Becoming Less Wrong

Continuing his focus on confidence in the book Act Accordingly, Colin Wright states, “A Confident person doesn’t fear having been wrong: she’s just happy to be more right now than she was before.” This quote shows one of Wright’s core principles expressed in his books Act Accordingly and Considerations. He is continually focusing on adopting as many new perspectives as possible, and learning from new situations and discussions.  What his quote here is saying is that those who can be adaptive become more confident because they are not forced into belief systems at the expense of learning and growing.

 

I really enjoy focusing on perspectives because we each have a unique view of the world around us based on the information we take in, our backgrounds, ambitions, expectations, and other often hidden factors.  With so many forces impacting us and changing who we are, it is not surprising that we can all interpret an event, idea, or feeling differently.  What Wright argues is that we should seek out as many varying perspectives as possible so that we can understand others and begin to see things from multiple perspectives.  When we focus on finding various perspectives we avoid believing that there is one correct answer and we become less judgmental of others.

 

Wright’s quote above speaks to me about the discussions we may have on a daily basis related to heafty topics such as politics or religion.  In these two areas in particular people tend to become very entrenched and unchanging in their ideas. This limits them to a single perspective for which they seek out confirmation and agreement rather than differing perspectives and challenges.  A person without confidence will hide behind their idea and find excuses for why other perspectives are wrong.  More confident people will allow their idea to change because they understand that as they learn more and take in more information, their perspective will shift, and they will begin to see things with a better clarity.  Adopting a single mindset and ideology and not allowing it to change means that you are shutting out other perspectives and limiting your growth.  Opening up your ideology will allow you to connect with others and see the world in a better light.

Confidence and Self Awareness

Colin Wright’s book Act Accordingly is in some ways a collection of essays and ideas written by Wright that all focus around the idea of living a full life with the limited time we have on this planet.  The fifth chapter of his book centers on confidence, and he starts the chapter with the following quote, “Confidence means knowing the value of your knowledge, while maintaining awareness of how much you have left to learn.” What I love about this quote is the focus on continued learning and an ever growing knowledge base combined with a self awareness to focus on areas where our mind can still grow.

 

Wright continues to explain that knowledge will allow us to get to where we want to go by giving us the opportunity to participate in more areas and have greater input in the world.  One way in which greater knowledge translates into a more connected and engaged life is through confidence.  When we are confident we are able to more freely participate in discussions, activities, groups, and events because we have knowledge related to what it is we are participating in. We can better connect with others and provide more value to the world.  This confidence is brought on exclusively by knowledge and familiarity in the world, but it can lead to a downfall of hubris,

 

What Wright also advocates for is a strong sense of self awareness to be able to reflect on what we know well, and what we do not know.  For me I find myself discussing various topics, and often times the discussion will move in directions I am not familiar with. I will catch myself spreading information that I never truly understood, or even making up information based on assumptions and conclusions that I have drawn from other things that I have been told.  In this situation Wright would argue that it is best to move into a purely listening mode and avoid interjections made with a lack of confidence.  By recognizing these areas I can see where I can read and study to become more well rounded in my knowledge. This also helps prepare me for future conversations, building my confidence.

Mind Myths

Richard Wiseman wrote the book 59 Seconds: Think a Little, Change a Lot to bring science to the ideas of self help books.  His book examines many popular ideas about how to improve our lives, and provides scientific evidence for what works and what does not work when it comes to self improvement principals.  Wiseman is Professor for Public Understanding of Psychology in Britain and has performed many experiments that directly test the efficacy of popular ideas such as positive self projections, writing down goals, and ideas for building creativity.  He became interested in studying this angle of psychology because many self help ideas have permeated through society and can have very positive and negative consequences for those who implement actions into their lives.  Wiseman writes,

 

“Both the public and the business world have bought into modern-day mind myths for years and, in so doing, may have significantly decreased the likelihood of achieving their aims and ambitions.  Worse still, such failure often encourages people to believe that they cannot control their lives.  This is especially unfortunate as even the smallest  loss of perceived control can have a dramatic effect on people’s confidence, happiness, and life span.”

 

Wiseman’s quote shows how important it is to not follow bad advice from self help books, quotes, or guides.  By following ideas that do not have any scientific backing you may just be frustrating yourself even more.  When promised results do not materialize through a poor practice, frustration will increase, and a greater sense of inability will ensue.

