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How Meditation Helps You Make Better Decisions

How Meditation Helps You Make Better Decisions

Do you ever feel like you make the same bad decisions over and over again? If so, you might be interested to know that meditation could make a monumental impact on your decision-making ability.

You’re not as rational as you think you are.

You probably consider yourself a rational person, but what if I told you that most of your decisions don’t make any sense? Consider that book you started to read, but then realized it was terrible a few chapters in. Did you stop reading, or did you keep on reading despite your distaste? Imagine a person you dated in the past, but then you realized you were not compatible with. Did you end the relationship immediately, or did you let it drag on for months (or years)? Recall a concert or sporting event you bought tickets for, but then you realized you were miserably ill. Did you call it off so you could rest and recover, or did you force yourself to go (even though you were too sick to have any fun)?

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The problem: You are consumed in your past.

The scenarios above illustrate the sunk cost fallacy, which sounds obvious in theory. A sunk cost is a past cost that’s already been paid and cannot be recovered. If you read a few chapters of a book that sucks, you can’t “wish” that time back. Continuing to read drivel won’t make the situation any better. If you find yourself in a relationship that wasn’t meant to be, you can’t delay the inevitable, so you might as well pull the trigger. If you buy tickets to visit a theme park on the weekend, but wake up with a stomach bug so severe that you couldn’t ride any roller coasters, why not give your tickets to a friend who could enjoy the experience?

The solution: Meditate to focus on the present.

Meditating helps you let go of the past, forget about the future, and focus on the present. An academic paper published in Psychological Science, “Debiasing the Mind through Meditation: Mindfulness and the Sunk-Cost Bias,” proposes that meditation could help you make better decisions. Two groups of 15 people were asked to perform decision-making exercises. One of those groups performed 15 minutes of focused-breathing guided meditation first, while the other performed the same exercises without preparation. The group that meditated made more effective decisions that were free from bias. Researcher Andrew C. Hafenbrack observed:

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“If you can take these breaks in the day, if you can do a short time-out, you can get yourself to a place that’s going to help you think better.If you find yourself in a position where you need to change the way you’re thinking and be sure you’re thinking in a less biased way…meditation is a way to do that.”

Why you shouldn’t say “stop being emotional”.

Researchers discovered that part of meditation’s power comes from its ability to boost your mood. Put simply, a calm person is going to make better decisions than one who is stressed out. It’s a lot harder to focus on the present moment if you have nasty, negative thoughts screaming inside your head. As co-author Sigal Barsade told [email protected]:

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“Meditation changes your cognitive state and your mood, both of which are changing your decision-making. Everyone always says ‘stop being emotional’ when they discuss decision-making, but in essence that’s the wrong thing to say. Just don’t let the wrong emotions cloud the decision-making process.”

Put meditation in practice for a better life.

I know you’re busy, but meditation is totally worth your time. It would be foolish to say you don’t have 15 minutes to meditate, since taking that time to clear your thoughts could save you from making bad decisions that you’d regret. Working on an important project that’s crucial for your success? Debating whether an expensive investment is worth your money? Thinking about ending a long-term relationship that doesn’t fulfill you? Stressing out because you have an awful lot to do and don’t know where to start? Before making a final decision in important matters like these, perform a brief meditation with these five steps:

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  1. Go to a quiet place where you won’t be bothered.
  2. Sit in a comfortable position, close your eyes, and breathe deeply.
  3. On each exhale, imagine past-based beliefs and biases exiting your body.
  4. On each inhale, imagine present-based focus and clarity entering your body.
  5. Light a candle and play soothing piano music or nature sounds (waves crashing?) if that calms you.

Please share if you’d like to help your friends meditate their way to better decisions like you.

Featured photo credit: Meditation/mrhayata via flickr.com

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Daniel Wallen

Daniel is a writer who focuses on blogging about happiness and motivation at Lifehack.

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Last Updated on March 13, 2019

How to Get out of a Rut: 12 Useful Ways to Get Unstuck

How to Get out of a Rut: 12 Useful Ways to Get Unstuck

Have you gotten into a rut before? Or are you in a rut right now?

