Some lessons seem hard to learn — or at least, we require several tries to learn them. We make some of the same mistakes repeatedly, or we invent whole catalogs of mistake variations. You can tell when you've met one of these situations, because you have a clear sense of whoops-been-here-before.
Some of these hard lessons relate to coping with disappointments. Here are some examples.
- Almost nothing goes the way it's supposed to go the first time. And usually not the second time, either.
- When the available data conflicts with cherished beliefs, reconsidering those beliefs usually works better than clinging to them for dear life.
- When the available data conflicts with other people's cherished beliefs, they sometimes reject that data, or adopt with very weak evidence (or none) new postulates to explain why the data doesn't really conflict with their beliefs. You can't control what they do.
- Re-examine cherished beliefs periodically, even when there's no conflicting data.
- When the available data conflicts with how you wish things were, try changing your wishes.
- When what you desire absolutely requires sacrifices you're unprepared to make, you have to either change your desires or make those sacrifices.
- When what you want for other people conflicts with what they want for themselves, it's wise (though usually difficult) to remember that they're in charge of their lives.
- When what you want to say to someone will probably have explosive or hurtful results, it's usually (but not always) best to let it remain unsaid until you can find a gentler, safer way. If you can't find a gentler, safer way, you might have to take a chance, but one option is always silence.
- When you disagree with someone, and he or she is unwilling or unable to discuss the matter reasonably, and you push ahead anyway, the chances of a good outcome are tiny.Re-examine cherished beliefs
periodically, even when there's
no conflicting data
- When you're the lone dissenter in a group you're working with, and they no longer want to hear from you, that's their choice to make. Respect it.
- When you no longer want to hear about something from someone who insists on making you listen, you must either accept that you will hear it again, or find a way to make him or her stop, or use the wondrous tool called "removal to a distance."
- Very little of what you've achieved was accomplished unaided. Credit for your achievements is much more valuable when shared.
- When your sense of fairness and right conflicts with what somebody more powerful wants, either make an accommodation, or move on, or become more powerful. Or some combination thereof.
And most important, when your sense of fairness and right conflicts with an outcome determined mostly by happenstance, remember that the Universe is more powerful than any of us. Top Next Issue
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More articles on Personal, Team, and Organizational Effectiveness:
- Running Your Personal Squirrel Cage
- As Glen rounded the corner behind the old oak, entering the last mile of his morning run, he suddenly
realized that he was thinking about picking up the dry cleaning tomorrow and changing his medical appointment.
Physically, he was jogging in a park, but mentally, he was running in a squirrel cage. How does this
happen? What can we do about it?
- Become a Tugboat Captain
- If your job responsibilities sometimes require that you tell powerful people that they must do something
differently, you could find yourself in danger from time to time. You can learn a lot from tugboat captains.
- Let's Revise Our Rituals
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zing to our lives.
- An Emergency Toolkit
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of a vicious insult or the victim of a serious injustice. You have work to do, and you want to respond,
but you must first regain your composure. What can you do to calm down and start feeling better?
- Fill in the Blanks
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See also Personal, Team, and Organizational Effectiveness and Emotions at Work for more related articles.
Forthcoming issues of Point Lookout
- Coming March 29: Time Slot Recycling: The Risks
- When we can't begin a meeting because some people haven't arrived, we sometimes cancel the meeting and hold a different one, with the people who are in attendance. It might seem like a good way to avoid wasting time, but there are risks. Available here and by RSS on March 29.
- And on April 5: The Fallacy of Division
- Errors of reasoning are pervasive in everyday thought in most organizations. One of the more common errors is called the Fallacy of Division, in which we assume that attributes of a class apply to all members of that class. It leads to ridiculous results. Available here and by RSS on April 5.
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