Monday, 30 August 2021

Mirroring alternate futures

Wow: I have just rejigged what it is that I 'do': and all from watching a TED talk. 

When people used to ask me "What do you do?" I used to simply say "I tell people what to do".  Then I watched Adam Grant's TED Ed video on rethinking, "What frogs in hot water can teach us about thinking again", and realised that this was not what I did at all. What I did was to "I mirror people's alternate futures".

As a career practitioner, I am not a rail-roader. I consult. I ask. I wait for others to speak. I focus on other's needs. I listen to their articulation. I am the mirror which shows them themselves. I am naturally consultative, and my professional training encourages consultative behaviours. But my family's story for me is that I am 'bossy'. On reflection, I think what that means is that, as the eldest, it is my job to gather the information, explore the options, and to propose an optimum decision. The rest get to decide... but the story is that it is 'my' job to be 'bossy', and they just "do as they are told". 

So where was my epiphany? Adam's video covered four theories: (a) the escalation of commitment; then (b) identity foreclosure; then (c) cognitive entrenchment; and (d) humble leadership. It was the middle two theories which struck me the most. Firstly the idea of identity foreclosure, that we get bound up in what we do, instead of who we are; then secondly, cognitive entrenchment, where we forget to question our own ideas... or identities.

And that is when I realised: my life's work is not "telling", but 'showing', 'discovering', or maybe doing magic tricks. Helping others see into the crystal ball. I hold up the mirror to people, so they can discover who they want to be when they grow up. However many times they grow up. Or want to grow up. 

In addition, Adam also pointed out that frogs actually do rethink: they jump out of the water when the water gets hot. Just like I did. 

I like the new me better.


  • Reference: Grant, A. (April 2021). TED Ed: What frogs in hot water can teach us about thinking again.

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