You know you’re in a rut when you run out of ideas and inspiration. I personally see a rut as a productivity vacuum. It might very well be a reason why you aren’t getting results. Even as you spend more time on your work, you can’t seem to get anything constructive done. While I’m normally productive, I get into occasional ruts (especially when I’ve been working back-to-back without rest). During those times, I can spend an entire day in front of the computer and get nothing done. It can be quite frustrating.

Over time, I have tried and found several methods that are helpful to pull me out of a rut. If you experience ruts too, whether as a working professional, a writer, a blogger, a student or other work, you will find these useful. Here are 12 of my personal tips to get out of ruts:

1. Work on the small tasks.

When you are in a rut, tackle it by starting small. Clear away your smaller tasks which have been piling up. Reply to your emails, organize your documents, declutter your work space, and reply to private messages.

Whenever I finish doing that, I generate a positive momentum which I bring forward to my work.

2. Take a break from your work desk.

Get yourself away from your desk and go take a walk. Go to the washroom, walk around the office, go out and get a snack.

Your mind is too bogged down and needs some airing. Sometimes I get new ideas right after I walk away from my computer.

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3. Upgrade yourself

Take the down time to upgrade yourself. Go to a seminar. Read up on new materials (#7). Pick up a new language. Or any of the 42 ways here to improve yourself.

The modern computer uses different typefaces because Steve Jobs dropped in on a calligraphy class back in college. How’s that for inspiration?

4. Talk to a friend.

Talk to someone and get your mind off work for a while.

Talk about anything, from casual chatting to a deep conversation about something you really care about. You will be surprised at how the short encounter can be rejuvenating in its own way.

5. Forget about trying to be perfect.

If you are in a rut, the last thing you want to do is step on your own toes with perfectionist tendencies.

Just start small. Do what you can, at your own pace. Let yourself make mistakes.

Soon, a little trickle of inspiration will come. And then it’ll build up with more trickles. Before you know it, you have a whole stream of ideas.

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6. Paint a vision to work towards.

If you are continuously getting in a rut with your work, maybe there’s no vision inspiring you to move forward.

Think about why you are doing this, and what you are doing it for. What is the end vision in mind?

Make it as vivid as possible. Make sure it’s a vision that inspires you and use that to trigger you to action.

7. Read a book (or blog).

The things we read are like food to our brain. If you are out of ideas, it’s time to feed your brain with great materials.

Here’s a list of 40 books you can start off with. Stock your browser with only the feeds of high quality blogs, such as Lifehack.org, DumbLittleMan, Seth Godin’s Blog, Tim Ferris’ Blog, Zen Habits or The Personal Excellence Blog.

Check out the best selling books; those are generally packed with great wisdom.

8. Have a quick nap.

If you are at home, take a quick nap for about 20-30 minutes. This clears up your mind and gives you a quick boost. Nothing quite like starting off on a fresh start after catching up on sleep.

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9. Remember why you are doing this.

Sometimes we lose sight of why we do what we do, and after a while we become jaded. A quick refresher on why you even started on this project will help.

What were you thinking when you thought of doing this? Retrace your thoughts back to that moment. Recall why you are doing this. Then reconnect with your muse.

10. Find some competition.

Nothing quite like healthy competition to spur us forward. If you are out of ideas, then check up on what people are doing in your space.

Colleagues at work, competitors in the industry, competitors’ products and websites, networking conventions.. you get the drill.

11. Go exercise.

Since you are not making headway at work, might as well spend the time shaping yourself up.

Sometimes we work so much that we neglect our health and fitness. Go jog, swim, cycle, whichever exercise you prefer.

As you improve your physical health, your mental health will improve, too. The different facets of ourselves are all interlinked.

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Here’re 15 Tips to Restart the Exercise Habit (and How to Keep It).

12. Take a good break.

Ruts are usually signs that you have been working too long and too hard. It’s time to get a break.

Beyond the quick tips above, arrange for a 1-day or 2-days of break from your work. Don’t check your (work) emails or do anything work-related. Relax and do your favorite activities. You will return to your work recharged and ready to start.

Contrary to popular belief, the world will not end from taking a break from your work. In fact, you will be much more ready to make an impact after proper rest. My best ideas and inspiration always hit me whenever I’m away from my work.

Take a look at this to learn the importance of rest: The Importance of Scheduling Downtime

More Resources About Getting out of a Rut

Featured photo credit: Joshua Earle via unsplash.com

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