“It wasn’t like that in my day”, was my Nan’s favourite saying. I used to laugh at her stories of the “olden days” but it’s crazy how time flies and now I find myself saying the same thing.
I remember in the “olden days” Dr Hunter visiting our house with his leather case and stethoscope when I had measles. A very different scenario to my most recent exchange with my doctor which went something like this.
Dear Matt, please can I have some prednisolone, I’ve got a flare up of my AS. Many thanks, Andrea
Hey Andrea, pred ready to collect. Let’s catch up in 10 days to see how it’s going.
Now, I certainly didn’t need Matt to visit me at home with his leather case and stethoscope (not to be misinterpreted 😊) and nor did I need to visit him in his surgery so our email exchange was a very efficient use of both our time. I’m also pleased to report that I’m nearly finished these annoying little tablets of which I’m taking 6 a day and hoping that I can finally get some sleep when I’m done. I’m completely wired on them, and those of you who know me will appreciate I’m hyperactive without steroids so you can only imagine my current state of activity. My Fitbit reported yesterday that I’d done 14 out of 14 active hours which is bloody ridiculous when you think about it. “Wired and Tired” is a very apt description of my current demeanour.
Moving on, I’ve been questioning how I make decisions and how I come to conclusions about anything and everything really.
Why? I hear you ask.
Well, I’m keen to move with the times and not be one of those people who gets stuck in the past and who constantly moans about change. I want to embrace change and not use “bias” in any debate or discussion with our grandchildren; I don’t want to be critical of their era and I’d love them to value my opinion, but you have to earn the right to that and be understanding of their generation.
However, “bias” is something that can definitely hold you back. It’s actually worse than bias because it’s generally “unconscious or cognitive bias” because we’re unaware we’re using it. I follow a guy on Twitter who reminded me of my sales training. He said “to be successful in business you need to study psychology, cognitive bias and body language” and I totally get why.
I tend to make decisions quickly which can be beneficial and, as the “experts” point out, it’s often better than procrastinating. However, my problem is that I allocate equal amounts of time (i.e., very little) to both big and small decisions. My brain has a natural tendency to take shortcuts in order not to be overwhelmed by too much information. Evaluating evidence requires a great deal of mental energy and my brain says, “uh oh”, let’s not go there. My unconscious mind is much more efficient, it uses my beliefs from my cultural environment and my personal experiences to make immediate decisions. In other words, I use my “unconscious bias” to make big decisions! How scary is that? The problem is that sometimes these shortcuts can result in wrong decisions, especially when rational, logical thinking is required.
Now, I’m lucky, I can get away with it most of the time because my husband Jamie does all the hard work for me. If we have a big decision to make, Jamie has tons of mental energy and does all the extensive research required for both of us. This means that I’m presented with expert facts that I wouldn’t have found out myself and between us we’ve mostly made good decisions.
So, when I realised I’m an avid user of unconscious bias I put a few bullet points to together to remind myself of these behaviours.
- Only paying attention to news stories that confirm my opinion
- Learning a little about a topic and then assuming I know all there is to know
- Relying too heavily on the first piece of information I learn and discount everything else
- Placing greater value on information that comes to my mind more quickly
And then I decided on some actions:
- Be aware when I’m using unconscious bias
- Be more curious; curiosity should help me to pause long enough to ask questions
- Strive for growth mindset; rather than covering up mistakes, learn by them. I’m quite good at this one, but mostly because of my career. Learning from mistakes is beneficial in all aspects of life.
- And finally, the most important:- Embrace the opposite. Try to understand an issue from both sides. This is difficult but incredibly valuable. It’s especially helpful in improving critical thinking to enable us to see the world with more empathy.
Empathy is, without doubt, the medicine that the world needs right now as it seems to be running on steroids, a bit like me – Wired and Tired..
Where’s Doctor Matt when you need him?
Until next time…
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