Your brain constantly makes mistakes. This is because your subconscious is a storehouse of experiences. It tries to make sense of them in its own way by organizing and drawing conclusions from them. We refer to these conclusions as prejudices or beliefs. Everyone’s brain does this. Prejudices and beliefs can be useful but they can also limit you and fool you. You may think that your decisions are consciously rational ones, but your subconscious is working behind your back without your conscious knowledge. You can, however, find out what is going on before it is too late. Here are seven mistakes your brain makes every day and you how can prevent them.
Past losses occupy your present thoughts
We all tend to regret mistakes especially when they lead to some kind of loss. We constantly grumble about things we shouldn’t have done about time or money we have wasted. The type of thinking is called a “sunk-cost fallacy”. For example you buy a sandwich at some snack stand. The sandwich isn’t really that good. You could of course throw the sandwich away and get something else but you think: “I paid for it so I’m going to get my money’s worth” You eat it. We all have an initial instinct for playing it safe instead of getting the most out of a situation. Blame evolution for this! Our ancestors when faced with a threat such as a dangerous animal tended to flee such threats or avoid them altogether. We still tend towards this strategy today it is part of our brain wiring. Faced with the choice of playing it safe or going for it we will usually prefer the former. This was usually the best strategy back in our ancestor’s day but it can often be counterproductive today. Whenever you find yourself faced with such situation think: “What do I really want?” With this in mind you will become aware of things that really matter to you and be more willing to take at least some risk or incur more cost in order to get what you really want. Spend a little extra money on a sandwich you will actually enjoy.
Bad betting strategies
We all bet on the odds of some outcome but we tend to be pretty bat at it. Take a roulette wheel. It has an equal number of red and black pockets (we will forget green for this example). Let’s assume the ball has landed on black five times in a row. Well you probably think red is due so you bet on red. Smart? Not really. You see each spin of the wheel is a completely separate occurrence. The chances of the ball landing on red are just as good as landing on black. Yet, somehow, your instinct leads you to predict red. This fallacy is why casinos make so much money. So the next time you are faced with this kind of situation take a deep breath. This will force you to pause which will give you time to think things through. In other words it will give you a chance to separate your conscious mind from your subconscious instincts.
Rationalizing bad decisions
Who likes to be wrong? Anyone? Of course not. That’s why you will tend to think that the sandwich you bought is really not so bad after all. You will rationalize the decision like: “well, the sandwich isn’t so bad, especially considering how inexpensive it is. Not a bad buy, really…” This type of rationalization is due to something called cognitive dissonance. This occurs when two conflicting ideas collide in your brain. One of them has to go so let’s say you think that you are pretty darned good at making decisions. Then you make a bad decision. Now you have a choice: Either you are not always so good at making decisions or the bad decisions wasn’t so bad after all. If you are like most people you will choose the more flattering option. You can only overcome cognitive dissonance by being aware of it. After all the less flattering interpretation has occurred to you for a reason. Consciously think about it and willing to admit the truth of the less flattering judgement. People make bad decisions including you. That is perfectly OK as long as you learn from it. Learning from mistakes is important. It helps us avoid mistakes in the future. If you rationalize your mistakes, however, you deprive yourself of a valuable experience.
You favor information that matches your beliefs
When we do something ourselves, we tend to notice others who have done the same thing. Did you decide to wear sneakers today? You will probably notice others who made the same choice. Did you buy the latest iPhone? Then you suddenly become aware of people who have one. Did you watch online movies on Movie Hustle? Then you at the next moment someone has already done this. Who we are, what we do and think, is part of our reality. We feel comfort when we notice that others are similar to us. This is especially true of our beliefs because they define us. That is why you tend to prefer associating with people who think as you do. It makes you feel good it confirms your beliefs. This phenomenon is called confirmation bias. We want to think that our beliefs are correct after all who wants to believe that they are wrong? This does unfortunately cause us to reject ideas that conflict with our beliefs. Instead of reconsidering our beliefs we become close-minded. This imposes limits on our thinking and on our creativity. You can, however, only really learn and grow if you are willing to consider that other beliefs may be equally valid as your own. This is difficult for many people. In fact, it is pretty rare for someone to change a fundamental belief, even on the face of overwhelming evidence that this belief might be incorrect. Yet the ability to reevaluate beliefs is a very valuable one. It can enable you to look at things in a completely new way. After all there must be some reasons why other people think differently.