Monthly Archives: May 2020

Why being positive is the way to go

For this post, we’ll have a quick conversation on positivity.

The self-help industry has been around for a while. If you have been born for longer 5 or even earlier, chances are that you’ve been exposed to some lesson whose roots come from the self-help industry. The self-help movement is about many things, but if asked to break down this movement to a single word that word would be positivity. Positivity because it’s at the root of many of the most popular and powerful lessons taught by motivational speakers and life coaches.

From the title, you might assume that I’m a person who has just been exposed to these ideas of positivity and self-improvement, or a “veteran”. The truth however is complicated. I’m a bit of both. I realized that I’m both a veteran, in the sense that I have been aware of and adopted it to my life, and at the same time the person who learned that they can be better than yesterday two days ago. This post is about that.

Why being positive is the way to go

There are two kinds of people in the world we live in. The first is the kind that tends to be more biased towards following other people. They quickly adopt what’s currently popular, and they do it in a way that seems original. Think about clothing for example. New trends come and go each year. Each year the followers adopt the new fashion trend as if they created it, and like clockwork, they quickly abandon that particular style.

The second kind of people seeks originality and adopt new trends only if they truly make sense to them. Now you might think the second kind is the one to aspire to be, but the truth is more complicated. Every life strategy has its pros and cons, and one of the pros of being a blind follower is that you are more likely to be an early adopter of a world-changing invention, and as result, you can gain a competitive advantage over your peers who are not so quick to adopt the new.

The advantage the second kind of people gain is that lots of new things out there fail, and as a result, you make fewer mistakes. I adopt the new more slowly, with a few gulps of skepticism along the way. The same applies to positive thinking. I realized that over the years I’ve developed a love and hate relationship with the self-help movement/industry. While being a real proponent of self-improvement and growth I grew more and more skeptical about the idea of positivity as an effective strategy to success.

Can you succeed without being positive?

To keep things short my answer is likely not and this is my reason why. Being overly critical of yourself can definitely have a positive effect on your accomplishments in the short term. Your discontentment with the current state of affairs forces you to transcend your limitations even if the limitations feel comfortable. Over time, however, the negativity of self-criticism paired with no results can quickly wear you out.

The problem is that to succeed you often have to put in more effort than you expect. When you get to the point where you expected to succeed and you don’t, the already existent negativity quickly amplifies while urging you more and more to quit on your goals and dreams, and this is not the worst part of it. The worst part of it is the fact that with that much negativity you also slowly wear out your sense of self-worth.

Why being positive matters

Being positive matters more than what you think. It’s not just a source of motivation, because there is no such thing as “a mere form of motivation”. All motivation matters regardless of how small. Just think about the butterfly effect.

A small burst of motivation might lead you to write the first two sentences of your book or music, and who knows? Maybe even before the end of the burst you somehow manage to put yourself inflow, which in turn leads you to create a masterpiece.

Positivity is energetic and energy is required if you are to successfully defeat any obstacles that come your way. And trust me they will come.

I got to this realization when I read the book Can’t Hurt Me by David Goggins.

On one of the passages the author finds that while in the middle of a marathon, the thing that got him going after feeling destroyed was what he named “The cookie jar”.

Put simply the cookie jar is a metaphor for motivation storage. Each cookie would be a memory of an instance in which he overcame obstacles. It’s a representation of how much he can do.

The impact of a negative mindset

The next thing to think about is the impact of the negative in the long run. The thing about the negative/pessimist is that he/she doesn’t see it for what it is. If anything they might even believe that their approach to life is realistic, while anyone who tries to see the good in life is just delusional.

While some positive thinking borders on the delusional the real question here is how useful is it to be realistic? I find that “being realistic” is only good to give you the feeling of being right. And what’s the point of being right?

As I said before, most of the things you set out to do will likely require more time, energy, and motivation than you think. Eventually, you’re likely to hit a wall and the decision to keep going or quit will be imposed onto you. If your goals and dreams are as important as you claim, it doesn’t really matter whether your positivity is delusional or grounded in reality, as long as the motivation and energy allow you to get what you want.

This is why my views on positivity and delusion changed.

Controlled delusion

The last thing I want to discuss is the idea of controlled delusion. Delusion of any kind is seen as a bad thing. But just like everything else in life, it has both positives and negatives. We would have to ask why people succumb to it so frequently if it resulted only in negatives.

