Home > General > What does it take to change your mind?

What does it take to change your mind?

What does it take to change your mind?  As you finalize your decision—be it the selection of a technology vendor, the color to paint your living room or whether your teenage daughter can go to the kid with the tongue piercing’s party—what are the catalysts that allow you, actually compel you, to reverse course and head in another direction?

Economist John Maynard Keynes famously stated, “When the facts change, I change my opinion. What do you do, sir?”  All well and good if you’re a totally objective automaton constantly sifting through the evidence ready to make a change at a moment’s notice.  (I’ll bet your relatives have pointy ears and hail from the planet Vulcan as well.)  And if you are indeed mathematically minded (which I am not), there is actually a branch of probability theory pioneered by mathematician and Presbyterian minister Thomas Bayes that formalizes this process.

But what if you’re more than half-human, and like most of us, you actually become emotionally tied to your decision?  There are many emotional and environmental factors that may cause you to become unreasonably wedded to a course of action.  Pride, fear and laziness are a few common vices that come to mind.  Given this, how can you be sure you’re making your decision with open, objective eyes?

I’ve found there are three basic questions that I informally, but periodically, must consider to ensure that I am not flying in the face of contradictory evidence:

1.  Are my assumptions correct?  If not, then reconsider.
2.  Have my assumptions remained unchanged?  If not, then reconsider.
3.  And most importantly, have I shared my assumptions and conclusions with other knowledgeable people?  If not, then do so and reconsider.

If I honestly answer “yes” to each of the above, then I am probably adequately immunized against my own subjectivity and can safely proceed forward.  Recently, I found myself hanging on to a decision I had made whose assumptions were no long valid.  It took a shower moment for me to realize that the uneasiness I was feeling with my initial recommendation was a red flag indicating that something was amiss.  Once I realized that a minor but key assumption had changed, I did a mental “halleluiah” (a verbal one would have been weird in the shower) and the new direction became clear.

And that’s probably one more question I should add to my list above:

4.  Is there a nagging little voice of doubt inside my head that won’t go away?  If so, then go back to step 1.

And in the case of letting your teenage daughter go to the tongue-piercer’s party?  My advice is don’t—and I guarantee that you won’t hear any nagging little voices of doubt either.

Categories: General
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