Are you self-aware? Can you speak about your strengths and weaknesses with ease? I know the danger of this position firsthand; self-knowledge seems useful initially but ends up creating a surplus of certainty. Certainty is the cement in which we get stuck. Our known weaknesses don’t take us down, it’s our blind spots. If you don’t believe that you have any, then you have just located your first one.
I learned about blind spots at The Landmark Forum a few years ago. The Forum leader drew a Venn diagram on a whiteboard in front of the room. Inside the first circle on the left, he wrote: What I Know I Know. He then told us to write down an example of something we know we know so I wrote addiction and nutrition. In the circle at the end, he wrote: What I Know I Don’t Know. Most of us borrowed his example, to fly a plane, to complete the exercise. He finished the diagram by writing What I Don’t Know I Don’t Know aka Blind Spots in the middle circle.
The forum leader told us that the majority of what stopped us in life was housed here. A blind spot is a hidden area that you can’t see about yourself which can cause minor and severe accidents as you change lanes in life. Although blind spots are unconscious, we often go to great lengths to keep them concealed.
The irony of blind spots is that they are glaring to many of your friends and colleagues, like a strand of spinach wedged in between your two front teeth. Uncovering blind spots is the secret to becoming unstuck in any area. The inspiration that becomes available in the breakthrough moment when you come face to face with a blind spot is electric. It provides energy to take massive action and action will always move you forward.
A powerful way to uncover blind spots is to interview your friends and family. I did this exercise in my 3rd Landmark course, Self-Expression and Leadership Program, four years ago. The feedback was invaluable. I chose three conscious friends and asked how I occurred to them. Trusting they would speak out of love, I listened carefully, not liking everything I heard. One friend said that many people saw me as a combination of “aloof, hard to get close to, intense and confrontational.” Another friend asked me who else I planned to interview “nobody’s going to tell you the truth.” When I asked her why they wouldn’t, she responded, “because you scare people.” Ouch.
These conversations changed me. The disconnect between who I wanted to be and how I occurred to people was face up on the table now. My deepest desire was to connect with people in a meaningful way, but my delivery and mannerisms were sabotaging this possibility. When I couldn’t find an access point with someone or felt awkward in a situation, I became aloof, the cool girl act from my teen years. Of course, not everyone is available to connect deeply, so I also had to address why I kept going to the hardware store for oranges, which has always been one of my favorite Al-Anon sayings.
Here are three tips on how to locate blind spots:
- When you complain about being powerless in a re-occurring situation. Being a victim. “She makes me feel X all the time.”
- When you make excuses about people or situations that keep you from looking at your part. “He acts the way he does because he had a rough childhood.”
- When you believe that an external event is causing a problem instead of taking a closer look at your behavior. “Everyone was gossiping at the dinner.”
I had an old boss who constantly complained about everyone being an asshole: the garage attendant, the barista, and most of our clients. He believed wholeheartedly in his interpretation, and the stories he would relay were convincing. I fall into this rut too and the words of a wise friend always pull me out, “You see one or two assholes in a day, maybe it’s them. If you see more than three, consider that you are the asshole.”
It takes guts to locate a blind spot, but the breakthrough awaiting is worth the initial discomfort.