What I propose here is not to just being carelessly delusional, but intentionally so. I got this idea too from David Goggins, who during his stay on the infamous Hell Week found himself manufacturing a victim/hero story between him and the instructors. He painted them as the villain trying to bring him down. By doing that he managed to generate enough energy to keep him on track and eventually complete the training. 

As he said on one of his many interviews, he knew the instructors were not out for him, but thinking they did, to the point of almost believing gave him the motivation to push through.

Summary

Positivity is one of these things everybody talks about as if it were something they concluded by themselves, as opposed to just repeating what they learned from someone else.

Coming to a logical conclusion about a tool/strategy effectiveness is more important than just accepting they work. The reason for this is that the moment in which life puts you to test in such a way that the tool is the only way out doubting the effectiveness of the tool might lead you to not use it when you should.

There is also the problem of learning the wrong lessons. When we fail we got through a period of reflection in which we develop a theory for why we failed. We look for things to blame, and if we don’t believe in the tool/strategy effectiveness at a logical level we might mistakenly blame it for our poor results.

This post is an attempt to provide a more logical reason for why being positive really matters.

It is all about knowledge and experience 😉

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How to win a debate

In this post, you’ll find a few tips on how to win a debate.

The truth is perhaps the most important thing that a human can think about. Ignoring scientists out there we all have an interest in the truth in some way or another. That’s why debate. To get to the bottom of things, and separating what is from what isn’t. At least that’s what healthy debaters do.

There is also the unhealthy kind that is only in to convince other people they’re right not to know who’s right. These live their lives like rocks. Changing barely to nothing over the years and decades, while like a house with a weak foundation oozing a false sense of stability.

How to win a debate

Below are a few tips on how to win a debate, but be aware that by “winning” what is meant might not what you mean when you use the word. The application of these ideas could get you to a much deeper version of the word victory.

Ask why do you want to win the debate in the first place

When we set out to win many of the little debates we have throughout the day we rarely question why we want to win so bad. Could it be that all you want is to keep old beliefs alive? Sometimes change is frightening and the familiar is all we want. The truth doesn’t care whether you like it or not. It just is today what it was yesterday and the day before.

The point is that it’s irrelevant whether we want to keep old beliefs for the sake of keeping them the truth will remain what it has always been regardless of whether you manage to convince your intellectual opponent of something wrong. It’s important to keep minds focused on finding the truth, even if that bruises our egos for a moment.

Study your position

The next thing to do is simple and not so simple. The idea is to study your own position thoroughly because your opponents will. Look for weak points and find ways to remove or minimize the weakness and resist the urge to brush them off. If your opponent is the least bit effective it means that sooner or later the weaknesses any overlooked weaknesses in our argument will be revealed.

The more you sharpen your position the more room you have to know whether it constitutes the truth or a delusion since at the end of the day, the truth is what really matters. Studying your position prevents you from the very likely embarrassment of having your position demolished by a single and minuscule detail you missed. So study your position and pick it apart. Then do it again.

Study their position

Once you’re well familiar with your own position; Its strengths and weaknesses; Then it’s time to do the same analysis on your opponent’s.

Now it’s time to simulate your interaction with them when you do get to debate.

The important here is not so much on finding the flaws on their views but on watching ourselves for the moments when we so eagerly jump into some perceived weakness in their arguments.

We seek for that constant “I’m right and you’re wrong” moment that we don’t take the time to see if, in any way, our lenses might have been clouded?

Studying their position also makes you have a greater sense of what kind of rigor you’d need to shoot for to win. If you’re honest. It gives you an idea of how you measure against them.

More sophisticated opponents call for more sophisticated approaches. That’s why delusion whether positive or negative can be very detrimental.

Delusion makes you gravely underestimate when you should overestimate, and to get through the bounds of overestimation when under was the way to go.

Explore their point more than your own

This is more of a tactic whose purpose is to find something fundamentally wrong with their argument. The idea is that the more you explore their point the greater the chances that you’ll find the weak point. Which means that you’ll have to be on the offensive. Coming with questions that put them off-balance and get them to reveal/stumble into a fundamental weakness in their views.

This can get aggressive pretty quickly that’s why it’s important to have a sense of context. Is it acceptable for you to take control of the interaction? Even if the answer is yes that doesn’t mean your approach will be accepted without a battle. In fact, if you’re too obvious about your intentions by avoiding to answer their questions on your points while asking more and more question about theirs, there is a good chance your opponents and whoever is watching will pick up on what you’re doing, even if they can’t quite put it into words.

