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5 Ways Decluttering Your Circle of Friends Can Save Your Energy and Peace of Mind

5 Ways Decluttering Your Circle of Friends Can Save Your Energy and Peace of Mind

Most people wrongly assume that we need more of some things in life in order to be happy, to find meaning and to get rid of stress and anxiety

It’s just the opposite. We need to choose less over more to save ourselves from unwanted worries, from living a complicated lifestyle and from having too many thoughts and too much tension in our mind.

When you’ve had enough of everything, and feel like you need more time for yourself, more freedom and peace of mind and more energy and focus to work on the things that matter to you, it’s time to start decluttering.

You’ll hear a lot of tips on how to get rid of unnecessary possessions at home, how to clear your mind and let go of regrets from the past, too many plans and random thoughts. There’s also a lot said about how to declutter your desk, computer and closet. You can also easily eliminate a lot from your calendar and daily to-do list to free some more time and stop doing unproductive activities.

But there’s one area of life that also needs decluttering, but which gets forgotten: your circle of friends.

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Let’s see why it’s smarter to have less friends in your surroundings and how this can significantly increase your level of happiness and make you more energetic and calmer:

1. You waste a lot of energy dealing with toxic people.

Toxic people are those individuals who are negative, around which you feel pressure and anxiety, who think only about themselves and require a lot of attention.

You can always argue with them but they’ll still want to be right every time. They don’t make compromises, may often upset you and make you feel inferior to them.

As a result, you feel miserable around them and it’s like they’re stealing your soul and draining your energy.

Life would be much easier if you simply stop communicating with them. If the connections were stronger you owe them a honest explanation. It’s normal that sometimes people grow apart. Even if it’s people you’ve been with your whole life, you don’t owe them your never ending connection. It’s your job to keep your happiness and peace of mind and live simply, so don’t feel bad about telling them all that to their face and removing them from your life once and for all.

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2. You’ll have more time for yourself.

In order to live a meaningful life, you should strengthen your relationship with yourself. One of the best solutions to filling the void you feel inside, to forgiving yourself, staying mindful, healing your inner self and embracing self-love, is to spend more time alone and reflect.

Having too many friends, some of which negative or playing the role of a victim, requires a lot of your time, attention and energy.

But without all that, you can have some me time daily. Imagine creating pleasant rituals to start and end the day with creative, positive and inspiring activities.

You can start meditating, working out, reading great books and getting motivated and learning new things, journaling your thoughts, visualizing yourself being more confident and successful, drinking tea and enjoying the silence, working on a creative project, or taking a walk and spending time in nature.

You’ll begin to feel more comfortable in your own skin, to get clear about your issues and about the things you truly desire in life. You’ll find out you’re worthy of love and won’t let others put you down anymore.

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You’ll be feeling fresh, energized and completely present.

Often, having many friends results in finding no time for yourself and being overwhelmed with other people’s problems. But once you declutter this area of your life, you’ll find balance and peace of mind.

3. Being constantly criticized is exhausting.

Others are judging you all the time, whether you like it or not.

And even if you’ve worked hard on trying to deal with this, it still affects your performance and way of thinking. At some point, you may end up living by someone else’s standards, seeking their approval, answering their expectations. But then you’ll be miserable because it won’t be what you want to do with your life.

Make sure you don’t end up like that, by eliminating all the people in your life who don’t support you, who don’t accept you for who you are, who aren’t there when you need them, and who even try to talk you out of your dreams.

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4. You’ll reach your goals sooner.

Some of the people in your surroundings are preventing you from moving forward. They are a distraction on your way to success.

You don’t need them in your life. Once you start avoiding them, you’ll begin feeling complete, you will find your way back to your own path, and will get closer to your goals by taking focused action every day.

5. You’ll dedicate more time to the people who matter.

Only a few of your friends are really worth it and deserve your precious time and energy. Chatting with doznes of newly met people may be exciting but long-term can drain your from energy.

Once you get rid of the connections which don’t nourish you, you’ll have the chance to be with them more often and deepen your relationship even more. But at the same time, you’ll still spend enough time on your own so that you aren’t stressed out or emotionally exhausted.

