Monday, September 17, 2012

Cognitive blind spots

Posted on Monday, September 17, 2012 by International Coach Federation

Cognitive  blind spots. Everyone has them. Cognitive blind spots are often manifested as repeated patterns of ineffective behavior or resolutions to change that seem to fall short of the goal. The nature of blind spots is that one perceives limited data or is using inadequate methods of judgment to address a problem. This phenomenon is similar to the blind spots you have when driving a car. There are certain visual fields that are not readily apparent and you must mindfully check those areas for other cars or use a device to identify those vehicles. Similarly, it is difficult to correct for cognitive blind spots because you often lack the insight and resources to do so. If you had these perspectives and remedies operating effectively already, then goals would always be met and change would be easy. Such is not the case and that is where outside support in the form of coaches, teachers and mentors can be helpful.
Have you ever noticed the plethora of self-help books in the bookstore? What used to be a few shelves of books mostly by Wayne Dwyer or Dale Carnegie is now an ever-expanding selection of remedies and advice that seem to provide a temporary burst of ideas and energy, but ultimately leads to limited meaningful change. In other words, if self-help books were so effective, why would there be a need for more and more of them?  I am not opposed to using a self-help book as a vehicle for personal insight, and in fact, I have a collection of these books myself. However, there is a tendency to ultimately default to the well-worn path in our minds despite our best intentions, often leading to frustration and despair. Personal coaches can help by providing additional insight and accountability.

Certainly, awareness of the problem is the first step. However, because these cognitive patterns are preferred and well-worn in the brain, it will take more than just awareness to create meaningful change. The brain is plastic and fully capable of lasting changes. However, these changes require tremendous effort, motivation and in fact, a dampening down of default methods of thinking to bring about these changes. It is similar to a sled hill. It’s easy to go down the paths that are already well-established but it takes deliberate effort to move your sled and make a new run. That is how the brain tends to operate.

One way to make deliberate changes is to become mindful of both your present behavior and to create a reasonable alternative. It is more effective to say, “I will do this instead of that” rather than, “I won’t do that.” For example, there are several forms of meditation that train the brain to resist existing patterns of thinking and refocus on new ways of thinking. Meditation is an emollient to smooth transitions in the mind. 

Most of all, realize that change takes time. The brain requires several opportunities to try out new behaviors before they become readily accessible. In between the resolution to make a significant change and the actual attainment of the goal can be many challenges. There is always the temptation to go back to the familiar. However, with a coach, teacher or mentor that you trust and rely on, your chances of success are greatly improved.

Ann C. Holm
Ann C. Holm is an ICF certified coach with a lifelong interest in brain science. For 25 years, she coached brain injured clients toward cognitive recovery with an emphasis toward optimal functioning in the community. In 2009, she started a coaching practice in order to serve any client who wishes to uncover personal potential through increased awareness of how the brain works, and knowledge of psychological type preferences. .Ann holds a B.A. in Psychology, Speech and Hearing Sciences (1983) and a M.S. in Speech and Language Pathology (1986), both from the University of Michigan. She received Life Coach training from the Coaches Training Institute in 2008.  She is also an MBTI Master Practitioner and currently one of less than 100 MBTI practitioners worldwide certified to administer the newly released MBTI Step III.  Learn more:

1 comment:

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