Look for evidence

The simplest and by no means quickest way to win a debate is by pointing out either the lack/weakness of evidence for a point. The problem here is that you have to do your due research and know as much about everything you can. The reason for this is that although you can still ask for the evidence of the person’s assumptions over and over again, doing so makes you look like you don’t know what you’re talking about.

The ideal moment is the one in which you know there is no evidence for a given assumption and you still ask for it anyway. That way you show to the audience that not only you did more research than your opponent, but it also weakens their position. You show you know more than them.

Take advantage of the reductio ad absurdum

In philosophy the reductio ad absurdum is a kind of argument in which we push the opponent’s point extremes as a way to show them they’re wrong. When you first hear/heard about it chances are that it will be/was taught as something to avoid. The truth as I realized over time was that both the audience and the opponent are still subject to this form of argument. If your position is the correct one using the reductio ad absurdum might just be what you need.

The problem with this tip is that if your point is not the correct one and your opponent knows it for sure, your appeal to the extremes will show not just the fact that you don’t know what you’re talking about, but also that what you really want is to win; To just be right.

Keep your cool

The next tip is more difficult than it sounds and that is to always keep it cool. The reason for this is that the more composed you are, the more you look like you know what you’re talking about. If you get emotional you get back to that question of whether what you really want is the truth or to be right.

When the truth is what you want there is no need to lose your mind during the process. The anger associated to the moments in which we are debating topics very close to us is due to the fact that by accepting we’re wrong, we also give up a part of ourselves. Our beliefs are a part of us. And that’s what we do. We fight for our own preservation before anything else. So try to keep it cool always.

Summary

In summary debates are at their essence a search for the truth. Neither party can claim they’re right and the opponent is wrong. It’s by listening carefully the each other’s points of view that hopefully, a consensus of what constitutes the truth will emerge. 

This means that you should always be on the look for the truth not only in debates. The reason here is that the more research you do the more likely you are to know whether your beliefs are valid or not before any debate even commences. When you do get into a debate chances are the one who really knows the truth and even if your opponent uses all of the tactics discussed in this post, they will still not be able to win the debate.

The truth is what it is. Completely independent of our tastes and agendas. What was yesterday will be so today and tomorrow. Being aware of this fact is probably the most important take away from this post. Just because you have your way with words and people doesn’t give you the power to change the truth. You can successfully trick other distracted people into believing you’re right, but it will always feel like the castle you’re building is one of cards. Ready to fall when the first relentless individual crosses your path. This is the point in which you have to again ask yourself: “Do I want to know the truth or do I just want to be right?”

Sources:

Reductio ad absurdum

It is all about knowledge and experience 😉

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How to change bad habits

 In this post, we’ll have a quick discussion on how to change bad habits.

The self-help industry has preached for a while now the idea of improving oneself constantly through books and seminars that it’s easy to fall for the idea that to have a better life we have to add more and more until something works. While this strategy might be effective, there is a much better way to go about it.

I got this from the book Poor Charlie’s almanac where the author recommends the removal of ignorance as a practice to have alongside the addition of knowledge. You would think that with the addition of something good we automatically remove the bad, but that’s not the case, and the best example is that of bad habits.

How to change bad habits

Changing bad habits is a life long endeavor. With each bad habit removed you gain two things. The first is more free time to fill with new and productive habits. The second is the sense of self-mastery that comes when we manage to overcome ourselves and we pave the way to being someone better. But as we all know change is difficult and that’s what this post is here for. To make the process easier.

Lower the bar

I know you’ve probably been advised to set your goals high and try with everything you have to attain it. While this might be useful in some cases, for the vast majority of habit change efforts this might be detrimental.

What makes habits so powerful is the same thing that makes them so dangerous. That would be their automaticity. When before we had to think to perform the behavior, now the behavior is performed without conscious effort. We don’t think about it.

The easiest way to go against this power of automaticity is to do it slowly and that requires you to stop thinking about breaking the habit completely and overnight, to being content with whatever progress you manage to make for the day.

So the tip here is to lower the bar as much as you can. To set the bar so low that winning at it becomes very easy. That could mean something as simple as breaking the habit for the day and making no commitment for the following days or weeks. You just want to stop the habit of the day.

If that’s too much, which could very well be if the habit is deeply engrained, then set it to half a day, or quarter, whatever it takes for you to declare success. The goal here is to build the mental muscle that allows you to resist the urge to be automatic.

