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When Good Intentions Are Not Enough

You may remember the story about a rich man and a robber sharing a train compartment. As the rich man slept, the robber searched for the money he knew was hidden nearby. Come morning, he confessed his failed plan and the rich man chuckled.

“I knew you were a robber,” he said, “so I hid my money in the one place I knew you would never look… under your own pillow!”

The robber didn’t think to look close to home and neither do we. In fact, we often miss out on the incredible value that resides within our business colleagues and family members and closest friends. We simply don’t see what’s present, hiding in plain sight.

That’s because all of us have biases; we see the world in our own unique ways. We filter and sort according to those biases and the result is a landscape populated by content we select. It’s not the full picture, it’s our personal story about what’s present and there’s often lots missing--critical elements of value that get filtered out through our own lens because of a phenomenon called "brain blindness." If we don't believe someone has value, we don't see it even when it's in plain sight.

As research and our own work in organizations around the world has demonstrated, it's not enough to simply have an intention to expand our thinking. In order for our intentions to truly matter, they need to show up in our actions and our results.

The simplest way to expand our limiting perspective is to become proactive about exploring diversity. That means opening our eyes to those who are different than us, those “others” that we are unconsciously excluding. It also requires that we create a cadre of people around us who are willing to catch us when we slip into a biases way of thinking or behaving.

We may not mean to be hurtful with our biases, but the fact is--unconscious biases do impact people in powerfully counterproductive ways. Yes, it’s the way we are wired based on past experiences and the onslaught of images and impressions we pick up on television and in social media, but we can re-wire; we can choose differently, we can reach beyond our comfort zone of people and activities, and we can get different results.

Einstein defined insanity as doing the same thing and expecting a different result. He also said that imagination is more important than knowledge. Here’s a chance to exercise our imaginations, simply by surveying our immediate environment with a different outlook, expecting to find value, mining for gold in our own backyard.

Here’s your Thriving tip for the week:

“Discover value in your close in relationships and activities,

by learning to look through the eyes of eager expectation.”

Christopher Harding and Will Wilkinson

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