Headwinds and Tailwinds

Psychologists Shai Davidai and Thomas Gilovich have written a paper which illuminates the idea of “headwinds, tailwinds asymmetry.” I heard a Freakanomics podcast on it.

Here’s how it works:

“Tailwinds” are forces in life that are in your favor.

“Headwinds” are forces in life that are against you. They are the things that make life more difficult. They are the things you have to overcome to get where you are going.

“Asymmetry” means unequally balance. When one ear is bigger than another ear, your ears are asymmetric.

Here’s what Davidai and Gilovich say about tailwinds and headwinds. Most of us tend to discount the impact of tailwinds and overemphasize the impact of headwinds.

For instance, if you have a brother or sister and you are asked who had it easier, almost all of us will point out why we are the ones who had it harder. And vice versa.

The impact of focusing or overweighting headwinds can be apparent. It can increase fear and doubt. It can increase the likelihood of quitting. It can facilitate negativity. Negativity has a way of fulfilling itself.

There is power in knowing this dynamic exists. Because you are human, you have the ability to think. Because you think, you can substitute one thought for another. Thus, once you begin to focus on headwinds, you have the ability to switch tracks.

You can remind yourself that the imbalance you feel is probably more imagined than real.

You can remind yourself of all the tailwinds you have. Your team! Your experience! Where you live! Most of us have much for which to be grateful. Turning to gratitude in the face of negativity yields positive results.

I heard someone say recently: “I tend to believe things will work out. So, it hasn’t worked out yet; it isn’t over.”

Turn the headwinds asymmetry on its head. You have reason to do so.