Once you can confidently say you can do without the habit for the set period the next step is to increase it. If you set it to a day, try a day and a half or two days. Whatever increment that pushes while not breaking you.

From here repeat the process until you can get to the point in which you can safely say that the habit is behind you.

Increase the cost of the behavior

The thing about bad habits is that often they either have little to no negative cost. If anything we feel a burst of pleasure/relief when we engage in the behavior until we see it for what it is and get into guilt mode.

The idea here is to make the cost of the bad behavior higher than it currently is. So high that even if you do engage in it, you at least go through a quick pause and begin to feel the bitter taste of the aftermath of your future actions. 

If the price is high enough chances are that at first, you might give in, only to realize that the punishment you created for yourself is real. The next few times you fall into bad habits will be marked by a feeling of anxiety. The feeling increasing more and more as each act of bad behavior is immediately followed by painful enough punishment.

The reason why this strategy can be effective is that it takes advantage of the known principle of conditioning. To put it simply, conditioning is just about teaching the brain intentionally or unintentionally to associate some behavior with some feeling/emotion good/bad. Each time you engage in the behavior you’re trying to avoid the unpleasantness of the punishment becomes more and more associated with the behavior itself. Eventually, the behavior becomes associated with pain which makes it more likely that you won’t engage in it again, or at least it would be more difficult to.

This strategy also targets the human tendency to do more of what’s easy and pleasant to do and to avoid that which is unpleasant or difficult to do.

Change your routine

One thing I realized whenever I had some major change of routine in my life be that because I moved to a new place or went to a new school, was that good habits always became easier to start and maintain.

Bad habits don’t exist by themselves. They are surrounded and triggered by many more little good and bad habits which themselves are also triggered by other mini habits. When we change our routine there is no start for the chain reaction that leads us to be the kind of person we don’t want to be. It’s as if we have just gotten a second chance to become the person we’ve always dreamt of being.

In a way changes in routine wipe the slate clean, but the problem is that we’re often unaware of these great moments that we mindlessly introduce our bad habits again to the new environment.

One change in the environment that tends to be more resistant to this reintroduction of bad habits are people. Although we can change our new home to look just like the old one, we can’t do the same about a new group of friends. They come with their own personalities and habits. In a group, if anything is likely to change it’s you and not the group. This is to say that changing the people you hang out with will likely force you to be more like the new people in a way that you can’t influence in the same way. So if you want to be better at something it might pay to spend time around people who’ve achieved what you want to accomplish.

The peer pressure to be more like the group is not always bad. It’s usefulness becomes more evident when the pressure is not to just conform to random rules defined by the group but when these rules force you to become a better version of yourself.

Don’t strive for perfection

The last tip is probably the most counter-intuitive of all especially in the times we live in today. The standards society imposes on each one of us is probably the highest it has ever been. While we can on paper do as we please with our lives, there is this underlining expectation that we do our best. Spending one’s day watching tv or browsing the web is frowned upon. We are expected to chase our goals and dreams every day of the week while maintaining an intense level of passion and productivity. When we do admit we have bad habits and set out to eliminate them there too we are faced with somewhat unreasonable demands. suddenly if you don’t quit on a bad habit overnight that’s some demonstration of how little you care about your dreams or a flaw in character.

The worst thing about it is that more often than not the person demanding we change overnight is not a friend or a neighbor but ourselves. Change is hard and we should expect that our will power might someday give in and for a moment we go back to our old selves.

When we expect quick and pain-free change we are more likely to quit when that moment comes in which we fall back on our promise to our higher selves. The solution is to be tolerant of our failures and mistakes. If you went back to your old behavior after 3 successful days it’s important to understand that not all is lost. you can always pick up right back from where you stopped.

I learned this from the YouTuber Matt d’avella and his “two-day rule”.

Whenever he tried to create a new habit we followed the rule that he would give himself the freedom to miss a day of the new habit but no more than that in a row. When you apply this idea you get to relax a bit more from the pressure of having to maintain your willpower every single day until the habit is completely removed. As we all know willpower is an animal with a life of its own subject to whims like the weather. Losing it is not a matter of “if” but “when” and taking that into account makes it more likely that your goals/habits will last long enough for you to reap the benefits.

Sources:

Poor Charlie’s Almanack by Charlie Munger

The power of habit by Charles Duhigg

It is all about knowledge and experience 😉

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How To Be More Productive

In this post, we’ll have a quick discussion on how to be more productive.

