On the Virtues of Being Wrong

“Wow. I don’t know. Maybe I’m wrong.”

Take a moment and consider, what are you wrong about right now? Are you aware of being wrong about something in this moment? I mean really stop and check. Can you think of something that you know you are wrong about right now?

Most of us walk around with a perpetual feeling of being right. In most moments of our lives we feel right about what we are doing and believing. And if we do feel wrong, it’s usually only in some small part of our lives. Doesn’t this seem odd that all of us are right almost all the time? Logically, it must be the case that we are wrong about something almost all the time.  Why don’t we know it?

One way to think about is to think about our thoughts as stories. Our minds are masterful storytellers, spinning new stories all the time. And most of the time we don’t even notice it. And these stories almost always seem to be true. Rarely do we tell stories that we know we are wrong about (unless we are telling a lie, in which case we usually know that we are telling a lie and know that’s right).

Unfortunately, our inability to notice when we are wrong can hold us back. We can miss information that can help us to grow. We can be right about things that don’t help us to move forward in our lives.

If you’re up for it, below I offer a brief exercise (including a video) on how believing our own stories can stand in our way. The whole process takes about 30 minutes.

Part 1

First, take a minute to think about a direction that you’ve wanted to head in for a while now. Something you’ve wanted to do and either haven’t been able to follow through on or haven’t been able to find the time for. Write out what you want to do. Write that out in a few sentences.

Second, think about why you haven’t done it. We all have explanations for our behavior. What is your story about why you haven’t progressed in this area? Write that out in a few sentences.

Third, once you have written out your explanation, check out whether your reasons seem right or wrong to you. I would bet that it’s pretty unlikely that your explanation seems wrong, as you wouldn’t have written the explanation if you felt it was wrong.

Fourth, keep your direction and explanation in mind as you watch this TED Talk by Kathryn Schultz:


Part 2

Now that you’ve watched the TED Talk, make a new plan for how you will move in this direction that you’ve been wanting to progress in. If you are willing to be wrong about your reasons, it opens up new possibilities. What possibilities might there be for how you could get this done? Outline your plan briefly in writing.

Dr. Scott Rower

Author: Dr. Scott Rower

Scott is a licensed clinical psychologist with a specialty in working with people who struggle with chronic sleep issues.