The Risk of Thinking You’ve Figured It All Out

“There are two things that must be rooted out in human beings — arrogant opinion and mistrust. Arrogant opinion expects that there is nothing further needed, and mistrust assumes that under the torrent of circumstance there can be no happiness.”


In today’s chapter, The Daily Stoic points out that one of the most dangerous tendencies that we have, is the risk of thinking we’ve got it all figured out. We think we’ve found ‘the truth’ and that we’ve found the answer, and that there’s nothing more to search for.

This arrogant opinion takes its most insidious form when assessing ourselves — when we think we’ve ‘arrived’ and have made more progress than we really have. If we take the dangerous path of self-deception, and lie to ourselves — oiesis, as the Greeks called it — we might start to believe that we don’t have any more room for improvement. Or conversely, that we can’t improve and we’re just doomed to mediocrity or even failure in a certain aspect of our lives.

The problem with assumptions is that they’re not often correct. When we jump to conclusions because we think we’ve figured everything out, that often means we’re assuming negative things about other people or about life, or even about ourselves — and that doesn’t leave much room for happiness.

When we feel that circumstances have conspired against us, and “there can be no happiness” as the quote above says, then we start to give up a little bit. We feel crushed by the weight of the world, even though the crush comes from inside, and it’s caused by (you guessed it) our assumptions.

We have to guard against this “arrogant opinion”, and avoid our propensity to think that no further investigation is needed and that we’ve already found the truth. We have to put our first impression to the test. We need to always be searching, always be asking questions, from a position of humility. That’s how we grow, and that’s how we avoid becoming brittle in our understanding of ourselves, other people, and the world.

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