I was listening to a new album by The Beths and the song, Future Me Hates Me, got me thinking. Liz is singing about knowing that she is falling for a guy in spite of not wanting to. She knows from experience that this is likely to end badly and acknowledges this in the chorus:
Future heart break
Wide eyed nights late lying awake
With future cold shakes
From stupid mistakes
Future me hates me for
Hates me for
As I watched (kind of through my fingers like a child watches a scary scene in a movie) the events unfold in Washington, I wondered….does Justice Kavanaugh hate college Brett?
If college Brett could have seen the future Justice Kavanaugh sitting before the Senate Judiciary Committee—having to answer for and being doubted because of his behavior 30+ years before—would he have done things differently?
Humans have an amazing capability to rationalize what they have done or what they want to do. There have been volumes written about the various forms of cognitive bias. Basically, we find a way to make the data we see and hear match what we want the truth to be.
The process becomes more complex and biased when we have high attitude accessibility towards an object or model. Let me say that in English. We tend to see things as positive or desirable when they match our internal desires. The more we “care” about what we are involved in, the less likely we are to have any objectivity.
For example, fans at a college football game will disbelieve the veracity of calls that go against their team, but cheer when the call is against the opponent. I, for one, fully believe every single interaction with our receivers should result in a pass interference call. They don’t, and it upsets me.
So back to Brett and future Kavanaugh. Brett wanted to be part of the college lifestyle that his friends and peers were part of. Given a moment to reflect on the choices he was making, he would, most likely, have determined that, a) the future him would be ok with what he was doing, and b) nothing bad will happen and this night will not matter 30 years from now.
He would have been wrong on both counts, but because of his biased processing due to his attitude accessibility he could not see that.
So, apparently we are doomed. Peer pressure, immaturity, lust (the persistent craving for more, not just the sex kind), trauma, socialization, experiences and many other things create attitudes that then bias our ability to process information and make better choices.
Well, not necessarily. We may not be able to overcome our bias completely, but we can balance it out a bit. We are more likely to make better choices away from the environment or group. Delaying decisions, “sleeping on it”, getting advice from others who are not impacted, and pre-making decisions can all increase the likelihood of us choosing things and behaviors that are in line with a larger and longer view.
At Kimray we talk about the wisdom of the crowd. When people with different experiences and views look at a decision, they necessarily have different biases. Combined, they have a better chance of finding a more objective place. We can access this personally too by getting input from a range of people we know and trust.
Vision and mission impact our processing bias also. If we have a clear vision for ourselves, personally or corporately, it is going to be something we care deeply about and will therefore bias our processing to favor those outcomes. This is why people are willing to work hard and sacrifice for a financial goal, why a student with a strong vision for their career will forego a party and stay home to study, or why people endure pain and hardship to accomplish a physical goal like a marathon.
Knowing who we are and who we want to be and having multiple people we can call on for advice greatly improves the likelihood that we will make wise choices. Wise. Wisdom is a word that a friend of mine used as we discussed this topic a few days ago. Wisdom is seeing things from a larger perspective and practically applying what we learn. That is why wisdom often comes with age, but it doesn’t have to. Old people are not always wise, and young people sometimes are.
I know that for many people, the current them hates the past them. In recovery I learned about forgiveness and the unchangeability of the past. I cannot undo what I have done, but I can learn from it and apply what I learn to the choices I face today, which sounds like gaining wisdom from experience.
Today I want to be the me that future me will love.