Obedience ensures you conform to the rules so you don’t experience any unknown consequences.
Why the habit exists
Obedience’s duty is to serve and obey. It recognises there needs to be a certain amount or order and conformity to prevent the onset of chaos. As such, it will do its utmost to uphold the rules- even the unwritten ones. Obedience ensures it’s very easy to stick with what we’re given without questioning. In neuroscience, this is known as a ‘zero-risk bias’, where our brains crave certainty and fear unknown consequences.
Obedience also hates dealing with too much complexity so it creates assumptions to simplify thinking and create mental shortcuts that don’t need to be questioned continually. In neuroscience terms, an ‘availability bias’ creates a tendency to make estimates and assumptions based on what is most easily remembered. Such a thinking bias can generate unwritten rules.
How it holds you back
Preconception is mental contraception! Obedience is always worried about the consequences of doing the wrong thing and will often blindly comply without stopping to question. It lives by the way things are ‘supposed’ to be done and is regimented in carrying out orders. Most rules are merely assumptions that become more and more accepted over time. That creates barriers that keep us blind to other possibilities.
Obedience can even stop you from ever wondering if there might be a better way of achieving a result and will force you to simply knuckle down and accept the way things are. Questioning authority or assumptions is simply not in its nature.
How you can train it
- List all assumptions then see what can be changed and what is genuinely fixed. It’s common to find even the ‘fixed’ rules can be tweaked. Continually be curious and ask why things are like they are and what would happen if they were any other way. In Mediaeval times, court jesters were hired to challenge the authoritative thinking. Rulers knew they often would get insincere answers from their politicians. Jesters make fun of the rules, parodied and reversed them to shake up the thinking and offer a different perspective. Now it’s your turn!
- Instead of getting bogged down with the realities of the here and now, focus on identifying the ideal outcome. Once you have this vision set, you can work backwards to remove the obstacles in the way and challenge their necessity. Don’t preclude your ambitions based on perceived initial limitations.
- Ask lots of questions about everything. Why is it like that? Where did it come from? Who really needs it? What is taken for granted? The importance of these questions is recognising the underlying assumptions and thinking shortcuts that have built up so far. Getting used to the habit of stopping and questioning everything will soon get you primed to break these ‘rules’ for positive change.
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