I thought I was wrong once, but I was mistaken.

When’s the last time you admitted to being wrong? That’s the last time you learned something. And it was probably an important lesson.

Much of what we stuff into our memories throughout our life is assumption. Other stuff applies at one time, but likely doesn’t apply now. Insisting we “know” something is usually just clinging to our assumptions. And as my father told me: you know what happens when you assume, right? Other times, insisting we are right is also pretty much acting like the world stopped turning when we learned that one thing. Oh sure, the universe ceased to change at just the moment you became aware of this fact you’re clinging to.

Sure, you learn new techniques, new recipes, new routes to work all the time. But what I am referring to here is a real change of perspective, something that actually makes you better, and lets you do something you didn’t know you could do. By trying to avoid being wrong, we are denying ourselves an opportunity to learn, to be informed, to grow.

Do you ever wonder why it’s so much easier for kids to learn new things than for adults? What if the reason is that adults just think they know everything, whereas small children don’t have an ego or an image to defend by being “right?” Kids know they don’t know – they know they are wrong, and they are OK with it because when they learn the new thing, they will be better off.

I think we are afraid of being wrong for a variety of reasons. First, we get negative feedback for that in many cases: work, school. Being wrong is treated as a failure, so we eventually see it that way. Second, there’s cognitive dissonance when an idea we cling to is challenged. Cognitive dissonance is painful, and we feel better when there is only one idea in our minds, instead of two conflicting ideas. Unfortunately, it’s easier to reconcile our minds by letting what we already “knew” win out, rather than inspecting and changing our minds.

So look for an opportunity to say “I was wrong.” When someone challenges your understanding of something, learn something and you might find that you were, in fact, wrong. But you won’t be wrong anymore, now will you? And you don’t even have to admit to being wrong, in so many words. Instead, you can say “today, I learned…”

So tell me: am I wrong? If so, how? I want to learn from this.