Sometimes we can all feel a little stuck. We grapple with many decisions and situations on a daily basis. You know how some days you feel like you are moving forward swimmingly and other days, well, not so swimmingly. But there is a big difference between those who feel stuck for a short period while they know they are hatching a plan to get themselves out of it, and those who stay stuck for weeks, months or years with no solution in sight.
People who tend to stay stuck are more likely to have cognitive dissonance
Ok so that sounds like a fancy term but that really just means the discomfort we feel when our beliefs (anything our brain chooses to be true) are challenged. And when we justify our beliefs, it reduces this discomfort AND activates the brain’s reward system. So it’s doubly satisfying to confirm our current beliefs to be true and keep getting average results than to change our current beliefs to get better results.
Wow. Read that last sentence again. That’s a little bit frightening! That’s why it’s not that hard to be a high performer, mediocrity is just easier and more comfortable for the brain.
Even more interesting is that when we are presented with scientific reasoning behind why our current beliefs may not be working or serving our goals, we often dig our heels in even more to overcome the dissonance and end up disliking the person or organisation who gave us the scientific information.
Here’s an example of someone with high cognitive dissonance: I recently had someone attend one of our workshops – he was frustrated because his business wasn’t growing at anywhere near the rate he hoped it would since he started it. He was a self-proclaimed “perfectionist” (interestingly that’s also known as a “vulnerable narcissist”, but that’s a topic for another blog). When he did our pace indicator it revealed he was structuring his day completely wrong compared to the way he should have been operating so that of course he was going to take longer and burn more mental energy in the process. He also needed to change some of his systems to free up more mental energy and time.
However, when he was called out on this he dug his heels in and was convinced that the way he was structuring his day is the way he should have been structuring it and of course our scientific, evidence-based frameworks inviting him to try something different were completely wrong in his mind. This workshop also included a complementary individual express coaching session afterwards to help attendees feel supported with what they planned to implement. No surprises, he declined that offer.
People who manage to get unstuck are obviously different
High performers are more focused on getting results than being wedded to their beliefs which aren’t serving their goals. They understand that not everyone thinks like they do and that there may be other ways of doing things that they hadn’t thought of, or thought wouldn’t work but actually do.
They are fine with putting their problem out there and asking for help from experts or a group of other successful business people. They know that someone knows the answer even if they don’t. You don’t have to have all the answers. You just need to know people who do. They know it pays to invest in themselves, their staff, their business etc.
Quick questions to test for high cognitive dissonance in an interview…
People with a propensity for high cognitive dissonance generally aren’t very coachable and you may want to think twice before hiring them for your team. One way to check is to ask them when have they been so sure they were right about something and they changed their mind? How did they come to change their mind? How did that process feel?
So if you’re happy to stay mediocre, you can totally disregard this blog. However, if you and your team are looking to get results despite a little discomfort, it’s important to understand how this double reinforcement system of beliefs work so that you can override that trap. So go forth, get uncomfortable and get those results you deserve.