Illusions of the mind

Last month when I was at Nashik, enroute to visit one of our projects at Malegaon, I happened to spend the night in a hotel. As I entered the hotel premises, a notice board pointing towards a Zen Garden and a jogger’s path surrounding it held my attention. So, next day early morning I went sauntering towards the Zen Garden.

As I approached it, I saw a giant cobra with his hood raised – he was on the foot of an ancient Banyan tree that stood towering in the middle of the garden. I halted in my jog and almost turned back when something told me to have a closer look.

Changing my direction and angle, I once again peered to see the cobra. As I went closer to the tree, I realised it was not a cobra at all. It was just a hose pipe kept near the root of the tree! I nearly laughed aloud at the way my mind had been playing tricks on me, creating an illusion when the reality was quite different. Things became clearer only when I got closer.

Is this not how we form perceptions of others or form an opinion about a situation, judging them from far without even taking a closer look?

At our work place a colleague suggests an alternate idea to the theory that you had proposed. All of a sudden, your initial reaction is that whether you are losing grip on an idea that you had put out there and is it now being reclaimed by your colleague…going on the defensive is the first default reaction of the human body. We are all wired to fight or flee. 


Touch base

You can change your thoughts by changing the way you feel about things/situation. Next time a colleague puts forth a different thought line in the overall idea that you have presented, take a pause. Step back and look at the problem statement again. Take a deep breath, be mindful of your feelings and let the thoughts take over. 

Expand your mind

Expand your mind and try putting yourself on the other side. Perhaps there is merit in what has been suggested? Bounce the alternate opinion across the room and check the feasibility of it.

Stop being judgmental 

It is very easy to flow with our own perception and judgements. When you let go of our judgmental stance, you will notice a different purpose and meaning to the same action of your colleague. When managers or colleagues say something that makes you defensive or pushes you into a corner, stop yourself from making judgements. Hear the other person out.

Trust your intuition

When I saw the cobra under the tree while my first reaction was that of fear, something kept telling me to check it out and have a closer look. Our intuition often guides us in sticky situations. Learn to pay attention to that little voice at the back of your head.

Seek help and clarification

This one sounds like a no-brainer, but colleagues often hesitate to ask for help and/or reach out for support. Their deep fear that they may be perceived as someone who is not knowledgeable often isolates them from the group. As a result, they may not be in sync with the rest of the group. When in doubt, seek help. Give help when asked for.

Inch closer

The truth is always different when you are closer to reality. Be strong enough to take that first step towards finding out the truth. Many of us accept the way things are running because, well, that is how things have been running. But that does not mean that is how they should continue to run in the future. Peer closely and take charge. If you do not see light at the end of the tunnel, it is possible you are in a cave. Turn around. That’s all it takes.

Our illusions stop us from reframing the situation, limits our courage, and provokes our fears that stop us from seeing the world in a different perspective. As Michael Jordan says, ‘Limits, like fear, is often an illusion.’

A good way to break free from our illusions is to develop a collaborative mindset at work instead of competing with the rest of the organisation.

The views and opinions published here belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of the publisher.

Sarita Bahl
Country Group Head CSR at Bayer - South Asia
Sarita Bahl leads the Corporate Social Responsibility function for Bayer South Asia and is also the Director – Bayer Prayas Association. Prior to this, she successfully oversaw the communications and public affairs function for Bayer South Asia. Over her three decades of professional experience, Sarita has held multiple roles across diverse industries, public sector, trade associations, MNCs and the Not-for-profit sector. An alumnus of Tata Institute of Social Science and the Swedish Institute of Management Program, Sarita specializes in stakeholder engagement, sustainability and communications. She is passionate about animals (is mother to a female cat), books and movies.

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