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Published on December 11, 2018

How to Find Your Blind Spots in Life and Turn Them Into Strengths

How to Find Your Blind Spots in Life and Turn Them Into Strengths

In the back of your retina in each eye, there is a small surface area which contains no photoreceptor nerve cells. These cells receive light signals that your brain transmutes into images so can make sense of the world around you. However, there is a tiny area at the back of your retina surrounding your optic nerve completely void of these photoreceptors: your blind spot.

Your brain cleverly assesses the light signals coming in from around the blind spot and projects similar information in place of it, so you get a full image of what you’re focusing on. Just as your eyes have these permanent blind spots, you also have blind spots throughout your life.

For example, despite being into your third marriage, arguments tend to start around the same issues. Burnout has set in at your last three jobs and it’s only when every ounce of confidence, dignity and self-worth has been torn to shreds that you’ve resigned.

Unlike the permanent blind spot in your eyes, blind spots in your life are malleable to resolve. So how to find your blind spot?

Your growing deeper awareness of them only spawns greater self-mastery to transform those blind spot into new strengths. As you continue to grow, you’ll uncover new blind spots. With more progress at discovering them and transforming them into new superpowers, you’ll soon be welcoming them with open arms!

1. Discover potential blind spots by reviewing your wheel of life.

It’s virtually impossible to achieve change without first having clarity on where making changes will most help you. You need to learn how to discover your blind spots. But how can you center your focus on something you can’t see?

If you have ever worked with a life coach, completing an introductory Wheel of Life[1] review will be familiar to you.

If you haven’t, the good news is you don’t need to! By simply putting pen to paper, you can create and review your own Wheel of Life like the one below:

    First, allocate a life category to each main segment. Examples might be:

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    • Money or finances
    • Career or work
    • Spiritual and personal growth or religion
    • Intimate relationships (i.e. significant other, partner or spouse)
    • Family relationships and social friendships
    • Recreation, leisure activities and hobbies; and
    • Health, physical and mental
    • Another way you categorize a significant area of your life.

    Think about what enjoyment and fulfillment you currently experience in each area. Take your time reflecting on each in depth. Also, think about the things you don’t experience fulfillment on. Jot these down also. We need to look at both sides of the equation.

    Noting that each section has a rating scale from 0 to 10 (0 being the least and 10 being the most) ask yourself the following two questions whilst.

    • a) What level of satisfaction do I currently experience?
    • b) What level of satisfaction would I like to experience in the future?

    Now, look at your ratings. If you have areas you gave middle-road or good ratings but something inside you is asking you if those ratings are genuine, turn the spotlight here.

    Explore further. There’s likely something beneath your immediate consciousness that’s inviting you to probe further. Working with a coach who can probe objectively can be particularly helpful.

    Look at those areas you rated low for the first question but gave a higher rating for the second question. The size of the rating gap indicates there are blind spots primed for transformational changes.

    Your next stepping stone is setting your priorities for what changes you want and what action steps to start with.

    2. Undertake psychometric tests to help you recognize strengths and weaknesses

    If trying to randomly brainstorm what possible blinds spots draws a cognitive blank, a structured personal development questionnaire can be a helpful reference to start from.

    However, be careful of gravitating toward assessments which merely provide a fluffy summarized classification of your preferences. Certainly don’t take the results of these as gospel, either.

    Gallup’s Clifton Strengths Finder (CSF) and the VIA Character Strengths survey are popular examples of tools that can help you explore your strengths. However, there are limits with tools like these.

    If you find the CSF reveals your top strengths as creativity, for example, this does not mean you are creative in comparison with other people. For example, there will be reasons (i.e. blind spots) why your handmade Christmas cards are still sitting on your market stall table whilst your competitor’s a few tables down are selling like hotcakes!

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    As your results are not summarized in comparison with population data, drawing such a conclusion can give you a false sense of your competency.[2]

    It does, however, mean you are more creative in comparison with the other categories the CSF tool explores. You can still see that there are other skills and characteristics you don’t exercise as much. That in itself highlights features you underplay or under-use. Could improving some of them actually be quite helpful to you down the track?

    Regardless of your survey results, always ask yourself the questions against every trait or competency the assessment tool you use, mentions:

    • Does this play out to benefit me? If so, how?
    • How can this also be a hindrance? If so, how?

    Your answers to the second questions particularly are going to shed light on your blind spots.

    3. Gain feedback from qualified sources and set goals for comebacks from your setbacks

    If you’re an employee, feedback from anonymous peer 360° surveys can be particularly helpful here. You’re asking the people you work with how effective you are with behaviors and skills you are required to demonstrate with them in carrying out your role.

    As fearful as you could be about learning the opinions of those who work below, beside and above you in your workplace hierarchy, their feedback matters.

    On the other hand, feedback from well-meaning friends and family won’t, unless you work with them every day.

    Facing hard truths from peer surveys can be nerve-wracking and quickly turn your blue sky thinking to storm clouds. However, thunderstorms don’t last forever. As the saying goes that ‘every cloud has a silver lining’, so to does every negative review.

