Keep Your Identity Small

It’s harder to discard bad ideas if you let them become part of your identity.

How do you describe yourself? What labels do you use? If I ask you to complete this sentence, how many possible answers could you come up with?

“I am a(n)                               .”

If you’re like most people, you can probably come up with dozens, maybe hundreds, of answers to the above. Child, parent, spouse, sibling, job title, political party, favorite sports team, gym affiliation…we all have countless ways we define ourselves. And we often don’t think consciously about these labels – we just keep acquiring them as we get older.

The fact that we gather these labels to define ourselves without ever really thinking about them is what makes them dangerous.

This is where confirmation bias comes into play: we’re predisposed to believe statements that support our existing beliefs. If you identify as part of a group, you’re more likely to be biased against information that contradicts that group. This leads to bias and closed-mindedness.

And that can lead to very bad decisions being made.

So, as Paul Graham says, keep your identity small. Develop awareness of the labels you’ve given yourself, and minimize them.

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