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5 Common Misconceptions That Make You a Dumbass

5 Common Misconceptions That Make You a Dumbass

Today’s world is inundated with useless and often contradictory information. The act of simultaneously accepting two mutually contradictory beliefs as correct was classified in George Orwell’s masterpiece, Nineteen Eighty-Four, as “doublethink”: this fictional phenomena is the opposite of what modern psychologists call “cognitive dissonance”, where holding two or more conflicting ideas can cause real-life frustration, hunger, dread, guilt, anger, embarrassment, or anxiety. In order to clear the path of enquiry and begin to harmonize your thoughts with reality, here is a list of common misconceptions that often give the author headaches.

5. Even the common hippie will tell you that humans do not have just five senses.

Although definitions vary, the actual number ranges from nine to two dozen (whoa). In addition to sight, smell, taste, touch, and hearing (Aristotelian senses), humans can sense balance and acceleration, pain, body and limb position, and relative temperature. Sometimes the senses of time, itching, pressure, hunger, thirst, fullness of the stomach, need to urinate, and need to defecate are also considered.

It’s important to exercise each of your senses as much as possible:put down the phone and look at things closely, or close your eyes altogether and listen to your surroundings!

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4. While it’s comforting to imagine that his genius only bloomed later in life, Albert Einstein did not fail mathematics in school.

Upon being shown a column claiming this fact, Einstein said, “I never failed in mathematics… Before I was fifteen I had mastered differential and integral calculus.” Einstein did however disagree with the school’s teaching method, and later wrote that the spirit of learning and creative thought were lost in rote learning. The myth may have originated because Einstein failed his first entrance exam into Federal Polytechnic School in 1895, although at the time he was two years younger than his fellow students and did exceedingly well in mathematics and science.

Einstein wasn’t perfect: he focused on his strengths and followed through with them, ultimately becoming a symbol of genius and changing the way we think about time and space forever.

3. Bad or bored habits can spiral out of control, but at least cracking one’s knuckles does not cause osteoarthritis.

In fact, cracking a joint that has been exercised recently is generally recognized to relieve pain. To further debunk this misconception, doctor Donald Unger cracked the knuckles of his left hand every day for more than sixty years, but he did not crack the knuckles of his right hand. No arthritis or other ailments formed in either hand. He was awarded 2009’s Ig Nobel Prize in Medicine.

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If you’re struggling with a habit—however innocuous—try to become aware of when you catch yourself in the act; many habits and addictions naturally resolve over time, but self-awareness is the most important step in breaking compulsive behaviors.

2. People do not use only ten percent of their brains.

While it is true that a small minority of neurons in the brain are actively firing at any one time, the inactive neurons are just as important, and may provide an answer to how diverse regions of the brain collaborate to form conscious experiences—one of the greatest mysteries in neuroscience. The misconception that we only use a small percentage of our brain has been commonplace in American culture as far back as the start of the 20th century, and speaks for the large number of unanswered questions we have about the human brain and its myriad functions.

This is an classic example of the human desire to have an answer to everything (even if the answer is wrong): our brains seek to harmonize the experience we’ve gathered over time with the incredible amount of information we receive; when it can’t, cognitive dissonance clouds our mind and can cause physical and emotional damage.

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1. The word ‘theory’ in the theory of evolution does not imply mainstream scientific doubt regarding its validity.

The concepts of theory and hypothesis have specific meanings in a scientific context. Evolution does not attempt to explain the origin of life or the origin and development of the universe, and does not necessarily nullify a God. While biological evolution describes the process by which species and other levels of biological organization originate, and ultimately leads all life forms back to a universal common ancestor, it is not primarily concerned with the origin of life itself. Also, humans did not develop from chimpanzees, but a common ancestor (both humans and chimpanzees have since evolved markedly).

Accepting evolution can be helpful in facing difficult challenges that arise naturally in the course of life: change is a constant force that we must live with, no matter how cruel or beautiful life may seem.

