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10 Thinking Mistakes You’re Probably Making

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10 Thinking Mistakes You’re Probably Making

Our thoughts help us direct our lives: what we should do next, what to say to that person, whether we should change jobs or go on a diet, etc. But what if our thoughts are plainly… wrong? What if they are misguided and lead us to reach the wrong conclusions and make the wrong decisions?

Here are 10 thinking mistakes you might be making… and how to avoid them.

1. Not understanding the Confirmation Bias.

We like to think we are rational, yet we are not. In order to make sense of all the information we get every day, our mind employs filters. And guess what? We make those filters according to our beliefs. That’s known in psychology as the confirmation bias.

If you think you will never, ever, be an achiever, then you will never be one. You will most probably not even try. But even if you do, the moment you see an obstacle… ahhh you knew you couldn’t make this happen!

At the same time, if you think you have what it takes to be successful, guess what? You will have what it takes! Every obstacle that comes in—pheww. Piece of cake. You have what it takes, right? Even if you fail, who cares? Failure just happens to everyone. You have what it takes.

Whether you like it or not, the confirmation bias is affecting you right now. We are wired to be biased. Use it to your advantage :)

2. Thinking that this ONE thing will solve everything.

Your friend Jill lost 20 pounds! Wow. She took a strange pill to help her. You need to get your hands on this pill too! This pill is what made her succeed and you want that too!

What you don’t know—or don’t care to know—is that Jill also changed her diet along with taking that pill.
You cannot really know whether it was the pill or the diet or both that helped Jill lose weight. You can only guess, yet it’s easy to believe it was this ONE thing that led to success. It was the pill. That’s the attribution bias.

And that’s why people ask:

“What’s the ONE thing I need to do to get my business succeed?”

“What’s the ONE exercise I need to do to get toned abs?”

There are multiple keys to success and it’s rarely one thing, or a shortcut, that makes or breaks our success.

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3. Getting pleasure in the current moment—leaving pain for later.

It’s just easy to be lazy.

Let’s do what works for now, and forget about the long-term, shall we? Among others, that’s the recipe of every incompetent government in the world!

That’s exactly how quick fixes and shortcuts blossom. And that’s known as the current moment bias.

4. Confusing correlation and causation.

Tons of studies correlate obesity with a number of diseases and risk factors. Yet, that doesn’t mean that obesity causes those diseases. It only means that people who happen to be obese, might have a higher chance of developing these diseases.

Here’s an example: one person might be obese, but fit. They run, they lift, the are on the move.

Another person might be obese and sedentary.

Maybe most obese people are also sedentary.

And that’s how obesity is linked to several diseases.

Maybe it’s being sedentary that’s the problem, not the weight itself. Who knows, really?

That’s exactly how fat people may show better lab results than thin people.

And if that wasn’t clear enough, check this graph out. Would it be fair to say that Internet Explorer…kills?

thinking mistakes
    Would it be fair to say that Internet Explorer kills just because of this correlation?

     

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    5. You are beautiful, so you must be smart too.

    Did you know that people have a tendency to rate attractive individuals more favorably for their personality traits or characteristics than those who are less attractive? Yup, appearance matters.

    Because you are more beautiful you might come across as more reliable, smart, skilled, and having all sorts of good qualities. That’s known as the Halo Effect.

    6. Predicting the future according to how things feel like right now.

    We are mostly terrible at projecting the future, especially when we are in an emotional situation. We just cannot think straight. Just think of the last time you went to the supermarket and felt hungry. Didn’t you feel you NEEDED all the unhealthy food in front of you?

    Maybe the day after, when you were no longer hungry, you were just stuck with cookies and chips in your cabinet, but no longer feel like devouring them all. Yet, in the supermarket the previous day, you really felt you needed to load up.

    That’s the projection bias and it occurs despite the fact that we have plenty of experience with the undesirable consequences.

    And that’s why next time you go the supermarket hungry, you will still load up on less-than-healthy food.

    7. Being a realist.

    Being a realist must be good for us, right?

    Well, it depends.

    In my course Exercise Bliss, where people who lack exercise motivation learn how to make exercise a daily habit, we all do one thinking exercise.

    Say you are unfit.

    “I’m so unfit”, you think. That’s true. However, you could also think:

    “I’m currently unfit, but I’m taking steps that lead me to higher and higher fitness levels”

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    Both statements are true. The difference is that the first one is discouraging, and increases your chance of quitting exercise, while the second one is encouraging.

