Our Own Worst Enemy

Following on from our latest post, anyone who plays a sport or a game, with whatever degree of seriousness, can confirm this - we are often our "own worst enemy". That means we know we should do something - toss the ball higher in tennis, make the stroke longer in swimming - but for some reason we don't. It's also true that there are things we know we shouldn't do, but we still do them.

Without getting involved too much in psychology, it's reasonable to say that a lot of this is due to our desire for comfort zones - "the devil we know". These are the things (ideas, places, people and of course our own experience) we're familiar with and, while they are clearly not efficient, we're reluctant to leave them.

It's not so different in business which is, after all, just another human activity with particular content. Why else do we stay with badly performing investments, colleagues who are manifestly in the wrong job or products that really aren't selling? There could also be lots of objective reasons (e.g. information that appears to justify a decision not to act) for this inertia - it's just important to recognise what they are and how it all gets weighed in our calculations.

The opposite of inertia is of course momentum, and this is usually seen as a good thing that keeps you moving forward. However, when you think about it, the two are not so different. It's convenient to stay with the same ideas simply because of that forward motion, whether or not it's heading in the right direction or is even the best alternative available.

Very simple ideas but powerful nevertheless. The main thing is to be aware of what's happening in our thought process, especially if it seems just a bit too easy.


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