Note: This post is written by Jeremy Sutton
What wonderful brains we have. It’s incredible how they construct for us a whole world of experience and perception.
But brains are a double-edged sword, a gift and a curse.
Because even though they are the most powerful tools we’ll ever have, they also have some built-in traps that can impede our own development.
Here are three mind tricks that impede our improvement.
1. Emotional Hijacking
The brain uses emotions to help keep us alive and working well. They can be super helpful too. If we put something poisonous in our mouths, we get whiff and an instant urge of disgust hits us. We know to spit it out right away.
And all the other emotions serve good purposes too when used at their best.
But these powerful instincts and urges can also lead us astray. One powerful case is called emotional hijacking.
This happens any time we have a strong emotional reaction to something. Our emotions hit so hard that it drowns out our rational thinking. The result is we can make a quick decision that’s based on short-term desires rather than our long-term interests.
And speaking of short-term interests…
2. Instant Gratification Bias
What sounds more appealing:
1) $100 right now
2) $200 in 2 year’s time?
Now this may seem obvious as you read it here on Life Optimizer. But what if I had that $100 right in front of you. You could simply take it, run away, spend it on anything you wanted…
Humans have an innate urge to satisfy their desires now. Think about it:
Exercise is tough…
Doughnuts are delicious…
Planning takes work…
And TV and Facebook are just one click away…
Everyday we’re tempted into doing countless things that feel good right now, but what is the real cost?
When we choose instant gratification over delayed gratification, we’re throwing away potentially 2, 3, 5, or even 10x the value of what we could get for our time and energy.
It’s like choosing $100 now instead of $200 dollars down the road, or worse.
And it’s easy to see that if our future selves could talk to our present selves, they would beg us, “Please don’t fall for the trap of instant gratification!”
3. Confirmation Bias
We love to be right. It’s fun, it’s awesome, and it makes us feel good.
And we hate to be wrong. It’s natural. Never have I met someone who could look me in the eye and say honestly, “I just love it when people point out how I’m wrong, especially in public.”
So when we go out searching for information, we tend to do so in a way that is systematically biased.
That is, we engage in Rationalization instead of Reasoning.
Rationalization is where we start with a conclusion and then look for the reasons to support it. And it goes back to emotional hijacking.
We start with a conclusion because we like the answer; it feels good.
What is the best country in the world?
What is the best car?
Apple or PC?
What’s the best sports team?
With all of these questions, we usually get a gut feeling reaction. There is one that we connect with emotionally. Then, if we had to answer these questions formally we would probably go out searching for information that proves we are right.
Example: Google Search: “Why is (this country) the best?”
Reasoning, by contrast starts with facts and data and then moves towards a conclusion. This is a more objective way to come to a legitimate answer.
So whenever you feel emotionally connected to a possible answer, try this:
Look for reasons that go against your position first. Then look for supporting reasons. Then finally come to a conclusion.
Getting Out of Our Own Way
These three tricks of the mind are part of us, but they are not our friends. In fact, they systematically lead us to make bad decisions -> decisions that we wouldn’t want to make for ourselves if we really thought about it.
People who learn to recognize and avoid these traps will take their performance, lives, and productivity to new heights.
So keep a sharp eye out there and remember…
No one can trick you better than your own brain.
Jeremy Sutton is a professional consultant, coach, and writer at PrecisionPrinciple.com. He helps people create massive value by leveraging their innate strengths and interests. He does this by utilizing time-tested tools of self-management and psychology. He’s best known for helping people achieve powerful breakthroughs both professionally and personally.