How We Justify Our Actions

The human mind and psyche are complicated things. One of the biggest mysteries is how to do we justify our actions when they’re not what we would like them to be?

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The human mind and psyche are complicated things. One of the biggest mysteries is how to do we justify our actions when they’re not what we would like them to be?

Cognitive Dissonance

We tell ourselves a story about who we are and who we want to be. Every human being does this and it’s important. Our internal narrative is guided by our values and beliefs and it allows us to see ourselves in a good light.

When our internal narrative fails or our actions conflict with this narrative – we enter a state called cognitive dissonance. Cognitive dissonance causes us to be stressed until the narrative conflict is resolved.

Right Or Wrong, Does It Matter?

It can be useful to examine our internal narrative. We need to get a clear picture of what drives us and what values we bring to the world.

This has two benefits: the first is that we can ask if our values are truly serving our purpose and the second is to better communicate what is important to us, to other people. It’s hard to live in harmony with other people if we can’t explain to them – what’s important to us.

One value that many people hold is the urge to be right. Not being right, they feel, diminishes them in the eyes of others. In some cultures, they would say that not being right causes them to “lose face”.

Another value that most of us hold is the desire to be happy and for others around us to be happy too.

These two values can often spill into direct conflict and cause cognitive dissonance.

Insisting on being right can also cause external conflict, we have all met arrogant people who insisted they could do no wrong, they’re no fun to be around, are they?

What Can We Do To Resolve This Internal Conflict And Prevent External Conflict?

When our values conflict, we can take action to prevent this conflict. How?

We ask ourselves which value matters more to us. Would we prefer to be happy and for the people around us to be happy? Or would we prefer to be right and be at odds with ourselves and others?

It’s not a hard decision to make when it’s laid out plainly, is it? Sometimes, it’s OK to give up something that matters to us if it’s preventing us from reaching something that matters even more.

The good news is that you can take action to stop the urge to be “right” immediately. You don’t need to be “wrong” to do it, either.

The key is to listen more. To care more about the needs and objectives of the people around you. Wouldn’t it be better if you could both be “right”? If you could find a way forward together in harmony than separated by a winning-losing divide?

Next time you feel the urge to be right, ask the other person, “what makes you feel the way you feel now?” Drill down into their reason and look to walk a mile in their shoes. You’ll soon find that being right isn’t as important as you once thought it was. Happiness is more fun.

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