Advertising
Advertising

How Not to Make Decisions That You’ll Regret Under Extreme Stress

How Not to Make Decisions That You’ll Regret Under Extreme Stress

On may 31 2009 Air France Flight 447 crashed into the Atlantic Ocean, killing all aboard.[1] Prior to impact, the pilots struggled to correct the plane as faulty readings blared out. In their confusion, they drove the plane ever upwards in an increasingly steep climb. Eventually, the aircraft stalled, and dropped from the sky.

    Analysis of the crash and black box led researches to ascertain that two things led to the tragedy.

    1. Mechanical malfunction (Ice built up in key tubes, which led to the plane giving out false readings). This is easily fixable and quite common.
    2. Cognitive tunneling.[2]

    What Is Cognitive Tunneling and Is It Bad?

    Cognitive tunneling, or inattentional blindness is a common mental state where your brain focuses on things closest to you, instead of trying to evaluate everything around you.[3] It is not without benefits though. Without it, it is possible we could become overwhelmed by all the information around us. It is perfectly normal, and occurs as much in the highly motivated and intelligent as the unmotivated and unintelligent.

    Advertising

    However, as the above example with Flight 447 shows us, there are times when having a complete understanding on what is going on around us is critical, and in this way, cognitive tunneling can lead to disaster.

    For example, if the pilots of flight 44 took a moment to fully assess what was going on around them, it is perfectly possible they could have corrected their flight, and later landed safely. But instead, through cognitive tunneling, they didn’t become aware of the problem because they weren’t paying attention to what was really going on.

      Advertising

          Overly Focused Blinds the Brain

          It is as Charles Duhigg says in his book Smarter Faster Better: The Secrets of Being Productive in Life and Business,

          “Cognitive tunneling can cause people to become overly focused on whatever is directly in front of their eyes or become preoccupied with immediate tasks. It’s what causes drivers to slam on their brakes when they see a red light ahead.”

          For most of human history, situations where it was critical to have a complete picture of what was going on around you, instead of a particular point, were pretty rare. If you were out hunting, for example, cognitive tunneling could keep you focused on your pray, and not, at a fly beside you. Cognitive blindness cuts out information our brain considers irrelevant to the task at hand, but due to our current high stakes, high speed world, that isn’t so much the case and sometimes we need to be aware of what is going on around us.

          Advertising

            Be Attentional to the Inattentional

            What does it mean? Because cognitive tunneling is a natural mental state, it isn’t something that you can really turn off. However, there are two ways to effectively counteract it. All you need to do is be attentional: to anticipate and think.

              Anticipate

              When presented with problems that we have already experienced, it is normal for our minds to turn to the way they were resolved before. This can be effective, however there is no real reason to believe the same solution will work again, or is the perfect one for another time.

              Advertising

              With cognitive tunneling, our minds will naturally skip over other solutions that may present themselves and refer to our older (possibly inferior system). If it doesn’t work second time around, then the problem stays but this time you are blind to other solutions.

              For example, Bob is driving his car, and his engine breaks down. He remembers how this happened a few months ago and how he resolved it. But this time the solution doesn’t work and his car still refuses to start. If Bob were to have, before driving, thought about his car, and anticipated what problems may arise in the future, then he would be in a better situation to resolve issues as they arise by countering his cognitive tunneling with another solution ready.

              Don’t React, Think!

              It is often unclear when your mind is overwhelmed with information and goes into cognitive tunneling before it is too late.

              No one can predict every single problem or emergency which may arise. But instead of reacting to the issue and robotically going through a checklist, think about the problem, describe exactly what is going on, and try to anticipate the results of everything, then you’ll be able to master any problem you come up against.

              Featured photo credit: pixabay via pixabay.com

              Reference

              More by this author

              Leon Ho

              Founder & CEO of Lifehack

              13 Ways to Develop Self-Directed Learning and Learn Faster delegating tasks How to Start Delegating Tasks Effectively (Step-by-Step Guide) How Long Does It Take to Learn a Language? Science Will Tell You Delegation of Authority: The Complete Guide for Effective Leaders How To Be Successful In Life: 13 Life-Changing Tips

              Trending in Smartcut

              1 How Not to Feel Overwhelmed at Work & Take Control of Your Day 2 How to Start Delegating Tasks Effectively (Step-by-Step Guide) 3 27 Strategies to Achieve Your Goals Fast 4 A Complete Guide to Goal Setting for Personal Success 5 22 Best Habit Tracking Apps You Need in 2020

              Read Next

              Advertising
              Advertising
              Advertising

              Last Updated on October 20, 2020

              Can People Change When Changing Is So Difficult?

