Get More Out of Life by Seeing the Shades of Grey

by , in Culture

Life today presents us with so many different environments and situations. On a daily basis we pass judgments and take actions that help us navigate through our business, personal, political, and religious lives. We are continuously confronted with unprecedented amounts of information that can influence our decision making process. While this is good in so many ways it is also very exhausting. Decision making is hard because critical thinking is hard.

To escape this tiring predicament, we often establish biases or predispositions that help us select what information we take in and process and what information we ignore, deciding what we ignore has little bearing on our previously established conclusions.  In other words, we like to take in a little information, think about it, draw a conclusion and never reflect back on it again. In the extreme, we make judgments that specific people, organizations, or things are always good or always bad; or, we establish specific principals that tell us to always do this or don’t do that. Again, this behavior makes navigating through life easier.

The problem is people, organizations, things, and actions are not always good or always bad. There is some amount of good in a bad organization and some amount of bad in a good person. In addition, no principal is applicable to all situations; everything is constantly changing and as a result, so is the degree of good and bad.

Now let’s bring this into the real world. If you work in a business unit of a company, it is not appropriate to say your IT department is worthless. Nor should those in the IT department say Apple products are made exclusively for idiots. Republicans should not declare all Democrats are mindless and liberals should not say all conservatives are fascist. Your co-worker is not always lazy, your spouse is not perfect, and not everything your favorite celebrity does is fantastic.

When it comes to your principals you may decide to break the law or not donate to a charity; love others by pushing them away or take a punch without fighting back. And don’t deceive yourself, you have lied in some way or another and will do so again.

Exiting early or never entering the critical thinking process when encountering a new piece of information or situation reduces your future possibilities or exposes you to additional risks. Why? Because, if you ignore the new data and proceed along with your predispositions, you are choosing to engage in the future with blinders on. Simply put, if you think Jim is always right and he tells you something that is flawed then you are at risk. If Susan always over exaggerates and she tells you how beneficial something is then you miss out. Not to mention, you may never learn anything new.

We have to constantly hold the tension of believing that at any point in a situation something or someone has the potential to be good or bad or present us with new and beneficial information. We have to engage the situation and stay in the critical thinking process, all the while keeping an open-mind. There are two things you can do to help in this:

  • When it comes to passing judgment practice syndical optimism. Look for the good in what appears to be bad and the bad in what appears to be good. For example, every criticism of you has good and bad in it and every organization does some things well and others poorly.
  • When it comes to principals practice inquisitive protectionism. Hold tight to your principals but look for reasons for the situation to warrant a different action. It may truly be best for you and others if you do.

There is actually a lot of grey in this world if you look for it. It makes life a lot more interesting, attractive, and unexpected. Remember, all you have to do is engage your environment, hold the tension, and stay in the process.