Cognitive dissonance is the discomfort felt by a person who holds two or more conflicting ideas, beliefs or values at the same time.
Leadership is about people, so understanding people is clearly key. For self-leadership, then, self-awareness is key.
As humans we seek cognitive consonance, rather than cognitive dissonance, we seek for our attitudes, behaviours, beliefs, opinions, actions to be in harmony, to be consistent.
Understanding where we are out of alignment, dissonant vs consonant, is, therefore, a vital part of our self-awareness.
Someone who clearly gets that is known by his fans as “the Boss”.
Bruce Springsteen, “the Boss”, gave the quote in the image a long time ago. More recently, in 2016 he wrote his autobiography “Born to Run”, a candid and raw book at times, with great awareness around his mental health and how he thinks. As noted in an interview around that time, he said:
…there is always a part of him that feels like a “charlatan”. “We are all made up of insecurities so there is always some part of me that’s ‘well, yeah I’m a complete fake but I am also the realest thing you have seen in your life. I will be realer than you have ever imagined’,” he said. Springsteen acknowledged that what he believed was contradictory, but responded: “The mark of an advanced, or certainly of an adult artist, is being able to hold that paradox in your mind at the same time, hold those conflicts in your mind without letting them drive you crazy and understanding that they are just a part of living.”Bruce Springsteen
So, “the Boss” deeply understands cognitive dissonance and has learned to be able to process it without undue discomfort.
As I write this, early this morning I went for a beautiful bike ride around London, grateful for the day and the experience. At the same time, day by day we live in the home of the Brexit debacle, the seemingly collective insanity around which could easily drive the calmest person to anger or worse. Loving London and the UK and intensely disliking the way many are thinking about the future of the country does have a dissonant feel.
That the Boss “gets” the reality of such feelings around dissonance and has learned his own ways to handle it is somehow comforting to me!
Where do you experience cognitive dissonance and what are your own strategies around this?
Also published on Medium.