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How People Make Decisions That Are Bad For Them

How People Make Decisions That Are Bad For Them

He looked shocked.

I was having a conversation recently with a guy who was telling me about his nephew, a high school senior. “He should be an engineer,” the guy told me. “Engineers make great money. The job market for engineers is good. My nephew should definitely become an engineer. Don’t ya think?”

“No,” I said.

(That’s when he stared at me, stunned).

“What?” he replied.

“No,” I repeated. “I don’t know your nephew. What are his strengths?”

“His strengths?”

“Yes, his strengths. What are his strengths, his gifts, his passions? What is he interested in?”

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“Passion?” The guy scoffed. “Nobody chooses a job based on PASSION!”

I calmly replied, “It’s important for him to discover who he is…what his strengths, passions, and interests are…” and he looked at me like I was speaking gibberish.

I haven’t seen the guy again, and am not sure which career path his nephew will choose. But I know one thing for sure: if the nephew doesn’t understand himself, and if engineering doesn’t align with his strengths, passions, and interests, it might not be a great decision to become one.

We’re all guilty of making bad decisions. These decisions can greatly affect the course of our life. Whether we get involved in relationships that aren’t good for us, choose a career that doesn’t light us up, neglect our self-care repeatedly… we make bad decisions at times.

Why So Many People Make Bad Decisions

Making bad decisions can drastically change your life, leaving you unfulfilled and dissatisfied. When people make recurring poor decisions, they may not reach their potential.

People make bad decisions for many reasons. Their mindsets, lack of self-expertise, and following societal norms are three of the reasons they make poor decisions.

Your Mindset Determines the Quality of Your Decisions

Mindset, according to Merriam-Webster, is a mental attitude or inclination. It is important to recognize that your mental attitudes and inclinations are present and can greatly affect your ability to make decent decisions. Living your best life starts with your mindset. If you think small, make decisions based on limiting beliefs, and consistently avoid taking meaningful action due to fear, you will never reach your full potential.

Jim Taylor, PhD, explains cognitive biases as:[1]

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“the tendency to make decisions and take action based on imited acquisition and/or processing of information or on self-interest, overconfidence, or attachment to past experience.”

He describes many cognitive biases. One bias, the myopia bias, he explains, is when you

“see and interpret the world through the narrow lens of your own experiences, baggage, beliefs, and assumptions.”

The homecoming queen/king bias, Dr. Taylor writes, is when you “act in ways that will increase our acceptance, liking, and popularity.”

When you make decisions based on your cognitive biases, your choices aren’t always wise. It’s important to realize your mental inclinations are present.

Understand Yourself, but Don’t Let Your Feelings Lead You Astray

If we aren’t self-experts, it’s hard to make good decisions. Lions are amazing, strong, powerful, majestic animals. They know where they belong in the food chain, and they know where to live. They know how to hunt and how to act. However, what if a lion didn’t understand this, and attempted to live in the ocean? Surely it would NOT thrive in the ocean. The same goes for us. If we don’t understand who we are at the core, it’s hard to make the best choices that enable us to fully thrive.

When you understand yourself, you are better equipped to make good decisions. This does not, however, mean that you should always make decisions based on “how you feel.” In fact, making decisions based on your feelings can sometimes significantly restrict your growth.

For example, recently I was asked to speak to a group of business professionals. While I’m an extrovert and love being around people, and am very comfortable working with my coaching clients from around the world, standing in front of a crowd as a speaker is currently out of my comfort zone. My immediate response was discomfort, but I said “yes” to the invitation. Why? Because speaking is one of my goals, and I know as I move toward that goal I will be uncomfortable at first.

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Stepping out of your comfort zone is necessary in order to experience growth. As Brian Tracy says,

“Move out of your comfort zone. You can only grow if you are willing to feel awkward and uncomfortable when you try something new.”

Following Societal Norms Can Lead to Bad Decisions

Societal norms affect people’s choices every day. The people you spend time with and society in general often influences the jobs you choose, the hours you work, the level of success you reach, your habits, and everything from your worldview to your view of what a “good” relationship with your significant other is.

Blindly following the crowd can cause you to live an unfulfilled life. Just because everyone you know works 9-5 in an office doesn’t mean that’s the best fit for you. Just because everyone you know has their kids in a bunch of activities doesn’t mean that’s the best plan for your family.

How to Make Great Decisions That You Won’t Regret

Three keys to consistently making great decisions are being aware of our mindsets, understanding ourselves, and making decisions intentionally instead of passively following the crowd.

