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10 Thinking Mistakes You’re Probably Making

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 April 19, 2021

    The Art of Taking a Break So You Will Be Productive Again

    The Art of Taking a Break So You Will Be Productive Again

    Think of yourself as a cup. Each day, you wake up full. But as you go about your day—getting tasks done and interacting with people—the amount in your cup gradually gets lower. And as such, you get less and less effective at whatever it is you’re supposed to be doing. You’re running out of steam.

    The solution is obvious: if you don’t have anything left to pour out, then you need to find a way to fill yourself up again. In work terms, that means you should take a break—an essential form of revitalizing your motivation and focus.

    Taking a break may get a bad rap in hustle culture, but it’s an essential, science-based way to ensure you have the capacity to live your life the way you want to live it.

    In the 1980s, when scientists began researching burnout, they described this inner capacity as “resources.” We all need to replenish our resources to cope with stress, work effectively, and avoid burnout.[1]

    When the goal is to get things done, it may sound counterproductive to stop what you’re doing. But if you embrace the art of taking a break, you can be more efficient and effective at work.

    Here are five ways on how you can take a break and boost your productivity.

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    1. Break for the Right Amount of Time, at the Right Time

    When I started my first job out of college, I was bent on pleasing my boss as most entry-level employees do. So, every day, I punched in at 9 AM on the dot, took a 60-minute lunch break at noon, and left no earlier than 5 PM.

    As I’ve logged more hours in my career, I’ve realized the average, eight-hour workday with an hour lunch break simply isn’t realistic—especially if your goal is to put your best foot forward at work.

    That’s why popular productivity techniques like the Pomodoro advocate for the “sprint” principle. Basically, you work for a short burst, then stop for a short, five-minute break. While the Pomodoro technique is a step forward, more recent research shows a shorter burst of working followed by a longer pause from work might actually be a more effective way to get the most out of stepping away from your desk.

    The team at DeskTime analyzed more than 5 million records of how workers used their computers on the job. They found that the most productive people worked an average of 52 minutes, then took a 17-minute break afterward.[2]

    What’s so special about those numbers? Leave it to neuroscience. According to researchers, the human brain naturally works in spurts of activity that last an hour. Then, it toggles to “low-activity mode.”[3]

    Even so, keep in mind that whatever motivates you is the most effective method. It’s more about the premise—when you know you have a “finish line” approaching, you can stay focused on the task or project at hand.

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    There are many applications and tools that can help you block distracting websites and apps (such as social media) for specific periods of the day. Similarly, you can also use some mailing apps like Mailbrew to receive all the social media content or newsletters you don’t want to miss in your inbox at a time you decide.

    So, no matter how long you work, take a break when you sense you’re losing steam or getting bored with the task. Generally, a 10-15 minute break should reinvigorate you for whatever’s coming next.

    2. Get a Change of Scenery—Ideally, Outdoors

    When it comes to increasing a person’s overall mental health, there’s no better balm than nature. Research has found that simply being outside can restore a person’s mind from mental fatigue related to work or studying, ultimately contributing to improved work performance (and even improved work satisfaction).[4]

    No lush forest around? Urban nature can be just as effective to get the most out of your break-taking. Scientists Stephen R. Kellert and Edward O. Wilson, in their book The Biophilia Hypothesis, claimed that even parks, outdoor paths, and building designs that embrace “urban nature” can lend a sense of calm and inspiration, encouraging learning and alertness for workers.

    3. Move Your Body

    A change of scenery can do wonders for your attention span and ability to focus, but it’s even more beneficial if you pair it with physical movement to pump up that adrenaline of yours. Simply put, your body wasn’t designed to be seated the entire day. In fact, scientists now believe that extended periods of sitting are just as dangerous to health as smoking.[5]

    It’s not always feasible to enjoy the benefits of a 30-minute brisk walk during your workday, especially since you’ll most likely have less energy during workdays. But the good news is, for productivity purposes, you don’t have to. Researchers found that just 10 minutes of exercise can boost your memory and attention span throughout the entire day.[6]

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    So, instead of using your break to sit and read the news or scroll your social media account, get out of your chair and move your body. Take a quick walk around the block. Do some jumping jacks in your home office. Whatever you choose, you’ll likely find yourself with a sharper focus—and more drive to get things done.

    4. Connect With Another Person

    Social connection is one of the most important factors for resilience. When we’re in a relationship with other people, it’s easier to cope with stress—and in my experience, getting social can also help to improve focus after a work break.

    One of my favorite ways to break after a 30-or-so minute sprint is to hang out with my family. And once a week, I carve out time to Skype my relatives back in Turkey. It’s amazing how a bit of levity and emotional connection can rev me up for the next work sprint.

    Now that most of us are working from home, getting some face-to-face time with a loved one isn’t as hard as it once was. So, take the time to chat with your partner. Take your kids outside to run around the backyard. If you live alone, call a friend or relative. Either way, coming up for air to chat with someone who knows and cares about you will leave you feeling invigorated and inspired.

    5. Use Your Imagination

    When you’re working with your head down, your brain has an ongoing agenda: get things done, and do it well. That can be an effective method for productivity, but it only lasts so long—especially because checking things off your to-do list isn’t the only ingredient to success at work. You also need innovation.

    That’s why I prioritize a “brain break” every day. When I feel my “cup” getting empty, I usually choose another creative activity to exercise my brain, like a Crossword puzzle, Sudoku, or an unrelated, creative project in my house.

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    And when I’m really struggling to focus, I don’t do anything at all. Instead, I let my brain roam free for a bit, following my thoughts down whatever trail they lead me. As it turns out, there’s a scientific benefit to daydreaming. It reinforces creativity and helps you feel more engaged with the world, which will only benefit you in your work.[7]

    Whether you help your kids with their distance learning homework, read an inspiring book, or just sit quietly to enjoy some fresh air, your brain will benefit from an opportunity to think and feel without an agenda. And, if you’re anything like me, you might just come up with your next great idea when you aren’t even trying.

    Final Thoughts

    Most of us have to work hard for our families and ourselves. And the current world we live in demands the highest level of productivity that we can offer. However, we also have to take a break once in a while. We are humans, after all.

    Learning the art of properly taking a break will not only give you the rest you need but also increase your productivity in the long run.

    More on the Importance of Taking a Break

    Featured photo credit: Helena Lopes via unsplash.com

    Reference

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