Warren Buffett wrote: What human beings are best at doing is interpreting all new information so that their prior conclusions remain intact.
In other words, he was confirming the human need for “confirmation bias.”
Confirmation bias is defined as the human reflex to interpret new information as being supportive of the opinions, views, and biases we already hold.
It is our natural tendency to search for things in the world that confirm and support the beliefs that we already have.
Being that many of us would rather be right than happy, I feel that I, too, can extrapolate that many of us go out into the world trying to prove ourselves right. Of course, most of us don’t go out into the world trying to prove ourselves wrong!
And so we move through our days subconsciously accumulating more of the same “there, see…?” evidence that confirms our existing beliefs (confirming evidence).
There, see what I told you? The world is a scary place. (Core belief) Did you hear what just happened in Florida? (Confirming evidence)
There, see what I told you? My life is a mess. (Core belief) Did you hear the recent details of my divorce? (Confirming evidence)
Being that our brain is in a state of constant confirmation bias, we become blind to some of the things that are happening right in front of us.
For example: Whether you’re looking for proof that someone is amazing or terrible, you will find that evidence no matter what. And if contrasting facts arise and that person acts in a way that discounts your belief, you will probably disregard, delete, minimize, or make excuses around those new facts in order to confirm your belief.
We are very quick to judge—and we too are quick to embrace confirming evidence and ignore “disconfirming evidence.”
During a recent coaching session I noticed my client’s need to keep coming back to truth—or shall I say to her truth. She repeatedly challenged my perspective by trying to explain her reality, which I imagine she felt I did not entirely understand.
I was clear on the facts—they were most evident to me, but I was able to see a much bigger picture that was not distorted by confirmation bias.
Once again it was proven to me in that coaching session that most people would rather suffer with their existing (but nonetheless false) core beliefs than change them.
You see, being wrong confuses us and threatens our identity and the very core of who we are.
Is it not true that when someone says you’re wrong about something, you immediately get defensive? It seems we have a subconscious need to protect ourselves against the threat of being wrong!
I agree that being wrong and having to reinterpret your reality can feel daunting—perhaps even difficult and exhausting at the beginning. And for this reason I understand why many people choose to stay safe and comfortable while unknowingly becoming prisoners of their unserving “false truths.”
I have certainly experienced this in my own life and in the lives of my clients and workshop participants. We make something true by what we make it mean in our mind, on the inside, and then we go out into the world and find things to make it true there too—on the outside.
Imagine this scenario: One week prior to your wedding you learn something very upsetting. The love of your life, whom you hold in such high regard and are about to marry, has proven to be unfaithful. If you believe so deeply in his integrity, you may not allow this new and painful fact to change your mind about him.
This is a perfect example of how people will choose to confirm a reassuring falsehood over an “inconvenient truth,” for that is, by far, much easier to do. And so we subconsciously do it all the time!
Now that I have completed several workshops using my storyline curriculum, it has become very clear to me why they are so successful. In essence, my workshops teach people how to be willing to prove themselves wrong—and be with that discomfort in the short-term—for the long-term benefit.
Yes, learning how to objectively dissect your stories in order challenge their component parts is one path to resolving the root causes of your suffering. By examining, debating, questioning, and challenging your subconscious filters, which include your core beliefs, you get to reinterpret your reality and put your confirmation bias to the test in order to confront the truth.
I ask you to reflect on these very powerful questions: How committed are you to your core beliefs? Are you willing to be wrong or are you a prisoner of your unserving false truths? Do you subconsciously move through your day committed to being right?
I encourage you to let go of this notion that if something agrees with your preconceived views and biases then it must be true!
So many of us believe that we are unworthy, not good enough, or less than. Whatever it is you believe is wrong with you, know that you will find endless evidence to support that limiting belief. Know as well that those facts cannot make that belief system true, for there were too many other contrasting facts that likely got overlooked.
Challenging belief systems is the exact opposite of what your brain would naturally like to do, so what I am about to suggest may not be easy. But try to do it anyhow, because the only thing that changes a belief (and therefore the confirmation bias that goes along with it) is the decision to change it—not the new facts.
You will always distort the new facts to fit into your pre-existing mental construct unless you have a compelling enough reason to change the belief itself.
I ask you, is the desire to alleviate your own suffering a compelling enough reason? I challenge you to choose one unhealthy story that you repeatedly tell yourself that creates a great deal of emotional suffering and see if the core belief that drives it is really true.
“When we take the time to look at the way we see things—the way we see things changes.” (Mingyur Rinpoch)
What underlying thoughts and beliefs are driving your confirmation bias? If the above challenge felt too difficult, then I strongly suggest that you consider finding a coach or a workshop that will help you to objectively examine your biases and redefine your truth.
There are still spaces available in my upcoming 6-week workshops at The Schwartz Reisman Centre: How to Quiet the Overthinking Mind Levels 1 & 2. It is in my Level 1 workshop where we move through the entire storyline curriculum together.