Advertising
Advertising

10 Things in Life That Aren’t Fair – and What to Do About Them (Part 1 of 2)

10 Things in Life That Aren’t Fair – and What to Do About Them (Part 1 of 2)

10 Things in Life That Aren’t Fair – and What to Do About Them

    “Who ever said life is fair? Where is that written? Life isn’t always fair.” – Grandpa, The Princess Bride

    Life’s not fair. Our thought processes are controlled by brains that are not always strictly rational. Social and economic forces beyond our control can toss us like plastic bags in the wind. Physical appearances play as large a role, if not larger, in the way we regard others – and the way others regard us. It’s just not FAIR!

    With a little thought, I came up with 10 things that just aren’t fair, and some ideas about how to deal with them. I’ve deliberately avoided things having to do directly with race, sex, and other forms of discrimination, hoping instead to focus on more universal unfairnesses. Maybe I’ll come back with a follow-up dealing with those issues at a later date.

    Advertising

    1. Packaging makes food taste better.

    Strange but true – the way food is packaged, from the label design to the size of portions to the texture of the box, affects our perception of how it tastes. (If you’re academically inclined, you could look at this study of how packaging and taste interact.) Roughly speaking, we identify with certain values the packaging conveys, and that predisposes us to feel more or less favorably about what’s inside.

    What to do about it: This is fortunately one of those things where knowing is more than half the battle. Comparing similar foods free of labeling is one way to deal with it – that’s what wine tasters do to avoid biases. And just reminding ourselves not to judge a book – or a food – by its cover helps a lot.

    2. People prefer to do business with people they have relationships with, rather than the ones offering the best deal.

    Advertising

    We’ll drive miles out of our way to support a local store or a friend’s shop because of the relationship we have with the proprietors. We’ll spend more money on services from friends of friends rather than coldly evaluating all the possible vendors. Again and again, social relationships balance and even outweigh other considerations like cost and convenience.

    What to do about it: Develop your social network! While you should certainly focus on providing value in every other way, developing social relationships will often be the thing that gives you the edge over your competitors.

    3. Many jobs are never advertised. News travels through social networks instead.

    Obviously related to #2 above, this is of major concern given the rough state of employment at the moment. Only a small percentage of jobs are advertised in newspapers and online and even when they are, getting them can still rely heavily on social contacts.

    Advertising

    What to do about it: Again, get to work on that social network. Use online networking sites like LinkedIn and niche sites in your field (check out the various networks at Ning) as well as attending (or organizing) local events in your industry. Make sure you announce your availability through every channel available to you – most people will at least try to think whether they know anything suitable for you if they know you’re looking.

    4. Attractive people are considered smarter, nicer, and more moral than unattractive people.

    “Attractive” is, of course, subjective, but even so: when someone thinks you’re good-looking, they’re more likely to think you’re a good person than if they find you physically unappealing. And vice versa – you’re more likely to think highly of a person you find handsome or pretty than one you find ugly or even average. (Here’s what psychology has to say about our assessment of attractive people.)

    What to do about it: Well, one option is plastic surgery, dieting, working out, make-up, etc. but that seems pretty pathetic just to get people to think more highly of you. Since confidence is a big part of what makes people find you attractive, work on projecting confidence in yourself. And, of course, make sure whatever you do has merit in its own right. As far as your opinion of other people, try finding ways to see others as attractive whatever their appearance, and remind yourself when you think poorly of someone that you can easily be mislead by the way they look.

    Advertising

    5. We trust other people, even when we think they’re wrong.

    Oh, the trials of being a social animal! Far too often , we’ll go with the crowd, even when we think the crowd is wrong. The classic example si a psychological study in which several people, only one of which is not in on it, view three lines of different lengths and asked which is the longest. Everyone says the shortest one is longest, until they get to the actual subject, who knows they’re all wrong but agrees with them anyway so as not so make waves. Other examples include people’s willingness to join lines even when they’re not sure what the line is for, and people’s unwillingness to enter restaurants that are empty.

    What to do about it: It’s easy to say “don’t be a sheep” but it’s part of our social nature. We don’t generally want to rock the boat – it’s socially dangerous, and can even be physically dangerous at times. The best we can do most of the time is ask ourselves what, exactly, we have to gain from following other people’s leads. The point isn’t to avoid doing what other people are doing, but to avoid doing it because other people are doing it. If we can determine that we’d do something whether or not others did it, then enjoy!

    Be sure to check out part 2 when it’s posted later in the week for more unfair facts of life, including the difference that height makes! And tell us below about the unfair situations you’ve dealt with, and what you did about them.

    More by this author

    3 Techniques for Setting Priorities Effectively How To Stop Procrastinating and Get Stuff Done Becoming Self-Taught (The How-To Guide) The Science of Setting Goals (And Its Effect on Your Brain) Is Procrastination Bad? The Truth About Procrastination Revealed

    Trending in Featured

    1 3 Techniques for Setting Priorities Effectively 2 How to Master the Art of Prioritization 3 How to Stay Motivated and Reach Your Big Goals in Life 4 How to Stop Procrastinating: 11 Practical Ways for Procrastinators 5 11 Reasons Why You Aren’t Getting Results

    Read Next

    Advertising
    Advertising
    Advertising

    Last Updated on July 8, 2020

    3 Techniques for Setting Priorities Effectively

    3 Techniques for Setting Priorities Effectively

    It is easy, in the onrush of life, to become a reactor – to respond to everything that comes up, the moment it comes up, and give it your undivided attention until the next thing comes up.

    This is, of course, a recipe for madness. The feeling of loss of control over what you do and when is enough to drive you over the edge, and if that doesn’t get you, the wreckage of unfinished projects you leave in your wake will surely catch up with you.