P.S. Humans and dinosaurs never coexisted.

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The Gentle Art of Saying No

The Gentle Art of Saying No

No!

It’s a simple fact that you can never be productive if you take on too many commitments — you simply spread yourself too thin and will not be able to get anything done, at least not well or on time.

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But requests for your time are coming in all the time — through phone, email, IM or in person. To stay productive, and minimize stress, you have to learn the Gentle Art of Saying No — an art that many people have problems with.

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What’s so hard about saying no? Well, to start with, it can hurt, anger or disappoint the person you’re saying “no” to, and that’s not usually a fun task. Second, if you hope to work with that person in the future, you’ll want to continue to have a good relationship with that person, and saying “no” in the wrong way can jeopardize that.

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But it doesn’t have to be difficult or hard on your relationship. Here are the Top 10 tips for learning the Gentle Art of Saying No:

  1. Value your time. Know your commitments, and how valuable your precious time is. Then, when someone asks you to dedicate some of your time to a new commitment, you’ll know that you simply cannot do it. And tell them that: “I just can’t right now … my plate is overloaded as it is.”
  2. Know your priorities. Even if you do have some extra time (which for many of us is rare), is this new commitment really the way you want to spend that time? For myself, I know that more commitments means less time with my wife and kids, who are more important to me than anything.
  3. Practice saying no. Practice makes perfect. Saying “no” as often as you can is a great way to get better at it and more comfortable with saying the word. And sometimes, repeating the word is the only way to get a message through to extremely persistent people. When they keep insisting, just keep saying no. Eventually, they’ll get the message.
  4. Don’t apologize. A common way to start out is “I’m sorry but …” as people think that it sounds more polite. While politeness is important, apologizing just makes it sound weaker. You need to be firm, and unapologetic about guarding your time.
  5. Stop being nice. Again, it’s important to be polite, but being nice by saying yes all the time only hurts you. When you make it easy for people to grab your time (or money), they will continue to do it. But if you erect a wall, they will look for easier targets. Show them that your time is well guarded by being firm and turning down as many requests (that are not on your top priority list) as possible.
  6. Say no to your boss. Sometimes we feel that we have to say yes to our boss — they’re our boss, right? And if we say “no” then we look like we can’t handle the work — at least, that’s the common reasoning. But in fact, it’s the opposite — explain to your boss that by taking on too many commitments, you are weakening your productivity and jeopardizing your existing commitments. If your boss insists that you take on the project, go over your project or task list and ask him/her to re-prioritize, explaining that there’s only so much you can take on at one time.
  7. Pre-empting. It’s often much easier to pre-empt requests than to say “no” to them after the request has been made. If you know that requests are likely to be made, perhaps in a meeting, just say to everyone as soon as you come into the meeting, “Look guys, just to let you know, my week is booked full with some urgent projects and I won’t be able to take on any new requests.”
  8. Get back to you. Instead of providing an answer then and there, it’s often better to tell the person you’ll give their request some thought and get back to them. This will allow you to give it some consideration, and check your commitments and priorities. Then, if you can’t take on the request, simply tell them: “After giving this some thought, and checking my commitments, I won’t be able to accommodate the request at this time.” At least you gave it some consideration.
  9. Maybe later. If this is an option that you’d like to keep open, instead of just shutting the door on the person, it’s often better to just say, “This sounds like an interesting opportunity, but I just don’t have the time at the moment. Perhaps you could check back with me in [give a time frame].” Next time, when they check back with you, you might have some free time on your hands.
  10. It’s not you, it’s me. This classic dating rejection can work in other situations. Don’t be insincere about it, though. Often the person or project is a good one, but it’s just not right for you, at least not at this time. Simply say so — you can compliment the idea, the project, the person, the organization … but say that it’s not the right fit, or it’s not what you’re looking for at this time. Only say this if it’s true — people can sense insincerity.

Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

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