Success is a door with many keys and one of them is productivity. We live in a time in which working hard is considered to be one of the most desirable traits to look for in an employee or potential business partner. The problem is that most take this advice literally and miss the forest for the trees. So we find people working to a sweat believing this is the way to go if they want to achieve their dreams. What matters, however, is not so much the sweat equity, but how much you can get done. How productive you are at the end of the day. Getting there is what this post is about.

How to be more productive

Distinguish the essential  from the trivial

The first and most important thing to have a productive day, week, month, or year is to be able to distinguish the essential from the trivial. The reason for this is that if you rely only on a todo list, chances are that most of what you set out to do at the beginning of the journey will likely have less impact to the big picture than it would if you put some thought behind your work for the day.

I realized this fact more than once across different areas of my life. Whenever I gave myself the time to think through all the possible tasks and their respective impact on the big picture goal, often enough I realized that the day could have been cut much shorter if I just focused on one or two key tasks. The idea here is not to fill your schedule with activities but to deliberately pick the ones that matter. The reason why this is so important is that as optimistic as we might be with regards to our willpower and motivation to complete all the tasks in the todo list, rarely are the instances in which we manage to go through all of them. This is assuming you’re a part of the majority. Add to this the fact that from the few tasks we manage to tackle chances are that the ones that matter the least are the one that gets the checkmark at the end of the day. The tasks that really matter to our goals tend to be funny like that. Their potential impact is usually several times greater than the average task, but at the same time, we also find it several times more difficult to go through them. So they don’t get done until they have to get done.

This idea is proposed by the book The one thing by Gary Keller, who takes it a step further. Instead of just looking for the fundamental tasks and generating a todo list of those, the book gives us the idea that maybe we should find the key tasks from the list of key tasks, and on and on, until we have nothing but one thing. Hence the name “The one thing”.

Get your health in order

The next tip on how to be more productive is to make sure you’re as healthy as you can be. It’s surprising how small and seemingly inconsequential health issues can affect your productivity. A small infection here or there might not make you have to stay in bed for the rest of the day but that doesn’t mean that it doesn’t affect your productivity. Health issues tend to drain extra energy from the body for healing purposes, and that energy could be applied in tackling your to-do list.

By “Get your health in order” I don’t only mean not being unhealthy. The ideal is in fact to be more than just healthy. I’m talking about firing on all cylinders, and this can’t be achieved if your target is only to not be sick. This requires a constant search for ways to improve your mental and physical sharpness, and before you start thinking that all self-improvement products of the kind are not real, let me tell you: they are not.

There is a growing industry a good number of people are not aware of whose purpose is to take the human mind and body to the next level. Although these tools might not make you a genius or a super athlete, there is considerable evidence that they can make you a much better version of what you are right now. At the end of this post, I’ll leave a list of resources you can start from.

Remove things from your plate

The next tip might be to some probably the most difficult tip to apply, and I’m one of them. The desire to accomplish great things does more than push us to work harder. It also makes it more difficult to pass on opportunities with potential for success. If you give in to this fear, eventually you’ll find yourself with lots to do and very little time to do anything else. With more to do also comes more stress, and eventually what once seemed to be a good idea, now looks and feels like a burden.

Overcommitments eventually lead us to one of two roads: burnout or the awkward moment in which we have to tell someone else or ourselves that our word is not as valuable as we and they thought it was. At the end of the day, the latter is often the best solution since the longer you keep your plate full in hopes that it will magically get into a state of balance the more unpleasant it will be the inevitable conversation that leads you to fewer commitments.

So this tip is actually more about what to do before you take on a new project. While we can technically go back on our promises often without much penalty, it’s much easier to not get into them in the first place. When you learn to say no people gain a new level of respect for you since saying so transpires at least two things. The first is that you value your time and that you hold your word in high regard. Going back on our commitments, on the other hand, is always detrimental even when it doesn’t seem like it. If we do it to other people they trust us less at the very least and resent us in the worst case. If we do it to ourselves we begin to trust ourselves less and less, until the moment comes in which we can’t feel confident enough to start and complete even the most trivial of the goals.

When you commit to a few things you have more energy allocated for each, which makes that much more likely that they will be successful. The result starts a domino effect of goal setting to accomplishment, to even bigger goal setting making us more and more confident in ourselves and our abilities to succeed in life. It’s not that we’re gifted, which we might be, but it’s that we have adopted a discipline of adding projects to our bucket with intention.

