Doctor of Leadership in Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

Motivation, Consideration, and Implication

Written by: on February 8, 2024

As sports fans have their sights on Super Bowl Sunday in Las Vegas this weekend, one of the components that brings heightened anticipation to America’s most watched sporting event is the week preceding kickoff. Everyone, from football die-hards to non-football viewers, finds some way of getting in on the action. Watch parties, food, drinks, and more are commonplace, but one thing that brings this gala to the highest magnitude is the hype surrounding the game.

Another fun tidbit is how millions of sports heads tune in to sports channels such as ESPN with the hopes of getting the latest news. We observe, scrutinize, and do our own Monday morning quarterbacking, listening to bristled banter and obnoxious opinions, watching highlights, lowlights and looking at statistics and analytics in the hope that someone in the studio will validate our thoughts and predictions to prove to others around us, just how right we are about said player or team or stats.

As I read How to Make the World Add Up, Horford would describe this type of sports fanaticism as motivated reasoning. Motivated reasoning is what we hope to be true. It extends beyond sports but constantly shows up throughout the game of life. “We are more likely to notice what we want to notice.”

I found this quote to be profundity through simplicity and at the same time a real smack in the face! A smack in the face because accountability now asks me how often I could have been found guilty of engaging in this? How commonplace is motivated reasoning? When I think about the original intent of media in the United States, journalists of old were supposed to be objective, and anything contrary was considered outside the norm. Watching mainstream media today, you can see how subjective and segregated content has become, with outlets using numbers, analytics, and statistics to substantiate their agenda, and the culprit, in many instances, is motivated reasoning.

Another point that resonated with me was the factual assertion that we often frame our narratives by thinking with our hearts rather than our heads. Hence, we often face heated arguments and conflicts, doubling down on our position and skewing numbers and statistics to bolster our beliefs. Thinking with our hearts does lead to our emotional biases. I can vividly recount within my own ministry context how this process led to several emotionally charged board and budget meetings where facts took a back seat to emotion. Emotions can shape our beliefs, and stripping emotion away from logic is no easy feat, but Harford carefully lays out a successful, effective blueprint.

I also appreciated Harford’s take on professional and impartial statistics. Washington is the bedrock for much of the country’s numerical intake, and how these numbers are generated and disseminated has huge public implications. The COVID-19 pandemic is embedded in my mind as we saw the global ramifications. As the number of COVID-19 fatalities soared, we were steeped in a numbers game that governed our day-to-day living. As I remember, analysts and pundits challenged the number of infections and casualties, and our day-to-day lives became halted as numbers were at the forefront of the decision-making process for masking, testing, quarantine, and re-entry.

Ultimately, I can view the book How to Make the World Add Up, an unofficial addendum to Threshold Concepts. These unique ways of understanding how to approach, analyze, and calculate numbers and statistics is a fresh, impactful way of seeing things how they should be as opposed to how we want them to be. Whether we choose to admit it or not, people are silently addicted to being right! As creatures of habit, this book exposes our flaws and provides fundamental facts about righting our wrongs. In her book Being Wrong Adventures in the Margin of Error, Kathryn Schulz affirms this notion, “we must learn to actively combat our inductive biases: to deliberately seek out evidence that challenges our beliefs and to take seriously such evidence when we come across it.”

Harford is replete in referencing the social consequences of failing to look at numbers correctly. This reading has truly altered my perspective. I am armed with new weaponry for future encounters with numerical matters. A silver bullet was his encouragement to keep an open mind. “We are keen to avoid uncomfortable truths.” [3] My goal going forward? Ask the right questions and inquire about the missing elements! These are described as landmarks. Following the instructions provided will keep me and others from potential landmines. Do you remember a specific moment when you engaged in motivational reasoning?

[1] Tim Harford, How to Make the World Add Up: Ten Rules for Thinking Differently About Numbers (London: Bridge Street Press, 2020), 31.
[2] Schulz, Kathryn. Being Wrong: Adventures in the Margin of Error. London: Granta Books, 2020.

[3] Tim Harford, 264.


About the Author

Daren Jaime

18 responses to “Motivation, Consideration, and Implication”

  1. mm Shela Sullivan says:

    Hi Jamie,

    I enjoyed reading your perspective on the book, How to Make the World Add Up, and your interpretation using sports, particularly the upcoming Superbowl.
    The paragraph about Covid 19, I wanted to read more…
    Your depiction of the COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on our reliance on statistics resonated with me. How does this book relate to your NPO?

    • Daren Jaime says:

      ˙Hi Shela, thanks for asking. A couple of things immediately come to mind. First, there is a statistic concerning the city where I reside (Syracuse, NY) where we lead the nation in extreme concentrated poverty for Blacks and Hispanics. While I do not doubt the validity of the statistic, my curious question is how does this translate to apathy amongst young adults regarding church attendance.

      My second thought centers around the statistic of the median age within my city, which is listed as 37.1 years of age. In most congregational makeups of inner city churches within the scope of my NPO, the median age is 50 and above.
      So curiosity now begs the question, what are we missing? So, in short, I have some work to do researching this.

  2. Christy Liner says:

    Hi Daren, thanks for your post!

    What are some of the landmarks that you’ve come across in your work?

    In my work, I lead a team that tracks the status of Bible translation for all known languages in the world. But the existence of Scripture doesn’t tell the whole story. The missing element? Asking if the Scripture that exists is actually used. This is my landmark.

