Count your tailwinds

There are days when I feel like I am zipping through on the cycle. My muscles work in coordination, my cadence is even, my breathing is comfortable and my stamina is intact. I would feel like I could sustain that pace and rhythm forever. Until I turned to go back.

The ride back would be much harder. Somehow, the same muscles that had powered me half-an-hour ago, are crying in pain. My lungs are panting for breath and my legs are protesting every push on the pedals. I would realize very quickly that I was riding against the wind. I would also realize that all of the extra spunk in my ride earlier was just the wind lending me a helping hand.

It is common to attribute favourable circumstances to our own capabilities, while singling out unfavourable ones as external factors. This phenomenon is so prominent that psychologists have termed this the headwind-tailwind asymmetry. Football fans are always convinced that their teams are in the most competitive pools, and that the referees decisions are biased against them (ask Arsene Wenger). Siblings in most households think that their parents were harder on them than the other ones.

The resulting bias can even lead us to adopt morally questionable positions. Being born into privilege is akin to having a steady tailwind assisting us. As privileged people, we are likely to disproportionately attribute our success to our abilities. This could also lead us to question the challenges faced by people who have led difficult lives. Only the people who weather these adversities themselves can begin to understand them.

(Credit to Tara Brach for triggering this post)

2 thoughts on “Count your tailwinds

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