              Can People Change When Changing Is So Difficult?

              Hope is not a strategy when it comes to change. Commitment is what is needed to make real change happen. Can people change? Absolutely, but exchanging your excuses for commitment is necessary to get started.

              Human nature leans toward habits, which can become ingrained over the years, but that doesn’t mean habits can be undone.

              The good news is that your personality and behaviors can be changed, but it is up to you. Below are some tips to help you get started with change.

              1. Figure out What You Need to Change

              If you’re reading this, you’re probably already aware of something you would like to change. That’s great! The first step toward change is acknowledging that you have something you need to change.

              Look at the repeated problems in your life, the issues that seem to come up time and time again. Do you keep gravitating toward the wrong relationships, but you blame the people you are choosing, rather than looking at your problem in the selection process?

              Do you jump from one job to another, yet blame co-workers and bosses, rather than look at what you may be doing to cause problems and dissatisfaction on the job?

              We are creatures of habit, so look at the negative patterns in your life. Then, look inside to see what’s causing these repeated life problems to occur. If you can’t figure it out on your own, consider going to a counselor for better understanding. Once you recognize the area that requires change, you can move to the next step.

              2. Believe That Change Is Indeed Possible

              There are people out there who believe that personality is unchangeable. When confronted with their problem, such as constant negativity, they lash back with “that’s just who I am.” It may be who you are, but does it need to be?

              Change in personality and behaviors is possible. Nobody stays the same from one year to the next, let alone across a decade, so why not move change in the direction that is best for you? Be proactive about the change you want in your life, including the belief that change can occur.

              Advertising

              Look for success stories and people who have changed and done what you so deeply desire to do. Seeing that others have been where you have are and have accomplished the change you desire will help you in your process to accomplish that change.

              3. List the Benefits of This Change

              In order for people to change, they need to buy into the premise that the change is necessary for their betterment. For example, maybe your goal is to be more productive at work. There are many benefits that could come from this, including:

              • Getting more done in a shorter amount of time.
              • Having more time for your family.
              • Getting a promotion
              • Being liked and appreciated by your boss.
              • Being part of the success of the company.

              One of the best ways to help yourself stick to the commitment of change is to make a list of the benefits that the change will bring in your life. Make one list of the benefits for your life and another for your loved ones. Recognizing the full spectrum of benefits, including how your change will affect those closest to you, will help you stick with the process of change.

              When you have moments of weakness, or fail on a particular day or time, then getting back on track becomes easier when you review your list on a regular basis. Posting your “benefits of change” list somewhere where you see it often, such as a bathroom mirror, will help you be reminded of why you are doing what you are doing.

              4. Make a Real Commitment to Change

              Make a commitment to the time frame needed for the change to happen. If you want to lose 50 lbs., then set out a realistic plan of a few pounds per week and a timeline that reflects those goals.

              It will take you a lot longer than a month, but setting realistic goals will help you stick to your commitment. Change happens one day at a time. It is not immediate, but over the course of time because of your dedication and commitment to the process.

              It also helps if you make your goals SMART: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Time-bound.[1]

              People can change using SMART goals

                An example of this would be a person who wants to become an active runner so they can tackle a half marathon. The first step would be to research what other people have done for training plans to achieve this goal.

                Advertising

                Runners World lays out specifics for a beginner to train for a half marathon: “Target the Long Run: Every other week, increase your long run by 1.5 miles until you’re run/walking 13 to 14 miles. On alternate weeks, keep your long run to no longer than three miles. Your longest long run should fall two weeks before your half-marathon. Plan to take about 15 weeks to prepare for the big day.”[2]

                These kinds of specificities will help you create a personalized plan that is achievable and time-bound.

                You can learn more about writing SMART goals here.

                5. Create a Plan of Attack

                You need a set of steps outlined to succeed. This is why 12-step programs are so successful. You can’t simply walk into a meeting and be cured and changed. You need to mentally process the change in order for the change to be lasting and effective.

