The Buddhist diagnosis

17 05 2017

The world is full of suffering. Each one of us perpetually move from one or more problems to others. When one problem or form of suffering ends, the other springs up, seemingly from nowhere. The first noble truth of Buddha acknowledges this reality of existence. Despite the reality of pleasures, it is the suffering that precedes or follows pleasures and seems to occupy a major portion of one’s conscious life. The diagnosis of this pervasive suffering as proclaimed by the second noble truth of Buddha is our desire and attachment for worldly pleasures. Our craving and clinging towards myriad pleasures is at the root of all misery, asserts Buddha. I can relate to this fact and experience it all the time.  Often my desire to seek validation results in me putting too much effort into anything I do making me stressful and ultimately miserable despite my material success. My desire and attachment towards nice clothes, accessories or other material things, even though gives me a transient euphoria upon accumulation and perusal of them, puts me on a hedonic treadmill and often leaves me unsatisfied and craving for more. This aligns with the essence of Buddha’s teachings that the “pursuit of pleasure can only continue what is ultimately an unquenchable thirst”. (Basics of Buddhism. http://www.pbs.org/edens/thailand/buddhism.htm).

However, when I think deeper about different forms of suffering, the Buddha’s diagnosis of suffering seems to beg a deeper understanding. There are other kinds of unpleasantness in life besides acute suffering, like getting frustrated, annoyed, and irritated by someone or something that doesn’t fall in line with our expectations. As we judge others based on our opinions and perceptions, we experience negativity. This intolerance is also a cause of lot of rift in our day to day life.

But when we question these emotions, we may come to a conclusion that it’s our ego and attachment towards things and pleasures that drive our underlying expectations. But it’s not always clear to me, to fathom the root cause – desire, attachment, craving – behind all of my unpleasant experiences. For example, when I get irritated by an impatient driver cutting in front of me, it is a form of suffering if I dwell on it and allow it to affect my composure. When I really think about why it affects me, it’s not entirely evident as to what desire or craving resulted in this misery. In this regard, I’m not entirely sure about the comprehensiveness of Buddha’s diagnosis of suffering.

Poverty and other forms of lack of basic needs (including social and belonging-ness needs), also cause lot of suffering for mankind. It is difficult to understand how this form of suffering can be a result of one’s craving. Even more difficult is to comprehend how it is possible to be detached at this level and transcend these basic needs.

Despite these misgivings on my part, I believe in the second noble truth because when I imagine myself curbing my cravings and desires, I can sense the promise of feeling lightness and freedom from my many sufferings. In order to comprehend these not so obvious forms of suffering and their root causes, we need to understand the true nature of suffering or “dukkha“, which simply means absence of happiness. Since happiness and pleasure are associated with impermanence, the absence of them aka dukkha is the only reality of life. And ego-desires are the cause of most human suffering. However, suffering is only an approximate translation of dukkha, which in fact encapsulates the misery of mankind in a more comprehensive way. Dukkha can be interpreted as a form on pervasive unsatisfactoriness. In this regard, Buddhism promotes a state of mental well-being that can be achieved by accepting and rising above this suffering. Understanding and acknowledging the diagnosis of dukkha is a key step in this journey.  (The Buddhist Concept of Life, Suffering and Death, and Related Bioethical Issues. Pinit Ratanakul. Eubios Journal of Asian and International Bioethics 14 (2004), 141-146.)

Disclaimer: This writeup is my submission for an assignment as part of Buddhism and Modern Psychology MOOC on Coursera. 

Four noble truths





Type A, Type B, and resolutions

12 01 2017

There are mainly two different personality types, according to one theory, – Type A and Type B.

Type A: competitive, ambitious, impatient/ time-urgent, aggressive, fast talking.

Type B: relaxed, non-competitive, one thing at a time, express feelings.

Like many theories, this also is subjected to lot of criticism. Maybe rightly so, since it indeed feels like a rigid and broad classification of personalities. And of course, there are also questions on the validity of the original study and the results. Let’s not go deeper into that now. For our current discussion, I just  want to take it at its face value. Given the classification and the associated descriptions, I’m just curious to understand the quality of life of Type A and Type B people.

There are some studies on the health implications suggesting that twice as many Type A people, with their more aggressive attitude, are likely to suffer from coronary heart disease compared to Type B people. Of course, since the subject population was restricted to middle-aged males, the results might not be generalized across gender and other factors.

