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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.

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    Last Updated on December 10, 2019

    How to Stay Motivated and Reach Your Big Goals in Life

    How to Stay Motivated and Reach Your Big Goals in Life

    It is hardly a secret that the key to successfully accomplishing one goal after another is staying motivated. There are, of course, tasks which successful people may not like at all, yet they find motivation to complete them because they recognize how each particular task serves a greater goal.

    So how to stay motivated most of the time? Here are 5 simple yet effective ways on how to stay motivated and get what you want:

    1. Find Your Good Reasons

    Anything you do, no matter how simple, has a number of good reasons behind it.

    You may not be able to find good reasons to do some tasks at first but, if you take just a few moments to analyze them, you will easily spot something good. We also have many tasks which don’t need any reasoning at all – we’ve been doing them for so long that they feel natural.

    If you’re ever stuck with some tasks you hate and there seems to be no motivation to complete it whatsoever, here’s what you need to do: find your good reasons.

    Even when you set goals, there needs to be reasons behind these goals. They may not be obvious, but stay at it until you see some, as this will bring your motivation back and will help you finish the task.

    Some ideas for what a good reason can be:

    • A material reward – quite often, you will get paid for doing something you normally don’t like doing at all.
    • Personal gain – you will learn something new or will perhaps improve yourself in a certain way.
    • A feeling of accomplishment – at least you’ll be able to walk away feeling great about finding the motivation and courage to complete such a tedious task.
    • A step closer to your bigger goal – even the biggest accomplishments in history have started small and relied on simple and far less pleasant tasks than you might be working on. Every task you complete brings you closer to the ultimate goal, and acknowledging this always feels good.

    2. Make It Fun

    When it comes to motivation, attitude is everything. Different people may have completely opposite feelings towards the same task: some will hate it, others will love it.

    Why do you think this happens? It’s simple: some of us find ways to make any task interesting and fun to do!

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    Take sports for example. Visiting your local gym daily for a half-an-hour workout session sounds rather boring to some. Yet many others love the idea!

    They like exercising not only because they recognize the good reasons behind it, but simply because it’s fun! At certain time of their daily schedule, they find going to gym to be the best thing to do, simply because nothing else will fit their time and lifestyle so perfectly.

    Depending on how you look at it, you can have fun doing just about anything! Just look for ways of having fun, and you’ll find them!

    A simple approach is to start working on any task by asking yourself a few questions:

    • How can I enjoy this task?
    • What can I do to make this task fun for myself and possibly for others?
    • How can I make this work the best part of my day?

    As long as you learn to have the definite expectation of any task being potentially enjoyable, you will start to feel motivated.

    Some of you will probably think of a thing or two which are valid exceptions from this statement, like something you always hate doing no matter how hard you try making it fun. You’re probably right, and that’s why I don’t claim everything to be fun.

    However, most tasks have a great potential of being enjoyable, and so looking for ways to have fun while working is definitely a good habit to acquire.

    3. Change Your Approach And Don’t Give Up

    When something doesn’t feel right, it’s always a good time to take a moment and look for a different approach for the task.

    You may be doing everything correctly and most efficiently, but such approach isn’t necessarily the most motivating one. Quite often, you can find a number of obvious tweaks to your current approach which will both change your experience and open up new possibilities.

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    That’s why saying “one way or another” is so common — if you really want to accomplish your goal, there is always a way; and most likely, there’s more than one way.

    If a certain approach doesn’t work for you, find another one, and keep trying until you find the one which will both keep you motivated and get you the desired results.

    Some people think that trying a different approach means giving up. They take pride in being really stubborn and refusing to try any other options on their way towards the goal.

    My opinion on this is that the power of focus is great, but you should be focusing on your goal, and not limiting your options by focusing on just one way to accomplish it it.

    4. Recognize Your Progress

    Everything you may be working on can be easily split into smaller parts and stages. For most goals, it is quite natural to split the process of accomplishing them into smaller tasks and milestones. There are a few reasons behind doing this, and one of them is tracking your progress.

    We track our progress automatically with most activities. But to stay motivated, you need to recognize your progress, not merely track it.

    Here’s how tracking and recognizing your progress is different:

    Tracking is merely taking a note of having reached a certain stage in your process. Recognizing is taking time to look at a bigger picture and realize where exactly you are, and how much more you have left to do.

    For example, if you’re going to read a book, always start by going through the contents table. Getting familiar with chapter titles and memorizing their total number will make it easier for you to recognize your progress as you read. Confirming how many pages your book has before starting it is also a good idea.

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    You see, reading any book you will be automatically looking at page numbers and chapter titles, but without knowing the total number of pages, this information will have little meaning.

    Somehow, it is human nature to always want things to happen in short term or even at once. Even though we split complex tasks into simpler actions, we don’t quite feel the satisfaction until all is done and the task is fully complete.

    For many scenarios though, the task is so vast that such approach will drain all the motivation out of you long before you have a chance to reach your goal. That’s why it is important to always take small steps and recognize the positive different and progress made. This is how your motivation can sustain in long term.

    5. Reward Yourself

    This is a trick everyone likes: rewarding yourself is always pleasant. This is also one of the easiest and at the same time most powerful ways to stay motivated!

    Feeling down about doing something? Dread the idea of working on some task? Hate the whole idea of working? You’re not alone.

    Right from the beginning, agree on some deliverables which will justify yourself getting rewarded. As soon as you get one of the agreed results, take time to reward yourself in some way.

    For some tasks, just taking a break and relaxing for a few minutes will do.

    For others, you may want to get a fresh cup of coffee and even treat yourself a dessert.

    For even bigger and more demanding tasks, reward yourself by doing something even more enjoyable, like going to a cinema or taking a trip to some place nice, or even buying yourself something.

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    Your progress may not seem to others like anything worth celebrating but, take time and do it anyway! It is your task and your reward, so any ways to stay motivated are good.

    The more you reward yourself for the honestly made progress, the more motivated you will feel about reaching new milestones, thus finally accomplishing your goal.

    Mix and Match

    Now that you have these five ways of staying motivated, it is a good moment to give you the key to them all: mix and match!

    Pick one of the techniques and apply it to your situation. If it doesn’t work, or if you simply want to get more motivated, try another technique right way. Mix different approaches and match them to your task for the best results.

    Just think about it: Finding good reasons to work on your task is bound to helping you feel better; and identifying ways to make it fun will help you enjoy the task even more.

    Or, if you plan a few points for easier tracking of your progress and on top of that, agree on rewarding yourself as you go; this will make you feel most motivated about anything you have to work through.

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    Featured photo credit: Lucas Lenzi via unsplash.com

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