Gaining a new perspective or insight on an existing problem or issue can be both exhilarating and freeing. Unfortunately, we often inhibit these discoveries by repeatedly turning to familiar solutions and systems. We don’t realize that a better answer is out there, because we fail to question whether the systems or solutions we’re currently using are contributing to the problem. We too often accept the way things are simply because that’s the way things are. Or, worse, we buy into a set of ideas as if they are infallible truths rather than what they really are: part of a spectrum of potential solutions.
I think in a lot of ways this problem begins with the way we are schooled as children, but that is a topic for another newsletter. Instead, I would like to focus on how we can work to get out of our boxes. I have written much about the importance of challenging bias and assumptions. However, it’s easy to overlook the extent to which biases and assumptions are ingrained into our society, our cultures, and our daily lives. While a healthy functioning society needs shared ideas and values, rigid ideologies inhibit growth and positive change. As a society, we seem to currently be overwhelmed by the latter.
According to polls, as a country, our confidence in institutions (government, banking, education, etc.) has continued to be staggeringly low for many years. Clearly, we feel that these institutions are not serving their purpose well; however, we struggle to adequately question why. Record levels of political polarization illustrate the extent to which we are rigidly clinging to our specific ideologies as the only solutions. This is made worse by the fact that the highly polarizing issues get the most attention, distracting us from the deeper systemic problems that plague our institutions.
We too often live our lives with a vague sense of unease because we are not encouraged to questions things on a deeper level. Fortunately, life provides us with many opportunities to overcome our personal biases and gain new perspectives. It starts with being okay with being wrong, and I mean fundamentally wrong, about something; being open to other, even seemingly absurd, solutions and perspectives; and consciously seeking new information, not infotainment, on the issues. When a system is not working, questioning it is not only okay, it is essential; but you won’t see the bigger picture from inside your box.