HOW TO NOT BE THE BITCH OF YOUR OWN BRAIN!
Have you ever wondered why people respond to celebrities differently to regular everyday people? Or why ‘limited-time only’ products sell much faster than others? Or even why a car salesman offers you a free coffee, even if you’re just looking around? It can be a whirlwind of emotion, an absolute clusterfuck and it’s all thanks to cognitive biases.
A cognitive bias is a systematic error in our thinking that affects the decisions and judgments that people make. Often these biases are related to memory with a range of reasons on why you remember an event with partiality. This can lead to biased thinking and affect decision making.
Studies show there are 25 main cognitive biases we succumb to, a shopping list of human misjudgements that impact our daily life. If you’ve never heard of cognitive biases, it’s your lucky day! Acknowledging any of them will not only strengthen your mental capacity and relationships, but you’ll leap far ahead of everyone playing this game we call life.
THE TOP 8 COGNITIVE BIASES I’VE SUCCUMBED TO
Below I’ve listed the top eight cognitive biases that have worked against me and how these tendencies affect the everyday person, as well as pointers on changing it to your advantage:
1. Reward and Punishment Superresponse Tendency
Bad behaviour is intensely habit-forming when it’s rewarded. People (and I’m no stranger to these) change their behaviour and cognition for sex, friendship, companionship, advancement in status and of course, money. This one relates to Granny’s rule, “Eat your carrots or no dessert”. You have to put in the hard work before you get the reward.
2. Dislike/Hating Tendency
Your moral standards are challenged when you ignore virtues in the object of dislike. Unlike the Like/Loving Tendency, Dislike/Hating Tendencies result into disliking people, products, and actions merely associated with object of dislike. Facts get distorted to amplify hatred. For example, hating Justin Bieber because he’s uncool and therefore disliking everyone associated with him demonstrates this tendency. Even though the Biebs has done nothing wrong to you, you simply are not a fan of his music, yet you get riled seeing him eat a type of sandwich in an Instagram picture, so much so that you create cognitive dissonance that you hate that sandwich too. Having empathy and looking at the situation from someone else’s shoes helps you realise they are human beings too. Hey, they may not be perfect but don’t be that guy who has a problem with everyone and everything.
3. Inconsistency-Avoidance Tendency
The brain conserves programming space by being reluctant to change. As Warren Buffett says, “Chains of habit are too light to be felt until they’re too heavy to be broken.” The rare life that is wisely lived has in it many good habits maintained and many bad habits avoided or cured. It is much easier to prevent a habit than to change it. This is where you should always be experimenting with what works well for you in the long run and doubling-down on those habits. Look to your mentors and idols for inspiration.
4. Curiosity Tendency
Culture greatly increases the effectiveness of curiosity in advancing knowledge; the inquisitive are afforded fun and wisdom long after formal education has ended. The moral of this one is to always remain curious. Know that asking questions leads into the ‘unknown-unknowns’ as shown below because you’re provoking thought into that untapped area of the brain, leading to more opportunities.
5. Stress-Influence Tendency
Light stress can slightly improve performance, whereas heavy stress causes dysfunction. Most people know that an ‘acute stress depression’ makes thinking dysfunctional, making it now a Stress-Misinfluence Tendency because it can cause extreme pessimism, often lengthy, and usually accompanied by activity-stopping fatigue.
6. Availability-Misweighing Tendency
Everyone’s imperfect, limited-capacity brain easily drifts into working with anything that’s easily available to it. And so the mind overweighs what is easily available, i.e. majoring in the the wrong things and minoring in the right ones. An idea or a fact is not worth more merely because it’s easily available to you. You know when there’s junk food at eye level in the shelves of the supermarket as opposed to the top shelf? That is because it’s easier to grab those items. The same applies in many facets of life, where we pick the less-effort option.
7. Use-It-or-Lose-It Tendency
We all know that skills you don’t practice lose and reduce their values. Think of a musical instrument or languages you learnt at school and never repeated again. This is when you double-down on the skills that are useful to you and push close to your goals in health, wealth, relationships, and happiness/gratitude. Constantly practicing these skills and maintaining standards is akin to a weight training cycle at the gym; everyone knows what happens when you regularly skip leg day.
8. Drug-Misinfluence Tendency
It’s human to make mistakes but steering clear of the really big temptations like heroin or meth is vital. We’ve all been exposed to drug and alcohol abuse, and in some instances, witnessed the moral breakdown and mass denial that the abuse causes. At the time, ‘drinking our sorrows’ or getting absolutely hammered sounds like a great idea but experience shows it only makes things worse, and shows us to be idiots at the same time.
These eight cognitive biases were the ones that stood out for me (and maybe for you too) and to experience them firsthand has opened up a door to deeper understanding on why we succumb to certain behaviours.
I was rewarding myself in the wrong areas with the wrong substances. I was resentful to others because their values didn't align with mine, adopting a egocentric mindset. I stopped caring for myself, others, and became complacent and the stress transitioned from bearable to dysfunctional. And to top it all off, I would handle the situation with chemical dependency because it was my sole coping mechanism.
Once I realised that I had to change myself intrinsically and got a good grasp of what these cognitive biases were, I've managed to turn it around and become an entirely different person.
Here's why these eight cognitive biases have made me a better person with greater life choices:
I'm much empathetic toward others because I've hit rock bottom and understand we're all on our own journey. I know that someone else's values may be different to mine and I shouldn't disparage them for who they are.
Once I have momentum in the right areas, I know to keep honing those skills or else they'll be gone as a habit takes discipline.
That I don't have to drink my sorrows away if I'm having a bad day.
To stop and think and make sure I'm focusing on the bigger picture by working on the major, more than the minor things in life.
Nothing will not come easy. It takes hard work to get anywhere but if you keep working on the craft the dividends will pay off.
Would love to hear your thoughts and be sure to share this one for those who are going through the same journey and are feeling alone.
Also, here's a recent video of a mind hack I used to get me through an upcoming challenge and just everyday life. Don't forget to like and subscribe :)
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