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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 Think Happy Thoughts and Train Your Brain to Be Happy 8 Ways to Train Your Brain to Learn Faster and Remember More 10 Things Nice People Do Differently That Make Them Achieve More If You Hate Exercise, This Will Probably Change Your Mind 10 Thinking Mistakes You’re Probably Making

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    Last Updated on June 29, 2020

    How Does Setting Goals Lead to Success?

    How Does Setting Goals Lead to Success?

    As well as being the founder of Lifehack, I also help people on a one-to-one basis through life coaching.

    I’ve been doing this for more than 10 years now and have helped hundreds of clients reevaluate their lives and turn inertia into progress and failure into success.

    A common theme I’ve noticed with many of my clients is that they don’t have any definite goals to aim towards.

    This has always surprised me, as goal setting is frequently recommended by self-improvement gurus, performance coaches, and business leaders. It’s also something that I learned at university and have implemented successfully in my life ever since.

    If you’re similar to the majority of my life coaching clients and you don’t have any definite goals to aim for, then you’re missing out on what is probably the most powerful personal success technique on the planet.

    The good news is—you’ve come to the right place for help with this.

    In this article, I’ll explain exactly what goal-setting is and how you can put it into action in your life. As you’ll discover, it’s a key that can open many doors for you.

    An Introduction to Goal Setting

    Goals can be big, small, short-term, long-term, essential, or desirable. But they all share one thing: They will give you something to aim for.

    This is important. As just like a ship without a destination, if you have no goals, you’ll end drifting aimlessly.

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    Goals give you purpose. They also give you drive and enthusiasm. In other words—they make you feel alive!

    If you’ve never spent time setting goals before, then here’s what I recommend you to do:

    1. Take some time to evaluate all areas of your life (health, career, family, etc.).
    2. Determine which of these areas need a boost.
    3. Think of ways in which to achieve this (for example, if you want to boost your health, you could eat less and exercise more).
    4. Set some definite goals that you would like to achieve.
    5. Write down these goals, including the date you want to accomplish them by.

    Now, before you get started on the above, I want to make one thing clear: Goals are not wishful thinking!

    By this, I mean that while your goals should be ambitious, they shouldn’t be unrealistic or verging into fantasy land.

    For example, wanting to be promoted at work would be a realistic goal while wanting to be President of the United States might not be. (Of course, feel free to prove me wrong!)

    If you’re new to the world of goal setting, then I’d recommend you start with easy-to-achieve goals. These could be things such as eating a healthy breakfast, walking more, taking regular breaks from your screen, and sleeping early.

    These simple goals might take you a month or so to achieve, including making the daily practices a habit.

    Once you’ve successfully accomplished these goals, you’ll find your self-confidence grows, and you’ll be ready to set yourself some bigger goals.

    Here are a few examples that you might want to choose or adapt to your personal circumstances:

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    • Run a marathon
    • Buy a new car
    • Learn a new language
    • Travel around the world
    • Change career
    • Retire early
    • Write a book

    I’m sure you can think of many more things that you would like to achieve. As the famous Shakespeare line neatly states: “The world is your oyster!”

    Now, the trick with big goals (as I’ll show in an example shortly) is to break them down into small, bite-sized chunks. This means you’ll have a big end goal, with smaller goals (sometimes referred to as objectives) helping you to gradually achieve your main aim.

    When you do this, you’ll make big goals more achievable. Plus, you’ll have an easy way to track how far along the road to your goal you are at any given point in time.

    Let’s see this in action…

    Going from an Idea to a Global Success

    Everything starts with an idea.

    And there appears to be no shortage of good ideas in the world. But there is a shortage of people willing to put these ideas into action!

    This is the essential step that will move you from being a dreamer to an achiever.

    Back in 2005, when I first had the idea for Lifehack, I really only considered it to be a platform to record some of my productivity and self-improvement techniques. I’d developed these during my time at university and as a Software Engineer at Redhat.

    However, based on the number of views and positive feedback I received on the first few articles, I quickly realized that Lifehack had the potential to be a popular and successful website—a site that could help transform the lives of people from all across the world.

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    It was at that point that I decided to set some goals in place for Lifehack.

    The way I did this was to set specific targets for different areas of the business:

    1. Number of articles published
    2. Amount of time spent writing and promoting the articles
    3. Number of new readers
    4. Number of new email subscribers
    5. Revenue generated from ads

    For each of the above, I set weekly, monthly, and yearly targets. These targets were realistic but were also ambitious. In addition, I wrote down the necessary steps to take to achieve each target within the specified time frame.

    This goal setting had a powerful impact on my motivation and energy levels. Because I could clearly see what needed to be done to achieve each goal, I found a purpose to my tasks that made them exciting to complete. Each small target achieved took me closer to accomplishing the bigger goals.

    For example, my initial goals for writing articles were for just five a week, which equated to 20 per month and just over 100 per year. However, as I dedicated more and more time to Lifehack, I found I was able to exceed my initial goals.

    This led me to increase the numbers. Of course, there’s a limit to how many articles one person can write. So when the readership began to exponentially increase, I started to hire other writers to help me out with the site’s content.

    From my initial goal of just over 100 articles per year, I’ve used goal setting to help Lifehack publish more than 35,000 articles to date. This is now the largest collection of original self-development articles in the world.

    And in terms of readership—this has skyrocketed from a few dozen in 2005 to several million in 2020.

    And of course, I have many new goals for Lifehack, including expanding our range of online courses.

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    My original goal has always remained the same though: To change people’s lives for the better.

    Goal Setting Can Transform Your Life

    If you haven’t yet experienced the incredible power of goal setting, then now’s the time to get started.

    Build a definite picture of what you want to accomplish, break it down into small, achievable steps, and then start taking action!

    You’ll be able to change all areas of your life using this method, including boosting your health, improving your relationships, and transforming your career. You may also want to use goal setting to start a new hobby or plot a path to a prosperous and peaceful retirement.

    So please don’t wait for success to drop in your lap (which it is highly unlikely to do). Instead, decide on exactly what you want, then make a plan to get it. This is the secret to lifelong success.

    Legendary motivational speaker and author Paul J. Meyer said it well:

    “Goal setting is the most important aspect of all improvement and personal development plans. It is the key to all fulfillment and achievement.”

    Final Thoughts

    Now, let me leave you with five questions that will help you think about your future:

    1. What would you like to be doing in 3, 5, and 7 years?
    2. What things make you happiest?
    3. How can you share your knowledge and experience?
    4. Who can help you achieve your goals?
    5. What would you like to be your legacy?

    Take plenty of time to think about these questions. When the answers come, you’ll be able to start building a picture of how you’d like your life to be—and what goals you need to set to make this picture a reality.

    More Tips on Setting Goals

    Featured photo credit: Jealous Weekends via unsplash.com

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