Cognitive Dissonance


People often tell me that despite their best efforts they can’t seem to manifest the life they want to. Maybe you’re one of them.

You read the right books, attend all the courses, say your affirmations faithfully, and visualise until the cows come home.

And still nothing! What then?

The problem may lie in cognitive dissonance. Cognitive dissonance simply means holding two contradictory thoughts at the same time.


Examples:

  • I value freedom above all else but I have to work every hour God sends me.
  • I want to be seen as someone who is confident and successful.
  • I want to be wealthy and true to myself. I know wealth corrupts many people.

Let’s examine these one at a time.


I value freedom above all else but I have to work every hour God sends me.

Well, if you work every hour God sends you you’re not going to have much freedom. This is classic cognitive dissonance. The desired goal (freedom) depends on a contradictory decider (having to work all the time) which amounts to no freedom at all. Further, buried in this thought is another contradictory indicator which could benefit from examination, namely, that wealth equals freedom. But that’s for another day.


The solution

Examine the contradiction in what you see as work and what you see as freedom. If you’re working every hour God sends you that doesn’t sound like much fun. Could you consider getting another job? I know in today’s world that isn’t easy, but remember a thing is only difficult to the degree that we tell ourselves it is. Look around for something that you enjoy doing, then consider making a career of that, even if it pays less.



I want to be seen as someone who is confident and successful.

You see everyone wants this, but what is it you’re wanting? Is it to be truly successful, to live a full expression of who you are? Or is it to be seen as someone who does this? If the desire is for fame, greatness, excess, then maybe it’s the latter. Where are you getting your confidence, your sense of self worth? Is it from other people's evaluation of you? Do you measure success by the parameters of external achievement?


The solution

Real confidence comes from knowing you are a loved and valued person no matter what your external circumstances. It’s not about the common consensus. That may achieve monetary success; you may be seen as someone who has it all. But inside you will feel hollow. The common consensus wants you to fall in line. Why should you? It is when we put aside ordinariness, and embrace an extraordinary life that we enjoy real success. Real confidence, and indeed real success, comes from doing what’s right regardless of how others see us.




I want to be wealthy and true to myself. I know wealth corrupts many people.

This one is obvious, the contrast is so stark. If you believe money corrupts, then unless you want to be the new Darth Vader – which I’m inclined to doubt – you will sabotage yourself from the start. No question. Yet it’s amazing how many people actually hold this view. Money doesn’t corrupt. It’s what you do with it that counts. Money will buy bombs or build hospitals. It’s neutral. It doesn’t mind who owns it. If someone’s corrupt with money they were corrupt before they had it.


The solution

Ask yourself how you view money, and how you view people with money? Don’t indulge your envy of those who worked hard to get what they have, or your censor of those who got it by ill-gotten gains. Instead think if you had 10 million dollars how much suffering would you be able to alleviate? World famine, child neglect, homelessness? So do that. You’re an awakened being. Don’t make others’ moral compass your mark.

Get into the habit of blessing people who have good fortune. Share in their delight and you will have yours too.



Final thoughts

Examining our thoughts and being honest about attitudes we hold is a healthy corrective to cognitive dissonance. When we do this we begin to bring our thinking and our behaviour into line. Only then will we reach our desired destination.

Plato said, an unexamined life is not worth living. And the kid knew a thing or two.

Start with a close examination of your thoughts and beliefs; about wealth, love, relationships, everything. See where are the limitations, the contradictions, inconsistencies. Then smooth them out. Otherwise these blips will stop you in your tracks. For example, you’re simply not going to be wealthy if you believe that wealth is somehow bad.

Cognitive dissonance is where our thought patterns are working to our own detriment. Of course we are very complex beings and many of our thought patterns naturally overlap. However, understanding them, especially the main drivers, will go a long way to helping us find clarity of thought, and to realising our goals and achieving successful outcomes.



Return from cognitive dissonance to home page.

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