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Not A Good Decision Maker? You Will Know How To Be One After Reading This.

Not A Good Decision Maker? You Will Know How To Be One After Reading This.

We’ve been told that making good decisions is all about standing our ground. It’s about being strong and deliberate. It’s about being sure of ourselves. What if we’re wrong? What if a good decision requires just the opposite? What if we need to become more open-minded?

In 1995, Psychologist Jonathan Baron coined the term “actively open-minded thinking.” According to Baron, the primary purpose of deliberate thought is to form beliefs and make decisions based on those beliefs. Actively open-minded thinking is the process of consciously considering a wide array of options when forming those beliefs and making those decisions.

It sounds nice in theory, but does actively open-minded thinking actually help you make better decisions? Wouldn’t it, instead, make you more uncertain? Won’t considering too many options cause to flounder in doubt and become indecisive? Well, to answer these questions, I’ll first consider the opposite of actively open-minded thinking. Let’s call it “actively close-minded thinking.”

The Perils of a Closed Mind

In a recent experiment, researchers from the Yale Cultural Cognition Project sought to understand how political ideologies influence our ability to make accurate judgments. To do so, they split a thousand participants into four equally sized groups, each containing more or less the same amount of liberal democrats and conservative republicans. Each group was asked to look at a chart and perform a basic mathematical calculation in order to draw a conclusion about the data.

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The first two groups were attempting to understand whether a new skin cream had caused subjects in trials to get worse or to get better. To do so, they had to calculate the ratio of the subjects who had taken the cream and gotten better to those who hadn’t taken the cream and still got better (control group), to the ratio of those who had taken the cream and got worse to those who hadn’t taken the cream and still got worse (control group).

For one of these groups, the data was presented favorably for the cream. For the other, the data was presented unfavorably for the cream. Though neither group demonstrated excellent quantitative abilities, liberal Democrats and conservative Republicans scored equally well in each of these groups. But what if the topic was a little more politically charged? What if the issue wasn’t about skin cream? What if, instead, it was about Gun control?

For the second two groups, the researchers kept the data exactly the same, but they changed “the introduction of a skin cream” to “the introduction of a gun ban.” Then, they asked the subjects to calculate whether the gun ban led to an increase or a decrease in crime. How do you think these results came out?

Both not surprisingly and downright shockingly, the politically—charged context dramatically changed how participants answered the question—even though it was the same basic math problem. In the group with results favorable to the gun ban, conservative republicans were far more likely to get the question wrong. In the group with results unfavorable to the gun ban, liberal democrats were far more likely to get the question wrong.

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Why, in the second experiment were people more likely to make poor judgments? Because they already had their minds made up on the issue. They didn’t need to think it through, because they already knew the right answer. Or, so they thought.

It turns out that being certain doesn’t help you make better decisions; it just helps you make faster decisions.

The Profits of an Open Mind

Now, back to “actively open-minded thinking.” In a separate experiment, published in the journal Judgment and Decision Making, a team of researchers sought to put actively open-minded thinking to the test. The researchers first administered a standard test, measuring how prone the participants were to thinking open-mindedly. Then, they tested how well the participants could predict the outcome of a football game from a previous season (not known by the participants) in the National Football League.

On a screen, each participant was shown a home team and an away team. At the bottom of the screen, they were given two options. They could 1) ask for information or 2) make an estimate. If they requested information, they were given clues such as the teams’ win-loss records. The participants were permitted to request up to 10 pieces of information before making an estimate.

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After all the participants had made predictions on ten different games, the results were tabulated. As you might expect, the people who opted to gather more information were much more likely to make accurate predictions than those who guessed right away.

And what about that “open-mindedness” test? Yes, it turns out that those who sought out more information were also those who scored highly on the test. The takeaway: being open-minded causes you to seek out more information. And, seeking out more information causes you to make better decisions.

A Posture of Curiosity

There’s another less academic word for “actively open-minded thinking” that we use much more often in our everyday conversations. That word is “curiosity.” Everyday, we’ll encounter major decisions that will impact us for the rest of our lives. We’ll have to decide whether or not to marry our significant other. We’ll have to decide whether or not to accept a job offer. We’ll have to decide whether or not to go to graduate school. Approaching such situations with a posture of curiosity will almost always help us make better decisions.

When making these major life decisions, the closed mind will focus only on one variable. Does my mother/father approve? Is it a high enough salary? Will the degree get me a better job? The curious mind seeks out more information. What do her/his parents think? Twenty years from now, will it matter what my parents think? Is salary the only thing I should be concerned with? Will I get along with the people that currently work there? Do I just want to go to school to get a better job? Aren’t I also interested in learning more about my field and becoming a more well-rounded person?

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When you’re curious, you ask these questions. When you ask questions, you get answers. And when you get answers, you make better decisions.