Also, it is evident that Type B people enjoy lower stress levels compared to Type A people. With their focus more on the game, rather than on winning or losing, in contrast to Type As, Type Bs tend to take it slow, enjoy the achievement when it happens and don’t fret much when things don’t work out as planned. This sure seems like a better way to live.

What about happiness? While I didn’t find any studies on this aspect in my cursory search efforts, I would like to take a stab at it drawing on some happiness science. There are five major toxic mental habits that lie at the root of much of our unhappiness –

  • Perfectionism
  • Materialism
  • Maximizing
  • Social comparison
  • Frazzle (overwhelming lifestyle)

While, it can’t be just concluded or reasonably argued that any or all of these can be characterized as either Type A or Type B traits, I would think Type As are a little more prone to these vices. Hmm!

There are also connotations that Type A people may also be miserable in their strive  towards achieving more. Are they? And I wonder whether they do really end up achieving, contributing, and being successful more than their counterparts? It definitely looks like. But of course,  the Type B traits of “relaxing” and “non-competitive” doesn’t mean lethargic or unproductive. Just to be clear. Type Bs tend to procrastinate though.

All in all, things look pretty dismal for Type A people. But let’s not come to hasty conclusions. I’m sure both types have things to learn from each other and they complement each other well. Type As, as long as they learn to manage their tasks and behavior well, have nothing to fear. Here is a wonderful resource on these types, which also talks about the other types – C and D.

In this context, I was just curious to understand how different new year resolutions of Type A and Type B people would be. My hypothesis is that while the broad themes may not be all that different between the two groups, the way they are expressed – in terms of goal determination and tracking, could differ significantly. The ideal way to test this is to conduct a survey of a representative sample with open ended questions and do some qualitative analysis for answers. But then, it’s a lot of work. 😛 Also, I don’t want to harass my friends and acquaintances much. 😉 So, I just did a fun and short poll on categories of new year resolutions.

I haven’t included the Type A/B test in the survey, so the responses are just self-perceptions. But here is the test, if you are interested. It gives out a score between 35 to 380, lower score representing Type B and higher Type A. So basically it’s a continuum.

One interesting observation is that Type A has “More family time” as the top choice along with Pursuing a career ambition, but Type B doesn’t. Seems like it is more challenging for Type As compared to Type Bs. It doesn’t mean that it’s not a priority for TypeBs. Challenge is different from priority. Something can be a priority, but not challenging.  For example, saving money may not be my resolution, because I don’t see it as a challenge but it still can be a higher priority than my resolutions such as picking up a new hobby.

newyearresoluti_896_5a2d6b9ae0d90688481d220f4cda59e855956558





Introverted leaders

11 12 2016

It’s been over a year since I read Quiet by Susan Cain, and it still lingers in my thoughts. It is a book about introversion and about being an introvert in an extrovert world. This is perhaps one of the most remarkable books I’ve ever read. It opened up a whole new perspective for me, sharpened and focused my perception.

As mentioned in my earlier posts on the book and/or author, when I first encountered the TED talk and later the book, I couldn’t totally appreciate the motivation behind them. Having been raised in a culture which favors introversion over extroversion, I had always been comfortable being an introvert.

And talking about introversion, it should be noted that it’s not the same thing as shyness. Even though both seem to manifest in similar behaviors (limited or no social interaction), the motivations underlying these two tendencies are quite different. While an introverted person could be quiet because that person is just absorbing stuff or have nothing much to contribute, a shy person could be quiet because of inhibitions or lack of social skills.

But as my circumstances and external environment changed – workplace, social networks/groups etc., things started to look a little different. But I was largely blind to the impact the shift in the cultural expectation is having on my perception of myself, on my career, and on my lifestyle. In the days and months after I read Quiet, I began to look at the world around me through a new authentic lens. As I continued to observe and think about it all, I started to realize the profundity of Susan Cain’s work, her effort to bring forth the true essence of introverts and their many valuable traits, and the irrefutable need to talk about and plead the case for introversion amidst the highly extrovert culture.

It’s not about which trait is better – extroversion or introversion. Each trait has a different set of strengths and weaknesses with definitive roles in different circumstances. It’s more a continuum rather than an either/or situation.

