Day 14 – Intellectual
“It’s a no-brainer.”
Sound familiar? You’ve likely heard or even spouted it off yourself when responding to what you feel is any easy choice. We are creatures of habit, often deciding issues based on snap judgments and gut reactions. This can result in “no-brainer” behavior with little to no mental effort influencing our perceptions and selections.
Do the following: Repeat the word “joke” out loud three times to yourself. Now quickly, what’s the white part of an egg called?
A majority of you likely responded by saying yolk. However, the question was what the white part of an egg is called… albumen. Your brain was conditioned to the “oak” sound simply by reciting it three times. You just conditioned yourself in less than 5 seconds! Isn’t that amazing? That is a no-brainer. A response formulated by habit. No thinking applied. responded with a no-brainer— yet completely incorrect— response when presented with a straight-forward question. You reacted in habit-bound behavior.
Now try this: Fold your arms. Which arm is on top? Mine is always my right. Quickly reverse the position with your bottom arm on top. Not so easy, is it? When I attempted this simple switch, I literally had to slow myself down. It required focus, making me feel akin to a kindergartener taking my first crack at scissor skills. Clearly, folding my arms in a specific way is habit-bound behavior for me.
We are all human beings and that means we are susceptible to, and often are, preconditioned. What makes this phenomenon truly intriguing, though, is that these programmed perceptions, and their resulting reactions, are as unique to the individual as code is to a computer. Even when we all receive the same stimulus input, the output varies.
For example, we’ll use the following image you may have seen previously.
What do you see? Is it the profile of a young woman with her head turned away or a weary old beggar woman with face downcast?
There is no right or wrong answer in this case. Again, part of what makes us beautiful as a human race IS our ability to perceive similar stimuli in new and different ways. This capacity opens the door to creativity, invention and problem-solving. However, if you either cannot or choose not to see beyond the initial image (whether beauty or beggar) you are undoubtedly missing something, losing out on potentiality and possibility.
Assumptions can block our ability to see novelty based on our brain’s conditioned response. The egg white question, in contrast to the picture activity, most certainly had a correct answer. Yet, most of us (myself included) answered incorrectly.
This leads me to my capstone question for today:
Are you missing out on answers or even potential possibilities due to your preconceived notions?
You may apply this question to any of the following: a life problem, a political stance, health beliefs, religious or spiritual predisposition, professional opinions, and/or relationship disagreements. Whatever your individual circumstances, still ask yourself.
We will never be effective problem-solvers or possibility-spotters if we do not exercise the ability to go beyond the no-brainer mentality and examine our assumptions.
As the philosopher Marcel Proust once said:
“The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new lands, but in seeking with new eyes.”
Part of being intellectually well is being open to new ideas and opinions both in life—and in love. Looking (and responding) beyond our immediate assumptions or beliefs is the key to opening a door to fresh understanding that can deepen companionship and character. So don’t delay. Take your darling by the hand and dare to discover what new ideas await.
Items you’ll need:
•Two pieces of paper
•Your preconceived notions (oh wait, you already have those)
As a couple, select a topic that you and your spouse disagree on. This may range from an opposing political opinion to a disagreement on whose responsibility dish duty is.
Give yourself a few minutes and write down every immediate thought, idea, aspect or argument you have for feeling the way you do.
When you’ve completed this, switch papers. In the last 3 seconds, you have just obtained your law degree (you’re welcome) and with it has come your very first case. You must now present the evidence to defend your partner’s opinion only using the evidence written on the paper before you.
Don’t do this half way. Really act as though your reputation, profession and payout relies on your understanding and explaining the merits of the arguments that sit before you.
At the end of your dialogue, discuss your experience. How does it feel to go against your natural inclination? What do you see now that you’ve viewed this picture from an alternative angle? Most importantly, what insight have you gained into the personal perceptions that drive you and your partner’s ideas?
Next time you open your mouth to disagree, think about this exercise and have the courage to examine your assumptions. You many find there’s an entire wealth of new ideas—in life and love—just waiting to be explored. That’s a no-brainer! 😉