For us humans, one of our least favorite things is rethinking.
We don’t like being wrong. We don’t always like having to change course or quit when things aren’t working out. (Or if we do quit, we usually feel bad about it.)
But rethinking is important in our ever-changing world. We need to react to warning signs. We need to update our thinking so we can keep up with new information and take action when necessary.
We need to know when to quit so we don’t sink all our time and energy (and often, money) into something that’s not working.
What Frogs in Hot Water Can Teach Us About Thinking Again
In his TED Talk “What Frogs in Hot Water Can Teach Us About Thinking Again,” Adam Grant
Explains why rethinking is so crucial in our world, and why we’re so resistant to it.
- If we don’t make rethinking a habit, we can get stuck in “slow boiling pots,” or less-than-helpful situations, until it’s too late.
- Intelligence can work against us here. “Being good at thinking can make us bad at rethinking.”
- We often resist prompts to rethink (including feedback) because it challenges our perception of our identity. We see it as an attack on who we are.
- Sometimes, “never give up” is terrible advice. There’s no point in doubling down on a losing course of action.
- We can practice “confident humility,” or being confident in our strengths so that we can acknowledge our weaknesses.
How to Make Rethinking a Regular Part of Your Life
We can all get better at rethinking. So how do you make this a habit?
Regularly check in with yourself to evaluate your career, relationships, goals, etc. Are those things in good shape, or could they use some work? Will a few tweaks do, or do you need to put in more effort?
Where can you improve? Is this working? What may need to be done?
Do you need to check in with anyone else to get more clarity about a situation? (Like the state of your relationship?)
This isn’t an invitation to suddenly divorce your spouse, quit your job, or even DO anything but evaluate. Noticing is always the first step to improvement.
See changes as “updates”
We’re trained to think of changing our minds as “flip-flopping” or being wishy-washy, but updating your actions and opinions when you encounter new information is a GOOD thing!
Try thinking of these changes as necessary UPDATES to your thinking, not as a weakness. After all, you update your phone and computer regularly, right? No one likes using an obsolete operating system OR thought model.
Rethink what it means to quit
Sometimes, quitting is the right thing to do.
It’s silly to blow a crazy amount of energy, time, and money on something that’s just not working.
However, we usually don’t like this. We want others around us to think that we’ve made a good decision. We don’t want to face the loss of what we’ve already invested, so we invest even MORE and hope that it’ll pan out. We tell ourselves that THIS TIME it’ll work. We just have to work harder/spend more/try again and it’ll all be worth it.
But this isn’t true.
So how do you know when it’s time to quit?
There’s no perfect answer, of course. Every situation is different, but here are some good questions to start with:
- Is what you’re doing helpful?
- Is it filling your cup?
- Do you have the resources to continue? (Time, money, energy, etc.)
- Can you live with the consequences of continuing and failing? (Like if your struggling business goes under.)
- What do the people around you think? (We’re talking about people you trust and who see you clearly.)
Again, no definite answer here. If the stakes are high, don’t take the decision to quit lightly. But that doesn’t mean you should keep working if it’s just not happening.
Think values, not identity
It’s okay (and even fun!) to try on different identities throughout your life. Don’t limit who you allow yourself to be!
Instead, get clear on your values and what’s really important to you (though these will shift and evolve over time as well, and that’s okay).
When confronted with a choice, you can then ask yourself “Does this align with my deep values?” instead of “Does this fit with who I perceive myself to be?”
Possibly the most important part of rethinking is being curious about new information, perspectives, and the world around you in general.
This makes new information interesting and helpful instead of threatening.
So now when you encounter new information or realize you need to pivot, you can think “Wow, I learned something new!” instead of “Oh no, I was wrong!” and feel like you have to defend your position. This is where Occhiolism can really come in handy. When you understand that you only have your own limited perspective, you can value and open up to the perspectives of others!
Rethinking is simply part of life. Or at least, it should be. Rethinking is how we learn, grow, and get out of tough spots when something just isn’t working. We all rethink, but learning to do it consciously and avoid doubling down out of defensiveness is a handy skill.
What have you rethought lately? What do you wish you’d rethought sooner?
Let us know! (Can they comment? Do we want to monitor those?)
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