Forcing Evidence to Fit Your Theory

I’m a Research Manager, and this means I’m well-versed in using data to prove or disprove a hypothesis.

Over the years, I’ve found the clients that are the hardest to work with are those who know what they want the research to say. They have a clear idea in their heads on what will be best for their company moving forward, and if the target audience are surveyed and it emerges that customers would like to see the company move in a different direction than planned, it can be hard to hear.

Clients are very accepting of results that match their perceptions; what tends to take up most of the discussion time are the results that contradict what they perceive to be true. We’ll often be asked to revisit the data and look at it from different angles to see if they can make a case for proceeding in the way they want.

It can be hard to get feedback that challenges what we think when we’re already invested in something, but we need to make sure we’re not seeking out evidence to back up our theories, and ignoring everything else that doesn’t fit the narrative we want. We must make sure we’re not going through life only acknowledging the evidence that justifies our viewpoint and discounting anything to the contrary.

Whether it’s something at work or in your personal life, I’m sure there will be examples you can think of where you’ve felt uncomfortable with the evidence put in front of you.

A key area where this can manifest is in our limiting beliefs. We have often believed something to be true for so long that we can’t possibly believe it could be any other way. An example in my life was when I was pushing myself to get better at delivering presentations. For so long, I identified as a shy and nervous person which was exacerbated when I was presenting. It took a long time to convince myself that that description didn’t have to stick with me for the rest of my life just because I had believed it to be true until now. I built up a plethora of new evidence as a I delivered more and more presentations, and we can all do this in other areas of our lives too. 

Is there evidence that something needs to change in your life that you’re ignoring? Are you only proactively looking for the evidence that allows you stay where you are?

Editing Your Life

You can always make a change! No matter how long something has appeared to be true for you, you can always switch it around.

It’s your choice whether you accept things as they are or if you decide to make a change.

I received an email from the DailyOM which talked about this topic, and Madison Taylor shared a great summary on where to start identifying if you need to make a change:

“To begin editing your life, simply think about your positive and negative experiences. When you determine what parts of your life are no longer serving you, make the commitment to remove them – though, it is important to remember that there is no proper timing or way to do this, and patience and compassion for yourself are always important during this process. Then, ask yourself what has brought you profound bliss and consider how you can make those experiences and beliefs part of your life now. With a little editing, you’ll be able to clear out what is no longer serving you and make room in your life for more happiness, love, and wisdom.”

How often do you sit down and do an audit of your life to see if an edit is in order? 

Actively choosing to make a change can be extremely powerful, so maybe it’s time to schedule a life edit so you end up with more of the good and less of the bad

Good Sailors

I attended a mindfulness class recently where I explained that I find mindfulness and meditation really works if I’m feeling alright generally. If, on the other hand, I’m in a bit of a spiral, I usually need to do something else to dispel the excess energy before I can sit down comfortably to meditate.

The teacher smiled and commented that he was reminded of a quote which says that we’re all good sailors on a calm sea. It is only when we’re put to the test and a storm approaches that we truly feel the benefit of the skills we’ve been cultivating while life was peaceful and placid. It might be harder to put into practice during the stormy periods, but the more we practice as a whole, the better we become at implementing.

A smooth sea never made a skilled sailor

I have a repertoire of tools and techniques that I know will help me to feel better within myself, but I also know that I’m guilty of ignoring these tools when things are going well. It’s only when things take a turn for the worse that I remind myself to utilise all that I already know. For me, my go-to’s are yoga, meditation and dancing in my kitchen to loud music. What are yours?

Would you say you’ve been guilty of neglecting the things that bring you peace recently? What’s something you can do today that you know you’ll benefit from?

You win some…

You win some and you learn some

I love this play on the well known, “you win some, you lose some”. I think it struck a cord with me when I first read it because ‘you learn some’ feels more forgiving somehow.

You might have lost out on something and ‘failed’ in that precise moment, but that doesn’t mean that there weren’t lessons that you learned, and key takeaways that you can apply moving forward.