Overcommit strategically

I would be lying If I told you that overcommitting is always bad. Often in life when we develop our views with regards to a given subject we tend to look only at the instances in which our views hold true and ignore the few or many in which it does not. This is known in psychology as the confirmation bias. So there is value in overcommitting and this is how.

When you overcommit one thing happens first and that is the fear that we won’t be able to make justice to our word. The next thing that happens depends greatly on the kind of person we are. Either we succumb to the anxiety and fall into stress or we take it as a challenge and force ourselves physically and creatively to reach new limits. The latter is perhaps the reason why we often see breakthroughs in business and science. Although there is no explicit commitment to the cause the overcommitment is implicit since we are trying to accomplish something that hasn’t been done before in the first place.

One great example of this is what happened to the Appollo 13 mission. More than halfway to the moon the team runs into an accident that greatly threatens the life of the entire team on board. NASA is known for having lots of protocols for virtually everything on the trip but at this moment several of these have to be thrown away and several more built from scratch while the team is trying to survive the drastic environment of space.

They and the team back on earth were put in a literal do or die situation. I remember watching the movie recently and the moment that stands out for me, in particular, was when the team back on earth had to, under time and mental pressure, devise a device that could reduce the already high levels of CO2 in the spaceship with only the tools the astronauts had available and create a protocol they could follow to build the tool themselves on their end. They succeeded and the sad thing is that chances are that a good number of people will probably forget that moment. That was a true moment of brilliance.

Most people when given regular goals and regular pressure will likely produce below average to average output. It’s when we are forced to do more than we’ve ever done that we do more than we ever did, even if we don’t quite hit the mark; and this is what being productive is about.

Resources:

Head Strong by Dave Asprey

Found my fitness podcast by Rhonda Patrick

Nootropics Expert channel

Sources:

Confirmation bias

Apollo 13 mission documentary

It is all about knowledge and experience ?

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How to use psychology in everyday life

In this post, we’ll have a quick discussion on o to use psychology in everyday life.

The field of psychology has been around for as long as the human race has existed. Most might think that the study of the mind started from philosophers in this or that era which might be true in some sense but when it comes to the fundamentals of what psychology is the field has been around for much much longer. The reason why I say this is that without any study formal or informal of psychology, we as a species wouldn’t be able to operate effectively with one another. Psychology is in essence about entering a particular mind and explain its inner workings and motivations. Without this ability to tell that this or that tribe member or not wants to do us harm we are more likely to be caught by surprise.

Deals of any kind involve psychology. At least enough to allow us to tell whether we should be making the deal with the person on the other side of the table or not. The question of “can I trust him/her” is one that has plagued humanity for so long and the reason why we even have to ask it is simple: each of us is out for itself and more often than not, rules are not an enforcer enough to prevent those who don’t respect to follow them.

There is also the problem of accusing a person of dishonesty. We might not say it in words, but just the mere fact that we are guarding against an attack implies that we don’t trust them. So that causes tension where there would be none, and a relationship that could have been fruitful is now sour.

So, how do you know which is which? Well, …that’s a question psychology can answer, or at least try to.

How to use psychology in everyday life

The question of how and where to apply psychology in everyday life is answered in two ways. First, the area will be given and the fields of psychology that could possibly provide useful solutions for the problem. Below are a few ideas.

Decision making

When it comes to decision making the #1 thing most try to avoid is mistakes. The problem of being human is that mistakes are a given. Only machines can claim not to make them, and even then there is always the small probability that the hardware will itself have a problem, thus resulting in the machine making a mistake. But we are not machines. Again, mistakes are a part of being human. This is true even when we actively try not to make mistakes. We face an even bigger problem when we’re not aware we’re making a mistake. One thing is knowing you’re in error and taking action to correct the error, and the other completely different is not being aware of the error in the first place. It’s that old idea of not knowing what we don’t know.

The field of psychology has an area of study that can definitely shed some light on this problem and that would be the study of cognitive biases. At the end of the post, there will be links to other posts that talk about cognitive biases in more depth. But for now, it suffices to know that cognitive biases are decision-making shortcuts the mind naturally takes that once in a while lead us to the wrong conclusions and decisions. By learning about these tendencies we take the first step towards better decisions and better thinking. Their hold on us is often so deep that we hardly ever realize they are the reason why we think in certain ways about certain things. We think the thought is original but in fact, it’s not. It’s just a product of some evolved mechanism our ancestors used when there was little time to wait and ponder before we made the decision.

