Pointing Fingers


When something goes wrong, it’s easy to to point to reasons why you did not perform to your expectation. In fact, the tendency I’ve seen is that the more you look for reasons, the more you will find them. This is one of our classic mental weaknesses. We search for the data that confirms our suspicions, while dismissing the rest as inconsequential or “noise”. What we’ve done, in essence, is create a situation in which we believe we already know the answer, before we’ve objectively found it.

When we fail, we race to rationalize what just happened. Why did I under-perform? Did I forget to say something, or forget a crucial fact? Did I do things in the wrong order? These questions will swirl around in our minds immediately after we’ve failed. And then, our minds try to find reasons that we didn’t accomplish what was expected. However, we have this horrible tendency to seek external reasons for our failures, instead of going back and questioning what we already did. As soon as the above questions enter our minds, the responses that are generated usually have to do with external conditions, or something out of our control.

Sometimes, this is the case, and we can correctly acknowledge our lowered performance due to these factors. However, we often take this tendency too far, proclaiming nothing was going our way during our performance.

But let’s face it. Conditions are never perfect. There’s always going to be something that’s wrong, or slightly different from the usual. That’s the nature of our world. Nothing is exactly how we expect it to be, all the time. Instead, the average may be like we expect, but day-to-day fluctuations can change this.

Therefore, blaming external factors is a cop out. Unless there was something particularly egregious, there’s no need to blame external factors. Of course, they made a difference. But the largest factor will usually be yourself. That’s the aspect you should be questioning after a bad performance.

When things don’t go perfectly, start by looking at what you did for clues. Often, your search will end there.

Related Posts

The Grit to Push Through

Behind the Equations

Quantities in Context

Black Boxes

The Priority of Education

A Splash of Colour

Outside the Curriculum

Through the Minefield

Visuals in Mathematics

The Necessary Details