    So next time your are being a realist, ask yourself, whether the way you think is serving you, or whether it takes you further away from your goals.

    8. Feeling like we have to fix everything right now.

    Maybe you need to make an extra $1000/month. Or, maybe you want to lose 20 pounds. You want it NOW. You feel you need to make some type of change that would get you the money, or get rid of your extra weight, immediately. So instead of thinking: How can I make $10 more today or this week?, you’re thinking: How can I make $1000 more this month?

    I’m not saying you shouldn’t ask yourself how to get to $1000/month this month, but you don’t have to start from your end goal.

    Getting $10 more this week, or $100 more this month is easier than getting to $1000.

    Then, next month you can increase your number.

    Similarly, you don’t have to lose all the weight this month. You can lose a little this month, and then a little more next month, etc.

    The rush you feel to fix everything immediately only stresses you out, and it’s possible that it’s getting in your way and doesn’t let you move forward. Next time you make this thinking mistake, tell yourself you don’t have to start with the end goal right away. You can work your way towards it.

    9. Believing gurus without understanding them.

    I recently read a fascinating story that explains how different pieces of advice may all be correct. It’s from the Distilled Thinking blog: Here it is:

    “So basically, there are these 5 blind men and they’re all put into a room with an elephant. Don’t ask me why.”

    “But these blind men are all asked to describe the elephant.”

    “The first blind man grabs the elephant’s tail and says, ‘Elephants are thin and long with a tuft of fur at one end.’”

    The audience laughs at this a little bit.

    “Obviously, as far as elephants go that’s not a very good description. But it is actually true. It’s just only true for a certain part of an elephant.”

    “The next blind man gets ahold of the elephant’s trunk and says, ‘Elephants are thick cylinders with two holes at one end.’”

    “Now, this blind guy is right too. But he’s only right in the same way as the first blind guy who held the elephant’s tail.”

    “And so the story goes on with each blind man touching one portion of the elephant or other and each providing his own description of what this thing we call an ‘elephant’ is. The fun part of the story is that these guys are all telling the truth and they’re all right but they’re only right within a certain context.”

    “Business advice is similar. Everyone is totally blind, feeling around in the dark, trying to succeed at building this thing we call a ‘business’. And everyone who has war stories about entrepreneurship is telling the truth. The problem is, that no one has perfect insight and no one knows the whole picture. No one can possibly touch the entire ‘elephant’ of business.”

    Next time you take advice from someone, guru or not, don’t take it at face value. Ask yourself, where is that person coming from? What’s their context?

    10. Confusing your thoughts with you.

    If you find yourself, e.g., being jealous, then that doesn’t mean you are a bad person. It might actually mean you want to do exactly what that other person does, but you are not already doing it!

    Have you noticed you think happy thoughts when you are happy, but negative thoughts when you are tired or sad? You are the same person, it’s your feeling state that brings in different thoughts.

    Thoughts are just thoughts. They come in and they go out. It’s your decision what thoughts you’ll keep, and what thoughts you’ll let go of. But most importantly: These thoughts are not YOU.

    So what thinking mistakes are you making? What are you going to do to make less thinking mistakes today?

     

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    Internet Explorer graph credit: http://chrisblattman.com/2013/05/24/correlation-versus-causation-in-a-single-graph/

    More by this author

    Maria Brilaki

    Maria helps people create habits that stick not just for a month or two but for years and decades.

    How to Find Workout Motivation When You Hate Exercise 8 Ways to Train Your Brain to Learn Faster and Remember More How to Think Happy Thoughts and Train Your Brain to Be Happy 7 Scientifically Proven Ways to Be a Happier Person 10 Things Nice People Do Differently That Make Them Achieve More

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    Last Updated on October 21, 2021

    How to Create Your Own Ritual to Conquer Time Wasters and Laziness

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    How to Create Your Own Ritual to Conquer Time Wasters and Laziness

    Life is wasted in the in-between times. The time between when your alarm first rings and when you finally decide to get out of bed. The time between when you sit at your desk and when productive work begins. The time between making a decision and doing something about it.

    Slowly, your day is whittled away from all the unused in-between moments. Eventually, time wasters, laziness, and procrastination get the better of you.

