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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 July 10, 2020

    The Power of Ritual: Conquer Procrastination, Time Wasters and Laziness

    The Power of Ritual: Conquer Procrastination, Time Wasters and Laziness

    Life is wasted in the in-between times. The time between when your alarm first rings and when you finally decide to get out of bed. The time between when you sit at your desk and when productive work begins. The time between making a decision and doing something about it.

    Slowly, your day is whittled away from all the unused in-between moments. Eventually, time wasters, laziness, and procrastination get the better of you.

    The solution to reclaim these lost middle moments is by creating rituals. Every culture on earth uses rituals to transfer information and encode behaviors that are deemed important. Personal rituals can help you build a better pattern for handling everything from how you wake up to how you work.

    Unfortunately, when most people see rituals, they see pointless superstitions. Indeed, many rituals are based on a primitive understanding of the world. But by building personal rituals, you get to encode the behaviors you feel are important and cut out the wasted middle moments.

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    Program Your Own Algorithms

    Another way of viewing rituals is by seeing them as computer algorithms. An algorithm is a set of instructions that is repeated to get a result.

    Some algorithms are highly efficient, sorting or searching millions of pieces of data in a few seconds. Other algorithms are bulky and awkward, taking hours to do the same task.

    By forming rituals, you are building algorithms for your behavior. Take the delayed and painful pattern of waking up, debating whether to sleep in for another two minutes, hitting the snooze button, repeat until almost late for work. This could be reprogrammed to get out of bed immediately, without debating your decision.

    How to Form a Ritual

    I’ve set up personal rituals for myself for handling e-mail, waking up each morning, writing articles, and reading books. Far from making me inflexible, these rituals give me a useful default pattern that works best 99% of the time. Whenever my current ritual won’t work, I’m always free to stop using it.

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    Forming a ritual isn’t too difficult, and the same principles for changing habits apply:

    1. Write out your sequence of behavior. I suggest starting with a simple ritual of only 3-4 steps maximum. Wait until you’ve established a ritual before you try to add new steps.
    2. Commit to following your ritual for thirty days. This step will take the idea and condition it into your nervous system as a habit.
    3. Define a clear trigger. When does your ritual start? A ritual to wake up is easy—the sound of your alarm clock will work. As for what triggers you to go to the gym, read a book or answer e-mail—you’ll have to decide.
    4. Tweak the Pattern. Your algorithm probably won’t be perfectly efficient the first time. Making a few tweaks after the first 30-day trial can make your ritual more useful.

    Ways to Use a Ritual

    Based on the above ideas, here are some ways you could implement your own rituals:

    1. Waking Up

    Set up a morning ritual for when you wake up and the next few things you do immediately afterward. To combat the grogginess after immediately waking up, my solution is to do a few pushups right after getting out of bed. After that, I sneak in ninety minutes of reading before getting ready for morning classes.

    2. Web Usage

    How often do you answer e-mail, look at Google Reader, or check Facebook each day? I found by taking all my daily internet needs and compressing them into one, highly-efficient ritual, I was able to cut off 75% of my web time without losing any communication.

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    3. Reading

    How much time do you get to read books? If your library isn’t as large as you’d like, you might want to consider the rituals you use for reading. Programming a few steps to trigger yourself to read instead of watching television or during a break in your day can chew through dozens of books each year.

    4. Friendliness

    Rituals can also help with communication. Set up a ritual of starting a conversation when you have opportunities to meet people.

    5. Working

    One of the hardest barriers when overcoming procrastination is building up a concentrated flow. Building those steps into a ritual can allow you to quickly start working or continue working after an interruption.

    6. Going to the gym

    If exercising is a struggle, encoding a ritual can remove a lot of the difficulty. Set up a quick ritual for going to exercise right after work or when you wake up.

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    7. Exercise

    Even within your workouts, you can have rituals. Spacing the time between runs or reps with a certain number of breaths can remove the guesswork. Forming a ritual of doing certain exercises in a particular order can save time.

    8. Sleeping

    Form a calming ritual in the last 30-60 minutes of your day before you go to bed. This will help slow yourself down and make falling asleep much easier. Especially if you plan to get up full of energy in the morning, it will help if you remove insomnia.

    8. Weekly Reviews

    The weekly review is a big part of the GTD system. By making a simple ritual checklist for my weekly review, I can get the most out of this exercise in less time. Originally, I did holistic reviews where I wrote my thoughts on the week and progress as a whole. Now, I narrow my focus toward specific plans, ideas, and measurements.

    Final Thoughts

    We all want to be productive. But time wasters, procrastination, and laziness sometimes get the better of us. If you’re facing such difficulties, don’t be afraid to make use of these rituals to help you conquer them.

    More Tips to Conquer Time Wasters and Procrastination

     

    Featured photo credit: RODOLFO BARRETO via unsplash.com

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