It is extraordinary. If it wasn’t for the plentiful evidence, it would be unbelievable. And the effect that it has on our behaviour is both extraordinary and extra ordinary.
It is extraordinary that we have a predisposition to focus on the extraordinary. It’s a twist on the usual ‘forest and trees’ connection; in this case, we can’t see the trees all around us as we focus on the chance that a sasquatch lives in the forest and the danger this would represent. What makes something extraordinary is precisely why this focus is misplaced. If it was just a question of misplacement, it would be less of an issue for priorities can always be rearranged.
However, concern does grow when displacement enters the cognitive arena. Displacement is close to replacement; once the crucial focus on the very common ordinary is replaced by an unwavering focus on the very infrequent extraordinary, the risks we (fail to) perceive and the decisions we make accordingly affect our behaviour adversely.
How many falling branches, snakes, spiders, cliffs or weather conditions do you tend to overlook because you think that the real danger is found in the possible presence of an angry Bigfoot? It’s extraordinary that the extraordinary is so extraordinarily influential.
This music video for the song ‘Extraordinary’ assembles many extraordinary events and piles them one on top of the other but, as you watch it, you have to remember that ‘extraordinary’ is almost never the problem. However risky you perceive this behaviour, it should never distort your perception of risk towards the extraordinary:
One of the many benefits of effortful experience is the ability to see the bigger picture. But operating at the level of the bigger picture should not and does not arrive at the expense of only seeing/looking for the biggest risks. It’s an interesting contrast – experiential learning allows you to cope with the many ordinary risks automatically while you concurrently focus on the extraordinary risks intentionally.
‘tis nobler hopes that you achieve extraordinary things, perhaps just by doing the ordinary things extraordinarily well. This will involve some risk management – skilled yet ‘ordinary’ performance that should not be distorted by an intentional focus on the extraordinary.
And yet it remains extraordinary that we continually act on our predisposition to focus on the extraordinary. In what way will you be extraordinary?