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Be Careful What You Expect

2 min

There is a lesson that I learn over and over and over again, a lesson so ubiquitous in my life that it's starting to feel personal.

Here it is:

First, you make your beliefs, then your beliefs make you.

As Iain McGilchrist puts it:

"Our minds are so constructed that we don’t even see the discrepancies that our theory involves until the deviations are so gross we have no alternative."

What you expect changes what you see.

The feedback loop of feeling a certain way leads to seeing a certain way leading to thinking a certain way leading to feeling a certain way...

Well. Let's just say, it's easy to find yourself running downhill pretty quickly.


We can imagine the loop to look something like this:

Belief --> Action --> Result --> Belief

I see the world in a certain way, which informs what I expect. My expectations inform my actions - I act in such a way as to minimize negative outcomes, based on those expectations. Those actions produce results, which tend to reinforce my view of the world...and around and around we go.

The most "logical" way to try and interrupt the feedback loop is to change your actions. This is the classic "Think Positive!"-style approach.

"If you're afraid of getting rejected, just get out there and meet people!"

"If you're depressed, just get out there and do something constructive!"


Of course, since our underlying beliefs about the world are unchanged in these scenarios, it's hard to imagine that we'll be giving these new actions our best effort. After all, if we "know" it's going to fail, why try?

Instead of attacking the loop at the level of action, then, we need to attack it at the level of belief.

To get different results, we need to act differently....but to act differently, we need to see the world differently.

Attempts at change that operate purely on the level of the conscious and rational mind rarely work.

Once we truly come to grips with that fact, things can change for us very, very quickly.




Agatha Christie Suspected Everyone.

I love Christie, and I loved this look at her life and legacy.

"Christie’s novels have been acclaimed by many of her fellow practitioners, including Dorothy Sayers and Julian Symons, and just as heartily condemned by others, such as the late, great Michael Dibdin, who once said of her:

Her aim was to fool the readers, and she sacrificed everything to achieve it. The plots in Christie’s novels were all basically the same—an ill-assortment of people gathered at an out-of-the-way place where a murder takes place. The characters were all generalised types. There were never any complex psychological characters. They were devoid of any emotional depth. Her books were artificially pure, and she ignored the problems faced by society.

She “was a killer,” concluded Dibdin (who himself brought the unsolvable world of political corruption roaring into his chaotic and absorbing Aurelio Zen novels), “and her victim was the British crime novel.”

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