I wish I had a dollar for every time I have jumped to a false conclusion driven by some hidden mental bias. Consider how often you, too, have taken a position in a conversation, even arguing for it ferociously, only later to reflect back and wonder “What the heck was I thinking?”
This situation comes from what is called “cognitive bias” by psychologists. It’s a strange phenomenon of our minds causing us to be wrong much of the time! Cognitive bias may have had an adaptive advantage for survival in primitive man, but leads to poor judgment, intolerance, and conflict in a culturally, economically and technologically diverse modern society. I think we can do better by developing an “Unbeatable Mind” that avoids the many biases that can short-circuit our thinking. Here are a few of the most prominent biases to watch out for:
- The focusing effect: The tendency to place too much importance on one aspect of an event.
- Illusory correlation: Inaccurately perceiving a relationship between two unrelated events.
- Attentional bias: The tendency of our perception to be affected by our recurring thoughts.
- The bandwagon bias: The tendency to do (or believe) things because many other people do (or believe) the same.
- The “curse of knowledge” bias: When better-informed people find it extremely difficult to think about problems from the perspective of lesser-informed people.
- The overconfidence effect: Excessive confidence in one’s own answers to questions. For example, for certain types of questions, answers that people rate as “99% certain” turn out to be wrong 40% of the time.
- The bias blind spot: The tendency to see oneself as less biased than other people, or to be able to identify more cognitive biases in others than in oneself.
- Confirmation bias. The tendency to search for, interpret, focus on and remember information in a way that confirms one’s preconceptions.
You get the idea. Guess what? Even famed investor Warren Buffett, one of the wealthiest and “smartest” guys in the world, doesn’t trust his own thinking. He employs analytical systems and what I call “mental models” (trained in our Unbeatable Mind Academy, which you can test drive for FREE with our retreat videos HERE until Monday, February 29th at Midnight or supplies run out) so that he can evaluate things with as much clarity and with as many perspectives as possible before making a decision. If the world’s most successful investor is smart enough to not trust his own mind, then we should take note.
In my book, Unbeatable Mind, I go into some of the research that dig into how the brain works in regards to bias, and I offer strategies on what you can do to prevent your mind from jumping to irrational conclusions.
One of the most powerful practices I offer is to routinely reset what I call your “BOO,” short for “background of obviousness.” Your BOO is comprised of deep-seated belief systems embedded from past experiences and your culture, language and family, which act similar to the way that background programs do in the system software of a computer. If unchecked, these BOO software programs loop endlessly and can blur and bend your thoughts, emotions, and awareness. These become the foundation for your own cognitive biases.
The operative question is how do you investigate and overwrite these deeply-rooted belief systems? Here are three simple awareness practices for your own experimentation.
Insight meditation. Focus on an aspect of your life that you sense is out of balance or alignment. This is a passive process where you will observe the issues that cause these problems in your life. Once you identify the problems, ponder the belief systems that lead to them. You do this when you are in a “meditative state” after, say, box breathing for 10 minutes.
Contemplation. Contemplation is a more active than insight meditation. Here you will specifically identify a belief that you hold to contemplate its value. Or, another way to do this is to contemplate a value or belief held by someone else (such as from a powerful poem or Bible verse). Then consider how your values, beliefs and actions stack up against it. Are you in or out of alignment with the belief or value? This exercise can fire you up to raise the standards of your daily habits, choices and actions.
Recapitulation. Recapitulation is a powerful tool for Unbeatable Mind to assist in eradicating BOO. You review past moments in your life when you considered yourself stuck. Some point in your life where you felt blocked or cornered. Then you re-envision the event with a positive outcome. Ancient Toltec tradition required that young warriors recapitulate their entire lives before being promoted to warrior status! As with all of these practices, it is a good idea to have a journal handy.
To wrap this up – begin to pay attention to what you think and say over the next week. Are you tripping over a cognitive bias that’s serving you poorly? It’s time to start working on your boo, overcoming cognitive bias. So get out that journal and sit down to do the work.
P.S. If you think there’re areas that you can improve, I encourage you to consider getting the recordings from the groundbreaking Unbeatable Mind Retreat. You can get access to the ENTIRE event–the same one attendees paid $1997 to attend–along with over $1027 of bonus gifts...This special deal is available on this page – and only until this Monday, February 29th, at Midnight PST and there are only 100 gift packages left!
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