A few weeks ago, my executive assistant, Ian (who, for the record, is one of the nicest, most level-headed guys around), uttered something shocking. As the words, “There have been times I headed out to the trails with a bad attitude” spilled from his mouth, I resisted the urge to plug my ears and babble to keep those words from burning my soul. How could the guy our team marvels at for being genetically wired for niceness and, further, a key employee at Mountain Trails, be susceptible to negativity on the trails? Thankfully, he redeemed the conversation, continuing with a more true-to-character, self-aware reflection, “and when I set out with a negative attitude, negative is exactly what I find.” You may have heard the term, confirmation bias?
This exchange sketched two indelible truths upon my mind: first, Ian too is human, and second, what one looks for one will find. When focused on dog waste, ruts up the Nordic track or inconsiderate people, guess what materializes. Seeking friendly gestures, well-behaved dog owners and smiling faces, which if we’re being honest, represent 99% of the experiences had by tens of thousands of trail users every year, it’s easy to conjure – and spread – a great trail experience. Seek and ye shall find.
Since that conversation with Ian, I’ve had several reflective moments, replaying his words, pondering the truth of it all, and admittedly, maybe once or twice, noting the twinge of my own poor attitude.
Fortunately, attitude is the easiest thing to change – well, that is as compared to say, my inefficient V2 skate technique, or a road bike flat. With attitude, one simply applies a tiny bit of self-awareness and viola! the path to contentment appears. So, fellow trail users, if you’re persistently encountering negativity out on the trails – or life in general – maybe take Ian’s cue and check that internal dialogue. . .
But beware, confirmation bias is a powerful psychological tendency and it travels on a two way path!
See you out there,
Lora Smith, Executive Director
Confirmation bias: the tendency to process information by looking for, or interpreting, information that is consistent with one’s existing beliefs. This biased approach to decision making is largely unintentional and often results in ignoring inconsistent information. Existing beliefs can include one’s expectations in a given situation and predictions about a particular outcome. People are especially likely to process information to support their own beliefs when the issue is highly important or self-relevant. (Casad, B. J. (2022, October 6) Encyclopedia Britannica. https://www.britannica.com/science/confirmation-bias)