A client was experiencing a challenge with an employee. The employee was acting arrogant; like a ‘know it all’ about a project being developed by the team.
The individual’s attitude had created tension among both team members and the boss. The boss had addressed this attitude several times, but the employee continued to act like the expert; convinced that his analysis of the project was correct.
It was not until there was a break down in the project, and the client got upset, that the employee realized his perception had been wrong. Until then, he really believed he had known the correct way to address the project development. When it backfired, he realized his mistake.
It was then that he said to his boss,
“I didn’t know that I didn’t know.”
Have you ever had one of those aha moments when the blinders came off and you realized your perception of a situation was off?
It can be a little painful, but you can also see the innocence and naiveté within this individual’s statement.
Often, we can become attached to a perception or a way of doing things and can’t see the other side of the coin.
An exercise I have utilized to demonstrate how we perceive reality differently is throwing a handful of pocket change onto a table and asking participants to write down what they see. Possible answers include:
c. Pennies, nickels, dimes and quarters
d. 37 cents
e. 2 Pennies, 1 Quarter and a dime
g. Heads and Tails
Are any of these answers incorrect?
No, but they reflect how humans can view the same thing, yet perceive it differently in the mind. This ability to perceive reality differently can be a good thing, but it can also present challenges that lead to stressful and frustrating situations in the workplace and beyond.
The ability to keep an open and flexible mind is important, and it takes practice. Start simple, try changing up a habit…you know, those things you do without even thinking about it. For example: drive a new way to work, sit in a different spot at the meeting, clean your house in a new order, try a new menu item.
The list could go on and on. The key, however, is not just changing up a habit, it is
…staying conscious of how you are feeling as you engage in the exercise.
You will probably experience some feelings of discomfort or unease; maybe a sense of nervousness. Maybe your brain will argue with you that you should go back to the old way, and this way is stupid.
This is the goal of the exercise!
You are retraining your nervous system to experience small doses of discomfort in order to become more comfortable with these feelings.
Most of the time, in the face of discomfort, your body starts to shut down, your mind goes into a self-protective mode, and you cannot see new options. By exposing yourself to small doses of discomfort and working through it, you stretch your brain.
When these uncomfortable feelings and thoughts show up, do four things:
1. Take some deep breaths.
2. Remind yourself you chose this new experience to increase your mental flexibility.
3. Say, “I am okay even it this feels different or uncomfortable”.
4. Recognize and acknowledge yourself for trying something new and stretching your mind!
Choose daily to stretch your mind. Perhaps the next time you’re in a meeting and a teammate shares an idea you don’t agree with, you will be able to hear and explore their idea versus just shutting down and learning the hard way…you didn’t know that you didn’t know.
Dedicated to raising your consciousness.