Most of us like to think of ourselves as good people who care about others and contribute to making the world a better place. By “good” I mean having integrity, feeling empathy for others, and listening to and valuing the people around you more than you value material possessions.
For me—and for all of us, really— I don’t always live out those ideals to full capacity. Take, for example, minutes ago when I impulsively raced to the office coffee machine to ensure that I get my own cup before my colleagues take the last of it. Still, I would get very defensive if they accused me of being a bad person. I might begin recounting several reasons that prove I am quite the opposite.
In our September book of the month, The Person You Mean to Be: How Good People Fight Bias, author Dolly Chugh advises that we let go of the idea that we are either good or bad and accept that we are each a work in progress. She says we should choose to accept ourselves as “goodish” people, rather than good. A person with good intentions but makes mistakes is still developing. This allows us more room to notice where we need to improve and to begin to do something about it. It moves us from a fixed mindset to a growth mindset.
Self-interest more often drives our decisions than the unselfish values we profess. One reason is that the vast majority of our decisions are automatic responses based on subconscious bias. With thousands of pieces of information coming into it at any given moment, our mind is only able to consciously process 40 of them at a time. This means it has to rely on multiple shortcuts to help us in making the myriad of decisions required for us to function.