Now it’s your turn. Take a closer look at your circle of friends. Try to see people for who they really are, remember how they’ve treated you in difficult situations, analyze their reactions to different things from daily life.

If you’re honest with yourself, you’ll think of many who are actually toxic and aren’t a good fit for the lifestyle you want to create for yourself.

Don’t overthink it too much, be strong and direct and let them know you’re moving on.

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Published on May 21, 2020

How Cognitive Bias Influences Our Decision Making

How Cognitive Bias Influences Our Decision Making

Cognitive biases are dangerous judgment errors that can devastate our health and wellbeing, our relationships, careers and businesses, and other areas of our lives.

To protect yourself against these mental blind spots, you need to know what they are, where they come from, and what you can do about them. That’s what this article is about.

Cognitive Biases on the Road

For an example of cognitive bias, imagine you are driving on autopilot, as we all do much of the time.

Let’s be clear, it’s a good idea to let your automatic response be in the driver’s seat when you are doing tasks that don’t require your full focus and attention. In ordinary driving situations – without inclement weather or start-and-stop traffic – you don’t need to use up your mental resources by turning your full focus on driving.

Now imagine that, as you are driving, the car in front of you unexpectedly cuts you off!

What do you do?

Well, you have to slam on your brakes to avoid a crash. Maybe you flash your lights or honk your horn. You feel scared and angry.

Your sympathetic nervous system activates, shooting cortisol throughout your body. Your heart beats faster, your palms start to sweat, a wave of heat goes through your body. [1]

What’s your gut feeling about the other driver? Probably your first impression is that the driver is rude and obnoxious.

Now imagine a different situation. You’re driving on autopilot, minding your own business, and you suddenly realize you need to turn right at the next intersection. You quickly switch lanes and suddenly hear someone behind you honking their horn.

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You now realize that there was someone in your blind spot but you forgot to check it in the rush to switch lanes, so you cut them off pretty badly.

Do you think that you are a rude driver? The vast majority of us would not. After all, we did not deliberately cut off the other driver; we just failed to see their car.

Let’s imagine another situation: your friend hurt herself and you’re rushing her to the emergency room. You’re driving aggressively and cutting in front of other cars.

Are you a rude driver? You’d probably say you are not; you’re merely doing the right thing for this situation.

Misattributing Blame Due to Cognitive Biases

Why do we give ourselves a pass while assigning an obnoxious status to other people? Why do our guts always make ourselves the good guys and other people the bad guys?

There is clearly a disconnect between our gut reactions and reality. This pattern is not a coincidence

Our immediate gut reaction attributes the behavior of other people to their personality and not to the situation in which the behavior occurs. The scientific name for this type of cognitive bias is the fundamental attribution error.[2]

This judgment error results in the following: if we see someone behaving rudely, we immediately and intuitively feel that this person is rude. We don’t stop to consider whether an unusual situation may cause the individual to act that way.

With the example of the driver, maybe the person who cut you off did not see you. Maybe they were driving their friend to the emergency room. But that’s not what our gut reaction tells us.

On the other hand, we attribute our own behavior to the situation, and not our personality. Much of the time we believe that we have valid and fully justifiable explanations for our actions.

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Are Cognitive Biases Really So Bad?

Don’t believe that such negative snap judgments about others can be harmful?

It may not seem very important whether you think wrongly that other drivers are jerks. Sorry to disappoint you, but this mental pattern posed a grave threat to your relationships.

As an example, what would you think of a potential business colleague if you saw her yelling at someone on her smartphone?

ou would probably have a negative reaction toward her and may not be likely to do business with her. Well, what if you found out she was yelling because she had her father on the other line who just misplaced his hearing aid and she was making plans to come to his house to help him look for it?

There can be many innocent explanations for someone yelling on the phone, but we are tempted to assume the worst.

In a related example, I was coaching a CEO of a company that had staff who worked from home due to COVID-19.

He told me about a recent incident with an employee who was having a heated Skype discussion over a conflict with an HR manager. The Skype call disconnected and the HR manager told the CEO the employee hung up on her. The CEO fired the employee on the spot.

