This is one of "22
virus definitions" (thought-mistakes that cause ineffectiveness
and unnecessary negative emotions).
for your mind, you first write down the negative thoughts
you have when you feel discouraged. Next, you will look at those
thoughts, one at a time, to see if they contain any mistakes.
A common mistake is overcertainty. Look at your negative
statement and see whether or not you really have enough evidence
to justify your explanation of the setback. You will often find
your evidence is rather weak and wouldnt be
enough to convince you if you heard someone else say it. Zipping
through your mind without examining it, the thought may pass.
But write it down and look at it and you may at once have the
horrifying realization that your brain is cluttered with bullpucky.
Ask this question of all negative thoughts:
Does the evidence compel you to accept your conclusion? Please
understand me here. The question is not: do you have some
evidence for your conclusion? But rather, is the evidence
so strong that you must accept your pessimistic conclusion? That
is a much higher standard, and since it is vitally important
that you refuse to accept a demoralizing conclusion unless you
have to (because the consequences are so dangerous), having
a high standard is the only sane way to handle negative thoughts.
Standing before a jury, would you be able
to convince them that your explanation is the only one? Or the
best one? If you were in the jury and heard your argument, would
you be convinced?
This is the core principle of the scientific
method, and the reason science progressively increases our understanding
of the world. Human history can almost be seen as the progressive
realization that we are talking out our asses. In other words,
ever since people could speak, theyve been saying untrue
things with a lot of confidence. Slowly and surely, we have disabused
ourselves of mistaken notions. How? By constantly looking through
this filter: Do we have enough evidence to compel us to accept
this or that notion?
Heres one example Ive come
across recently. Native Americans cultivated their environment
much more than Europeans suspected. When the Europeans landed
on the New England coast, it seemed very obvious that the Native
Americans lived in harmony with nature fishing, hunting,
doing a little gardening, but otherwise living the wild life.
Only recently have archaeologists discovered
that the Native Americans had created this wild environment to
suit them. They were semi-farming, and doing it in a way that
Europeans didnt recognize. It all looked like naturally-occurring
abundance, and thats what they all assumed, and they were
quite certain about it.
But that certainty has eroded as new findings
have come in. Digging through remains, scientists have found
evidence of massive and repeated fires. Looking through first-hand
reports of Europeans very first contacts with Native Americans,
here and there one of them mentions some of the things Native
Americans had done, such as deliberately burning areas. Adding
all the evidence together, we see an entirely different picture.
It was a Native American practice throughout much of the Americas
to burn off huge areas of forest. Then they either planted fruit
and nut trees, or simply letting grass grow, which brought large
grazing animals into the area, which the Native Americans could
When Europeans arrived, they saw large
areas of grass filled with game, and incredibly rich forests.
It looked like pure luck that the Native Americans could wander
into their nearby forests and pick hazelnuts, chestnuts, hickory
nuts, beechnuts, acorns, butternuts, pecans, walnuts. But it
wasn't luck at all. The whole area was created deliberately.
They were farming, but not in any familiar way, so it was overlooked.
Europeans drew conclusions with too much certainty, as we all
do from time to time, and it prevented them from seeing what
was really there.
See the complete list of definitions: The 22 Virus Definitions.