                Create a plan for your change. Be realistic and investigate what other people have done to change.

                For example, if you are dealing with anxiety and want to change that, then seek out therapy methods to address your problem. Stick with the therapy plan until your change process is complete. Simply hoping the anxiety will someday go away is not a plan.

                6. Commit to Action

                It is wonderful to set a goal for change and to write it down, but if you don’t act, then your mental commitment means nothing. There is no actual commitment unless action follows. To best kick start our change, the key is to act now[3].

                For example, if you committed to lose 50lbs, then now is the time to go join a gym, hire a trainer, and walk into a weight loss clinic to get support. We can make up our mind to be determined to change, but if action does not follow soon thereafter, then you will likely fail.

                If you wait until later that week, you will get caught up in doing your daily routine, things for works, taking care of others, or whatever it may be; there will be distractions that will derail you from taking action later. There is no better time to take action than when you make the decision to change.

                Advertising

                For example, if you decide you want to finally write that book that is in your mind, but you don’t have a working laptop, then go and get a laptop today. Then, set aside an hour each day after work (and on your calendar) so that you can write. Instead of going out with friends after work, you are committing to achieve this goal, and you have time set aside to make that goal happen.

                7. Find a Support System

                When people want to change, finding a support system is key. A great way to find support is through group therapy or support groups. If you have a substance abuse issue, for example, you can find groups that specialize is supporting you through recovery and change.

                If you prefer to find support in the comfort of your own home, then you can look for online support forums and Facebook groups that deal with whatever change you are looking to pursue.

                Your ability to be successful in change is dependent on your ability to dive in; support systems help you with the initial dive and staying committed thereafter. and will help you stay committed to the process. Don’t underestimate the power you have by partnering with others who are seeking the same change.

                8. Get Uncomfortable

                Change should be uncomfortable. You are entering new territory and stepping out of your comfort zone. Your mind and past habits will be resistant to the change, as it is uncomfortable and difficult.

                If you give up because of the discomfort, then you are destined to fail in your pursuit of change. Embrace the discomfort associated with change and recognize that it puts you one step closer to accomplishing your goals.

                9. Stick to the Plan

                When people decide to change, sticking to it is difficult. If you get derailed from your plan, don’t berate yourself. Instead, allow yourself some margin of error and then get back on track.

                You can’t expect to go on a diet without splurging sometimes. The key is “sometimes.” The sooner you get back on track, the more successful you will be in accomplishing your change goals.

                Other researchers on the topic of change believe this process is about dedication and commitment to the change desired in our day to day lives, as Douglas LaBier from the Huffington Post so aptly stated:[4]

                Advertising

                “Change occurs from awareness of what aspects of our personality we want to develop, and working hard to “practice” them in daily life.”

                Here are some tips on sticking to a plan:

                Engage in Self-Reflection

                Reflect on things that have derailed you in the past and problem solve them before they happen.

                Jot down those things that tend to get you off track. Now, list ways to combat the derailments before they happen. For example, if you are wanting to lose weight but you work late hours, then commit to morning workouts.

                If you know that in the past you would continually hit the snooze button and subsequently miss the workouts, then hire a trainer for early morning workouts. You are less likely to miss your workout if you have real money attached to it and someone counting on you to show up. You could also schedule morning workouts with a friend, so you know there is someone showing up and you don’t want to let them down.

                Brainstorm solutions for your past derailments so that this time around you are ready to stick to the plan and the commitment you have made to change.

                Define Your Commitment

                Commitment is a daily mental and physical plight when it comes to change. If your commitment is to lose weight, then be specific about how you are going to achieve your change. For example, you decide you are going to stick to 1,800 calories a day and a 1-hour workout every day.

                Then, write those goals down and chart your daily progress. Hold yourself accountable.

                Final Thoughts

                Can people change? Hopefully, by now, you believe that they can. If you have a sense of commitment and persistence, change is possible with any life experience.

                Start small, create specific goals, and don’t wait to get started. You’ll be amazed how far change will take you.

                More on How to Make Changes in Your Life

                Featured photo credit: Jurica Koletić via unsplash.com

                Reference

                Read Next