Later, he learned that the employee thought the HR manager hung up on her. The call simply disconnected. Unfortunately, it was too late to take back the termination, even though the CEO regretted his heated decision.

This unfair firing situation really demoralized the rest of the staff, resulting in a growing disconnect between the CEO and other staff. It eventually contributed to the CEO leaving the organization.

Why Do We Suffer Cognitive Biases?

Intuitively, our mind feels like a cohesive whole. We perceive ourselves as intentional and rational thinkers. Yet cognitive science research shows that in reality, the intentional part of our mind is like a little rider on top of a huge elephant of emotions and intuitions.[3]

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Roughly speaking, we have two thinking systems, which neuroscientists call System 1 and 2. But it’s easier to think of them as the “autopilot system” and “intentional system.”

The autopilot system corresponds to our emotions and intuitions. Its cognitive processes take place mainly in the amygdala and other parts of the brain that developed early in our evolution.

This system guides our daily habits, helps us make snap decisions, and reacts instantly to dangerous life-and-death situations, like saber-toothed tigers through the freeze, fight, or flight stress response.

While helping our survival in the past, the fight-or-flight response is not a great fit for modern life. We have many small stresses that are not life-threatening, but the autopilot system treats them as tigers, producing an unnecessarily stressful everyday life experience that undermines our mental and physical wellbeing.

Moreover, while the snap judgments resulting from intuitions and emotions usually feel “true” because they are fast and powerful, they sometimes lead us wrongly in systemic and predictable ways.

The intentional system reflects our rational thinking and centers around the prefrontal cortex – the part of the brain that evolved more recently.

This thinking system helps us handle more complex mental activities, such as managing individual and group relationships, logical reasoning, probabilistic thinking, and learning new information and patterns of thinking and behavior. It can also lead to occasional decision-making errors, but it’s right much more often than the autopilot system.[4]

Train Your Intentional System to Address Cognitive Biases

While the automatic system requires no conscious effort to function, the intentional system takes deliberate effort to turn on and is mentally tiring.

Fortunately, with enough motivation and appropriate training, the intentional system can turn on in situations where we are prone to making systematic decision-making errors. Scholars use the term “cognitive biases” to refer to these errors.

The autopilot system is like an elephant. It’s by far the more powerful and predominant of the two systems. Our emotions can often overwhelm our rational thinking.

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Moreover, our intuitions and habits determine the large majority of our life, which we spend in autopilot mode. And that’s not a bad thing at all – it would be mentally exhausting to think intentionally about our every action and decision.

The intentional system is like the elephant rider. It can guide the elephant deliberately to go in a direction that matches our actual goals.

Certainly, the elephant part of the brain is huge and unwieldy, slow to turn and change, and stampedes at threats. But we can train the elephant. Your rider can be an elephant whisperer.

Over time, you can use the intentional system to change your automatic thinking, feeling, and behavior patterns, and become much better at making the best decisions.

That’s why you should never go with your gut, and instead check with your head on any decision you don’t want to get wrong.[5]

Conclusion

Let’s go back to the fundamental attribution error. Now that we know what cognitive biases are and where they come from, how can we explain this cognitive bias?

From an evolutionary perspective, in the ancestral savanna, it was valuable for the survival of our ancestors to make quick decisions and to assume the worst, regardless of the accuracy of this assumption. Those who failed to do so did not survive to pass on their genes.

In the modern world where our survival is not immediately threatened by others and where we have long-term interactions with strangers, such judgments are dangerous for our long-term goals. We have to address this and other mental blindspots to make good decisions, whether about our relationships or other areas in our life.[6]

So, take a few minutes right now to think about where in recent weeks you might have misattributed blame. Given the stress associated with the pandemic, it’s easy to do.

Take the time to reach out to those you wrongly blamed and apologize. Doing so can be the start of your life-long journey to recognize and defeat cognitive biases and make the best decisions.

More on Cognitive Bias

Featured photo credit: Evan Dennis via unsplash.com

Reference

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