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Cognitive blind spots present a significant roadblock to the full realization of individual human potential. There are many kinds of blind spots including those that are common to all humans such as the Bandwagon Effect , where individuals become attracted to popular trends, or the Restraint Bias where individuals overestimate their capacity to resist temptation. There are also other types of blind spots that are common to individuals who have suffered neurological damage. The term reduced deficit awareness refers to an individual’s lack of awareness of a cognitive problem and it’s impact on his functional capabilities. For example, a patient may be certain he can drive despite deep paralysis and a visual field cut! Even our normal dominant psychological preferences for sensing versus intuition and thinking versus feeling as defined by our MBTI personality type set the stage for cognitive blind spots and biases.
Interestingly, the process to overcome these challenges is similar.. First there is an awareness that our personal effectiveness is limited in some way. Next is an acceptance that a mindset or an existing way of approaching a problem is the reason we are coming up short of our goals. Finally, an action plan is generated to bring about change.
For instance, in neurological rehabilitation, one of the most important indicators for significant recovery after a stroke or brain injury is awareness of deficits. Realistically, how can improvements be made if one is blind to the need for change? Moreover, there are several levels of awareness that must be achieved in order to change:
7 Levels of Self- Awareness That Can Lead to Change:
1. An individual must become aware of a problem via a standardized measurement or some other type of outside feedback.
- A standardized test shows your memory is weak in some areas.
2. An individual must acknowledge the feedback but he may dispute it’s relevancy.
- The test said my memory is weak? So what! I do fine in real life.
3. An individual must accept the problem at a deeper level by noticing the problem active in his own life.
- Wow! I forgot to go to my appointment at 10. I missed it last week too.
4. An individual must see the connection between the problem or blind spot and a consequence.
- I missed my appointment and now I will have to wait another week to get my hair cut.
5. An individual must care that his effectiveness is decreased as a result of the problem.
- My hair looks terrible. I can’t stand it when my hair looks this way. It’s my fault because I forgot about my appointment.
6. An individual must resolve to overcome the problem or blind spot.
- I am tired of missing appointments because of my poor memory. I must do something about it!
7. Strategies and goals must be formulated to address the problem.
- I can use post-it notes, a calendar, an alarm on my phone….
Similarly, when one is interested in increased job performance or a an improved relationship, or more effective communication with another individual, the steps are essentially the same . Even if you are interested in reinventing yourself wondering where you can go next, you go through a similar process. You seek feedback first. Then you process the feedback, deciding how it is impacting your life. Then you formulate strategies to bring about change as necessary.
- For example, perhaps you might miss multiple deadlines at work but you don’t know why. You are working hard but you can’t seem to get ahead. A coach might point out that you tend to overextend yourself and then cannot prioritize your commitments effectively. You may resist that feedback for awhile until you notice that not all tasks are of equal importance and trying to do all of them makes you ineffective at none of them. You are then open to learning new ways of approaching your commitments in which you learn what needs to be done now and what can wait.
*** NOTE: During each step of the process of change, BOTH strengths and weakness must be discussed. If something is working well, stay with that strategy or approach. If you want to take performance to a new level , tweak the strategy. If nothing is working, consider making major changes to your approach. A comprehensive appraisal of current skills is the key to an effective improvement plan.
There are effective tools that can be used to assess cognitive blind spots and developmental challenges. The field of cognitive/neurological rehabilitation has many instruments, techniques and trained professionals to assist in this process. Likewise, coaches also have various techniques to assist in the process of self-discovery. In my view, perhaps the most comprehensive and personalized tool available to me is the MBTI Step III, a point in time assessment of how well an individual is using his strengths and addressing the weaknesses typically associated with his psychological type. Through the dialogue that is generated from the interpretive report, all of the important levels of self-awareness that can lead to meaningful change can be effectively addressed.