    • Daren Jaime says:

      Hi Christy! For me, some of the landmarks existing right now are the ability to create a safe space while asking tough questions and hearing feedback about what is not working within local church contexts.
      I can also relate to the multiple demographics within our ministry, offering them space and opportunity. This has proven fruitful for myself and the ministry, but not without a struggle!

  3. Nancy Blackman says:

    I love how you zeroed in on a point that Harford made that I think many might have missed—motivated reasoning. And, just like in sports, many will say the same thing about those who believe in the writings of the Bible and who teaches from those stories, right?

    When we read the stories of the Bible, “we are more likely to notice what we want to notice.” The rest is fodder, right? Thus, the battle over so many things from women in leadership to whether the LGBTQIA+ community is worthy to step into a church.

    And… you pointed out another amazing thing—thinking with our hearts rather than our heads. Harford does allude to the fact that we need to leave our emotions at the dry cleaner so we can be more objective with our thoughts and beliefs.

    Sooooo … if you were to ask the teenagers in your community why they don’t attend church, how much do you think is heart and not head?

    • Daren Jaime says:

      Nancy..Well….. Good question! Alot comes from the heart. I think we all can recognize our youth speak from their heart, however in certain areas a lack of experience has formed their head knowledge. That being said, I do believe youth and young adults are also critical thinkers but as Harford suggests we who are not within this demographic must be willing to listen and ask questions without assuming we have all the answers.

  4. Debbie Owen says:

    Daren, thank you for this post. I love your statement that “people are silently addicted to being right”! And sometimes not so silently.

    I have my own thoughts on this, but I’m wondering what yours might be: why do you think we’re addicted to being right?

    • Daren Jaime says:

      Debbie, Thanks for asking. I find there are multiple reasons for this. Being right makes us feel like we are on the moral right, and our inner conflict of proving we are good versus being bad. Secondly, being right also puffs up our ego, giving us a false narrative that we are better than someone else. Society has amplified this as I have seen people obsessively go out of the way just to make a statement, and in the end, their being right was tainted by wrong motives. Being right also is a shelter for another person’s insecurities and inadequacies, and the need to be right provides a false protective and, most times, exposes people rather than covers the flaw. Lastly, I believe we have exponentially become a competitive culture. We seek to be first, in the know and at the top of the list, be right. Just my two cents.

      • mm Kari says:

        I agree with the others, Daren! This statement about being addicted to being right definitely hits home. I appreciate your answer to Debbie’s question. It brought to mind the verse, “The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, but a wise man listens to advice.” Proverbs 12:15 (ESV).

        Concerning your question, I find myself fighting against biases from my upbringing in church. I’m becoming faster at identifying them and trying to look at the bigger picture, but it continues to be a real struggle.

  5. Diane Tuttle says:

    Daren, I didn’t think of the connection to Threshold Concepts until you mentioned it. But once I read it I thought, of course. I also like the questions you are asking yourself to avoid the potential landmarks. Thanks for sharing them. Have you ever wondered what the world would be like if everyone did that? Pie in the sky for sure but fun to have dessert once in a while.

    • Daren Jaime says:

      Diane! It seems so easy on paper but hard to put forth in life! Asking ourselves the questions instead of just letting things go should become our default.

  6. Noel Liemam says:

    Hi, Daren, your post is very informative, and I like the way that you connected it to real life. Engaging in motivational reasoning occurred when I felt familiar and associated with situation I am encountering. For example, one (not Micronesian) talks about Micronesia, I always think that I know more because I am more familiar on that subject.

    How would you utilize this book in your NPO?

    • Daren Jaime says:

      Hi Noel. There are statistics within my NPO that cause me to question their validity. My NPO is centered on the lack of young adult involvement in church and statistics show a huge difference between the median age in my city 37.1 vs. the average age of congregants which is age 50. I am also seeking to ask questions of young adults as to why there is this apathy and question where there is truth to the results of the statistic.

  7. Elysse Burns says:

    Daren, thank you for this post. I had to laugh when I read, “Whether we choose to admit it or not, people are silently addicted to being right!” So true! Thank you for emphasizing motivated reasoning. I am guilty of motivated reasoning when I try to justify reasons why I choose not to participate in something (church or prayer events, social gatherings, etc.). What are some ways you can use this information to promote calmer, more objective board or budget meetings in the future? Also, 49ers or Chiefs?

    • Daren Jaime says:

      Hey Elysse, I actually have the Chiefs, as my son is a die-hard 49ers fan and has been talking trash about my Eagles. As for the board room, I believe if we present statistics, we must learn to be objective and accept criticism without taking it personally. If we are receiving the information, I think we must ask our questions without motivated reasoning, and, as Poole talks about in the upcoming week’s writing, using a mode of questioning that will elicit a true answer versus supporting our motivated reasoning.
      In budget meetings, it also depends on what side of the table you are sitting on,

  8. Chad Warren says:

    I appreciate the was you drew out the point of our thinking with our hearts instead of our heads and followed it up with board and budget meetings. In my context as a pastor, that really resonated. It is amazing how emotional numbers can get. I can think back on hours upon hours of budget meetings where people, including myself, were thinking with their hearts. Given your reflections here, do you have any thoughts on how we can adjust our mode of thinking in that moment we?

  9. Daren Jaime says:

    Hey Chad, I just shared a couple in response to Elysse, but sometimes we fail to think of compromise in those meetings, and it is all or nothing. Sometimes a simple acknowledgment of the validity of others opinions as credible without making them look or feel wrong can also go a long way.

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