Elephants and molehills: dealing with blinkered or extreme thinking

Two men ignoring the elephant in the room

In a changing world it is easy to make mistaken assumptions. One of the most common types of these is called ‘extreme thinking’ or ‘blinkered thinking’.

Blinkered or extreme thinking happens when we see the world in terms of extreme opposites: good or bad, black or white, ‘utter failure’ or ‘complete success beyond our wildest dreams’.

With blinkered thinking we see only part of a situation but not the whole picture: we make mountains out of molehills or we ignore the elephant in the room.

To get a better grip on the reality of the situation, the first step is to spot the blinkered thinking. This is usually quite easy because it involves thinking in terms of extremes. Look out for words like “always / never,” “everyone / no-one,” and “inevitable / impossible.”

Once you have spotted the extreme thinking, in yourself or other people, first realise that it is only a mistaken assumption, not reality. Then identify what extreme the person is getting caught up in and ask what is the opposite of that. Finally, look for the possibilities between the two extremes. By asking how likely each possibility is you will form a more accurate picture of what is really happening.

Remember: in a churning world nothing is ever guaranteed — or impossible!

Spotting the elephants and the molehills is a key step towards getting the results you want and becoming antifragile in a time of change.

Is someone in your work life, your personal life, or your country’s politics making mountains out of molehills or ignoring the elephant in the room? Are you? What would be a more balanced assessment of the situation?


Adapted from Inner Leadership: a framework and tools for building inspiration in times of change.

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Photo By David Blackwell via StockPholio.net

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