The human brain has an enormous capacity to learn. The paradox is it is filled with blindspots that limit learning capacity. For the most part, you only think the way you were taught to think. In effect, the way you do things is the way you do everything. The way you do things is shaped by the way you see things. The way you see things is shaped by the way you think or your thought process. Your thought process is an amalgamation of your brain’s syntax. Your environment shapes your syntax. And your environment gives you the facts of life. Unlearning the learned facts isone of the biggest hurdles people face. And that interferes with personal and professional growth.
People make sense of new information by using existing knowledge and experience. If new information invalidates existing information, the person will defend what they already know, unless there is incontestable proof. In other words, people think the way they think because of the way they already think. Asking people to look at any situation from a new perspective is asking them to alter their brain’s syntax. If that syntax is disrupted they will most likely resist. Hence, the incessant desire to disagree. That slows learning of breakthrough information. It is easier for people to add improvements to existing knowledge.
The topic of what we learn is inconsequential. Jean Paul Sartre talks about how people process information or incidents that occur in their lives. If, for example, a five year old is punished for speaking up, they will fear speaking up or resent not being able to speak up. Therefore, as a five year old, they will make a decision based on that one incident to keep their thoughts to themselves or be a rebel and speak up regardless of the consequences.
Irrespective of the choice made at five his or her life will be shaped by it throughout their life. In fact, they will believe it is inappropriate to speak up, if they chose that path. Sartre says once a person believes something is true, they will always seek evidence that their point of view is right. Being right is more important than learning something new. If you try to convince them otherwise, they will recall the countless times they paid a price for speaking up.
In some cases, because they remained silent so often, they may not have developed effective communication skills. As a result, when they speak up, it will be done clumsily and not embraced by others. It will be nearly impossible for them to see they are creating adverse situations by not being able to communicate effectively. If you attempt to teach them to communicate effectively, you will be teaching them on top of the mindset that speaking up has consequences. That is like putting icing on a mud pie.
This example highlights how you learn. You make decisions to avoid consequences. While it appears the decision kept you safe, you are stuck with it for the rest of our lives, unless you go through a significant transformation. And sometimes the catalyst for transformation can be temporary.
For example, Meyer Briggs personality assessment was administered to many companies in the twin towers of the World Trade Center. The assessment was administered before the events of 9/11. Shortly after the 9/11 incident the Meyer Briggs assessment was administered again to many of the same people.
In almost every case, their results changed. The catastrophic event had changed personalities and individual outlooks on life. Therefore, it appeared as though they learned to be different people. To see if those changes were sustainable, the companies administered the assessments five years after the incident on 9/11. And the results were amazing. Nearly every person went back to the same personality they had before September 11, 2001. That means their mindset remained the same. The severity of the event temporarily disrupted people’s thought processes. However, when things returned to normal, so did their mindset.
So you know what you know because what you know has helped you survive and avoid consequences. Other times what you know gives you access to pleasure. Once you know what you know works, you stick with it. Anything that challenges what you know is difficult to accept because you already have proof that what you know works, even if it is not giving you what you really want. If you want to teach people something new, you first have to disrupt their existing thought processes and help them see themselves and the world from an entirely new perspective. That is where coaching plays a significant role. It is critical to stick with the person to help them make a smooth transition to live in a new paradigm.
What do you think? I would love to hear your feedback. And I’m open to ideas. Or if you want to write me about a specific topic, let me know.