Failures are a big part of life because if we never fail it means we’re never doing anything outside of the ordinary for us. We’re never trying anything new. If you listen to successful people talk about their journey to where they are today, you’ll notice the part failure played. They freely admit that they wouldn’t have got to where they are without a little trial and error.

Think back to the times you have ‘failed’ in the last five years; what did you class as a failure at the time, but now, with hindsight, you can see that you wouldn’t be where you are today without the personal growth provided by that experience?

Be gentle with yourself next time you ‘fail’ and look for what you can learn from the situation instead of berating yourself for not succeeding.

Cutting your Losses

I was walking along the Quayside the other day and I saw a busker recording a music video with his friend. Granted, he could sing, but passers-by weren’t moved enough to stop and engross themselves in his performance. As I continued to watch him, I was somewhat torn. On the one hand, I was witnessing someone pursue their dreams in a way that very few of us are brave enough to do, and on the other, I couldn’t help but think that he was wasting his time because he didn’t seem talented enough to sell out arenas one day.

It got me thinking about how you know when to cut your losses. This doesn’t have to be with something as considerable as following your lifelong dream, it can be a day-to-day decision that just isn’t working. A good example of this would be a relationship that you’ve invested time and effort in, but, deep down, you know it’s not right. In the back of your mind you wonder if you can start over at your age, you wonder if you’ll ever meet anyone else, and those thoughts keep you stuck.

If we’re honest, when these situations present themselves, we know how we really feel inside, but it’s hard to acknowledge it when it clashes with another of your thought processes. The easiest way to find a resolution is to search for external validation of some kind; this can provide a more objective view that can help to break through your internal barriers. In the relationship example, you could speak to friends and family and ask them if you seem happy. For the singer, he could ask himself whether anyone other than his mother has told him he could be a famous singer…

Have you found yourself in a situation where you’ve been contemplating cutting your losses? Who in your life could you reach out to for some impartial advice? 

Respecting your Elders

There was an article on the DailyOM which talked how tribal cultures have an inherent respect for the knowledge and wisdom of their elderly population, especially compared to modern societies where there can be an tendency to disregard the older generations in favour of those who are more youthful. The article reminded me of how much I love spending the afternoon with my Nana – if she’s in the right mood, of course!

At 93, my Nana is still a force to be reckoned with and when you spend more than an hour or two in her company, the conversation evolves beyond the day-to-day and you’ll suddenly find her regaling stories of that time she went to Egypt with the WAF…

My Nana has an opinion on EVERY-thing and she rarely thinks she’s wrong. Whether it’s requested or not, she’ll share her thoughts on any situation you find yourself in, and often offers great advice which comes from a lifetime of having been there and done that. We have been known to disagree, especially when she’s lecturing me on why Alex and I share the household chores and cooking responsibilities, but you can’t knock her wisdom and insight when you find yourself at a crossroads and you’re unsure what to do.

Writing this triggered a pang of guilt because I know I don’t ask for her advice often enough and it made me realise that I need to reach out more. How can you respect your elders a little more this week? Is there someone you can reach out to and make them feel valued by asking for their advice?

When I Make a Million Dollars…

How many times have you used the phrase: ‘If only I had’ or ‘When this is in place, I’ll do X, Y or Z?’ I’ll call you out right now and say that you’re lying if you try to answer this question with ‘never’! 

When you’re put on the spot and asked to explain why you haven’t pursued something to the best of your ability, this tends to be the easiest excuse to reach for. Whether it’s a conversation at work about a side-project that would have greatly benefited your team, or it’s a conversation with a friend who asks where you’ve got to writing your book, blaming external factors is an obvious out. It helps us to make peace with the fact that we haven’t pursued it. At work, we explain that our day-to-day tasks had to take precedent and we simply didn’t have the time. To our friend, we explain that we’ve been so busy at work that we haven’t had time to explore this endeavour further. You can see where I’m going with this… The truth is that you haven’t pursued these activities because you haven’t had a good enough reason to. In your mind they’re not pressing.

Can you think of any examples where this is true in your life?