Leadership is a skill that comprises of many traits. A truly effective leader needs to exhibit both extroverted and introverted behaviors as needed. We know that extroverts are talkative, engage well with people (especially large groups) and exuberant; introverts are quiet, prefer solitude or small social groups to large groups, and are better listeners. While extroverted leaders are better for staff that is less proactive as they can encourage and motivate the staff better, introverted leaders perform better with proactive staff, where they listen more and better support the staff in their endeavors. So, contrary to the popular belief that only extroverted people make better leaders, there are many successful introverted leaders both in history and present – Abraham Lincoln, Eleanor Roosevelt, Mark Zuckerberg, Bill Gates etc. Introverted leaders possess a quiet strength that proves to be invaluable.

Introverted leaders rock because they
• Listen better
• Prepare, practice, and are present
• Build fewer but meaningful relationships
• Possess calm demeanor
• Demonstrate humility
• Are prudent and manage uncertainty better

By nature people tend to lean more towards one or the other end of the spectrum. However, nurture enables us to shift the lever a little to one side or the other, mostly as a response to circumstantial demand. This implies that this “nurture” can and “should” happen both ways. But all we see around are different programs and avenues to empower introverts with some of the extroverted aspects, but not the other way around. Too bad!

Care should be taken though not to stretch oneself too much against one’s true nature, because it’s usually counter-productive. For example, an introvert can and sometimes need to come out of his/her comfort zone and deal with lots of people, give a speech, or organize a party. But as long as one understands why one is doing it and takes the time out for oneself in order to balance things out, there comes a snapping point eventually that forces one to make radical life changes/choices to find and get into their groove.





Are men and women equal?

27 11 2016

Are men’s and women’s brains different? In other words, are the differences in how men and women think rooted in biology?

It is an 18th century question, according to Gina Rippon, an eminent neuroscientist. When I posed the same question to my 9 year old, just for the fun of it, he basically mirrored the above sentiment. He thought that the question is absurd. When I pressed him further on whether could there be a scientific and objective evidence that there’s indeed some difference, he refused to take the bait. He stood his ground and refused to consider the question because he reasoned, the question “are men and women equal?” in itself suggests that they may not and hence lead to discrimination, which is by all means an undesirable and an incorrect behavior. In other words, he treats it as a leading question. Oh boy!  What Gina means by her comment is that several advancements have happened since 18th century that effectively and conclusively answered that question in negative.

Regardless of any insinuations and despite our need to be politically right, I think it’s still an interesting and relevant question to think about even in this century. Among the many differences we commonly observe, some are myths, some are culturally driven, while some are rooted in biology and/or evolution. Take for example, the notion that women are more emotional than men. It’s not exactly true because what’s different is more expression of an emotion rather than the emotion itself. The observed difference could well have been only a result of cultural and social stereotyping. I guess more or less similar reasoning can be given to most of the stuff you find in the gospel – Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus. :). But some differences do exist.

With all the advancements in neuroscience and biology, we have greater insights into human brain now than ever. In fact, today’s neuroscience sees little difference in how women and men are fundamentally capable of thinking. Whatever stereotypes we have going around are just that – stereotypes largely based on deep cultural notions and the resulting psychological impact of acting on those stereotypes. For example, take a typical belief that women are  not (or cannot be) as good at math as men. In fact, time and again the test scores reveal the same. But capability is not at the root of this trend. When the cultural expectation is for boys to outperform girls in math, and the girls believe it as everyone else, it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. It’s the attitude towards competition and the anxiety induced resulted from cultural stereotypes that causes girls/women to under perform in certain areas (Study).

But some argue that nature and evolution cannot be overruled.  Historically, men had always been specialized in competing for mates, and women in caring for the offspring. According to Helena Cronin, a Darwinian philosopher, the different reproductive strategies of two sexes with completely different sets of associated costs and benefits, lie at the root of all gender differences between men and women. This survival tendency has clearly established different patterns of behavior and thereby nurtured disparate strengths in men and women.

And of course, one should not rule out the role of biology. The male hormone of testosterone is clearly associated with competitiveness, aggressiveness, dominance, assertiveness etc., while estrogen promotes stable mood, sense of well-being, improved cognition etc. (An interesting tidbit is that humans are naturally female and testosterone masculinizes boys in the womb.) As per Cambridge psychologist Simon Baron-Cohen, who has done extensive research on autism observes that “higher levels of fetal testosterone could explain increased prevalence of autism spectrum disorders in males”, following the theory that “the male brain is programmed to systemize and the female brain to empathize”.  Is this why women are considered more adept at social thinking and interactions compared to men. Testosterone is also strongly associated with violent and anti-social behavior. Hmm! Women also have testosterone, but men of course are characterized by much higher levels (10 times compared to that in women).

