The Art of Strengths Coaching

W is for Wilful Intelligence rather than Wilful Ignorance

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Some people choose to gather all the information they can about a particular topic. They may be exploring how to deal with an illness, manage a crisis, tackle a daunting problem or whatever.

Sometimes the information can be challenging. They believe that it vital to get the whole picture, however, because this enables them to make better decisions.

Some people choose to only select information that supports their present view about a topic. They embody confirmation bias. This is the tendency to look for things that reinforce their present beliefs, even if the facts point in another direction.

People can choose wilful intelligence or wilful ignorance. Each choice has consequences, however, for both themselves and other people.

Wilful intelligence is the desire to gather intelligence and understand what is really happening.

Wilful ignorance is the desire to avoid understanding what is really happening if it contradicts our strongly held views.

One person may choose to use their intelligence, for example, to gather information about a potential illness. The information may be uplifting or discouraging, but they want to know the facts. This helps them to make decisions about their health.

Another person may choose to remain in ignorance. They prefer to ignore the data and hope that, in some way, the potential illness will go away. The time spent ignoring reality can lead to even more complications.

One political leader may choose to gather intelligence about climate change. They may then use the data to ensure their country takes action to improve the quality of life on the planet.

Another political leader may choose to ignore such data. They may cite the minority of scientists who say the climate is not changing. Alternatively, they may say there is nothing that human beings can do about it. Some people may even be proud of their ignorance.

Looking back on your own life, can you recall a time when you opted for wilful intelligence rather than wilful ignorance? You may have gathered information about how to treat an illness, deal with a crisis, tackle a challenge or whatever.

What did you do to explore the topic? How did you manage any emotional issues if the knowledge proved unsettling? How did you make decisions about the possible ways forward? How did you then commit to action?

If you wish, try tackling the exercise on this theme. This invites you to do the following things.

Describe a specific situation in the past when you chose to focus on wilful intelligence rather than wilful ignorance.

Describe the specific things you did to gather intelligence.

Describe the specific things that happened as a result of you taking these steps.

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“Some people thinks it take courage to face the facts, but it is just common sense,” said one of my mentors.

“Good decision makers are able to read reality. They often focus on people’s behaviour and the consequences. These provide the keys to what is really happening.

“Some people see what they want to see, however, rather than see reality. They see what they believe, rather than believe what they see.

“Good decision making calls for gathering data. And, by the way, feelings are also data.

“You can then chart the potential ways forward, together with the consequences. This enables you to make better decisions, even during a drama.”

Carl Rogers, the psychotherapist, took this approach. He believed that people grew by facing reality.

We should welcome information, he said, even if the new evidence shows that our previous views were mistaken. Whatever the revelation, the facts are friendly. The evidence enables us to make better quality decisions.

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Human beings grow by choosing intelligence, rather than ignorance. They are then more able to take charge of shaping their futures.

Looking ahead, can you think of any situations in which you may want to take step? You may face challenges, for example, as you get older. How can you gather information, focus on what you can control and make good decisions?

If you wish, try tackling the exercise on this theme. This invites you to do the following things.

Describe a specific situation in the future when you want to focus on wilful intelligence rather than wilful ignorance.

Describe the specific things you can do to focus on wilful intelligence.

Describe the specific things that may happen as a result of taking this step.

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