In instances like this when something hasn’t been done, I’d like to invite you to think about how you’re lying when you blame anything other than yourself. In that moment, you’re not being truthful about the fact that you have chosen not to dedicate any time to these projects – whether it’s a work, home or personal task.

Yes, some things are easier to action if other things fall into place around it, but we all know that rarely happens. We need to be honest with ourselves and look into why we haven’t been motivated to make a start. Over the next week, consider how you could begin tackling something you’ve been putting off because you don’t have the perfect external circumstances to go alongside it, and instead assign just one hour this week to doing something on it.

Did You Really Have a Bad Day?

Did you have a bad day or a bad five minutes that you milked all day?

It made me smile when I read this question on my Instagram feed the other day because I know I’m guilty of doing the latter. Something will happen in the first five minutes of my working day and it’ll throw me off for the rest of it.

For those of you who have watched the movie, The Secret, you’ll have seen this play out with someone stubbing their toe getting out of bed which puts them in a bad mood. As the day goes on, small annoyances occur and things continue to go wrong – adding more negative fuel to the fire. In the movie, it’s explained that as we focus on the negative aspects of our day, we’re drawing our attention solely to the negative and we’re not allowing any space for something positive to happen.

I love the wording of the Instagram question, particularly the reference to milking it all day, because I think it goes hand-in-hand with the teachings of The Secret.

Have you ever found yourself milking a bad situation for all it’s worth? There’s a tendency to focus on the bad things that happen so we can secure sympathy from those around us. We share the story with more and more people to get their understanding and confirmation of our point of view, but have you asked yourself whether this behaviour is really helping or hindering you?

I always say that letting things go is easier said than done, but how would your day play out differently if you were to start to let things go quicker than you do right now? Don’t get me wrong, I struggle with letting things go as much as the next person and it’s often not until I’ve had a cathartic bitching session with my husband that I truly (begin to) let things go, but I’ve read enough self-help books to know that there’s a better way…

So with this in mind, the next time your day gets off to a bad start, give yourself a few minutes to feel all the feels about what has happened and then make a pact with yourself to let it go there and then. As you go through your day, take note of whether this exercise has allowed you to approach the rest of your day with a more positive mindset than you would.

What’s in it for me?

The culture we live in often demands that we put others ahead of ourselves, especially as a woman. Helping others rightfully holds a place in this world, but we must remember that this shouldn’t be as a detriment to ourselves – which we all know it can be from time-to-time.

When we think about putting ourselves first, the word ‘selfish’ can spring to mind. This comes with a whole host of negative connotations and our concerns that centre around appearing to be self-absorbed can put us off making any changes in this area. But, as the saying goes, everything in moderation is good for us and little selfishness can definitely help us to get to where we want to be.

We make decisions every day, big and small, and if we’re thinking about everyone else ahead of ourselves, we’re not necessarily going to make the decision that’s best for us personally.

I’d like you to think now about the respect you show your nearest and dearest when you’re listening to them tell you about a problem they’re facing. When you have a problem to solve or a decision to make, do you treat yourself with this same level of respect? The answer is probably not. We’re all guilty of putting the needs of others ahead of our own, but let’s just trial putting ourselves first for once.

This week, before you make any decision that comes your way, I want you to ask yourself: what’s in it for me? Will the decision you’re about to make bring happiness into your life or will it bring undue stress? Instead of thinking solely about the needs of others, think about what you will get out of it and whether it’s really worth it for you. I promise you’ll be surprised by how much easier the decision making process is when you evaluate the pros and cons from this angle.

You Never Know!

Whether you believe in fate and destiny or not, Steve Jobs was right when he said that you can only connect the dots when you’re looking back over what has come before.

Time and time again, we go through something in our lives and we cannot fathom how we will ever look back on that particular event and feel anything other than disdain, but when we have the wisdom that time affords on our side, we realise that isn’t usually the case. Once some time has passed, we often find ourselves looking back on events with a fresh perspective.

“You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something – your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life.” Steve Jobs

Keep in mind that you never know what is coming together for you. You might not get the job, the relationship or whatever it may be that you want today, but it doesn’t mean that something even more spectacular isn’t waiting just around the corner for you.

Keep the faith.