Another perception is that men tend to be more analytical than women or women tend to be more intuitive than men, hence the notion that men are largely left-brained and women are right-brained. Studies suggest that male brains may be optimized for motor skills while female brains may be optimized for combining analytical and intuitive thinking. Men also perceived to be laser focused while women are multi-taskers. Women tend to absorb more and store it all in their brains compared to men. Could these differences be explained by the hunter-gatherer theory, the sexual division of labor, where men normally pursued risk taking activities of hunting, while women were relegated low-risk task of gathering rich calorie for nurturing? Or do they have true biological causes? There are a lot of contradictory arguments and lot of conflicting “evidence”.

Neuroplasticity is perhaps the most important and fascinating discoveries in recent times. There is nothing static about ourselves – not our bodies, which regenerates itself with new cells every 6 months or so, to our brains, defined by the interconnections among neurons that can strengthen or weaken depending on the experiences and behavior thereby redefining them constantly. Isn’t it amazing? Change is indeed the only constant. 🙂 As our brains are getting continuously rewired, based on external stimulation, nature and nurture are so strongly intertwined that I think it’s difficult to disentangle them and say for sure where one ends and the other starts.

From the evolutionary perspective, we still have the same basic instincts as our primal ancestors. The gender differences (some if not all) too are rooted in them. But in today’s world, many of them maybe are irrelevant. We are not living in wild and are not facing the same kind of survival problems. Mankind’s development happened so rapidly that evolution and nature needs time to catch up. Am damn curious to know as to what the next evolutionary changes for us would be – what our basic instincts would be. Sometime in future when physical strength and all other evolutionary differences between men and women become less and less relevant for survival, can we achieve a gender neutral society? A society where no gender has an advantage over the other. Well, is it a good thing? It certainly sounds like it is. But who knows!





Minimalism

4 11 2016

This could well be another case for “connecting the dots“. Truth be told, almost anything could be interpreted as one.

Minimalism as a concept has been in vogue forever. In its purest form, beings who are on the path of or have achieved spiritual enlightenment forsake any attachment to material things and thereby live with barest of them in order to survive. But I’m not talking about that kind of minimalism, but instead the fad that’s been gaining more practice these days, wherein normal people like you and me, tend to realize the benefits of living with less, and make it their life style to live with as minimum as possible. Truth be told, it’s not at all a new idea. People like that existed at all times, but why is it as a practice gaining more popularity these days? In this world of rampant consumerism and materialism, it can be said with certainty that this perspective of life is an uncommon thing.

My foray into this concept or rather my introduction to this phenomenon started when I came across an article about “tiny houses”a few years ago. At that time, it fascinated me. It awakened my dormant childhood memory of playing for hours with imaginary tiny houses on wheels. I used to setup small house like structures that supposedly contain all I own (hypothetically) and making the best out of it. I remember being  so content and proud about my humble lifestyle. ;). Boy, I was so excited to read about them. But the idea didn’t stuck with me for long. I wonder why. Just being my usual conformist self I guess. 😛

I want to first start thinking about why we usually want big houses in the first place. What does the “excess” space that we can call ours signify? Is it just ostensibility or is there a deep psychological need? Of course, it’s not just space and you typically feel the need to fill it with as much as you can. It’s mostly for the comfort that various things bring to us. It could also be because we perceive the vastness of space to signify the extent of freedom and privacy.

For me, one practical downside of having a very small house is – how can you invite any of your friends and family? It’s a big deal to me. Even with minimum things around, I feel that tiny houses could feel real cramped. But maybe not. In all fairness, minimalism calls for a shift in perspective – how you look at things and your relationship with them. In the case of houses, it extends to how you view space around you and challenge all your preconceiving notions about them. Wow, it’s a huge thing.

The “tiny house movement” is gaining traction with its proposed benefits and as a way to break the circle of consumerism (?) and focusing on only what’s needed rather on what’s wanted. Well of course, a tiny house comes with its own challenges. It’s not a magic mantra to solve your materialism problem. Also, the tiny house  bandwagon may not be about minimalism at all but rather a rather an attempt to achieve affordable housing (Read here.)

All this I absorb as a bystander. I cannot say that I’ve been inspired to action . I haven’t actually considered going this route. Not yet!

Marie Kondo, with her art of tidying up, puts forth the idea that having less is the solution, not organizing more stuff better. When I read through her instructions on how to discard your things, clothes, books etc., and how you actually need much lesser than you would have ever imagined, it’s a sudden revelation. Despite the fact that I was fascinated by Marie’s book and philosophy , I didn’t think I can take the advice. Again!

