Dr. Rob: Recognize Your Blind Spots

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Just like cars on the road, we all have blind spots. A blind spot is a consistent pattern that others can see in us and we do not see in ourselves.  Or, we might see it in ourselves, but we do not recognize how it could be a problem.

Today, I recognized one of my own blind spots: my propensity to “change things up”.

For the past several weeks, I have been going to physical therapy to work on an ankle problem.  The therapist gave me a set of exercises to do and told me that if I worked on them consistently for 3 months I would see improvement and might be able to avoid being casted.  She was right. After only a few weeks, I saw improvement.

However, the stretching exercises were boring. So when a trainer at the Washtenaw Community College Fitness Center noticed me limping and suggested I try some exercises in their pool, I was interested. I liked the new exercises so much, I worked out daily in the pool, but in the process, I neglected to do my stretching.

A week later, when I went back to the PT, I admitted to her that I had not been doing the exercises she had given me, but instead was enjoying working out in the pool.  My PT, Danielle, looked at me and said “you’ve lost so much of your progress. Maybe it’s not always a good idea to change things up.”

The lightbulb in my head went off — I could see the pattern. I’ve been here before.

  1. I try something new.
  2. I get bored with it.
  3. I switch to something else even newer
  4. I become convinced that the newer activity is better than the older one
  5. Days, weeks, or even years later, I recognize that the original thing I had been doing was the correct thing and I sheepishly go back to it.

I realize that while being energized about change can be a strength for me, it can also be a troublesome blind spot. Yes, I can be flexible to change, but I need to be careful of making too many changes just because I seek novelty.

Often our strengths come paired with vulnerabilities. Tell me your strength, and I can probably guess your weakness. For example, someone who is very empathetic might pay more attention to others than she does to herself, leaving her drained and unable to care for others the way she intends. Or, a very organized person may see the world in too strict a manner to put together ideas from disparate settings. Introverted folks may choose to go it alone in times of stress, yet asking for help could solve their issue more quickly and with less suffering. Too often, our strengths blind us to our areas of weakness.

 

This poem by Portia Nelson reminds me of my blind-spots.

“I walk down the street.

There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.

I fall in.

I am lost… I am helpless.

It isn’t my fault.

It takes forever to find a way out.

I walk down the same street.

There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.

I pretend I don’t see it.

I fall in again.

I can’t believe I am in the same place.

But, it isn’t my fault.

It still takes me a long time to get out.

I walk down the same street.

There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.

I see it is there.

I still fall in. It’s a habit.

My eyes are open.

I know where I am.

It is my fault. I get out immediately.

I walk down the same street.

There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.

I walk around it.

I walk down another street.”

Portia Nelson, There’s a Hole in My Sidewalk: The Romance of Self-Discovery

 

5 Tips for addressing your blind spots

  1. By definition, you can’t readily know your own blind spots. Ask people who have known you for a long time  to help you identify your blind spots
  2. Write a quick list of the last 3 times you were in a bad situation.  What was similar across each situation?
  3. Be aware of the self-defeating patterns that can be triggered by blind spots. Teach yourself to let go of them.
  4. Once you are aware of your blind spots, keep them in mind as you make decisions and interact with others. Ask: Is there any aspect of this where I am giving in to a blind spot?
  5. Give yourself permission to be imperfect. A blind spot is another chance for self-awareness, not the end of the world.

 

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