We all do it as we are all humans, so we lie to ourselves all the time as when we tell ourselves something which needs to be done now, can wait for another day, or that we “really” didn’t hurt that persons feelings and so on as you get the idea. Also I’m not here to judge, as being human I tell myself a fib or two also as that’s the way it works, however what we are going to explore is how this affects us as leaders as if we lie to ourselves as a leader are we not lying to those which “we” lead? Also where is the line between perception and lying as is it a hard line in the sand which when crossed we go “oops, I’ve crossed the line” or is it yet another one of those gray areas just waiting for us to foolishly cross much as an unsuspecting fly landing on fly paper?
Before going on, it’s appropriate to circle back for a moment and discuss the idea of “perception” and what that means in reference to what we tell ourselves. As one of the interesting experiments I remember from my readings is an article about a literary professor who lit a candle in the front of the class and asked the students to write one paragraph describing the candle. To their amazement, out of about two dozen works, none really matched as in fact what the scholar found was each told their own “story”, yes “story”. As this is how we humans see things, as “stories” which is the reason we all love a good yarn, publishers sell millions of books and Hollywood is in business. As all of these industries mentioned in one shape, fashion or form exist only to sell us “stories”, which in turn we pass along to our friends and families and even many times end up recounting them years later to our enjoyment.
The point of this is that it’s hard to determine when we are lying to ourselves as everything we tell “ourselves” is a “story” and therefore subject to the literary pose in our mind. As some days we are serious and somber, while others find us waxing with a wide poetic girth. As I challenge you to imagine back in time to an event which at the moment was embarrassing for yourself, yet if we were to push the fast forward button finding ourselves in the “now” telling the same yarn and chuckling as we did so, what changed? It wasn’t the “event” as that is the past, fixed in time, so in fact it is the “story” as we’ve changed it by replaying it over and over again like a bad matinée movie in our heads editing the part which may of disturbed us or even changing its context a bit each time as our own way to reshape the discomfort of our past.
Here one may ask, “why is this the case as why can’t we simply live in the world of Joe Friday with just the facts”? The simple answer is this is our psyches way of managing the pressures of life as just think of how all-consuming life would be if we lived in a world of absolutes? So its ok to lie to yourself however the trick is not to get lost in the lie, as you need to know when you tell yourself that report can wait till tomorrow that your lying to yourself and its simply a means of managing your daily pressures and its one of the reasons I keep a list.
As much like the spinning “totem” which topples used by Mr. Smith in the movie “Inception” to know if he was within a dream or not, a list can do the same thing for us mere mortals in our waking life. As think of this, have you ever gone grocery shopping without one? The stories you can tell yourself around your wants and desires for the Oreo cookies sitting conveniently placed at eye level in their attractive blue packaging, can be beat down by a scrap piece of paper with nothing more than scribbling on it much as a holy cross will drive the vampires from the shadows of that matinée movie …