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How to Bust Myths and Always Find out the Truths

How to Bust Myths and Always Find out the Truths

Do you cringe every time Mercury is in retrograde? Do you avoid leaving your house during the full moon because you find that people act differently during that time? There are so many unpredictable aspects of life that it is tempting to find ways to make sense of our world by making false connections.

We trick ourselves into making connections.

Most people are convinced that the full moon makes other behave strangely even though there is no scientific evidence to support that claim.[1] This belief in the connection between two unrelated things is called an illusory-correlation bias.[2]

We’re all kidding ourselves when we don’t understand the difference between correlation and causation.

Causal analysis can help you determine whether two variables have a relationship base on correlation or causation. Through causal analysis you can identify problems, determine their causes, and develop a plan to correct the situation.[3] When two variables correlate, it means that they have a linear relationship.[4]When you wore your lucky shoes and nailed that job interview, there is a linear relationship between the shoes and the interview.

Causation is the extent to which the two variables depend on one another. When the sun beats down on pavement, we know that the pavement will be warm. The sun causes the temperature of the surface to rise. In this case the sun and the heat of the pavement have both a correlative and a causative relationship. Your lucky shoes didn’t cause you to ace your interview, though.

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How can we apply causal analysis to our lives?

Wouldn’t it be nice to understand which variables really led to your success instead of giving all your power to your lucky shoes? Identifying root causes not only enables us to prevent problems, but it can help us understand the great things we are already doing. Maybe on the day of your interview, you were confident, prepared, and passionate. Give yourself some credit!

To use a practical example, causal analysis could show a restaurant manager that the full moon isn’t what led to the rush of uncooperative customers at dinnertime. During that shift, the most inexperienced employees were scheduled to work together on the busiest night of the week, which happened to coincide with the full moon. The food came out slowly, which frustrated the servers. The customers were unhappy because they had to wait, and their dinner got cold in the process.

If the restaurant manager continued to blame the moon, he or she would miss an opportunity to prevent another disastrous night. In the future, the manager might choose to schedule more experienced and faster workers during the busiest nights of the week.

Bust through your illusions with a causal layered analysis iceberg

You can imagine your problem as an iceberg.[5] Perceptions about a problem, known as the litany, are the tip of the iceberg. Your belief that your day is ruined because a black cat crossed your path is part of the litany. Just below the surface, our iceberg supports the litany through social causes. Maybe you connect black cats to the worst day that you ever had.

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Causal layered analysis doesn’t stop there, though, and our goal is to break apart the illusory-correlation bias between black cats and the quality of your day. Perhaps in your culture, black cats are bad luck. Worldview is the third layer of your iceberg, and it lends support to social beliefs and the litany.

The lowest level of the iceberg is comprised of myths and metaphors. These are old beliefs that underpin worldviews. Many people think that black cats are bad luck because of a long-standing association between cats and witchcraft and the historical belief that cats smothered children while they slept [6]

When you recognize that you have constructed a false narrative, you can work to overcome it. A black cat may have crossed your path as you received bad news, and since it was such a terrible day, your mind easily associated the cat with something negative. This negative association was reinforced by culture, worldview, and myths. The cat has a correlative relationship to the bad day, but it didn’t cause it.

How can we avoid falling into the illusory-correlation trap?

Follow these steps to get to the core of a problem and verify causal relationships:[7]

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  1. Identify the problem. What are you trying to change about your business or your life?
  2. Compile data related to the problem. Include quantitative and qualitative data. You may have access to sales numbers or historical data. In other cases, your information may be anecdotal. All of it can play a role in getting to the root of a problem.
  3. Name potential causes for the problem. Be generous and note anything that comes to mind.
  4. Determine what you can do to correct the issue. What are the actionable measures that you can take to change your situation? If you named a variable that correlates to the issue but doesn’t cause it, then changing it isn’t going to have much effect. Real causative factors can have dramatic impacts when you change them.
  5. Identify sustainable solutions. While it may be tempting to attack a problem head-on, making changes strategically may work better. If all of your employees perform poorly, you could fire them. Chances are, this is going to have negative outcomes. Could you afford to retrain them instead?
  6. Engage in praxis. Most complex problems are a perfect storm of variables. Hold yourself accountable for making sure that your solutions work. Taking time to reflect and adjust your strategy gives you flexibility and enables you adapt to new variables as they arise.

