In the flurry of intentions and goal setting for 2023, we’re talking about blind spots. Because no matter how disciplined you may be, your blind spots sit alongside you, undermining those goals. And you have no idea.
Scientifically, the concept of the blind spot originates with our eyes, where the optic nerve intersects with the retina. With no ability to sense light there – a literal blind spot – our minds engage in rapid pattern matching to fill in the picture for us. We do not experience reality in that place we can’t see, and our minds fill in the blanks.
Conventional wisdom is that our brains take in reality, process it like a computer, and then direct us to certain things in order to achieve goals. As enticing as that may sound, it isn’t true. Your brain, and everyone else’s, is taking in pieces of information to construct a reality that matches the patterns you’ve already seen, and the narratives that best serve you. We can be entirely convinced that we see something, but biology itself reminds us that we don’t.
We’re baffled when others don’t react to the same things that we do, in the same way. But unlike the signals that we get when we know something is wrong—you expected one thing, and something else happened—blind spots are silent and sneaky. We don’t know that they exist. We miss them completely, and they can cause tremendous damage for leaders and their companies.
While you’ll only learn to identify your own specific blind spots through intentional exploration, these are the most common blind spots we’ve seen in our clients – and ourselves.
- Knowledge: You don’t know that you don’t know something.
- Perspective: You think you have the right view from where you stand, but you’re missing a lot of information.
- Attentional: You are focused on the wrong thing, typically due to goal confusion (leaders often create attentional blind spots for their teams by giving ambiguous or confusing instructions).
- Habitual: Similar to attentional blind spots, you may not realize that your “autopilot” or ingrained habits are working against your stated goal.
- Motivational: You convince yourself you want one thing, but your behaviors consistently provide evidence of seeking something else. This common misalignment causes frustration because people wonder why they aren’t getting what they want – when the real problem is that they are getting exactly what they want.
- Cognitive: Unconscious bias, rather than a learned behavior.
- Emotional: Deeply rooted, and usually caused by trauma. Most of us hold them, and those blind spots will likely be with us for the rest of our lives. We can’t eradicate them, but through therapeutic support we can learn to work with them. Once you know these blind spots exist, you can design around them.
We want to believe that our goals are deliberate. But sometimes our protection goals supersede whatever it is we may think we’re working towards. The reality of being human is that we aren’t robots with emotional issues. We’re simply hairless apes with calculators. Our emotions will show up all over the place. Blind spots are baked in.
Knowing this, how can you experiment to learn about your blind spots? At Talentism, we believe that the most productive learning comes through doing. Form a hypothesis: state your goal, determine what you’ll do in service of that goal, and what your expected outcome is. Then, see what actually happens. Since it likely won’t be what you expected, you’ll be given the opportunity to learn. Those small, purposeful experiments will help you uncover where your blind spots are, and chip away at the edges.