And then one fine day not long ago I was just casually toying with the idea of taking a resolution of “no shopping” for the coming year. My sudden inspiration was more a result of getting weary about maintaining a huge wardrobe, not to mention accessories, and having to shop periodically to keep up, than a consequence of sudden spiritual awakening or disillusionment or simply wanting less.

Just the other day, I listened to a podcast by Joshua Fields Millburn of The Minimalists, and I must admit it’s damn inspiring. (At last!) It’s amazing when you actually realize how less you need to live your regular life and how much you are stockpiling just for the sake of it. How much time, money, and energy will be saved if I just follow Steve Jobs’ and Mark Zuckerberg’s footsteps and stick to one dressing style. (Extending it to just one color is a bit too extreme for me.) However, I agree that much money and peace of mind can be saved if I cut down buying most non-necessities – clothes, books, accessories etc. Of course if one doesn’t want to steer too much away from the current lifestyle there are certain limitations as to how far you can cut down buying stuff or discard things. But if one is up to drastic life style and perspective change, sky is the limit. 🙂

A part of me still thinks it’s impractical. At least for a hoarder like me. But change is in order. It would be a nice challenge to get over my life style and habits. It won’t be easy. But will it be worth the effort? Will I experience all those benefits, or at least a sense of calmness and clarity, the ability to focus more on what matters rather on dispersing my meager attention on to myriad insignificant things/aspects? I hope so. I start small. Some day! 🙂 As far as “tiny houses” go, I think I’ll pass. I believe we need to have reasonable space to accommodate important aspects of our lives – people, passions, and physical & psychological well-being. Sustainability is the key.

Moreover, I was long sold on the idea that accumulating experiences is much cooler than accumulating things, thanks to Thomas Gilovich. Minimalism also preaches the same thing. So, here I embark on a journey to accumulate experiences, not things. Cheers to “accumulating experiences”!





Judging

27 08 2016

We all judge people. To some extent or the other. Almost compulsively. We tend to compare behavior and/or traits of others with our own understanding or standards of excellence as a quick way to approve or disapprove a person with regards to that behavior or trait.  The urban dictionary defines judging as quickly forming a bias and/or personal opinion about someone or something.

I like to think that judging is related to stereotyping. Stereotypes typically guide our judgments, to the extent that we believe in those stereotypes, that is. “Stereotype”  as a phenomenon has its own place and serves distinct purpose in our lives. It provides mental shortcuts to form quick decisions in the absence of any discernible information. Of course, like many of our other instincts, stereotypes will not serve us well in all circumstances and have to be exercised with caution, and taken with more than a pinch of salt.

Stereotypes are like statistics. Just like a statistic such as “70% of population favor x”, will not tell you for sure  whether the one person you encounter in the middle of the road favors x or not, stereotype may not be applicable to each individual or instance. Of course, it is always possible that a stereotype could have become obsolete or in the process of becoming obsolete what with the ever changing cultural and social picture and hence shouldn’t have been relied upon. Of course judging goes beyond stereotypes. It’s based on our own perception of things.

So, stereotypes can be good or bad.  Following this, it can be argued that judging can also be good or bad. But I would typically associate judging  with a negative feeling, even in the case of a positive judgment.   As per negative judgments, even as you try to feel superior to others in the process, in the end it won’t result in any positive feeling/emotion.

This brings up the question as to why we judge in the first place.My theories:

  • When you seek validation for your own behavior, you judge others who deviate from your own behavior as inferior.
  • When you are insecure about your own behavior
  • When you are unable to appreciate and accept different perspectives. Not open to new or different standards or ways of life.
  • You want to quickly determine whether you like or dislike a person and so you judge them as good, bad, or not good enough as a proxy based on your likes, dislikes , and expectations.
  • People like to be custodians of their positive traits/behavior

It’s amazing how much prevalent judging is, despite our best efforts. Some of the common things that are judged widely:

  • Parenting: I feel that this one trumps all others. Almost everyone have at least a few things that they do absolutely right and look down on others who fail to do so or do them differently.
  • Significant other: You got to be perfect spouse, BF/GF. How can you not be this or not do that?
  • Weight: If your BMI is perfect, you may judge overweight, obese , or underweight people.
  • Fitness: if you have got it right, you may not able to empathize with those who lack the self-control or will power to eat right and/or hit the gym.
  • Homemaking: If you are an efficient and skillful homemaker, you may judge others’ homemaking skills which don’t measure up to yours
  • Efficiency: If you are super-efficient, you may judge others who are less efficient.

