Seeing Clearly

You can’t act skillfully if you don’t have a good understanding of your context and situation. We say we want to “see clearly,” but this is obviously a metaphor; you don’t need the sense of sight to know what’s going on. What you do need is an open mind. Questioning things, especially things you take for granted.

Seeing clearly isn’t easy. We have imperfect access to information. Ambiguity abounds. To make matters worse, we’re vulnerable to confirmation bias: the tendency to only pay attention to information that confirms or reinforces our beliefs. We see what we want to see. We suspect things — and people — that contradict our positions. We make decisions based on assumptions and — given enough skin in the game — double down even when additional evidence suggests we may be wrong. Our egos are powerful forces, and belief systems even more so. Nobody likes to lose face. But the effects of not seeing clearly can be disastrous.

So how can we see more clearly? When I look back to situations in which I succumbed to confirmation bias, I find that I subconsciously knew what was happening early on. Alas, I became ensnared, my mind tickled by the possibilities, my eyes gravitating towards the things I wanted to see. I’ve learned that in situations like these, seeing clearly requires that I keep my eyes open — but do so while heeding another organ: my gut.