Is This Your Habit?

Take a look at this e-bulletin from today’s Wall Street Journal (February 25, 2011):

“LONDON–The U.K. economy shrank by more than initially thought in the fourth quarter of 2010, shedding new doubt on the economic recovery and pushing back expectations of an increase in Bank of England interest rates.”

OK, you’re probably wondering: so what, Dan? 

Granted, it’s not a big deal. But there’s something about this piece that caught my eye. It has to do with a rather unusual use of history that started me thinking: do we tend to do this in our lives or is it restricted to economic news?

Here’s what I mean. Notice that the bulletin suggests there was once a view of the recent past (“…initially thought in the fourth quarter…”). Up until the moment when this bulletin was released, that particular view of the recent past was accepted, manageable, and generally unremarkable. In addition, because things haven’t spiraled downward since then, we can assume that this original view of the recent past was not especially harmful, dangerous, or injurious. Now, however, there is a new view of the recent past (“…shrank by more than initially thought…”). All of a sudden, what had been understood and was the basis for current action and decisions is no longer acceptable. The implication is that a wholly new direction is needed, or at least a significant readjustment of the direction. Otherwise, we’re headed for trouble.

And now we’re supposed to feel better, more confident in the course of action to be undertaken?

Put this in terms of your life. Q is an event or set of events that happened to you four months ago. You dealt with it well enough. In fact, you’re making a few plans on what you’ll do next based on your view of Q. Now, though, information comes to you that prompts a rethinking of your view of Q. 

What makes this use of history any different from the example of the U.K. economy? Is there a credible reason (and there may be) for thinking that your use of history in this way is substantially different from the U.K. example?

My point here is to use this: think a little about your assumptions in using history in your life as a person and as a citizen.