Every person creates their own social reality. The way you view the world is completely subjective because we all have cognitive biases.
The concept of cognitive biases was introduced in 1972 by two psychologists, Amos Tversky and Daniel Kahneman. A cognitive bias is a systematic thinking error that impacts judgments, and therefore, our decisions.
As of this writing, there are 106 decision-making related cognitive biases known! We all make these errors. So there’s no point in trying to become a perfect thinker. It’s impossible.
However, with practice, you can avoid some thinking mistakes that many of us make. And by avoiding these errors, we can improve our decisions, and consequently: Our lives and careers.
What follows is a list of three thinking errors. The question is: Do you make these errors? If so, I’ll also share a fix.
1. Thinking that life ‘happens’ to you
My favorite cognitive bias is the “attentional bias.” It’s scientific evidence for the idea that your life is a result of your thoughts — not events that happen to you.
The attentional bias states that our perceptions are affected by our thoughts. And naturally, our perceptions determine our actions and decisions, which make up our lives.
If you have negative thoughts, you also have a negative perception of life. That’s what it says. Our mind might be illogical, but it’s also simple at the same time.
What to do about it.
Be very mindful of what you expose yourself to: The people in your life, the conversations you have, the music you listen to, the books you read, the movies you watch.
Understand that everything influences you. There’s nothing you can do about that. However, you can control what you expose yourself to.
Does your attention go to positive things? You’ll have a positive outlook on life. Does your attention go to negative things? You’ll already know the answer to that.
2. Thinking that your mind can be trusted
Look, if you still think your mind is your friend, you’re wrong! The proof is in a well-known cognitive biases, the confirmation bias.
It explains the behavior of confirming our preconceptions. If you believe in something, you will try hard to find information, clues, and signs to back that up. In other words, you do everything to prove you’re not wrong.
Scientists also suffer from this thinking error. They are notorious for finding evidence for their preconceptions. You see? No one is perfect.
What to do about it.
I’ve found that a pragmatic and neutral perspective on life leads to better-informed decisions. Unfortunately, there’s no such thing as “the best decision.” If that were the case, we would live in a perfect world full of people who made logical and practical decisions.
What it comes down to is this: Avoid making decisions based on beliefs, obvious logic, and even science.
Every time I’m stuck in a thinking pattern, I try to break away by looking at the list of cognitive biases. It’s free and easy. Just go to the Wikipedia for “list of cognitive biases.”
It’s very appealing to think that we’ve got it all figured out because we’ve read a few books or studies. There’s just one problem: You still can’t trust your judgments, no matter how much knowledge you have. Being aware of that simple thought helps you to make better-informed decisions.
3. Thinking you’ll ‘NEVER’ do something again
- When I came back from a stressful trip, I said: “I will never travel again!”
- When my first relationship ended in drama, I said: “Screw relationships! I’m never going to start a new relationship!”
- When I quit my last job, I said: “I’m never going to work for someone again!”
- When I was sick of taking public transportation, I said: “I’m never going to take the train again!”
- When I lost half of my money during the stock market crash in 2008/2009, I said: “I’m never going to invest again!”
Of course, I traveled again, invested again, fell in love again, took the train again, and in the future, I might work for someone else again.
What to do about it.
Look, you can’t think that you’ll never do something after a bad experience. That’s something I’ve learned from personal experience. In fact, it’s something we all learn!
But the problem is that we keep saying these stupid things and also act these thinking errors. That’s why we are afraid to invest our money, start a business, fall in love with someone, etc.
You’re not doing yourself a favor with this thinking pattern. In fact, none of the above listed thinking errors are helping you.
Why do we still make these mistakes?
Well, because the solutions to these thinking errors seem like common sense. We think we’re so smart that we don’t even need to think about it!
And that’s exactly the point. We’re not logical. That’s something we must not forget. If we do, our thinking errors become life errors.
That’s why we must change our thinking errors while we can.
Darius Foroux is an author, entrepreneur, and podcaster. He writes at DariusForoux.com, where he shares ideas for living a productive life.
Want to learn more about how you can use your mind as an instrument? Check out my new book:
Originally published at dariusforoux.com