Regulars and Shorts

Coach Jeannette: September 2009

By Jeannette Maw

The freedom in being wrong.
by Jeannette Maw

A popular and potentially life-changing question from A Course In Miracles goes: “Do you prefer that you be right or happy?” Since it’s natural for most of us to be committed to proving ourselves right, we often don’t see the shackles that doing so places on our lives. By seeing and giving up the limits of the need to be right, we avail ourselves of whole new possibilities.
Last month I hired a virtual assistant to handle a variety of admin tasks, most of which required direct client interface. In the past I’ve struggled to delegate anything that involves someone other than me communicating with clients, so this was a big step. And an important one, since not being able to outsource responses to simple requests and inquiries has been a drain on my efficiency.
So when emails started trickling in a week later complaining that my assistant wasn’t responding, or was responding with incomplete or inaccurate information, you’d think I’d be a little disappointed or even upset, right?
Well, I was upset, but hand in hand with being ticked off was a perverse sense of satisfaction.
“I knew it,” I said while shaking my head. “I can’t trust anyone else to do this right.”
This learning opportunity may have passed me by if I hadn’t also recently heard from my ex-husband on a simple job he was supposed to handle, but didn’t.
Again there was the feeling of disappointment right along with a strange sense of gratification. What was I enjoying so much about service-providers and loved ones letting me down?
The answer to the inquiry revealed itself immediately: I was right.
I was right all along; I knew it. I could have told you this would happen. You can’t count on anyone else.
Even though I was manifesting results I would say I didn’t want, there was huge payoff in these experiences in that I was proven right. “I can’t count on them; no one does it as well as I do.”
Yes, it’s twisted, but here’s the thing … I’m not alone in this propensity to prove myself right. Lots of us put relationships at risk and jobs on the line when we insist on being right. Don’t we all know someone who is maddening to converse with, because they know it all and steadfastly refuse to consider alternative opinions?
As Martha Beck would say, “You spot it, you got it.” I suspect we all do it to a certain extent.
In fact, even when we really are right, when we insist on proving it to the detriment of a colleague’s morale or a spouse’s self-esteem, we inadvertently contribute to separation with the categorizing and judging that being right requires.
So why is being right so important to us? It’s a worthy inquiry since it turns out that proving ourselves right often limits our fully joyful and satisfying lives.
Why we need to be right
In a very basic sense, being right is closely tied to identity and survival. We attempt to reduce the fear of an unknown future or mitigate the chaos of a frightening world by “figuring things out.” We feel a new level of comfort when we think we know and understand the world around us.
Since the ego feels threatened each time it’s faced with the idea that it might be wrong, it achieves a nice little payoff every time it avoids that and is proven right.
The problem with continuing that payoff is that it doesn’t leave us open to the benefits of not knowing, and bars us from to the advantages of being wrong.
Advantages to being wrong? Yes. Like, wouldn’t it be nice to be wrong in thinking no one can do it as well as me! And wouldn’t it be nice that I made a good hiring decision! (That one was for me.)
You can probably see advantages in your own life to being proven wrong about something, right? (Or am I just trying to get you to agree with me for my ego’s sake?)
This phenomenon is at work on a macro scale, too.
For example, where are our political party leaders steering us with their commitment to proving their way is right and the opposition is wrong? By locking out alternative perspectives and opinions, we may very well pass up opportunities that lead to peace and prosperity.
How about the scientists and researchers bent on proving their theories about the destruction of planet Earth? Is that really something we want to be right about? And our religious leaders refusing to consider they might have gotten something wrong along the way-what chances for union and acceptance are they missing by doggedly maintaining antiquated stances on polarizing issues?
The bottom line is that our need to prove ourselves right limits what tomorrow can bring. Since energy flows where attention goes, our focused attention creates our world. Often we focus on something we don’t want, simply because the drive to be right is that overwhelming.
Which leads to the inquiry: what are you trying to prove that limits you? Where are you refusing to be wrong, when being wrong might be a boon to yourself and others?
I can see exciting possibilities here, like if we were willing to be wrong about believing what’s done is done and that we can’t change the past. Or that we can’t trust the government to tell the whole story. Or that religious zealots are fueling mass homicides across the globe.
What if we were wrong? When our opinions and our desires are in opposition, what if our need to be right took a backseat to what we would rather create ?
There’s freedom in even considering the possibility of being wrong! Go ahead and try it on to feel it for yourself!
The art of willing to be wrong
Personal development expert Steve Pavlina says that if you’re never wrong, it indicates you aren’t growing. He hopes that when he looks back on some of his work years later that he’ll disagree with himself. Doing so means he’s grown and wasn’t afraid to express himself at the time.
Pavlina also suggests that many of us make the mistake of equating our ideas with our identity, which is why we take it so personally when someone offers an alternative perspective. It’s helpful to remember we are not our ideas and we are not our opinions. Separating ourselves from our thoughts helps us release attachment to them and reduces our need to be right.
By being willing to be wrong, we open ourselves up to new experiences and ideas that can lead us to more fulfilling and joyful lives.
The question I leave you with is this: What would you love to be wrong about? But the fun doesn’t stop there … the gem comes when you are truly willing to be wrong about it.
Jeannette Maw is a Law of Attraction coach and founder of Good Vibe Coaching in Salt Lake City.

This article was originally published on August 29, 2009.