    The solution to reclaim these lost middle moments is by creating rituals. Every culture on earth uses rituals to transfer information and encode behaviors that are deemed important. Personal rituals can help you build a better pattern for handling everything from how you wake up to how you work.

    Unfortunately, when most people see rituals, they see pointless superstitions. Indeed, many rituals are based on a primitive understanding of the world. But by building personal rituals, you get to encode the behaviors you feel are important and cut out the wasted middle moments.

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    Program Your Own Algorithms

    Another way of viewing rituals is by seeing them as computer algorithms. An algorithm is a set of instructions that is repeated to get a result.

    Some algorithms are highly efficient, sorting or searching millions of pieces of data in a few seconds. Other algorithms are bulky and awkward, taking hours to do the same task.

    By forming rituals, you are building algorithms for your behavior. Take the delayed and painful pattern of waking up, debating whether to sleep in for another two minutes, hitting the snooze button, repeat until almost late for work. This could be reprogrammed to get out of bed immediately, without debating your decision.

    How to Form a Ritual

    I’ve set up personal rituals for myself for handling e-mail, waking up each morning, writing articles, and reading books. Far from making me inflexible, these rituals give me a useful default pattern that works best 99% of the time. Whenever my current ritual won’t work, I’m always free to stop using it.

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    Forming a ritual isn’t too difficult, and the same principles for changing habits apply:

    1. Write out your sequence of behavior. I suggest starting with a simple ritual of only 3-4 steps maximum. Wait until you’ve established a ritual before you try to add new steps.
    2. Commit to following your ritual for thirty days. This step will take the idea and condition it into your nervous system as a habit.
    3. Define a clear trigger. When does your ritual start? A ritual to wake up is easy—the sound of your alarm clock will work. As for what triggers you to go to the gym, read a book or answer e-mail—you’ll have to decide.
    4. Tweak the Pattern. Your algorithm probably won’t be perfectly efficient the first time. Making a few tweaks after the first 30-day trial can make your ritual more useful.

    Ways to Use a Ritual

    Based on the above ideas, here are some ways you could implement your own rituals:

    1. Waking Up

    Set up a morning ritual for when you wake up and the next few things you do immediately afterward. To combat the grogginess after immediately waking up, my solution is to do a few pushups right after getting out of bed. After that, I sneak in ninety minutes of reading before getting ready for morning classes.

    2. Web Usage

    How often do you answer e-mail, look at Google Reader, or check Facebook each day? I found by taking all my daily internet needs and compressing them into one, highly-efficient ritual, I was able to cut off 75% of my web time without losing any communication.

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    3. Reading

    How much time do you get to read books? If your library isn’t as large as you’d like, you might want to consider the rituals you use for reading. Programming a few steps to trigger yourself to read instead of watching television or during a break in your day can chew through dozens of books each year.

    4. Friendliness

    Rituals can also help with communication. Set up a ritual of starting a conversation when you have opportunities to meet people.

    5. Working

    One of the hardest barriers when overcoming procrastination is building up a concentrated flow. Building those steps into a ritual can allow you to quickly start working or continue working after an interruption.

    6. Going to the gym

    If exercising is a struggle, encoding a ritual can remove a lot of the difficulty. Set up a quick ritual for going to exercise right after work or when you wake up.

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    7. Exercise

    Even within your workouts, you can have rituals. Spacing the time between runs or reps with a certain number of breaths can remove the guesswork. Forming a ritual of doing certain exercises in a particular order can save time.

    8. Sleeping

    Form a calming ritual in the last 30-60 minutes of your day before you go to bed. This will help slow yourself down and make falling asleep much easier. Especially if you plan to get up full of energy in the morning, it will help if you remove insomnia.

    8. Weekly Reviews

    The weekly review is a big part of the GTD system. By making a simple ritual checklist for my weekly review, I can get the most out of this exercise in less time. Originally, I did holistic reviews where I wrote my thoughts on the week and progress as a whole. Now, I narrow my focus toward specific plans, ideas, and measurements.

    Final Thoughts

    We all want to be productive. But time wasters, procrastination, and laziness sometimes get the better of us. If you’re facing such difficulties, don’t be afraid to make use of these rituals to help you conquer them.

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    More Tips to Conquer Time Wasters and Procrastination

     

    Featured photo credit: RODOLFO BARRETO via unsplash.com

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