When you’re looking for information, are you seeking affirmation or education? The sources for each are very different.
If you’re seeking affirmation, you’re looking for sources that share your beliefs and values. You may end up feeling better about your values and beliefs, but you learn very little, if anything, from this effort.
I can’t begin to tell you how often people, upon hearing something I said, refer me to the works of others who share my beliefs. While I appreciate their well-intentioned kindness, I rarely act upon the recommendation simply because it seems to me to be a waste of time. I know that I’m likely to gain little additional knowledge from someone who already shares my beliefs, so why make the effort?
In order for me to learn more I need to explore the values and beliefs of people who don’t share mine. I need their perspectives so that I can challenge my thinking…the premises upon which my beliefs and values reside.
During my years as a business consultant I regularly joined associations of professionals in disciplines in which I had no background or experience. My reason for doing so was to see the world through the eyes of people who viewed the world differently than I did. My mind was opened to new ways of seeing things, of new ways of approaching situations that we all face from time to time. As a result, I gained a valuable education with a very small investment of time and energy.
What does this mean for you?
We all have a limited amount of time. Invest yours in education instead of affirmation and you’ll find that you not only progress more quickly than others, you’ll gain tremendous influence as a result of the varying perspectives you bring to any discussion.
Spend time each day exploring ideas contrary to your own. Do so with an open mind. True explorers have an open mind. While they may possess some preconceived notions about their journey, they realize that things rarely go as planned or anticipated. Consequently, they are more adaptable and, hence, more successful in their endeavors.
I’m paraphrasing physicist, David Deutsch, when I say that knowledge is what we know today. The questions we ask, the explanations we seek, form the knowledge we’ll possess tomorrow.
One of the challenges in today’s world is that people are looking for affirmation of what they already believe. They’ve stopped seeking knowledge which is stymieing the growth of knowledge in our society. The price we pay for the suspending of personal education and growth will be felt for generations to come.
For our kids
To promote an earlier reversal of today’s trend, challenge your kids to look at others’ perspectives with an eye to learning from them. That doesn’t mean that they have to change their values and beliefs, but they will discover ways to deal more effectively, and respectfully, with people with opposing views.
They’re also more likely to be the impetus for finding common ground between competing philosophies that will lead to a mutually-beneficial solution for all parties. In doing so, they’ll gain the respect of all involved which affords them great influence in future dealings…a nice return on their investment in educating themselves.
Let others know that you love them by sharing this blog post. They’ll appreciate that you care.
I love hearing your thoughts and experiences, please share your thoughts in a comment.
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Dale, Thanks for your insights on affirmation and education. It seems to me like remaining curious is one way to separate the two!
Bill, One of the things we tend to lose over time is the curiosity we had as toddlers. To your point, maintaining the curiosity of a 5 year old certainly helps us avoid the blinders that occurs when we seek only affirmation. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.