One of the enduring phrases my father taught me is “trust, but verify.” It is not one that I use myself very often. But it is one that I think about a great deal. Within those three simple words is a great deal of complexity, and an opportunity for a profound amount of insight. It is a phrase that can also be misused: we can be overly intrusive in our approach, but we can also be neglectful. The challenge, as always is finding balance. How much can you trust? And how much do you need to verify?
We are cognitively lazy. We don’t pay attention to the details unless something triggers us to. That’s not a fault; it’s efficient engineering of our brains to manage energy and attention. We cruise on autopilot until something is important enough to focus our attention. This doesn’t just influence how we experience our cognitive biases in seeing the world, though. It also profoundly shapes how we experience and interact with those around us. And how we should interact when things really matter.
Not that we need any help on this front. We get in our own way just fine. But then we add tools to the mix, and that complicates things unnecessarily. For those who have a fetish for office supplies and time management solutions (you know who you are) it can be awfully tempting to look at shiny new software with covetous desire. My usual advice is, “If what you are doing now is working for you, then keep doing it.” Which is great, until you realize that it isn’t working. This is what happened to me.
Trust is a big thing. A strongly related concept is motive. Our motives shape our intentions, and our perceived actions lead to some pretty significant conclusions about our motives. Getting to the heart of what we are doing, why we are doing it and what we might want to do differently is pretty essential.