    How do you now convert the setbacks to comebacks? Take a growth mindset perspective and consider checking in with your manager or colleagues you trust to brainstorm possibilities of changes.

    If you are brave enough, you might even invite suggestions from your colleagues as to what changes they feel you could make. Invite their perspectives. Ask them to point out what you’re not seeing and make them feel safe to do so.

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    For instance, to transform your weekend market-stall card-making business into a lucrative empire that designs personal stationery for the rich and famous, you will need to flesh out business blind spots. Ask a couple of commercially successful stationers and/or artists to critique your work.

    Network with fellow business owners in your industry, seek mentors, attend business improvement workshops and seminars and work with a business coach.

    There’ll be countless a-ha moments and the time, expense and heartache your business blind spots could cost you will be cut in half!

    4. Work with a coach, mentor or psychologist to uncover limiting biases and prejudices

    We all have prejudices and biases, some of them unconscious.[3] We don’t like to admit to having them in the first place but the danger of keeping our head in the sand can cost us dearly in more ways than one.

    When hiring staff, we often hire in the likeness of ourselves. You might not realize you’re subconsciously more apt to hire the candidate you find more attractive and bubbly who strokes your ego during the interview. The average-looking, quieter straight-talker whose technical expertise perfectly fits the role has less appeal. Something just feels ‘off’ to you.

    That bubbly new hire turns out to get on well with everyone in the office, but nothing actually gets done well if it gets done at all! It’s too late to beg for the second candidate you preferred to come back. They’ve already been hired by your competitor and you’ve heard on the grapevine they’re being groomed already to spearhead a new client project. Ouch!

    Here lies the beauty of working with a coach, mentor or psychologist as they have no invested interest in you. Their wisdom and professional training will probe and challenge you to adopt different perspectives, biases and prejudices you cannot currently see. They can see often see how blind spots can affect you before you can recognize the blind spot even exists!

    Choose these people wisely. A helpful coach will be one that supports, encourages and prods you when they see you’re turning a blind eye. Your goal is to stretch so working with someone who only cheerleads and sugar-coats your challenges will keep you falling short of improving.

    Most of us operate up to 90% of the time by default. We behave and think automatically more often than not without full consciousness and awareness.

    Psychologists can teach you techniques to help you review these thought and behavior patterns. Using processes such as motivational interviewing,[4] you can gradually learn how to become aware of situations you resist, learn why you experience this and develop actionable goals to dissolve it. You can become empowered to manage your self-mastery.

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    5. Get away from familiar patterns and actively step out of your comfort zone

    You can start by looking at some of your patterns and consider gently tweaking the dynamics.

    If you are repeatedly frustrated your partner leaves their dirty clothes on the bedroom floor, yet you always pick them up and launder them, could you be enabling the thing upsetting you to continue? What would happen if you broke your patterned behavior and left them there?

    It might grate on you but what if you simply toe-flicked the clothes to a corner instead? Here’s a chance to tweak the status quo. You’re not as much stepping out of your comfort zone as much as a familiar pattern. It just happens that the pattern is one that routinely frustrates you.

    If you resent your boss constantly giving you last minute tasks which delay you an extra 20 minutes whilst your colleagues vanish from the office the moment the clock strikes 5:30 pm, how can you tweak the pattern?

    It feels good to be reliable but you feel taken for granted. What if you started an evening class which compelled you to leave work at 5:30 pm? Even better, what if you informed your boss earlier in the day you needed to leave at 5:30 pm and would need to do so from now on not because you had a class but just because you believe you deserve to as everyone else does?

    That conversation might be fairly uncomfortable if you’re used to saying yes to people and you believe your boss feels entitled to treat you as a slave.

    The conversation could also go well. What if your boss was giving you last minute tasks because he or she thought you enjoyed getting those important things done when it was quieter?

    You have opportunities to acknowledge your blind spot and convert the undesirable pattern into a new one which works in your favor.

    The bottom line

    Give yourself your best shot at revealing your blind sports by working to be in a balanced emotional state before you begin any reflection or self-evaluation exercise.

    Being at either end of the emotional spectrum will sway your perceptions and render your efforts purposeless. Let any feelings of resistance and uncomfortable emotions be your guide and seek help from outside sources qualified to help you.

    Look both ways when crossing the roads in your life and blind spots will soon be a thing of the past. At least, your current ones will be until you discover new ones further along your yellow brick road of life.

    Featured photo credit: Sarah Cervantes via unsplash.com

    Reference

    [1] Mind Tools: The Wheel of Life®
    [2] Harvard Business Review: Strengths-Based Coaching Can Actually Weaken You
    [3] Harvard Business Review: Root Out Bias from Your Decision-Making Process
    [4] UMASS: Motivational Interviewing

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    Malachi Thompson

    Executive Leadership and Performance Consultant

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    Last Updated on July 17, 2019

    The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain)

    The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain)

    What happens in our heads when we set goals?

    Apparently a lot more than you’d think.

    Goal setting isn’t quite so simple as deciding on the things you’d like to accomplish and working towards them.

