Most of us live our lives trying to avoid thinking about being wrong, especially that we ourselves could be wrong. Because being wrong feels dumb, embarrassing and irresponsible, and we want to feel smart, proud and virtuous.

Kathryn Schulz, the author of “Being Wrong: Adventures in the Margin of Error”, says that we are led to believe at a very young age that the way to succeed in life is never to make mistakes. We freak out at the possibility that we could have got something wrong, which would mean that there is something wrong with us. So we insist we are right and are trapped in the bubble of feeling right about everything.
A few years ago a woman was admitted to Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center for surgery. When she woke up in the recovery room, she looked down at her body and wondered why the wrong side of her body was in bandages. It turned out the surgeon operated on her left leg instead of right leg by mistake. When the senior vice president for healthcare quality of Beth had to make a statement about the unfortunate incident, he said something interesting, “For whatever reason, [the surgeon] simply felt that he was on the correct side of the patient.”

Trusting too much on the feeling of being on the correct side of anything can be dangerous. As soon as you feel your beliefs reflect the reality perfectly, you’ll have a problem to solve. How do you explain all the people who disagree with you? According to Schultz, most people explain the same way by resorting to a series of unfortunate assumptions:

1) The Ignorance Assumption. These people simply don’t have access to the same information that we have. When they see the facts, they’ll come to our side.

2) The Idiocy Assumption. After we realize that they are exposed to the same data as we do, then the only reason they can’t see things our way is because they aren’t very smart.

3) The Evil Assumption. These people know the truth, and they deliberately distort it to advance their own purposes. They are too proud to admit their mistakes and accept the truth.

The attachment to our own correctness keeps us from preventing mistakes when we absolutely need to and cause us to treat each other terribly. It can hurt family relationships or ruin friendships. It causes innocent people to be wrongly executed even in the face of new evidence. It leads one nation to wage war again another.

The need to be right at all times misses the whole point of being human. “The miracle of your mind isn’t that you can see the world as it is. It’s that you can see the world as it isn’t.” When we gaze into the sky, each of us sees different patterns, colors and our imagination takes us to different places. That’s what makes our world fascinating and interesting. “Our capacity to screw up isn’t some kind of human defect. It’s totally fundamental to who we are. Unlike God, we don’t know all that’s out there. But unlike all the other animals, we are obsessed to figure it out. This obsession is the source of productivity and creativity.”
In real life, often times we expect one thing, turns out we are wrong because something else happens. The wrongness can be the best gifts of life. I thought my oldest daughter and I were never going to be close again because of the tension-filled adolescent years, but something else happened. I thought Joe and I wouldn’t be able to hold our marriage together without the blessing from above, something else happened. I thought I was going to stay at my old job till they had to let me go, something else happened.

There are many ways to experience life’s wonders and surprises. All it takes is for you to step outside of that tiny terrified space of rightness, look around and out and entertain the idea that you may not be correct about everything.