Elephants and molehills: dealing with blinkered or extreme thinking

Elephant in the room

In a world that no longer works the way it used to, it is easy to make mistaken assumptions. One of the most common types of these is called ‘extreme thinking’ or ‘blinkered thinking’.

This mistake happens when we see part of a situation but not the whole picture. We might be over-cautious, seeing only the risks or negative aspects but not the favourable ones. This is called “making mountains out of molehills.” Or we might focus only on the positive elements of the situation, insisting somehow that the negative possibilities “don’t count” or “won’t happen”. This is ignoring “the elephant in the room.” Both mistakes are blinkered thinking.

Blinkered thinking happens when we see the world only in terms of extreme opposites: good or bad, black or white, all or nothing, utter failure or success beyond our wildest dreams. Other words that indicate a person might be suffering from blinkered thinking include “everyone/no-one,” “always/never,” and “impossible/inevitable.”

Because this type of thinking involves such extreme viewpoints it is relatively easy to spot. But this means it can also be difficult to change once we get caught up in it.

If you identify this kind of thinking in yourself or other people, first realise that it is not reality, only a mistaken assumption. Then identify what extreme the person is getting caught up in and ask what is the opposite of that. Then look for possibilities between these two extremes and ask how likely each one is. This will bring a more accurate picture.

In a changing, churning world nothing is ever guaranteed (or impossible!). The best we can do is to set a clear intention of what we want to achieve, then work to create the conditions where that becomes most likely.

Spotting and removing blinkered thinking is one way of achieving that and then seeing our current situation more clearly.

Can you think of anyone who might have been caught up in extreme or blinkered thinking?


Adapted from Inner Leadership: tools for building emotional engagement and inspiration during times of change. Buy the Book

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Photo By David Blackwell. via StockPholio.net

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