Be Aware of Your Mindset

It is important to understand that your mindsets can lead you to make poor decisions. Success starts between your ears, with your mindsets. People often avoid making positive changes in their lives and doing big things because they believe achieving their biggest dreams is not possible for them. They settle for less than their full potential. Many people have an internal dialogue that is less than friendly toward themselves.

Start paying attention to your thoughts. When you think about achieving a big goal you have, what thoughts do you have? Are you encouraging toward yourself? If you discover that your self-talk is discouraging, work on modifying your thoughts. For example, if you think, “I can’t start a business; I don’t know how,” modify that sentence to “I don’t know how to start a business right now, but I can learn.” If you think, “I can’t lose weight; I failed last time I tried,” modify it to “I didn’t achieve my goal last time, but this time I’ll do x,y, and z to get great results.”

One way to minimize the risk of making poor decisions due to your mindset is by collaborating with an expert on your decision, or learning from people who have already done what you aspire to do. For example, when making career decisions, you can hire career counselors or executive coaches. If you want to retire when young and travel the world, learn from people who have done exactly that. Learning from experts and mentors who have achieved what you aspire to do can help you stay inspired and encouraged.

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Become Self-Experts

Becoming self-experts is an important key to making good decisions. When you have a strong understanding of your strengths, your priorities, and the impact you want to make on the world, you can make purpose-driven decisions and live more fulfilling lives.

I highly recommend the book, Strengths Finder 2.0 by Tom Rath. The book helps people discover 5 of their strengths. Having a strong understanding of your strengths can help you choose a career path that allows you to maximize those strengths, rather than choosing a career that isn’t a good fit for you.

Make Decisions Intentionally

Being intentional with your decisions rather than passively following society’s recommendations for your life can help you make choices that align with what matters most to you. Pause to reflect and think about why you’re making the choices you’re making. Are you living your life in a manner that enables you to become the best version of you, and make the impact on the world that you are here to make? Or, are you living the life that society wants for you?

One simple step to being more intentional in your life is to write out a tentative schedule for your day. When you tell your time where to go, it can help you minimize time spent on time-sucking activities that don’t align with who you most want to be.

Also, as Jim Rohn says,

“You are the average of the 5 people you spend the most time with.”

Being intentional with who you spend time with can also steer you toward better decisions.

Although nobody’s perfect, and nobody has a perfect life, working on these strategies can help you make better decisions, leading to less regrets and a more fulfilling life.

Reference

[1] Psychology Today: Cognitive Biases Are Bad for Business

More by this author

Dr. Kerry Petsinger

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

6 Signs It’s Time to Change Your Life Feeling Stuck in Life? How to Never Get Stuck Again 5 Signs You’re Ready for a Career Change How to Find the Purpose of Life and Start Living a Fulfilling Life Don’t like your job? Here are some solutions.

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Last Updated on October 30, 2020

How To Stop Being Lazy By Overcoming Your Biological Limitations

How To Stop Being Lazy By Overcoming Your Biological Limitations

Are you a lazy person?

Even if you think you’re a hardworking person, there must be some moments you feel lazy.

Let’s be honest.

Who wants to take a longer road if there is a shortcut? Who wants to do more than required if it makes no difference in the outcome? And not to mention the countless times we are just too lazy to go to gym or finish tasks way before the deadlines.

But why is being lazy inevitable for everyone?

Our Genes And Brains Are To Blame For Our Laziness

Couch Potato Gene Makes Us Lazy

Ever wondered why some people are enthusiastic about hitting the gym, while most of us prefer being couch potatoes? Actually, it’s determined by our genes.

A 2010 study[1] found that those who are reluctant to physical activity have the “couch potato gene”, which is a mutation of a normal gene that regulate activity levels.

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During the mutation, dopamine receptor in the normal gene which controls motivation and reward shrinks or even disappears. That’s why many of us cannot feel the pleasure from exercise as those fitness gurus do. And couch potato gene is inheritable. That means if you’re not fond of physical activity, your children are less likely to be athletic too.