Whatever your strengths are (or what you think your strengths are), you may judge people based on them.

Will non-judging help? Will the world be a better place if no one judges others? I like to think so.  Even without delving into the root cause of this phenomenon and its ultimate purpose, the simplest reason why I work on curbing this is to avoid the negativity it breeds.

But how to go about it? The first step is always awareness. Once you are self-aware and catch yourself being judgmental, it’s just matter of letting go. It takes a little self-discipline and management. But once you let go, there is freedom. You got to experience it to understand the uplifting feeling that non-judging results in. Here are some helpful tips on becoming less judgmental: 10 Reasons to Stop Judging People.

When you do not judge, you accept. Acceptance is the key to peace and harmony.





Team psychology

26 06 2016

Every now and then you come across a concept or idea that strikes you unawares, opens up a new train of thought, enlightens you, or makes you look at things differently.

When I started listening to the chapter on Teams in Charles Duhigg’s latest book – Smarter, Harder, Better I was only expecting to hear more on the age-old wisdom on groups and teams, and all that I learnt as part of my Organization Behavior course in business school. But then I heard about Psychological Safety. It kind of blew my mind off. When he explained what psychological safety means and how it can be a key differentiator between the more productive, efficient teams and the rest, it made perfect sense.

Apparently Google, in its attempt to figure out the recipe for a perfect team, has researched teams and their effectiveness through a project named Aristotle over several years and discovered this. It is such a beautiful concept, which may simply be dubbed as “be nice”. 😛  As per Wikipedia, “Psychological safety is a shared belief that the team is safe for interpersonal risk taking. In psychologically safe teams, team members feel accepted and respected. ”

Psychological Safety has found to be a statistically significant factor associated with high-performing teams. However, it does not mean that it alone can make a team perfect.  As per the scientific research, other things like number and quality of social interactions between team members,  the existence of Shared Mental Models within the team, shared expectations regarding behavioral norms, as well as organizational issues such as the leadership and management culture all contribute to team effectiveness. Moreover, as Chris Alexander of Aglx Consulting points out, this insight is not actionable by itself as Psychological Safety is not a team skill. Read this enlightening article offering practical advice on how to build psychological safety in teams: Psychological Safety is just one piece of the larger puzzle

Another concept relevant to workplace that I happened to hear about in a recent event as part of a meetup is “Imposter Syndrome”. It’s such an eye opener.  The talk  couldn’t have been more timely for me personally. It was a very rewarding experience and the speaker, Lauren Jackman of Medallia, who is a PHD from Stanford, was very engaging.

According to Wikipedia, Imposter Syndrome refers to  high-achieving individuals marked by an inability to internalize their accomplishments and a persistent fear of being exposed as a “fraud”. Despite ample external evidence to their success, people succumbed to this syndrome have a tendency to think that they are not smart/talented etc. as others think they are.

One prominent internal cause for imposter syndrome could be complete access to our own fears and knowledge gaps.

As per the speaker, among the many factors contributing to the Imposter Syndrome phenomenon, is the “Duck Syndrome”. The Duck Syndrome is Stanford’s take on stress – be stressed out, but don’t show it! This relates to the culture of brilliance/performance, which underplays the hard work behind any success. In fact it may involve hiding all the work that went into something and projecting only the result.  It creates a misguided perception that success comes from being smart or a genius, and working hard to achieve it is a sign of weakness or failure. In fact, it’s rarely true that any success can be achieved without hard work. This can result in a fixed mindset which puts undue emphasis on “what is” rather than “what can be”.

This leads us to the concept called “growth mindset”, which refers to the belief that success is based on hard work, learning, training and doggedness. Carol Dweck in her 2006 book “Mindset” has elaborated on the fixed mindset – growth mindset continuum as part of her key contributions to social psychology on implicit theories of intelligence.

When we think about other team settings that can contribute to this imposter syndrome, the following emerge:

  • Under-representation
  • Stereotypes based on culture, age, race, gender etc.
  • Lack of belongingness
  • When others are watching

Leadership should make sure to watch out for the above pitfalls that can adversely impact team’s performance and effectiveness. Normalizing failure can be a powerful strategy to help combat imposter syndrome, instill growth mindset, and even develop psychological safety and bring out the best in teams.

I like my current team and I think it has reasonable levels of psychological safety. 🙂