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5 Cognitive Biases That Have Kept You From Achieving Full Potential

5 Cognitive Biases That Have Kept You From Achieving Full Potential

We like to think of ourselves as smart, rational, logical people who make good decisions. But in reality, we sometimes have poor judgment and make really bad choices. Every day, we have cognitive biases that influence our thinking. Why should we care? These biases have a major influence on the decision making process.

We have hundreds of cognitive biases, and some keep us from achieving our full potential. Psychologists have been researching them for decades. Here are some of the biases that could be holding you back:

1. The Current Moment Bias

This bias feeds the immediate gratification effect. We would much rather have pleasure now and save pain for later. If you have ever indulged in unhealthy food choices while trying hard to lose weight, or tend to overspend money instead of saving for the future, you have been victim of the current moment bias.

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What to do:

  • When you want to make a big purchase, wait for a predetermined amount of time before you purchase the item. This will help you avoid splurging on things you don’t love. For example, plan to wait one week for purchases that amount to $100 and one month for purchases $1000 or more.
  • Plan healthy meals ahead of time so you are less likely to chow down on junk food when you walk in the door from work. Decide in advance what you’ll order at restaurants to avoid making unhealthy spur-of-the-moment dinner choices.

2. The Confirmation Bias

The confirmation bias, according to Science Daily, is a tendency to search for or interpret information in a way that confirms your preconceptions. This can hold you back from achieving full potential, because being closed-minded can limit your ability to learn, grow, and improve yourself and your life.

What to do:

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  • Be open to other points of view and new possibilities. Be aware that you have certain beliefs, and be willing to evaluate your belief systems objectively.

3. The Framing Effect

Framing information, either positively or negatively, can have a huge impact on how it is received.

Here’s an example of the framing effect in an article by Sam McRoberts:

  • Doctor A: “With proper treatment, you have an 80 percent chance of a full recovery.”
  • Doctor B: “There’s a 20 percent chance that you’ll die after being treated for this illness.”

Although Doctors A and B are providing the same information, they are presenting it differently, which can greatly affect patients’ perceptions. An 80 percent change of recovery sounds much better than a 20 percent chance of dying.

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How does this hold you back? When information is presented to you either positively or negatively, it can cause you to make poor decisions.

What to do:

  • Be aware of how information is presented to you in order to persuade you to take a certain action.
  • Look at both sides of statistics. For example, if you are told “this meat is 90% lean,” be aware that it is the same as hearing “this beef is 10% fat.”
  • Consider how you present information to others.

4. The Bandwagon Effect

The bandwagon effect is when we follow the actions or beliefs of a large group of people. According to Dr. Mohammed Ali N M, we do this either because we desire to conform, or because we receive our information from others. The bandwagon effect can hold us back at times when we follow trends and fads without doing our research.

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What to do:

  • Put careful thought into your decisions, and don’t jump into something just because “everyone else” tells you to.

5. The Projection Bias

The projection bias describes our assumption that other people think like we do. We tend to overestimate how common our thoughts and beliefs are. We assume that our way of thinking about things is common among the majority. This can hold us back significantly in life because it causes us to believe we know exactly what people want. We tend to assume we know the priorities, motivations, attitudes, and beliefs of others, when in reality we don’t. This can affect us negatively in relationships in our personal lives and in our careers.

What to do:

  • Make a point of asking people questions instead of assuming they think like you do.

Simply being aware of these biases can help you live a better life. Each day, we make thousands of decisions, and realizing the biases that affect your judgment can help you make better informed, well-thought decisions.

Featured photo credit: The Thinker / Dan McKay via flickr.com

More by this author

Dr. Kerry Petsinger

Entrepreneur, Mindset & Performance Coach, & Doctor of Physical Therapy

Feeling Stuck in Life? How to Never Get Stuck Again How to Find the Purpose of Life and Start Living a Fulfilling Life Don’t like your job? Here are some solutions. How People Make Decisions That Are Bad For Them How to Have a Successful Career and a Fulfilling Personal Life

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Last Updated on December 3, 2019

10 Life Lessons You’d Better Learn Early on in Life

10 Life Lessons You’d Better Learn Early on in Life

There are so many lessons I wish I had learned while I was young enough to appreciate and apply them. The thing with wisdom, and often with life lessons in general, is that they’re learned in retrospect, long after we needed them. The good news is that other people can benefit from our experiences and the lessons we’ve learned.

Here’re 10 important life lessons you should learn early on:

1. Money Will Never Solve Your Real Problems

Money is a tool; a commodity that buys you necessities and some nice “wants,” but it is not the panacea to your problems.

There are a great many people who are living on very little, yet have wonderfully full and happy lives… and there are sadly a great many people are living on quite a lot, yet have terribly miserable lives.

