It's stressful to feel like you must always be right. And it is unrealistic, too. Our fear of “what if’s” can keep us up at night with worry, and come back to haunt us during the day. Decisions are hard. Even when we feel absolutely certain about something, we always know, deep down, that one day we may learn something new that changes our minds. This self-awareness and doubt comes from our reason and experience. As the only one of our three aspects with introspective qualities, reason knows that we may be ignorant of key facts. And whether or not we are in touch with our doubt, the possibility of missing the mark looms inevitably in the background of a reasonable mind.
And so, how to manage such uncertainty? Certainly, we can maximize our knowledge before making important decisions. We can arm our reason by gathering facts, information, new perspectives, and opinions from outside sources that we respect.
We can also fortify our reason with information from inside sources. By learning about our conflicting motives (and their respective biases) we can broaden our perspective and better mediate between our many desires -- to seek balance and well-being. Our reasonable aspect plays a key role in arbitrating between our primal and social aspects, both of which push blindly for their respective agendas.
But we can never be sure of the future. Regardless of how much information we gather and how much we understand ourselves, the bottom line is that there are no guarantees; we can never be certain that we will hit a bulls-eye – ever.
Acknowledging your real limits helps you see the world as it is, not as you imagine it; this offers you an edge in life. True humility actually strengthens you because:
- It sets you free to hold your opinions firmly, but lightly.
- Keeps you open to new information at any time.
- Makes you more respectful of others and curious about their differences.
- Leaves you open to trying new experiences, even when you "know" you won't like them.
How to live peacefully knowing that there is always a possibility of being wrong?
Sometimes it can be a relief to be wrong. When dreading an event that you have to go to, you may later be thrilled to find yourself having a great time... and wrong. Or, if you initially dislike a new neighbor, you may be delighted when she later becomes a dear friend.
Sometimes being wrong is a sign that we are moving forward and learning new things, as George Bernard Shaw suggested: "A life spent making mistakes is not only more honorable, but more useful than a life spent doing nothing."
Katherine Schultz, author of Being Wrong, held a fascinating TED talk offering great insights about being mistaken. Watching the video of her talk online is a simple and interesting way to help come to terms with the ever pervasive possibility of being wrong.
Although you may never stop worrying about making mistakes, you can worry less. You can actively work to accept the fact that it is always possible to be wrong, even when you know you are right. In fact, you may even move on to enjoying the benefits that knowing you might be wrong can bring.