry, Comprehensive Analysis) provided everyone with insights into their behaviour. Indisputable insights, based on evidence we had provided. Without such corroborated feedback, we are left with what we believe about ourselves, regardless of the accuracy of our beliefs. Next time you find yourself wondering whether you are capable or whether you are too good or not good enough, look at the evidence. If you don’t like it, do something about. But don’t ignore it, because it’s telling you everything you need to know.

At the same time, know that there is one aspect of human nature which intrudes on this process without us realising. It is called confirmation bias and relates to how we process information relating to our beliefs. We are inclined to favour evidence which confirms our beliefs and dismiss the evidence which contradicts them. Applied to personal development, it means we are more likely to listen to and accept evidence which confirms the picture we have of ourselves. So even when you find evidence to confirm what you are telling yourself, you need to know that your original premise may be distorting what you see.

Therefore, instead of doing the research on your own, seek the input of those you trust. And listen to them. When they tell you you’re getting cocky, listen to them. When they tell you you’re far better than you ever thought, listen to them. Even when confirmation bias and the little voice in your head tell you they are wrong, listen to them. They are completing the picture; adjusting the focus so that you can see what they see. And when you do, you’ll be a more complete, more congruent person because of them.

Related posts: Evidence in Two Conversations | Look at the Evidence | Complete The Picture

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