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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

    More by this author

    Angelina Phebus

    Writer, Yoga Instructor (RYT 200)

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    Last Updated on August 16, 2018

    16 Productivity Secrets of Highly Successful People Revealed

    16 Productivity Secrets of Highly Successful People Revealed

    The same old motivational secrets don’t really motivate you after you’ve read them for the tenth time, do they?

    How about a unique spin on things?

    These 16 productivity secrets of successful people will make you reevaluate your approach to your home, work, and creative lives. Learn from these highly successful people, turn these little things they do into your daily habits and you’ll get closer to success.

    1. Empty your mind.

    It sounds counterproductive, doesn’t it?

    Emptying your mind when you have so much to remember seems like you’re just begging to forget something. Instead, this gives you a clean slate so you’re not still thinking about last week’s tasks.

    Clear your mind and then start thinking only about what you need to do immediately, and then today. Tasks that need to be accomplished later in the week can wait.

    Here’s a guide to help you empty your mind and think sharper:

    How to Declutter Your Mind to Sharpen Your Brain and Fall Asleep Faster

    2. Keep certain days clear.

    Some companies are scheduling “No Meeting Wednesdays,” which means, funnily enough, that no one can hold a meeting on a Wednesday. This gives workers a full day to work on their own tasks, without getting sidetracked by other duties or pointless meetings.

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    This can work in your personal life too, for example if you need to restrict Facebook access or limit phone calls.

    3. Prioritize your work.

    Don’t think every task is created equal! Some tasks aren’t as important as others, or might take less time.

    Try to sort your tasks every day and see what can be done quickly and efficiently. Get these out of the way so you have more free time and brain power to focus on what is more important.

    Lifehack’s CEO has a unique way to prioritize works, take a look at it here:

    How to Prioritize Right in 10 Minutes and Work 10X Faster

    4. Chop up your time.

    Many successful business leaders chop their time up into fifteen-minute intervals. This means they work on tasks for a quarter of an hour at a time, or schedule meetings for only fifteen minutes. It makes each hour seem four times as long, which leads to more productivity!

    5. Have a thinking position.

    Truman Capote claimed he couldn’t think unless he was laying down. Proust did this as well, while Stravinsky would stand on his head!

    What works for others may not work for you. Try to find a spot and position that is perfect for you to brainstorm or come up with ideas.

    6. Pick three to five things you must do that day.

    To Do lists can get overwhelming very quickly. Instead of making a never-ending list of everything you can think of that needs to be done, make daily lists that include just three to five things.

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    Make sure they’re things that need to be done that day, so you don’t keep putting them off.

    7. Don’t try to do too much.

    OK, so I just told you to work every day, and now I’m telling you to not do too much? It might sound like conflicting advice, but not doing too much means not biting off more than you can chew. Don’t say yes to every work project or social engagement and find yourself in way over your head.

    8. Have a daily action plan.

    Don’t limit yourself to a to-do list! Take ten minutes every morning to map out a daily action plan. It’s a place to not only write what needs to be done that day, but also to prioritize what will bring the biggest reward, what will take the longest, and what goals will be accomplished.

    Leave room for a “brain dump,” where you can scribble down anything else that’s on your mind.

    9. Do your most dreaded project first.

    Getting your most dreaded task over with first means you’ll have the rest of the day free for anything and everything else. This also means that you won’t be constantly putting off the worst of your projects, making it even harder to start on it later.

    10. Follow the “Two-Minute Rule.”

    The “Two-Minute Rule” was made famous by David Allen. It’s simple – if a new task comes in and it can be done in two minutes or less, do it right then. Putting it off just adds to your to-do list and will make the task seem more monumental later.

    11. Have a place devoted to work.

    If you work in an office, it’s no problem to say that your cubicle desk is where you work every day.

    But if you work from home, make sure you have a certain area specifically for work. You don’t want files spread out all over the dinner table, and you don’t want to feel like you’re not working just because you’re relaxing on the couch.

    Agatha Christie never wrote at her desk, she wrote wherever she could sit down. Ernest Hemingway wrote standing up. Thomas Wolfe, at 6’6″ tall, used the top of his refrigerator as a desk. Richard Wright wrote on a park bench, rain or shine.

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    Have a space where, when you go there, you know you’re going to work. Maybe it’s a cafe downstairs, the library, or a meeting room. Whenever and wherever works for you, do your works there.

    12. Find your golden hour.

    You don’t have to stick to a “typical” 9–5 schedule!

    Novelist Anne Rice slept during the day and wrote at night to avoid distractions. Writer Jerzy Kosinski slept eight hours a day, but never all at once. He’d wake in the morning, work, sleep four hours in the afternoon, then work more that evening.

    Your golden hour is the time when you’re at your peak. You’re alert, ready to be productive, and intent on crossing things off your to-do list.

    Once you find your best time, protect it with all your might. Make sure you’re always free to do your best uninterrupted work at this time.

    13. Pretend you’re on an airplane.

    It might not be possible to lock everyone out of your office to get some peace and quiet, but you can eliminate some distractions.

    By pretending you’re on an airplane, you can act like your internet access is limited, you’re not able to get something from your bookcase, and you can’t make countless phone calls.

    Eliminating these distractions will help you focus on your most important tasks and get them done without interruption.

    14. Never stop.

    Writers Anthony Trollope and Henry James started writing their next books as soon as they finished their current work in progress.

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    Stephen King writes every day of the year, and holds himself accountable for 2,000 words a day! Mark Twain wrote every day, and then read his day’s work aloud to his family to get their feedback.

    There’s something to be said about working nonstop, and putting out continuous work instead of taking a break. It’s just a momentum that will push you go further./

    15. Be in tune with your body.

    Your mind and body will get tired of a task after ninety minutes to two hours focused on it. Keep this in mind as you assign projects to yourself throughout the day, and take breaks to ensure that you won’t get burned out.

    16. Try different methods.

    Vladimir Nabokov wrote the first drafts of his novels on index cards. This made it easy to rearrange sentences, paragraphs, and chapters by shuffling the cards around.

    It does sound easier, and more fun, than copying and pasting in Word! Once Nabokov liked the arrangement, his wife typed them into a single manuscript.

    Same for you, don’t give up and think that it’s impossible for you to be productive when one method fails. Try different methods until you find what works perfectly for you.

    Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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