REFLECTING ON BEING WRONG
Monday, June 8, 2020
I have mentioned it before, but one of the apps I really love is Calm. The Calm App is the #1 app for sleep, meditation, and relaxation, and it lives up to the hype.
Tamara Levitt is Calm’s head of mindfulness. She is responsible for the App’s most popular feature, The Daily Calm, a short 10 minute meditation which changes each day. I recently listened to one Daily Calm that stuck a particular chord with me that I wanted to share with you. It is about being wrong.
Wrongness, A Daily Calm Written (and read) by Tamara Levitt
Today I’d like to talk about the unexpected upside of being wrong. One of the universal struggles of life is our resistance to being wrong. Whether we’re pitching an idea or defending an opinion we often feel a strong need to be right. And this tendency is reinforced by our cultural conditioning, which tells us that the person who was wrong is weak and foolish while the person who was right is strong and capable.
Let’s say while in a discussion at work we’re presenting an idea for how to solve a key problem. As we face opposing opinions, even the thought of being perceived as wrong can stir up feelings of embarrassment and anger. But this resistance to being wrong causes us stress and suffering. It strengthens our ego, and reinforces a closedness to the world around us. Often in order to be right, we won’t even listen to other opinions. So we miss out on opportunities to learn and grow.
But it’s not our desire to be right that’s the problem, it’s our response to being wrong. We need to see being wrong not as a defect or weakness but as a natural part of our path-- a sign that we’re learning and evolving. Mindfulness encourages us to challenge our need to be right through the principle of beginner's mind. Beginner's mind teaches us to approach challenges, people and conflicts with an open mind and heart. It teaches us that every moment is an opportunity to see the world anew with a child-like curiosity and openness.
So, in that same debate at work we can say to ourselves “before I commit to my idea why I don't listen to the other perspectives. who knows, perhaps I may be wrong. Maybe there’s something I can learn, a new way of seeing things.”
When we let go of our need to be right we become less authoritative and more curious. we declare less opinions and ask more questions. As the author Kathryn Schulz said, “Far from being a mark of indifference or intolerance, wrongness is a vital part of how we learn and change. Thanks to error, we can revise our understanding of ourselves and amend our ideas about how the world works.”
However disorienting, difficult or humbling, our mistakes might be, it is ultimately wrongness not rightness who can teach us who we are.
Taking criticism, especially from people that I care about, has always been hard for me. I have gotten a lot better at it, but when I truly value someone’s opinion hearing that I’m the one who’s wrong can be difficult. I tend to take it much too personally, and in the past I’ve definitely become upset with the people I love for not agreeing with me.
The thing is, in general I really don’t mind being wrong for all the reasons Tamara talks about, as well as the fact that it just isn’t that big of a deal. Hearing criticism from coaches, in meetings, even people on the internet, no problem. It only bothers me when it comes from the people I love.
I have come to the conclusion that it bothers me more when my family and boyfriend tell me that I am incorrect about something because I care about what they think of me the most. In my mind, I have the most to lose by doing something wrong and scaring them away. When put like that, it’s clearly an irrational way to think about it.
This Daily Calm has helped remind me that I have a lot to learn from the people I love, and that they are the ones who can help me grow the most. So, I’m challenging myself to be more mindful of how I take criticism from them.
What did you take away from this meditation?
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