Our Brains Save Energy By Being Lazy

Another biological limitation we commonly share is that our brains are wired to be lazy. Although our brains only make up for 2% of our body weight, it uses 20% of our daily energy intake. To make sure we’re not physically drained, most of the time our brains opted to switch off themselves. That’s why we tend to intellectually lazy and find deep thinking especially challenging to us.[2]

But More Often Than Not Laziness Is The Symptom of Unhealthy Mindsets And Behavior…

To put it simply, procrastination is another term for laziness. We put off things that are supposed to be done right now and let our future self to pay for the price. And it’s all about not having the right mindsets or behavior.[3]

Sometimes we are pessimistic and afraid of failure, so it’s better not to do anything. Sometimes we feel overwhelmed by the complexity and ambiguity of what we do and so we become paralyzed. Sometimes we fail to stay away from distractions. And sometimes we lack a clear goal so we easily become unmotivated. They happen from time to time.

Being Lazy Makes You Irresponsible For Your Life

Laziness is a boulder that blocks your way to personal growth and success. If you allow yourself to be lazy, you will keep making excuses for not fulfilling your responsibilities and realizing your dreams. Although you can be carefree at the present, your future self will suffer and have to pay the bill in the end. So laziness is an issue that everyone needs to tackle without delays.

Take a look at the below solutions to overcome laziness effortlessly:

Plan Your Time Well. Your Lazy Brain Does’t Like To Think.

The fact that our brains are wired to be lazy can’t be changed. The only way to trump your lazy brain is plan your time well so you don’t need too much of what to do.

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How? Have a to-do list? That’s the most typical way people do.

But a list by itself is useless. You should set clear time boxes on your schedule. This allows you to work on it within a given time without procrastinating. If you need to do grocery shopping once a week, set a time for it, for example, ‘Saturday, 1-3pm’. You might also schedule what to do with your free time as it might increase your quality of life.[4]

Have A Clear Goal Before You Do Anything

Perhaps lacking a clear goal is one of the reasons why you fail to perform well in a task.

The Goal Setting Theory of Motivation proposed by Edwin Locked tells us that goal setting is essentially linked to task performance.[5] He states that a specific, clear, realistic and challenging goal is what we need for any tasks. The specificity helps us to achieve a goal in a right direction and the challenge of it motivates us to achieve it.

Instead of saying ‘I want to write a book’, you should say ‘I want to write a 100,000-word science fiction within a year’. See the specificity? If you find it is too easy for you, then write more, or write on other topics. Always take the challenge.

Break Every Task Into Smaller Ones And Tackle Them One By One

When a task seems too big and you have no idea where to start with, you would probably put it aside and wait until the deadline.

Every task is made up of smaller components. Take writing an article as an example. You can divide the task into different small actionable items: researching for ideas, constructing the outline, writing the content, proofreading, and even more. Doing it step by step would make you feel that you have accomplished something and this motivates to do go on with the big task.

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Perfectionism Is A Trap. Don’t Fall Into It.

If you aim for perfection, it is very likely that you need to spend a lot of time to finish a task. It turns out that you complete a day’s worth of work in a week.

There is nothing wrong in striving for perfection. But you can do it wisely. Get things done first and then make tuning afterwards. Thus, you will have an overview of it and see how you can make the fine tuning to make it better. And stop spending too much time on details. The time you spent and the quality of your work might not always be directly proportional.

3 Books To Help You Stop Being Lazy And Get More Done

If you want some more concrete tips on how to overcome laziness, you can read these three books for more insights:

Get Stuff Done: How To Focus, Be More Productive, Overcome Procrastination, and Master Concentration

    Get Stuff Done teaches the one skill that makes the difference between achieving your goals and settling for mediocrity. It includes the two habits backed by science that boost productivity so dramatically that they add four HOURS worth of productivity to the average working day. A productivity hack shared by Mark Zuckerberg, Bill Gates, Albert Einstein, and Steve Job can also be found in the book.

    Procrastination Ends Now: 12 Secrets to Boost your Productivity, Increase Motivation and Develop New Habits in 21 Days

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      In this book, the author shows you how to overcome procrastination and replace the habit with productive actions step by step: accepting the fact that you procrastinate, knowing why you procrastinate, identifying the roots of procrastination, and identifying and dealing with fears that make you put off tasks over and over again.

      PROCRASTINATION: Let’s Do It Now! 10 Proven Ways to Achieve Your Goals

        Successful people plan and put in the work. The writer suggests 10 ways for you to turn your ideas into realities that you can see, touch, taste, smell, and hear. The tips in this book will help you successfully turn yourself into a goal crushing machine and say good-bye to procrastination permanently.

        Laziness is a sickness that can only be cured with the right medication. Say good-bye to it and gain more time.

        Reference

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