Money can buy a nice home, a great car, fabulous shoes, even a bit of security and some creature comforts, but it cannot fix a broken relationship, or cure loneliness, and the “happiness” it brings is only fleeting and not the kind that really and truly matters. Happiness is not for sale. If you’re expecting the “stuff” you can buy to “make it better,” you will never be happy.

2. Pace Yourself

Often when we’re young, just beginning our adult journey we feel as though we have to do everything at once. We need to decide everything, plan out our lives, experience everything, get to the top, find true love, figure out our life’s purpose, and do it all at the same time.

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Slow down—don’t rush into things. Let your life unfold. Wait a bit to see where it takes you, and take time to weigh your options. Enjoy every bite of food, take time to look around you, let the other person finish their side of the conversation. Allow yourself time to think, to mull a bit.

Taking action is critical. Working towards your goals and making plans for the future is commendable and often very useful, but rushing full-speed ahead towards anything is a one-way ticket to burnout and a good way to miss your life as it passes you by.

3. You Can’t Please Everyone

“I don’t know the secret to success, but the secret to failure is trying to please everyone” – Bill Cosby.

You don’t need everyone to agree with you or even like you. It’s human nature to want to belong, to be liked, respected and valued, but not at the expense of your integrity and happiness. Other people cannot give you the validation you seek. That has to come from inside.

Speak up, stick to your guns, assert yourself when you need to, demand respect, stay true to your values.

4. Your Health Is Your Most Valuable Asset

Health is an invaluable treasure—always appreciate, nurture, and protect it. Good health is often wasted on the young before they have a chance to appreciate it for what it’s worth.

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We tend to take our good health for granted, because it’s just there. We don’t have to worry about it, so we don’t really pay attention to it… until we have to.

Heart disease, bone density, stroke, many cancers—the list of many largely preventable diseases is long, so take care of your health now, or you’ll regret it later on.

5. You Don’t Always Get What You Want

“Life is what happens while you’re busy making other plans.” – John Lennon

No matter how carefully you plan and how hard you work, sometimes things just don’t work out the way you want them to… and that’s okay.

We have all of these expectations; predetermined visions of what our “ideal” life will look like, but all too often, that’s not the reality of the life we end up with. Sometimes our dreams fail and sometimes we just change our minds mid-course. Sometimes we have to flop to find the right course and sometimes we just have to try a few things before we find the right direction.

6. It’s Not All About You

You are not the epicenter of the universe. It’s very difficult to view the world from a perspective outside of your own, since we are always so focused on what’s happening in our own lives. What do I have to do today? What will this mean for me, for my career, for my life? What do I want?

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It’s normal to be intensely aware of everything that’s going on in your own life, but you need to pay as much attention to what’s happening around you, and how things affect other people in the world as you do to your own life. It helps to keep things in perspective.

7. There’s No Shame in Not Knowing

No one has it all figured out. Nobody has all the answers. There’s no shame in saying “I don’t know.” Pretending to be perfect doesn’t make you perfect. It just makes you neurotic to keep up the pretense of manufactured perfection.

We have this idea that there is some kind of stigma or shame in admitting our limitations or uncertainly, but we can’t possibly know everything. We all make mistakes and mess up occasionally. We learn as we go, that’s life.

Besides—nobody likes a know-it-all. A little vulnerability makes you human and oh so much more relatable.

8. Love Is More Than a Feeling; It’s a Choice

That burst of initial exhilaration, pulse quickening love and passion does not last long. But that doesn’t mean long-lasting love is not possible.

Love is not just a feeling; it’s a choice that you make every day. We have to choose to let annoyances pass, to forgive, to be kind, to respect, to support, to be faithful.

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Relationships take work. Sometimes it’s easy and sometimes it’s incredibly hard. It is up to us to choose how we want to act, think and speak in a relationship.

9. Perspective Is a Beautiful Thing

Typically, when we’re worried or upset, it’s because we’ve lost perspective. Everything that is happening in our lives seems so big, so important, so do or die, but in the grand picture, this single hiccup often means next to nothing.

The fight we’re having, the job we didn’t get, the real or imagined slight, the unexpected need to shift course, the thing we wanted, but didn’t get. Most of it won’t matter 20, 30, 40 years from now. It’s hard to see long term when all you know is short term, but unless it’s life-threatening, let it go, and move on.

10. Don’t Take Anything for Granted

We often don’t appreciate what we have until it’s gone: that includes your health, your family and friends, your job, the money you have or think you will have tomorrow.

When you’re young, it seems that your parents will always be there, but they won’t. You think you have plenty of time to get back in touch with your old friends or spend time with new ones, but you don’t. You have the money to spend, or you think you’ll have it next month, but you might not.

Nothing in your life is not guaranteed to be there tomorrow, including those you love.

This is a hard life lesson to learn, but it may be the most important of all: Life can change in an instant. Make sure you appreciate what you have, while you still have it.

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Featured photo credit: Ben Eaton via unsplash.com

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