June 3, 2014 by Angus
Experience Is NOT Always the Best Teacher

I find it interesting how our beliefs about the world become so ingrained we often don’t notice it.

I’m not talking about saying “I believe this…” or “I believe that…”.

I mean the things we think about the world that we don’t question much like physical phenomenon like the sky being blue.

It is obviously true. So too, this is how we see our day to day unconscious filters of the world.

Once a belief is formed, whether rapidly through a traumatic or startling experience or through a slow burn over time, our attentional focus reinforces and nurtures it. Once we think we know the truth about something we search for information that is consistent with that belief. This is an automatic process.

Ironically, if we searched for the opposite we would, if we could stay with this process, find information consistent with that too. And in many cases, that flexibility would be much more useful to us.

We rarely think through what we think about the world and test it because our attention has been hijacked by our beliefs for so long that we cannot see anything else. This is where the idea of experience can be tricky.

It is a common societal paradigm to think that the more experienced you are in something the more you know about it, the more distinctions are made, the more options are learnt, and hence the more effective you will be in that domain.

It is a conscious, sometimes unconscious process that is woven throughout our society structure. Sounds great in theory, but is that what we observe happens. We can all think of examples of this, and most of us have been stung by this idea to some degree.

We have all watched very “experienced”, intelligent people act in ways that our “inexperienced” minds find perplexing. Often we think we are perplexed because we are inexperienced! Maybe there are other processes at play.

When we mindlessly search for confirming evidence for a belief we just continue to add more “evidence” and rather than learn more effective maps of the world, simply get to know the path we are on better. And these beliefs become harder to dislodge. This is embedding a psychology of limitation. “Disconfirming” evidence starts to lose its impact.

Even taking the scientific method, which I am naturally drawn to, can create its own limitations depending on how you use it. Science is often concerned about learning “what is”. However, knowing “what is” is not the same thing as knowing “what can be”. Even the much used phrase “you won’t know if you don’t try” can nurture limitation.

If you try and fail you now only (possibly) know one way to not be successful. Nothing in that particular exercise of failure gives us any real evidence regarding “what can be”, but we often think it gives us more information about the process than it does.

A new psychology of possibility might be a more powerful paradigm to operate in. For example, an elderly person with an exceptional memory in general would be seen as an outlier, an exception, rather than a MODEL OF POSSIBILITY.

Our first goal is to see if something is possible first, however rare it seems. After that we can now chase after the whys and the how. This can inspire us to unlock our paradigms and grow. That is mental space I’d like to spend more time in.

There are multiple justifiable narratives in almost every situation. Therefore, why not passionately embrace one that works and enhances us.

Many of us think the world is set only to be explored and discovered. We think we are just viewing the world through the window and just need a telescope and microscope to enhance what is already there. We don’t realise that we are the authors and narrators of much more of our experiences than we think. We invent and construct our world rather than observe it. This is the bedrock of the possibility of change and MEANING MAKING questions can provide the first layer of the foundation of change.

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