It may also be helpful to use a Fishbone or Ishikawa Diagram to understand cause and effect relationships.[8] The diagram makes it easier to visualize the first three steps of causal analysis.

    In the above example, you can see the the problem is bad coffee. The categories that affect coffee quality (procedures, people, equipment, and material) are the ribs of the fish in the diagram. The arrows coming from each category name variables that could contribute to poor outcomes. After you’ve mapped potential causes, it will be up to you and your team to complete the causal analysis by developing, acting on, and evaluating your action plan .

    What’s the easiest way to identify causal relationships?

    The quickest way to find a solution is to view your problem objectively.

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    When we muddle our vision with cultural baggage and superstition, we lose sight of variables that do have a causal relationship to the issue. If you catch yourself falling victim to illusory-correlation bias, know that you are not alone. Many of us have blamed a red herring at least once in our lives. The trick is to use clear causal analysis so that we can disrupt negative patterns and discover better solutions.

    Featured photo credit: Stocksnap via stocksnap.io

    Reference

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    Angelina Phebus

    Writer, Yoga Instructor (RYT 200)

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    Last Updated on April 19, 2021

    The Art of Taking a Break So You Will Be Productive Again

    The Art of Taking a Break So You Will Be Productive Again

    Think of yourself as a cup. Each day, you wake up full. But as you go about your day—getting tasks done and interacting with people—the amount in your cup gradually gets lower. And as such, you get less and less effective at whatever it is you’re supposed to be doing. You’re running out of steam.

    The solution is obvious: if you don’t have anything left to pour out, then you need to find a way to fill yourself up again. In work terms, that means you should take a break—an essential form of revitalizing your motivation and focus.

    Taking a break may get a bad rap in hustle culture, but it’s an essential, science-based way to ensure you have the capacity to live your life the way you want to live it.

    In the 1980s, when scientists began researching burnout, they described this inner capacity as “resources.” We all need to replenish our resources to cope with stress, work effectively, and avoid burnout.[1]

    When the goal is to get things done, it may sound counterproductive to stop what you’re doing. But if you embrace the art of taking a break, you can be more efficient and effective at work.

    Here are five ways on how you can take a break and boost your productivity.

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    1. Break for the Right Amount of Time, at the Right Time

    When I started my first job out of college, I was bent on pleasing my boss as most entry-level employees do. So, every day, I punched in at 9 AM on the dot, took a 60-minute lunch break at noon, and left no earlier than 5 PM.

    As I’ve logged more hours in my career, I’ve realized the average, eight-hour workday with an hour lunch break simply isn’t realistic—especially if your goal is to put your best foot forward at work.

    That’s why popular productivity techniques like the Pomodoro advocate for the “sprint” principle. Basically, you work for a short burst, then stop for a short, five-minute break. While the Pomodoro technique is a step forward, more recent research shows a shorter burst of working followed by a longer pause from work might actually be a more effective way to get the most out of stepping away from your desk.

    The team at DeskTime analyzed more than 5 million records of how workers used their computers on the job. They found that the most productive people worked an average of 52 minutes, then took a 17-minute break afterward.[2]

    What’s so special about those numbers? Leave it to neuroscience. According to researchers, the human brain naturally works in spurts of activity that last an hour. Then, it toggles to “low-activity mode.”[3]

    Even so, keep in mind that whatever motivates you is the most effective method. It’s more about the premise—when you know you have a “finish line” approaching, you can stay focused on the task or project at hand.

