Question What You Know Is True

Exclamation and Question Marks

When you know that something is true and someone says something to contradict that knowledge, you will likely reject what they said without giving their statement serious consideration. After all, you already know that they are wrong.

Sometimes, though, what we know is not necessarily based in fact. What we know might only be what we believe, and believing something to be true does not make it true. From a learning and behavior standpoint this confusion between what we believe to be true and what is actually true presents a challenge. Since we “know” that what we believe is true, we will act on that belief even though the belief is not actually true. And, we will reject information that contradicts what we “know.”

A few months ago, I was confronted with this type of challenge. As I listened to a well-respected speaker at a multi-speaker conference talk about productivity and time management strategies, the speaker questioned the two-minute offense often used in football. In short, he wondered aloud how a team that had not moved the football in 58 minutes of a 60 minute game could focus for the last two minutes and score a touchdown. As he finished this part of his talk, he said: “Why can’t they run a two-minute offense for the whole game?”

As he asked that rhetorical question, I immediately thought “they can’t do that.” After all, a football team cannot possibly run a two-minute offense for a full game. I know that to be true. Everyone knows that to be true.

Then, I began to question if what I knew to be true was actually true or if I only believed it to be true.

This questioning process is the beginning of learning. Until we question what we know to be true, we remain closed to the possibility that what we know is really only what we believe.

When I questioned what I knew to be true, I began to explore situations and to think about ways that a team might run a two-minute offense for more of the game. Questioning my beliefs about running a full game under a two-minute offense opened my mind to think about my personal productivity and time-management habits. Then, I began to question what I knew to be true about my ability to become more productive and what “facts” limited my ability to do so.

The speaker achieved his objective. He threw out an extreme statement about football that made me question my beliefs so that I began to think differently about time management and productivity. That was, in fact, his real objective. I do not think he really cared if a football team runs the full game using a two-minute offense. I do think he wanted people in the audience to rethink what they “knew” to be true so that they could learn something new.

As you continue learning and growing as a leader, continue to question what you know to be true. When you question the facts, you might find that they are true. You might also find that they are beliefs you hold rather than immutable facts. If you find the later, you have opened the door to learning something new.

For example, consider what you believe to be true about your ability to become more productive. What do you believe about your personal productivity? Are you really running at full capacity? Can you run a “two-minute offense” more frequently?  Can you be more focused for more short periods of time so that you can accomplish more?

Your Now Step: Identify a project you have wanted to complete that continues to loom over you. Look carefully at your schedule and identify two fifteen to thirty minute blocks of time in the next week when you can focus intently on only that project. Block the time on your calendar and focus on that project for that time.

photo credit: Horia Varlan via photopin cc

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