Your perception of the world, life, yourself and others affects each and every decision you have ever made, or ever will make. Neuroscientist Beau Lotto has devoted much of his work to understanding perception, creativity, biases, and much more. He is the author of the book Deviate, which reveals startling truths about the brain and it’s perceptions. Beau argues that the next big innovation in the world is not a new technology, but rather a new way of seeing.

For A Deep Dive on Your Most Common Biases Check Out —

The uncertainty of what your brain is receiving can lead to extreme consequences. Let’s take a simple example from Beau…

When you go down below in a boat and your eyes are moving and registering the boat, and your eyes are saying, “Oh, we’re standing still,” but your inner ears are saying, “No, no, we’re moving.” And your brain cannot deal with that conflict so it gets ill. — Beau Lotto

While getting a little seasick is not the end of the world the consequences of too much uncertainty can be tremendous. Too much uncertainty increases brain cell death. It decreases plasticity in the brain and transforms you into a more extreme version of yourself.

Think back to a time when you had to deal with extreme uncertainty. Was this a pleasant experience? Oftentimes when we are making extreme changes to our lives such as changing careers, moving to a new place, trying something potentially dangerous for the first time we see a drop in our health and mental state. This is because our brains are deeply wired to avoid this type of uncertainty at every turn.

Every minute of every day we are making hundreds of assumptions, which helps us mentally avoid uncertainty. As I type this I assume the chair I am sitting on will not give way and leave me sprawled out on the floor. I assume the desk in front of me was assembled correctly, I assume the keyboard on which I am typing will continue to work, and so on and so forth.

These assumptions are absolutely critical to our survival. Can you imagine what a nervous wreck we’d be if I stopped to make sure my chair was sturdy each minute? First of all, I’d never finish writing this article but even worse I would most likely worry myself into no longer using this chair, checking the screws on my desk, and monitoring the battery life of my keyboard.

However, these assumptions can largely be a double-edged sword themselves. Our brains are wired to take what is meaningless and assign it meaning. Look at the flip side, in the early development of human beings if I assumed that rustling sound was not a predator and it turned out to be a panther… it’s too late. I’m dead. Taking this information and all the inputs around you and assigning them meaning is the process of creating your own perceptions. The key is to be able to determine what can be assumed and what it worth checking out and worrying about.

Here’s the kicker.

If we do everything to avoid uncertainty, how will we ever see anything differently?

We do almost everything to avoid uncertainty. And yet the irony is that that’s the only place we can go if we’re ever going to see differently. — Beau Lotto

How would we ever be creative if we never dared to venture into the uncertainty of life? How would we learn to perceive the world differently through new information if all we did was avoid uncertainty our entire lives? Creativity begins with a question, a hypothesis, it begins with a “why?” or a “what if?” all which come through uncertainty.

This is also why it’s an interesting reaction when people become mad at one another for “flip-flopping” their opinions. Too often, especially in politics, individuals are criticized for changing their opinions to reflect new facts, new evidence, and new information. But how can we ever hope to grow and draw new conclusions if we ignore the uncertainty of new facts and opinions?

The irony of uncertainty is that while we were undoubtedly hardwired to avoid it, it holds the key to our growth and to our success. As we noted, too much uncertainty for too long a period can have drastic consequences for your health but avoiding it altogether leaves one walking in place.

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