Have you ever been a ‘tourist in your own town’? What amazing things might you be missing close to home? Why are we more biased towards things at a distance while ignoring what’s right under our nose?
It’s a phenomenon that defies explanation, how a person can take for granted opportunities that are readily available and close to home while expending huge amounts of energy to experience things at a distance.
There is probably some lofty psychological term for that particular brand of bias. Biases come in all shapes and sizes, the variety of cognitive blind spots that we humans fall prey to is vast indeed.
Whenever you make an irrational judgment, you’ve likely fallen for cognitive bias. Shortcuts in thinking come in handy, indeed, we’ve evolved to depend on them. But when you are biased in one way or another you lose objectivity.
Take, for instance, the placebo effect. One of the most well-known biases occurs when you have such a strong belief in a medicine or healing technique that your field of consciousness takes over and you actually do get better. Great for psychosomatic illness. Broken bones, not so much.
Do you look for ways to justify your existing beliefs? Confirmation bias is particularly insidious, especially in our day and age of uncertainty. An honest desire to understand the world can lead you to crazy conspiracies or crackpot theories that serve to make new information fit your existing narratives.
Some of the more common biases fool us when we fall into the trap of basing our belief only on our own perception, not an objective assessment of the entire dynamic. You make the error of fundamental attribution when you judge yourself on the situation and others on their character. You think someone is bored and tuned-out, but in fact, they just didn’t get enough sleep.
Biases can be the biggest potholes on your path to success — they’re like fertilizer for your garden of limiting beliefs. Younger folks especially fall for the spotlight effect, i.e. the tendency to overestimate how much other people care about actions or appearance. With age, the wisdom dawns that people are way more focused on themselves.
The list of biases goes on and on. One good way to maintain your objectivity is to ask yourself what advice you would give to a friend in a similar situation. Sometimes you have to ‘get outside yourself’ in order to get a handle on what’s going on inside!
I was given the opportunity to ‘get outside’ last week on a birthday expedition put together by my delightful darling Isabelle. It all started with a conversation about local attractions where I reluctantly admitted that after 35 years here in the Bay Area I’d yet to set foot on either Alcatraz or Angel Islands.
I’ve been to Bali, (twice!). Amsterdam, Barcelona, Copenhagen, Paris. South to Costa Rica and Mexico, across the Pacific to Hawaii, New Zealand, and Australia. All over the USA. But Angel Island? Right here in my backyard? Never got around to it.
Alcatraz, of course, is the more well-known island in the San Francisco Bay. But prison tours have a dismal energy and there’s not much in the way of nature on that barren rock. Plus one has to depart from the heart of Fisherman’s Wharf, epicenter of the tourist trade.
Angel Island, on the other hand, is not only the largest island in The Bay, it’s also the most diverse. It boasts 768 acres of wildlife-rich forests, beaches, and historic military ruins. In other words, lots to explore! Plus the short ferry trip departs from Tiburon, the cozy burg in Marin.
The perimeter hike is about 5 miles long and features a memorial bench dedicated to someone named Tom Wilson with the inscription “Trust your woman, sleep ’til noon, keep your teeth, and grab the moon.” which I took as good advice going into my 58th circuit around the sun. An amazing day, tinged with a bit of embarrassment that it took me 35 years to make the trip!
Let my happy birthday tale be sage advice to not be blinded by the bias of proximity. You might be missing out on some epic adventures mere miles from your doorstep! There’s nothing like a good pattern interrupt or break from routine to give you a fresh perspective and jump-start your creative juices.
May the shortening days of autumn smile upon you, all the best till next week!
Director of the Dance First Association
Publisher of Conscious Dancer Magazine