When we’re after answers that has the potential to alter our life, often the journey is exhausting. Sometimes, we don’t find the answer, sometimes we find answers that we may not like. These answers are meant to solve problems in our life. They are meant to add value, change our perspective, make us happy and a better person. This transformation is not very straight forward. Because most of the times, we refuse to accept help from others.
There are some of us who tend to share problems with people, expect them to understand without judging us, and wait for them to help us with no strings attached. I tell you a problem, you get me answers.
The problem with this approach is, nobody can get us the best solution possible because they do not go through the same struggle as we do. They sure can empathise, probably listen to our condition, but all they can do is help steer the perspective for us. They cannot give us a concrete answer. Even if they did, most likely it will fail to solve the intended problem. We may not be able to follow the plan they have made for us. Why? Because — true inspiration to find the answer, make a plan and stick to the plan comes from within.
But how is this related to our tendency to not accept help from others?
In Encyclopedia, skepticism is defined as:
Skepticism (also spelled “Scepticism”) is the philosophical attitude of doubting knowledge claims set forth in various areas. Skeptics have challenged the adequacy or reliability of these claims by asking what they are based upon or what they actually establish. They have raised the question whether such claims about the world are either indubitable or necessarily true, and they have challenged the alleged grounds of accepted assumptions.
The other day, I was talking to a friend of mine who was sharing her recent experience with a life coach. In their conversation, the coach ran through a series of questions to understand how every of her problems were interrelated. Long story short, my friend was convinced that correlation between problems does not equate to causation; whereas the coach hadn’t thought about it from that perspective. I call this “the moment of divergence”.
We have all been here. We want to share our problems and we want to be helped, but we end up questioning the ‘claims’ or ‘what they can actually establish’ or ‘is the person qualified to help me’. This is the moment of divergence and this is a classic case of taking a defensive tone. We tend to become defensive and question the methodologies (without even trying) or question the person who may try and help; and end up in our circle of crisis again.
Being skeptical can make a huge difference in this world. But in words of Tim Ferris — one needs to be proactively skeptical and not defensively skeptical.
Uncertainty is an opportunity
We want to be in control of our life, to know all the answers, to not want to try harder, find shortcuts yet reap maximum benefits. But our overwhelming fear of uncertainty, is spoiling our shot at living life, in its absolute true form of imperfection. We may not have answers to everything in life, but we must be willing to take a step forward to find them. Uncertainty of whether or not the answer will work, should not be an excuse for not trying something.
Not having answers ain’t so bad, it is not willing to find answers that is bad.
How is being defensively skeptical spoiling life for you
The first and foremost problem is that defensively skeptical people want to know all the answers, and they want to know that this is definitely going to work. Only then will they invest their time and energy into implementing it. This robs them of the opportunity to explore themselves, make mistakes and learn for themselves.
Unless people go through the struggle to find answers for themselves, chances are they may not follow the solution, handed to them by others.
Second problem is, defensively skeptical people use uncertainty as an excuse for inaction. They become whiners for life. And once they get to this phase, it makes their life even more miserable because without action, the circle of crisis continues.
The third problem with these folks is — even if the solution to their problem is justified, the defensively skeptical mind creates a next layer of obstacle where the person who offers the solution has to be proven to be expert.
The key to not being defensively skeptical is to resist the urge to overthink.
What does being proactively skeptical mean
Now that we have seen the disastrous effects of being defensively skeptical, one sure wonders what proactively skeptical means to them.
- They challenge a theory simply because they’re curious — people of this personality, loves challenging theories even though it does not concern their personal life. They would deliberately implement those theories in their day to day life, just to prove others wrong. This is in a way healthy, because it challenges others to evolve, while grooming one’s ability to look for loopholes faster.
- They have no issues to adopt a strategy and implement it to test the theory—people of this personality are not hesitant to be experimental. They look for a reason to try things rather than an excuse to not try.
- They are skeptical about the results of the adopted strategy and not about whether or not to adopt a strategy — as implied above, proactively skeptical people are spontaneous, experimental and results oriented.
How to stop thinking and start acting
To all those defensively skeptical folks out there, the next time you come across such situation, here’s something that can help you.
- When you feel like you’re stuck, don’t be hesitant to ask for help.
- Talk to your friends or family — it’s okay to accept their help.
- When you realise their advise might actually work, but you’re over thinking something whether or not to adopt their strategy, ask yourself these questions.