The idea that the person who makes quick, forceful decisions without any doubt is somehow making better decisions—that’s a myth. As psychologists Christopher Chabris and Daniel Simons point out in The Invisible Gorilla, those who are most confident in their decision-making abilities are often those who are least competent in their decision-making abilities.

If you want to make better decisions, doubt your intuitions. Test your assumptions. Seek a wider range of possibilities.

Become curious.

Featured photo credit: Pretty young woman making a decision with arrows and question mark above her head via shutterstock.com

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Published on June 19, 2019

Your Beliefs About Success May Be Holding You Back

Your Beliefs About Success May Be Holding You Back
Pause for a moment and think about how you would describe success.

If your description is dominated by money or status, then your image of success is faulty.

For example, there are countless people who have these assets but don’t feel successful. Some of these people have enormous amounts of disposable income, but work so many hours during the day that they have no life beyond their work.

Would you regard these people as successful?

At first glance, I likely wouldn’t.

And, then there are the endless celebrities who go from fame to failure (think bankruptcy, addictions and worse).

Are they successful?

Probably not.

In truth, success is about happiness and fulfillment in life.

But, there is more than one definition of success. Just look at the above example of the person who worked too hard to spend their money. If they’re happy with their life, then we shouldn’t criticize their version of success.

So how about you? Do you have a clear definition of what success looks like for you?

If you don’t, you’ll be constantly chasing someone else’s idea of success, and could find yourself totally unfulfilled and miserable.

The good news is that over the next few minutes, I’m going to give you the tools you need to build a crystal clear picture of YOUR SUCCESS.

Positive Thinking

With the right attitude, anything can seem possible.

For instance, if you’re fed up with your job, but do nothing to change it, then you’ll likely be stuck there for years to come. But, if you see the job as a stepping stone to something bigger and better, then not only will you enjoy your work more, but you’ll have something positive to aim towards (e.g., a promotion or new job).

The example above demonstrates a little-known factor of success… suffering!

Yes, suffering may be a negative thing that most people go out of their way to avoid; but successful people use suffering as a springboard to big achievements. Mindset really does separate the losers from the winners.

Another thing you can do, is to gradually build up your positivity and confidence by tracking your progress towards your goals. And, each time you accomplish something – however small – be sure to celebrate it!

This is a great way to propel you towards success.

The Purpose of a Purpose

What is your purpose in life?

These are questions I suggest you spend some time thinking about. To help you find the answers, consider the following:

If you just seek a career, all you will find is a career.

But, if you seek a purpose, you’ll find something much more than a career – you’ll find your calling. And when you’ve found this, and you begin following it, you’ll be firmly in the middle of the happiness, satisfaction and success zone.

This is backed by science, with research showing that people who have a purpose and meaning in life have an increase in:[1]
  • Overall well-being
  • Mental and physical health
  • Resiliency
  • Self-esteem

But, don’t mistake seeking happiness and success as your purpose. These things are a natural result of following your purpose – but shouldn’t be your focal point.

Austrian Neurologist and Holocaust survivor Viktor Frankl said it well:

“It is the very pursuit of happiness, that thwarts happiness.”

What about YOUR purpose?

If you’re struggling to identify it, look for the things in your life that you’re good at, enthuse you, and provide a benefit to the world.

Becoming a Better You

Are your beliefs holding you back?

If yes, here are three things you can do RIGHT NOW to break out of your mind trap:

  1. Boost Your Confidence: you can do this by overcoming challenges that come your way. For example, if you have a fear of public speaking, face this challenge head-on by agreeing to do regular presentations for your company, or by joining a public speaking organization like Toastmasters International. Speak in public often enough, and your fear of it will plunge like a river going over a waterfall.
  2. Develop Healthy Habits: I’m talking about positive habits that will serve you day in, day out. Habits such as lifelong learning, eating well, and waking up early. When these things are automatic for you, you’ll reap incredible benefits from them. Take eating well, for example. You’ll feel better. You’ll look better. And you’ll have way more energy to make things happen in your life.
  3. Invoke the Magic of Goal Setting: Without goals, you’ll drift through life like a plastic bottle in the sea. But with goals, you’ll be like a 100m sprinter running towards the finishing line. Goals really are powerful tools. They’ll direct your focus and energy, and will allow you to track your progress in life. I recommend the SMART goal-setting method (find out about this here).

And, always remember… don’t compare yourself to others; only compare yourself to who you were yesterday.

Each step you take forward is making you a better version of you.

Success Is Self-Love

I encourage you to take the tips I’ve shared in this article and put them into action in your life. Ideally, starting right now!

Firstly, transform your mindset by facing up to challenges and overcoming them. Then spend time to discover your purpose. And, once you’ve found it – start following it.

Becoming a better version of you will take some time, but will be worth the wait. Not only will you reach into untapped potential in your life, but you’ll also develop respect and love for yourself along the way.

So don’t let your beliefs hold you back anymore. BREAK FREE from them and start enjoying a happy, healthy and successful life.

Featured photo credit: Razvan Chisu via unsplash.com

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