I have irrefutable evidence that the world is flat. Hundreds of scientists have reviewed my statement, and found that, amazingly, it is correct. The world may appear spherical, but the evidence proves, that it is actually flat. The world is flat.
What do you have to say about that?
Chances are you would argue heavily against my statement that the world is flat. Even if the evidence I had presented was incredibly convincing and verified by hundreds of scientific sources, I sincerely doubt you would even consider the idea that the world is flat. Of course, it isn’t flat, but if you’ll continue with me I will get to my point.
Now, lets say, you have a time machine. You travel back a thousand years. Now, try to tell those people that the world is round. That you have irrefutable evidence from hundreds of scientists that prove that the world is spherical. Can you do it?
Now such fundamental issues as the curvature of the planet are usually thought as pretty obvious. However, many of the beliefs we have about reality and life, are not nearly so fundamental. These issues are wildly subjective and, worse yet, they control a much larger experience of our life.
People don’t like to think they are wrong. This eventually leads to people defending an incorrect belief or assertion, because they don’t want to admit they were wrong.
Why do you have to be right? You had made a previous belief or assertion out of an analysis of a situation. There is nothing wrong with changing that assertion when new evidence is presented. You understand that everything is just an approximation anyways, so what is the harm in being wrong.
Imagine I have three cards on a table, face down. One of them is a joker. If you guess that the left card has the joker and I flip over the middle one to reveal a joker, would you feel bad admitting you were wrong? Of course not. You made a guess with the best information you had at the time. You couldn’t have done any better.
This is just like life. We make the best assertions or beliefs we can at the time. When new evidence comes, we can change that belief without feeling bad because, we didn’t have this original evidence when creating the belief in the first place.
But changing beliefs when something comes to directly confront them is too slow. By the time you’ve done that, chances are this belief has already caused damage by being inaccurate.
So our goal must be to gather evidence that contradicts our beliefs. This evidence will allow us to make modifications to our belief or remove it entirely.
As a good example, I recently read the book Goal Free Living by Stephen Shapiro. This is despite the fact that I am working on an eight month project to teach goal-setting, and I use goals heavily in my own life.
By reading this book however, I learned a lot of valuable insights that I could use to improve how I set goals to avoid some of the pitfalls described in the book. While reading a book about goal setting would have been helpful, I think I learned a lot more from a book that disagreed with me.
The key is to separate yourself from your beliefs. If you feel really attached to being right or wrong, then you will likely hold on way to long to false beliefs. Realize that you aren’t any less for being wrong and you certainly aren’t any more for being correct.
Don’t worry though, I don’t think you are going to walk off the edge of the world any time soon.