Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Drowning in Lake Wobegon

Most people you meet have no interest in getting better at anything. There are powerful cognitive biases that prevent us from meaningful self-reflection, along with a coddling culture in America that strongly opposes personal development by encouraging individuated mediocrity.

"The Lake Wobegon Effect" (illusory superiority) describes how we overestimate our abilities and downplay our negative qualities. This effect is highly persistent in social science -- in any random survey, the vast majority of people will say they are above average in any trait. This is impossible by definition in a random sample.

The Dunning-Kruger effect is a related to this. People who are unskilled are more likely to overestimate themselves, while people who are skilled at something are more likely to underrate their abilities. 

To prevent the trap of "just being ourselves" we first have to acknowledge what we need to improve.  How many times have you been truly honest with yourself about your limitations, especially those that you do not have the power to change? Take out an index card. Write down at least three improvable traits at which you are currently significantly below average. These are mine:
  • "Likeability"
  • Public speaking
  • Motivation to get out of the house when I have free time
  • Faking interest in social situations

Whether or not you plan to improve anything, the mark of a loser is someone who can't face the reality that they suck at something and would rather hide behind false bravado. Don't be one of them.

No comments:

Post a Comment