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Preventing Personal Truth Decay

Not recognizing truth decay happening in our lives is dangerous for our well-being. Here's what you need to know.

Truth decay is not only problematic when it involves social issues and politics. It’s a risk factor for outcomes in our professional and personal lives.

Decaying is the process of rotting or decomposition. It often smells bad. When this happens in our mindset, the same process is occurring in what we believe, decide and do.

The general definition of truth decay is “a blurring of the line between opinion and fact.”

When that blurring of the lines is developing in our belief system, attitude, decision making and behavior, we are at minimum, beginning to significantly veer off course of our best life and conducting poor risk management for ourselves and at times, those around us and who count on us.

When we’ve walked ourselves into this mental trap, we are trusting, sometimes intensely, our false beliefs and convictions.

“The unexamined life is not worth living,” Socrates said, and where personal or business truth decay is, the “unexamined life” is not. It needs to be.

A person’s well-being is at stake and an emergency is developing in our minds, and we might very well be headed for a crisis and common associated consequences.

Consider a belief system devoid of truth or only implementing truth where convenient. That cannot be the mental “software” that leads to success.

Instead, it creates misaligned decision making. It’s leading us off course in the wilderness of our lives when we allow opinions or assumptions to become the drivers of behavior.

Nick Saban, University of Alabama football coach

Legendary college football coach Nick Saban is known to be fond of saying, “So what, now what” as a response to setbacks or adversity. That phrase is full-on acceptance of the situation and forward focused.

It demands self reflection, thoughtful problem solving and commitment to courage, improvement and resilience.

The same goes for when truth decay, whether preventing it or in response to it already having established a place in our minds and lives. Now what?

It’s not recognized as the blind spot it is yet it is adversity that needs immediate addressing, with urgency, to correct course before the risk and costs escalate.

How does an individual or organization do it wisely, skillfully and successfully?

Create your invaluable short list

It’s important to have someone besides yourself observing and analyzing your decisions and actions. We can’t possibly see, don’t always accurately recognize all that is going on in our thinking that is leading to considerations or actions that are revealing signs of our truth decay.

When we don’t have that protective quality of trusted confidants around us, we are operating without a safety net and that can prove dangerous and often reckless.

Find a person or small group who you trust to be assertive and forthright with you. Choose someone whose observations and counsel you value and who you will certainly, respectfully, attentively listen to if they provide you with valuable, yet maybe not always palatable, feedback contrary to your beliefs.

Your trust in them should be at such a level that you will strongly consider heeding their advice.

It doesn’t mean you stop thinking for yourself. It means you are receptive to someone seeing what you likely don’t and valuing and strongly considering what they observe and convey.

It is imperative that you provide them psychological safety to be your warning system.

Devise a safeguard test

How will you protect yourself against truth decay in your life if you don’t have a strategy to regularly test out your thinking?

Identify first what areas of your professional and personal life that you might not be as strong in as others when it comes to decision making and behavior.

Be fully honest with yourself on this self examination. It is critical to protecting your future.

You have multiple strengths, that’s known, yet where might you be at least slightly susceptible to faulty decision analysis and decision making?

What questions would you ask yourself in an emergency or crisis if it was critical to get the right answer? Write them down on a document and save it to where you can easily access it. List every question you would have for yourself.

Review that document regularly to make sure that question or those questions are still the absolute best ones you know of to check your thinking for errors and risk.

One organization that has skill in developing questions that illuminate and clarify is Optimal Thinking. You can sign up for free emails that will send you powerful questions you can ask yourself. This idea is but an amendment to this article, not a replacement for it.

Go to your trusted individual confidant or circle of trusted advisors to ask them what they observe. You do not want just “yes men” or “yes women” as these people.

You want people who have the psychological safety, confidence and assertiveness to speak facts, with clarity and in a way they know you will receive well enough to hear and value the message.

Commit to asking questions, seeking out critical facts and insight

Asking questions with a sincere desire to learn is a form of intellectual humility.

One way to prevent or overcome truth decay in our lives is to expect of ourselves courage and humility as core values that we practice daily. Part of doing this is accepting the reality we don’t know everything and realizing that’s just not possible anyway.

To assume such is self deception + arrogance = higher exposure to risk.

How we respond to these truisms is to constantly hunt facts, evidence, ask questions humbly of ourselves and others while pursuing new insights. We benefit by learning on our own and from others, equally.

We need to commit to being intellectually honest.

We have to be careful of avoiding reactive devaluation too, that practice of discounting a message because we have a negative emotional reaction to the person providing the information.

While we don’t want to allow ourselves to be easily persuaded, we should constantly be developing into flexible thinkers and make room to be persuaded when reasonable evidence is presented, whether that is changing what we assumed was true or learning additional insights.

Test drive your process now

Don’t wait for a significant conflict, crisis or a scandal to hit before you do a simulation of your process. Test drive it now and on a regular basis to see what works and what might require adjustments.

This fine tuning will make your plan of action more sophisticated, trustworthy, beneficial and valuable.

Question your thinking regularly

You want to catch false assumptions or misleading convictions early so you can defuse their power in your mind.

This psychological maintenance check is wise security, risk management and insurance for your professional and personal life.

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People look for retreats for themselves, in the country, by the coast, or in the hills . . . There is nowhere that a person can find a more peaceful and trouble-free retreat than in his own mind. . . . So constantly give yourself this retreat, and renew yourself.

- MARCUS AURELIUS

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