Truth or Rationalization?

TWhether you’re talking about a decision, a belief or a choice, it’s easy to fall into the trap of believing that your reasons for the decision, belief or choice are true. After all, it feels really good to do (or not do) things based upon the truth. However, there’s always the possibility that what you think is truth is actually a rationalization. The challenge is knowing the difference—rationalizations can be tricky and often dress up as truths. 

I vividly remember hearing this message about rationalizations in the movie The Big Chill(1983) when Jeffrey Goldblum’s character (Michael Gold) has videotaped a discussion with Tom Berenger’s character (Sam Weber) that includes this exchange:

  • Sam:  Why is it what you just said strikes me as a massive rationalization?
  • Michael: Don’t knock rationalization. Where would we be without it? I don’t know anyone who’d get through the day without two or three juicy rationalizations. They’re more important than sex.
  • Sam: Ah, come on. Nothing’s more important than sex.
  • Michael:Oh yeah? Ever gone a week without a rationalization?

(If you want to listen to the clip, Click Here!). Indeed, rationalizations are often our go-to for the simple reason that they justify our choices, decisions and actions, and this makes them sneaky. 

Because rationalizations are so easy to lean on, I’ve developed a simple way to check in with yourself whenever you are making a decision, forming a belief or preparing to make a choice. Rather than assume what you’re doing is based upon something that is true (which we like and makes us feel better), ask yourself this question: Is this true or is it a rationalization? 

Here is the beauty of this question – as soon as you ask it, you’ll get some immediate clarity on whether you’re rationalizing. This is a much better question than “Am I rationalizing?” because none of us want to admit that we’re rationalizing. Therefore, when you ask yourself IF you’re rationalizing, the safest and most comfortable answer is no. Yes or no questions do not open us up to learning and discovering.

Whatever you’re thinking, ask yourself, “Is it true or is it a rationalization?” You’ll be amazed at the answers and clarity you are gifted through this simple question. The key is to listen differently when you ask yourself this question. You also have to listen to parts of yourself that you may rarely listen to, including your intuition, your gut and even your bodily reaction to the question. Yes, your body will react to questions you ask yourself if you are ready and open to listening. Well, what are you waiting for? Ask and listen!

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