We are often wary of when other people are trying to deceive us. But, how wary are you of YOU fooling yourself? Of becoming a victim of your own self-deception.
Our day-to-day lives are so full of calls, emails and meetings where we are constantly evaluating the ideas of others. Discussing, debating and collaborating. Trying to figure out if things make sense or not. But, how often do you really take the time to apply the same attention to your own life?
Critical of others
In a sense, we seem to be evolutionarily pre-disposed towards stricter quality control when dealing with other people. In their insightful work, The Enigma of Reason, the psychologists Hugo Mercier and Dan Sperber make a compelling case that convincing/judging others is the evolutionary role of reason. They argue that human reasoning is lazy when it comes to our own ideas — a myside bias, but far better at evaluating others’ reasons.
And, this is not surprising given how we live as social animals. Carefully judging the intentions and communications of others would have been crucial for survival in an ancestral environment.
Paying attention to yourself
That’s all well and good. Now, how about applying the same level of vigilance to your own internal process? We are bombarded with so many weird and conflicting societal messages from the day we are born that we can very easily get stuck in certain ways of living without having given very much thought to it. Ways of living that may not be in our best interest, but that we stick to because of unconscious habit.
And, if Mercier and Sperber are right, this makes the role of introspection doubly important. Not only is the noise of modern living inherently confusing, but our instinctive reaction may be to avoid actively looking at our own choices. To avoid paying attention to our inner worlds.
Stop fooling yourself
This is why knowing your own mind is so important. The self-understanding that comes from investigating yourself and your inner world is the only reliable path to not fooling yourself. Indeed, the ancients have known this for thousands of years. That is why mastery of mind is an age-old tradition.
Be careful about fooling yourself. Know your own mind. Know yourself.
Harsha is a 1:1 coach and independent thinker based in London. He empowers people to find more clarity, confidence and focus in their lives — to cut through the noise, in a world so full of it. Harsha’s new book, Machine Ego: Tragedy of the Modern Mind, is now available in paperback and Kindle through Amazon.