 

Throughout Wiseman’s book he looks at different areas that are popular in self help communities.  He examines what it takes to be creative and how we can build our creativity. Wiseman looks at what practices help us build self awareness to change habits, but in a way that helps us understand the challenges and obstacles we will face on our journey so that we are prepared to handle them.  The book reveals not just what works and what does not work in psychology and self help books, but it explains theories as to why some practices are helpful, and why some damaging practices have become so popular.

Confidence

I love this quote by Allison Vesterfelt in her book Packing Light because it aligns so well with many of my own thoughts about the future.  I have a lot of confidence in myself and my abilities, but it is impossible for me to predict what the future will be like for me.  When I do start to look to the future I become anxious because I create this future where I am living a certain life style and a job that I am always happy with.  No matter what, envisioning my future makes me nervous because it sets these expectations form my future, and I am not sure that the future I actually arrive at will look the way I imagine. That brings me to the quote from Vesterfelt, “Don’t try to imagine it, just know it will come.”
When I look at people around me and remind myself that I can work hard, am good at reaching out and meeting people, and can build connections, my confidence grows and I begin to feel like I can reach any goal l want.  It is in this space where I know that I will reach a level of success that I desire. I am confident enough to believe that I will be able to achieve a lifestyle that I enjoy, and will be able to live a “happy” life.
However, at times simply having this confidence is not enough. As soon as I have those feelings of confidence, my future visions rush in bringing with them unreasonable expectations and fear. My visions of the future lock me in to a specific set of outcomes, and make me feel limited and like a failure if I do not reach those outcomes. What Vesterfelt’s quote has taught me is that I can have confidence and look forwards to the future without having to micromanage each piece to reach certain outcomes. I can simply enjoy the space where I am confident that my future will bring good things if I continue to be myself. Rather than focusing on a future where I am happy because of things that I have or job titles I have reached, I can focus on the skills I am developing now, and the small steps that I can take each day that I know will help build the life I want in the future. After that the next step is just getting out of my own way, and allowing the opportunities to come without trying to force my life in a specific direction.

Adjusting our Plan

A big challenge for me has been understanding my own personal goal setting.  I want to have a plan for where I am going, and what I want to achieve, but it seems to be incredibly difficult for me to set any plans for my life with things constantly evolving and shifting around me.  I recently learned to let go of the many expectations I have carried with me that were based in materialistic expectations and unreasonable beliefs about my abilities. To some extent I always assumed other people would see how “awesome” I am and just give me opportunities (it is so hard to accept that you are the star of your own life, but just an extra in everyone else life).
When I came across the following quote in Allison Vesterfelt’s book Packing Light, I felt at ease, “I don’t think it’s bad that I came out her with expectations. Having a plan isn’t bad. I just have to be willing to adjust it.” As I reached the end of my college journey, and graduation inched closer, more and more people began to ask me what plans I had for after graduation, and of course I was asked every college student’s worst nightmare, “what do you want to do with that when you are done?” I so badly wanted to have a brilliant answer to that question and to have a plan that would make people say, “oh well thats great. That field/industry is really expanding/needs smart people/will make you loads of money.” The problem was that all through college any time I had a plan and was working towards something I wanted or believed I should have wanted, I was incredibly depressed and felt more unsure about my future.  I tried to be a business major and thought I would study some tough business thing to make sure I could graduate and have a job and make money. However, the classes felt so hollow and I began to have an existential crisis.  After that I gave education a shot because I wanted to be able to coach cross country and track and field, and I thought, ‘hey, spending some time with kids where I can joke all day would be alright,” but teaching in today’s high pressured education environment was the opposite of what I loved about coaching, and felt like a huge mistake.
I think I truly found the most confidence as a senior in college once I decided to forget about trying to have a plan for after graduation. I switched my major to Spanish because I knew it was in demand in the Western United States where I live, and because I loved learning about other cultures, having another way to connect to people, and getting new perspectives about the world.  I have plans and ideas of what I want to do, but I have recently learned that for me, the best plan is to learn to be fully focused and aware in any situation I am in. This allows me to be hard working, and to do things purposefully, so that I can be ready when new opportunities present themselves to me.
Vesterfelt’s quote means so much to me because it helps me see that it is ok to have plans and goals, especially if I allow them to be dynamic and flexible depending on the people I meet and the opportunities I have.  This requires me to be self aware in new ways. I have to be able to identify the strengths that I have relative to the areas o where I still am learning and growing. In addition, I have to be able to see the luck and the opportunities that I have been given, which helps me be comfortable with the person I am now. The quote from Packing Light ultimately allows me to take my skills, and let go of the pressure to find success now. I know that I have a plan, but I am comfortable with allowing my plan to be constantly evolving.