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Creating Cognitive Dissonance...Intentionally

Cognitive Dissonance (From Merriam-Webster): Psychological conflict resulting from incongruous beliefs and attitudes held simultaneously.

The human psyche has a hard time with cognitive dissonance. And rightly so. No one wants to live incongruously.

The world-class recognizes this and, unlike most people, uses it for their benefit. Here's how they do it:

They intentionally create incongruity, which drives them toward accomplishment.

The world-class use their conscious minds to feed positive, life-giving thoughts, images, and ideas to the sub-conscious parts of themselves. (For lack of a better term, I'll refer to the sub-conscious as the instinct.) In feeding their instincts, the world class instruct their instincts in how they want them to think, feel, and respond to life. They tell their instincts who they are (read, "how they want to be one day") with detailed, visional concepts directly related to their identity, character, and accomplishments as a self-actualized person.

For example (and let's use the martial arts in this example), a world-class individual will visualize herself already achieving her black belt (even though she may be years away from achieving it). She pictures herself having developed already the skills and attitudes necessary to achieve such an accomplishment. She surrounds herself with various props and other cues that encourage this manner of thought. She "feels" what it will one day feel like when she becomes the person she will one day become in and through the long and arduous processes of becoming a black belt. In many ways, she begins to live as though she already has it (that is, that she's already become that person), and she trains and carries herself accordingly. As she does this, her instincts (and this is critical) begin to BELIEVE she's a black belt. (Note: Whatever thoughts and attitudes you feed your instincts, your instincts will ultimately believe to be true of you.)

While doing the above, my example trainee uses her conscious mind to assess (and to do so VERY realistically) where she is currently in terms of her skill levels on the path to acquiring her black belt.

But there's a problem: Her instincts behave as though she's already a black belt while her conscious mind knows she's only a green belt, hence a disconnect. Can you see it?

This disconnect creates an uncomfortable tension between her instincts and her conscious mind, and her psyche hates it. Her psyche will do whatever it can to eliminate the disconnect and bring her back into congruity (read, "a place of harmony between her identity and her current state of being"). Human beings hate to live in a manner that's contrary to how they believe themselves to be.

Now, here's where things get really cool...

The world-class thrive on this! In my example, my world-class trainee continues to feed (and to do so at ever-increasing levels) her instincts with the thoughts, feelings, and attitudes of "I'm a black belt already," while, at the very same time, acknowledging where she is currently in terms of the facts: "I only have a green belt." She consciously maintains the incongruence, which forces her psyche (through the guiding light of her instincts) to eliminate the incongruence. By continuing to feed her instincts, her instincts become the greater magnet, the greater pull toward congruity. And, in a very organic, bottom-up way, her instincts drive her to bring her current reality up to what her instincts believe to be her reality. This is the process of creating cognitive dissonance, which, when channeled appropriately, creates drivenness, which is the engine of accomplishment.

To bring about change and accomplishment, hype and motivation never work long-term; drivenness, though, always does. Want to become your best self? Become driven by intentionally creating cognitive dissonance in your life.


The Life You Were Born to Live

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