are you blinded by your own expertise?

Photo by Josh Calabrese on Unsplash

I am fascinated by the work of Ronald Epstein. Epstein is a practicing family physician, a professor of family medicine, psychiatry, and oncology. He has used mindfulness to transform physicians’ views of their work. Here are four questions he uses to help you transform your assumptions.

Is there another way to view this situation?

What am I assuming that might not be true?

How are prior experiences and expectations affecting how I view this situation?

What would a trusted peer, mentor, or friend say?

These “opening-up” questions are like interrogative mantras. Epstein believes they can help you identify your cognitive rigidity and blind spots that are in fact caused by the very expertise you’ve worked so hard to develop. Now, that’s a fascinating perspective; that you might be blinded by your own expertise!

Of course, you might think you’re not an expert at anything. But you are. At the very least, you’re an expert in collecting habits, assumptions and biases that effortlessly infiltrate your perspective each and every working day. Therefore, Epstein’s perspective is a good place from which to start an honest discussion with yourself. He writes: reflective questions open up one’s awareness, raise doubts, and expose uncertainty. Anyone who works in a complex environment (and who doesn’t) will find that questions such as these lead to greater mindfulness.

Perhaps the problem comes from knowing that questions that elicit perspective can take a little time – a few seconds here and there. But they save time in the long run.

Are you prepared to do the work of finding space within you so you can bring a more discerning quality of mind to such powerful questions?

As Epstein concludes, you may be an expert at finding answers, but isn’t it more important to find within you the space to ask the right questions?

Ronald Epstein, ‘Attending’, Medicine, Mindfulness and Humanity'.

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