    Having an inbox and processing it in a systematic way can help you gain back some of that control. But once you’ve processed out your inbox and listed all the tasks you need to get cracking on, you still have to figure out what to do the very next instant. On which of those tasks will your time best be spent, and which ones can wait?

    When we don’t set priorities, we tend to follow the path of least resistance. (And following the path of least resistance, as the late, great Utah Phillips reminded us, is what makes the river crooked!) That is, we’ll pick and sort through the things we need to do and work on the easiest ones – leaving the more difficult and less fun tasks for a “later” that, in many cases, never comes – or, worse, comes just before the action needs to be finished, throwing us into a whirlwind of activity, stress, and regret.

    This is why setting priorities is so important.

    Advertising

    3 Effective Approaches to Set Priorities

    There are three basic approaches to setting priorities, each of which probably suits different kinds of personalities. The first is for procrastinators, people who put off unpleasant tasks. The second is for people who thrive on accomplishment, who need a stream of small victories to get through the day. And the third is for the more analytic types, who need to know that they’re working on the objectively most important thing possible at this moment. In order, then, they are:

    1. Eat a Frog

    There’s an old saying to the effect that if you wake up in the morning and eat a live frog, you can go through the day knowing that the worst thing that can possibly happen to you that day has already passed. In other words, the day can only get better!

    Popularized in Brian Tracy’s book Eat That Frog!, the idea here is that you tackle the biggest, hardest, and least appealing task first thing every day, so you can move through the rest of the day knowing that the worst has already passed.

    When you’ve got a fat old frog on your plate, you’ve really got to knuckle down. Another old saying says that when you’ve got to eat a frog, don’t spend too much time looking at it! It pays to keep this in mind if you’re the kind of person that procrastinates by “planning your attack” and “psyching yourself up” for half the day. Just open wide and chomp that frog, buddy! Otherwise, you’ll almost surely talk yourself out of doing anything at all.

    2. Move Big Rocks

    Maybe you’re not a procrastinator so much as a fiddler, someone who fills her or his time fussing over little tasks. You’re busy busy busy all the time, but somehow, nothing important ever seems to get done.

    Advertising

    You need the wisdom of the pickle jar. Take a pickle jar and fill it up with sand. Now try to put a handful of rocks in there. You can’t, right? There’s no room.

    If it’s important to put the rocks in the jar, you’ve got to put the rocks in first. Fill the jar with rocks, now try pouring in some pebbles. See how they roll in and fill up the available space? Now throw in a couple handfuls of gravel. Again, it slides right into the cracks. Finally, pour in some sand.

    For the metaphorically impaired, the pickle jar is all the time you have in a day. You can fill it up with meaningless little busy-work tasks, leaving no room for the big stuff, or you can do the big stuff first, then the smaller stuff, and finally fill in the spare moments with the useless stuff.

    To put it into practice, sit down tonight before you go to bed and write down the three most important tasks you have to get done tomorrow. Don’t try to fit everything you need, or think you need, to do, just the three most important ones.

    In the morning, take out your list and attack the first “Big Rock”. Work on it until it’s done or you can’t make any further progress. Then move on to the second, and then the third. Once you’ve finished them all, you can start in with the little stuff, knowing you’ve made good progress on all the big stuff. And if you don’t get to the little stuff? You’ll have the satisfaction of knowing that you accomplished three big things. At the end of the day, nobody’s ever wished they’d spent more time arranging their pencil drawer instead of writing their novel, or printing mailing labels instead of landing a big client.

    Advertising

    3. Covey Quadrants

    If you just can’t relax unless you absolutely know you’re working on the most important thing you could be working on at every instant, Stephen Covey’s quadrant system as written in The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change might be for you.

    Covey suggests you divide a piece of paper into four sections, drawing a line across and a line from top to bottom. Into each of those quadrants, you put your tasks according to whether they are:

    1. Important and Urgent
    2. Important and Not Urgent
    3. Not Important but Urgent
    4. Not Important and Not Urgent

      The quadrant III and IV stuff is where we get bogged down in the trivial: phone calls, interruptions, meetings (QIII) and busy work, shooting the breeze, and other time wasters (QIV). Although some of this stuff might have some social value, if it interferes with your ability to do the things that are important to you, they need to go.

      Quadrant I and II are the tasks that are important to us. QI are crises, impending deadlines, and other work that needs to be done right now or terrible things will happen. If you’re really on top of your time management, you can minimize Q1 tasks, but you can never eliminate them – a car accident, someone getting ill, a natural disaster, these things all demand immediate action and are rarely planned for.

      Advertising

      You’d like to spend as much time as possible in Quadrant II, plugging away at tasks that are important with plenty of time to really get into them and do the best possible job. This is the stuff that the QIII and QIV stuff takes time away from, so after you’ve plotted out your tasks on the Covey quadrant grid, according to your own sense of what’s important and what isn’t, work as much as possible on items in Quadrant II (and Quadrant I tasks when they arise).

      Getting to Know You

      Spend some time trying each of these approaches on for size. It’s hard to say what might work best for any given person – what fits one like a glove will be too binding and restrictive for another, and too loose and unstructured for a third. You’ll find you also need to spend some time figuring out what makes something important to you – what goals are your actions intended to move you towards.

      In the end, setting priorities is an exercise in self-knowledge. You need to know what tasks you’ll treat as a pleasure and which ones like torture, what tasks lead to your objectives and which ones lead you astray or, at best, have you spinning your wheels and going nowhere.

      These three are the best-known and most time-tested strategies out there, but maybe you’ve got a different idea you’d like to share? Tell us how you set your priorities in the comments.

      More Tips for Effective Prioritization

      Featured photo credit: Mille Sanders via unsplash.com

      Read Next