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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

Feeling Stuck in Life? How to Never Get Stuck Again How to Find the Purpose of Life and Start Living a Fulfilling Life Don’t like your job? Here are some solutions. How People Make Decisions That Are Bad For Them How to Have a Successful Career and a Fulfilling Personal Life

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Last Updated on May 21, 2019

Signs Of Low Self-Esteem And The Root Causes You Might Not Know

Signs Of Low Self-Esteem And The Root Causes You Might Not Know

People who have low self esteem are always hard on themselves. Sometimes they even cannot truly accept compliments because they would second guess people’s intentions.

    In this article, we’ll look into the symptoms of a low esteem person and what you can do if you find yourself having self-esteem issues.

    Symptoms of a Low Self-Esteem Person

    Common Symptoms

    • Unable to trust your own opinion
    • Always overthinking
    • Afraid to take challenges, being worried you wouldn’t overcome them
    • Hard on yourself but lenient with others
    • Frequent anxiety and emotional turmoil

    Lesser-Known Symptoms

    Being a workaholic

    At work expectations are set clearly. Even if there’s pressure in the workplace, compared to relationships or the social world where so much is unknown and uncontrollable, work is more straightforward.

    It’s easier to meet the expectations and perform well at work. Therefore, some people with low self-esteem would shift their focus to work and put all their energies there.

    Overachieving or underachieving

    Many of us have already heard that people with low self-esteem tend to be under-achievers as they’re too afraid to take new challenges and not confident enough to fully utilize their talents.

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    However, there’s another extreme. Some of them are too anxious of failure and being rejected, so they will try their very best to be outstanding to prove their worth.

    Causes of Low Self-Esteem

    Most of the time it stems from our childhood. Here’re some negative early experiences that lead to low self-esteem:[1]

    • Frequent punishment
    • Frequent neglect
    • Chronic abuse
    • Harsh parental standards
    • Being bullied/boycotted
    • Being on the receiving end of someone else’s stress or despair
    • Lack of praise, warmth and affection
    • Staying in a family or group where other members are prejudiced towards

    Childhood is when we form our “Bottom Line” and “Rules for Living” which affects the way we think, that’s why all the negative early experiences can have a very long-lasting effect on our adulthood.

    How “Bottom Line” Affects Your Self-Esteem

    “Bottom Line” is how you usually feel about something, based on your early experience. For example, “how you felt when you first left home becomes the emotional bottom line for when you leave other things in your life.”, according to therapist Robert Taibbi [2].

    When we talk about self-esteem, the bottom line is about how people around you treat you, as we grow up taking the voices of people who are significant to us. Did they say you’re adorable, or you’re always not good enough? Did they neglect you that made you feel worthless?

    That largely affects the way you view yourself and hence affect your self-esteem.

    How “Bottom Line” Determines Your “Rules for Living

    Based on the “Bottom Line”, we would form our “Rules for Living”, which are the strategies for dealing with life. For example, if you have the belief that you are always inferior to others, your Rules for Living would be “better not to speak up and to keep a low profile”.

    How Low Self-Esteem Affects Every Aspect of Your Life

    So what are the consequences of having low self-esteem?

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    It Makes You Confuse Love with Low Self-Esteem

    Having a low self-esteem, you expect people to treat you badly.

    When people are being just quite nice to you, you feel overjoyed and have unrealistically good feelings for them. This can be easily mistaken as love and also scare people away who might be just interested in being friends with you (at first).

    It Makes You Have a Lower Hand in the Relationship

    As you think your partner is too good for you, you bear things that you shouldn’t stand for.

    Sometimes you even confuse love with self-esteem. Are you giving in really because you love him/her so much or you just dare not to speak up and bargain?

    It Makes Your Employers Feel That You’re Not Talented

    People with low esteem sometimes are actually gifted. But they don’t know how to show it and “sell” themselves.

    During meeting, they keep quiet, during presentation they speak weakly, during daily conversation they say “sorry” and “maybe” too often…As a result, employers and other colleagues perceive people with low esteem as people without much talents.

    It Can Lead to Depression

    Over time, low self-esteem can lead to depression according to a study done by University of Basel researchers.[3] Psychologist Dr. Lars Madsen added that low self-esteem is “a key factor in both the development and maintenance of depression”.

    How to Improve Self-Esteem

    As we can see, low self-esteem is a deeply rooted issue and leads to lots of consequences. To solve it, it’s not an easy task, but it’s possible. The key is, to use the right ways.

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    1. Ignore All Those “Positivity” Advice

    Very often, we hear people say “Stay positive”, “Hey cheer up!”. People with depression know all these do not help. It just makes them feel worse.

    Same for low self-esteem, simply telling people “To me you’re wonderful!”, “You’re actually awesome”, “Why don’t you appreciate yourself more?”, or even worse “Hey you should be more confident” does not improve their self-esteem. Instead, they would feel inadequate or even guilty of their behavior.

    2. Focus Elsewhere

    “Healthy self esteem needs to emerge subtly.”[4]

    Same as happiness, you don’t immediately feel happier when you tell yourself to be happier. You need some concrete ways to do so like pursuing a goal that truly matters to you, like spending quality time with your loved ones.

    When you want to improve your self-esteem, don’t try too hard on thinking of ways to do so. There’s no direct way to improve it. It should be a by-product of our overall life’s satisfaction.

    According to psychologist Abraham Maslow,[5] to live a fulfilling life, you should take care the 5 levels of human basic needs. To help you understand more about this psychological model we made a video to explain it:

    Or you can refer to the graph below:

    5 Levels of Human Basic Needs

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      To focus elsewhere, we’ve summarized the above items and put them into this list for you:

      • Deep connection with loved ones
      • A healthy body
      • Sense of control
      • A meaningful life purpose
      • Recognition and respect from others
      • Sense of security
      • Creativity

      As you gradually equip yourself with the skills to fulfil the above needs, you’ll forget about self-esteem and suddenly you’ll find that you just feel proud of yourself when you know so much that others don’t.

      Resources to Help Increase Your Self Esteem

      To help you gradually build your self-esteem, here’s a list of the best self-help books that can help you fulfil the goals:

      1. How to Win Friends & Influence People
      2. Outliers: The Story of Success By Malcolm Gladwell
      3. The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change
      4. Eat That Frog!: 21 Great Ways to Stop Procrastinating and Get More Done in Less Time
      5. The Paleo Manifesto: Ancient Wisdom for Lifelong Health
      6. The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Busines
      7. The 5 Love Languages: The Secret to Love that Lasts
      8. Thinking, Fast and Slow
      9. The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck: A Counterintuitive Approach to Living a Good Life
      10. Predictably Irrational: The Hidden Forces That Shape Our Decisions

      The Bottom Line

      If you find yourself having low self-esteem, don’t be hopeless. Have faith in yourself that you can regain self-esteem and become a confident and successful person.

      How?

      Understand the root causes of your low self-esteem and overcome these causes with the advice in this article.

      Featured photo credit: Joe Gardner via unsplash.com

      Reference

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