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    There are many applications and tools that can help you block distracting websites and apps (such as social media) for specific periods of the day. Similarly, you can also use some mailing apps like Mailbrew to receive all the social media content or newsletters you don’t want to miss in your inbox at a time you decide.

    So, no matter how long you work, take a break when you sense you’re losing steam or getting bored with the task. Generally, a 10-15 minute break should reinvigorate you for whatever’s coming next.

    2. Get a Change of Scenery—Ideally, Outdoors

    When it comes to increasing a person’s overall mental health, there’s no better balm than nature. Research has found that simply being outside can restore a person’s mind from mental fatigue related to work or studying, ultimately contributing to improved work performance (and even improved work satisfaction).[4]

    No lush forest around? Urban nature can be just as effective to get the most out of your break-taking. Scientists Stephen R. Kellert and Edward O. Wilson, in their book The Biophilia Hypothesis, claimed that even parks, outdoor paths, and building designs that embrace “urban nature” can lend a sense of calm and inspiration, encouraging learning and alertness for workers.

    3. Move Your Body

    A change of scenery can do wonders for your attention span and ability to focus, but it’s even more beneficial if you pair it with physical movement to pump up that adrenaline of yours. Simply put, your body wasn’t designed to be seated the entire day. In fact, scientists now believe that extended periods of sitting are just as dangerous to health as smoking.[5]

    It’s not always feasible to enjoy the benefits of a 30-minute brisk walk during your workday, especially since you’ll most likely have less energy during workdays. But the good news is, for productivity purposes, you don’t have to. Researchers found that just 10 minutes of exercise can boost your memory and attention span throughout the entire day.[6]

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    So, instead of using your break to sit and read the news or scroll your social media account, get out of your chair and move your body. Take a quick walk around the block. Do some jumping jacks in your home office. Whatever you choose, you’ll likely find yourself with a sharper focus—and more drive to get things done.

    4. Connect With Another Person

    Social connection is one of the most important factors for resilience. When we’re in a relationship with other people, it’s easier to cope with stress—and in my experience, getting social can also help to improve focus after a work break.

    One of my favorite ways to break after a 30-or-so minute sprint is to hang out with my family. And once a week, I carve out time to Skype my relatives back in Turkey. It’s amazing how a bit of levity and emotional connection can rev me up for the next work sprint.

    Now that most of us are working from home, getting some face-to-face time with a loved one isn’t as hard as it once was. So, take the time to chat with your partner. Take your kids outside to run around the backyard. If you live alone, call a friend or relative. Either way, coming up for air to chat with someone who knows and cares about you will leave you feeling invigorated and inspired.

    5. Use Your Imagination

    When you’re working with your head down, your brain has an ongoing agenda: get things done, and do it well. That can be an effective method for productivity, but it only lasts so long—especially because checking things off your to-do list isn’t the only ingredient to success at work. You also need innovation.

    That’s why I prioritize a “brain break” every day. When I feel my “cup” getting empty, I usually choose another creative activity to exercise my brain, like a Crossword puzzle, Sudoku, or an unrelated, creative project in my house.

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    And when I’m really struggling to focus, I don’t do anything at all. Instead, I let my brain roam free for a bit, following my thoughts down whatever trail they lead me. As it turns out, there’s a scientific benefit to daydreaming. It reinforces creativity and helps you feel more engaged with the world, which will only benefit you in your work.[7]

    Whether you help your kids with their distance learning homework, read an inspiring book, or just sit quietly to enjoy some fresh air, your brain will benefit from an opportunity to think and feel without an agenda. And, if you’re anything like me, you might just come up with your next great idea when you aren’t even trying.

    Final Thoughts

    Most of us have to work hard for our families and ourselves. And the current world we live in demands the highest level of productivity that we can offer. However, we also have to take a break once in a while. We are humans, after all.

    Learning the art of properly taking a break will not only give you the rest you need but also increase your productivity in the long run.

    More on the Importance of Taking a Break

    Featured photo credit: Helena Lopes via unsplash.com

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