Now, even with the luxury of time still, we use the same old mechanisms for thinking and the result is often not what we expected/desired. Knowing about our tendencies is and how we make decisions in default we can better set up strategies designed to minimize the impact of our own pre-programmed habits.

Understanding oneself and others

Understanding ourselves let alone other people is a difficult task. Regardless of the subject, we are still subject to misinterpretations. At the end of the day, the way we perceive things is still colored by whatever happens to be going on in our minds and lives at the moment. So we consistently misjudge both ourselves and other people while getting the false sense that our views are unbiased, fair, and completely rational.

Here too, psychology can give us a hand and the subject I’m talking about is personality typing. Through the understanding of personality typing frameworks we can, just for a moment, step outside of our own preconceived notions. Suddenly both ours and other people’s behaviors make sense under the light of whatever profile the personality test identified them as.

The problem with personality typing is that it’s not yet an exact science. For each personality test, there is someone somewhere who doesn’t believe/agree with it. There now several, including the Myers Brigs personality test and the big 5 with large followings and interpretations that seem to give better insight into the psyche than the regular horoscope reading.

This is to say that personality tests can be good at improving our understanding of people but that they should still be taken with a grain of salt. Just like horoscopes, it’s all too easy carried away with the delusion that we can understand a human being completely only with whatever the personality profile tells us about the person. The reason for this is that a personality test is a more general description of the person at best and nothing but a set of traits everybody possesses but phrased in a way that leads us to believe only we have that particular trait. This is what mind or palm readers do. The trick is to tell the person a truth common to all in a way that makes it seem to be true for them alone.

The last point is a useful tool to find out how truly insightful a personality test is. If for most of the things they tell about you, you can also say about most if not people if not everybody then there is no use for the personality test’s “insights”.

Each of us is unique in their own way. Not only because of our genes but also because of the way we lived our lives up to any moment. Luck and life events shape us in different ways. So much so that they might make us more or less like the personality profile we’re assigned. This is to say that personal history is just as important as personality type when trying to understand someone.

Motivation and behavior change

This s the last example of the application of psychology in everyday life but that doesn’t mean that these are the only ways we can apply psychology to our lives. The field is vast and with numerous applications. The more you learn about it the more applications you will find.

If there is one area of life that psychology can have the greatest impact that would be motivation and behavior change. Here there a few sub-areas of psychology that are known to have delivered resources.

The first comes from behaviorism and that would be classical and operant conditioning. It’s definitely worth learning about them and just in case you don’t know where to start here is a video:

At its essence, both forms of conditioning are about the idea of associating something new with an existing outcome. We trick the brain into thinking that the new stimulus is a predictor of an already existing outcome.

Drugs are an example of this. At first, the substance is not associated with the life-changing pleasure users report, but after a few sessions, the brain comes to associate its consumption with life itself. The process of taking the drug might at first start as painful or disgusting, but once the addiction takes root the same previously unpleasant thing is now the most pleasurable thing in the world.

The same trick can be used for motivation and behavior change. For any task we might find dreadful or uninteresting there is always the possibility of pairing it with some pleasurable outcome. Let’s say you need to study and after each study session, you reward yourself with something you find deeply rewarding. Eventually, the act of studying becomes a good predictor of the pleasure that is to come, and after that, it becomes the pleasure itself.

The same can be done when you want to stop some kind of behavior and that strategy here would be to associate the behavior with some unpleasurable outcome. People who want to quit cigarettes, for example, might find it useful to smell something discussing after each cigarette, until the act of smoking becomes associated with something unpleasant.

The second suggestion is to do some reading on the subject of intrinsic and extrinsic motivation. To gain a deeper understanding of how somethings motivate you, and whether something can be done to make your motivation more resistant to the many failures life will expose you to.

To read more here is a post I wrote on extrinsic and intrinsic motivation.

Summary

The applications of psychology in everyday life described above are not the only ones. One final suggestion is to read more books on the different sub-topics the field of psychology covers below are a few books I think worth reading:

  1. The psychology of self esteem by Nathaniel Branden
  2. Finding Flow by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi
  3. Gifts Differing: Understanding Personality Type by Isabel Briggs Myers and Peter B. Myers

Sources:

What is a cognitive bias?

Myers brigs personality test

The big 5 personality test

It is all about knowledge and experience 😉

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