    According to the research of psychologists, neurologists, and other scientists, setting a goal invests ourselves into the target as if we’d already accomplished it. That is, by setting something as a goal, however small or large, however near or far in the future, a part of our brain believes that desired outcome is an essential part of who we are – setting up the conditions that drive us to work towards the goals to fulfill the brain’s self-image.

    Apparently, the brain cannot distinguish between things we want and things we have. Neurologically, then, our brains treat the failure to achieve our goal the same way as it treats the loss of a valued possession. And up until the moment, the goal is achieved, we have failed to achieve it, setting up a constant tension that the brain seeks to resolve.

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    Ideally, this tension is resolved by driving us towards accomplishment. In many cases, though, the brain simply responds to the loss, causing us to feel fear, anxiety, even anguish, depending on the value of the as-yet-unattained goal.

    Love, Loss, Dopamine, and Our Dreams

    The brains functions are carried out by a stew of chemicals called neurotransmitters. You’ve probably heard of serotonin, which plays a key role in our emotional life – most of the effective anti-depressant medications on the market are serotonin reuptake inhibitors, meaning they regulate serotonin levels in the brain leading to more stable moods.

    Somewhat less well-known is another neurotransmitter, dopamine. Among other things, dopamine acts as a motivator, creating a sensation of pleasure when the brain is stimulated by achievement. Dopamine is also involved in maintaining attention – some forms of ADHD are linked to irregular responses to dopamine.[1]

    So dopamine plays a key role in keeping us focused on our goals and motivating us to attain them, rewarding our attention and achievement by elevating our mood. That is, we feel good when we work towards our goals.

    Dopamine is related to wanting – to desire. The attainment of the object of our desire releases dopamine into our brains and we feel good. Conversely, the frustration of our desires starves us of dopamine, causing anxiety and fear.

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    One of the greatest desires is romantic love – the long-lasting, “till death do us part” kind. It’s no surprise, then, that romantic love is sustained, at least in part, through the constant flow of dopamine released in the presence – real or imagined – of our true love. Loss of romantic love cuts off that supply of dopamine, which is why it feels like you’re dying – your brain responds by triggering all sorts of anxiety-related responses.

    Herein lies obsession, as we go to ever-increasing lengths in search of that dopamine reward. Stalking specialists warn against any kind of contact with a stalker, positive or negative, because any response at all triggers that reward mechanism. If you let the phone ring 50 times and finally pick up on the 51st ring to tell your stalker off, your stalker gets his or her reward, and learns that all s/he has to do is wait for the phone to ring 51 times.

    Romantic love isn’t the only kind of desire that can create this kind of dopamine addiction, though – as Captain Ahab (from Moby Dick) knew well, any suitably important goal can become an obsession once the mind has established ownership.

    The Neurology of Ownership

    Ownership turns out to be about a lot more than just legal rights. When we own something, we invest a part of ourselves into it – it becomes an extension of ourselves.

    In a famous experiment at Cornell University, researchers gave students school logo coffee mugs, and then offered to trade them chocolate bars for the mugs. Very few were willing to make the trade, no matter how much they professed to like chocolate. Big deal, right? Maybe they just really liked those mugs![2]

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    But when they reversed the experiment, handing out chocolate and then offering to trade mugs for the candy, they found that now, few students were all that interested in the mugs. Apparently the key thing about the mugs or the chocolate wasn’t whether students valued whatever they had in their possession, but simply that they had it in their possession.

    This phenomenon is called the “endowment effect”. In a nutshell, the endowment effect occurs when we take ownership of an object (or idea, or person); in becoming “ours” it becomes integrated with our sense of identity, making us reluctant to part with it (losing it is seen as a loss, which triggers that dopamine shut-off I discussed above).

    Interestingly, researchers have found that the endowment effect doesn’t require actual ownership or even possession to come into play. In fact, it’s enough to have a reasonable expectation of future possession for us to start thinking of something as a part of us – as jilted lovers, gambling losers, and 7-year olds denied a toy at the store have all experienced.

    The Upshot for Goal-Setters

    So what does all this mean for would-be achievers?

    On one hand, it’s a warning against setting unreasonable goals. The bigger the potential for positive growth a goal has, the more anxiety and stress your brain is going to create around it’s non-achievement.

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    It also suggests that the common wisdom to limit your goals to a small number of reasonable, attainable objectives is good advice. The more goals you have, the more ends your brain thinks it “owns” and therefore the more grief and fear the absence of those ends is going to cause you.

    On a more positive note, the fact that the brain rewards our attentiveness by releasing dopamine means that our brain is working with us to direct us to achievement. Paying attention to your goals feels good, encouraging us to spend more time doing it. This may be why outcome visualization — a favorite technique of self-help gurus involving imagining yourself having completed your objectives — has such a poor track record in clinical studies. It effectively tricks our brain into rewarding us for achieving our goals even though we haven’t done it yet!

    But ultimately, our brain wants us to achieve our goals, so that it’s a sense of who we are that can be fulfilled. And that’s pretty good news!

    More About Goals Setting

    Featured photo credit: Alexa Williams via unsplash.com

    Reference

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