Knowing what to want

It’s always been difficult for me to choose what it was I wanted to “do with my life”. The main reason for this is that conventional low-risk options promoted to school students are all meh. It is hard to choose between broccoli and cabbage when you’re really after ice cream.

What is it to want something? In the XXI century pop culture sense, it is to be excited about something. Stoics talked a lot about wanting – as one of the most important things. They didn’t give much direction as to how to choose what you want. However, having a direction is life is key according to them. Buddhism seems to focus on the present and away for the need for certainty that is a prerequisite for goals.

It seems that the most successful people choose one thing that they won’t give up. Some call it passion, but it’s not really possible to actually be consistently passionate about something. For most people, it is a way of feeling special and having a sense of belonging – I am a painter. Rather than being something to work at, now it is a romanticised notion. Furthermore, a lot of people live in limbo of not having found their passion yet. This presupposes that it has been decided for you. Not feeling in control or having responsibility for your so called passion is a sure way to fail. Lastly, it’s a great excuse to never starting to do anything. If you commit to something, you can fail – people would rather not try and avoid the possibility of failure. What drives people to keep going is why they’re doing it. However, it’s not enough.

We want to do things we are good at. Small wins and a sensation of progress is what keeps us going. Hence, it makes sense to do things that we are good at. Of course, the more you do something, the better you get at it – but it always makes sense to play to your strengths.

Even if you are fantastic at something, however, it makes sense to make life easier for yourself by making yourself different. Getting to be the best in the world at one particular skill is awfully hard. The chances of success are very small. However, you can be in the top 1% in the world by working hard at it. Is this enough? It is – when you combine it with something else. It is much easier to be the best in the world in something super niche. You may not be the best physicist or the best economist, but you may be the best at applying the computational methods used in physics to economics models.

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knowing-what-your-life-is-about

The secret is that there is no secret

We already know everything we need to know. Yes, there is some useful knowledge out there. Knowing that cutting down on carbs will help us to get leaner is a little bit of revelation, but for most of, our grandmothers probably told us to eat more vegetables – all the way back before we knew what carbs were even.

If it had been down to information, anyone with a smartphone would have a six pack and cruise around on a yacht.

It all comes down to awareness. Awareness of what you’re doing at each given moment. The choices we make in real time are the closest thing to this coveted secret. Small things add up – the small decision we make consistently shape who we are. What we do on our lunch break matters. Do you read a book? Go to the gym? Check Facebook? Does it explain a lot about where you are now? If you’ve ever lived in a place with a harsh snowy winter and a roasting summer, you’ll know that the landscape goes from frosty white with metre deep snow to vibrant green in about six weeks. Small things add up.

For most of us, it means taking more responsibility. Letting go of our egos. Working harder – at the important things. Having discipline. Failing and bouncing back – time after time.

the-secret-is-that-there-is-no-secret

Why people get addicted to checking the news

The news has been in the news a lot  lately. Trump got elected and Facebook et al are under fire for allowing fake news to spread.

There are people who feel compelled to stay in tune with the news though it doesn’t make a difference to their lives in practical terms. Why?

We love stories. Our brains are designed to make and perceive stories.  The news in like a bed time story for adults. Going to different countries, or even different news outlets in some countries, will reveal two things. First, the main character is always a good guy. Second, the good guy always wins. It can’t all be true, but it sure makes a good story.

Our brains are designed to scan for danger. This is to keep us alive. The news usually reports a lot of bad things.

Our brains prefer exceptions rather than the ordinary. This is kind of like scanning for danger. It’s another mechanism to draw our attention to anything that’s odd – called attentional bias. The news certainly reports a lot of odd.

Our brains love noticing change rather than seeing the wood for the trees. It’s called anchoring. A small cut to a health system’s funding is likely to cause outrage despite the fact that it is otherwise generously funded. The news only reports changes.

Seeing the same thing over and over makes us like it. It’s called the mere-exposure effect. We like the news anchors and the tune of the news opening titles.

We love having opinions. The news is told in a way that it is easy to make judgements. It also makes us feel that our judgements are informed. This leads to naive realism and naive cynicism: assuming that our worldview is informed and everyone who disagrees with us in uninformed and biased.

It makes us feel like we’re right. Our brains love confirming that what we already know is true – it’s called confirmation bias. Because the news repeats itself a lot, it constantly feeds us the same type of information. A nice resonant echo chamber. To make things worse, we believe things more when they are repeated. It’s called the illusory truth effect. A vicious circle of biases.

It gives you something to talk about with your friends. Empty chatter is better than none to most people.

For most people, the news is a distraction that brings all of the above pleasures. It’s neither meaningfully informative, nor does it make our lives better.

why am i addicted to the news

Beginner mistakes in mindfulness practice

Beginning to practice mindfulness is a big step. In and of itself, the action means you are trying something new and being open to it, so kudos. Here are some major things to avoid.

  • Having expectations of immediate quietness and serenity. Mindfulness often feels like a game of whack-a-mole and a conscious effort. It’s hard not to feel like you have failed when you mind wanders if you assume that it won’t. It most certainly will. Some days are better than others, but the mind does its thing – we have to respect that. Judging your thoughts is just another thought. Similarly, rejoicing at how your mind is completely serene is also a thought. It should be treated the same way as every other thought: acknowledged. Rather than trying to purge it, it is best to simply shift the focus back to the present, e.g. to the breath.

beginner mistakes mindfulness meditation

  • Assuming mindfulness will always make you feel better. Most of the time is does. However, practicing mindfulness will bring things to the surface that weren’t previously acknowledged: feelings, thoughts, facts. They’re not always good, hence, it could cause upset. The thing to remember is that you are always better off knowing now – rather than finding out in six months’ time when it has grown into a monster and manifested itself through a crisis.

 

  • Struggling to get the perfect form. There’s no need to sit up straight if it makes your back hurt. If your quads are too tight, there’s no need to cross your legs. You can assume any position that is comfortable – but promotes wakefulness. The cushion doesn’t have to be a certain perfect size. You don’t have to log it on your phone. You’re only doing this for you, not for the sake of perfection.

 

  • Only meditating when the you are really stressed. While most people pick up the practice in order to deal with stress, it makes sense to practice consistently. It’s ok to skip a day here and there. However, it is important to not rely on meditation as a remedy for the bad days. Otherwise, it is the equivalent of only going to the gym after you’ve put on weight.

 

  • Feeling you have to do it for x length of time or it won’t work. It’s hard to know what the dose-response curve is like with mindfulness. It is best to meditate for as long as you can, that’s all.

mindfulness meditation beginner mistakes

 

Mindfulness and nihilism

I describe what is coming, what can no longer come differently: the advent of nihilism

– 1901. Friedrich Nietzsche

“Whether you worry or not, you’re still going to die. Live in the moment and don’t overthink it. Reject your nation, your religion and your family – in fact all traditional values are there to choke you.”

As a millenial, I feel that there is a lot of this kind of thinking, termed existential nihilism by some, inherent in my generation’s minds. It’s not that I feel compelled to defend or reject traditional values. It’s that many in my generation seem to reject them for the sake of rejecting them. Sometimes I feel like the world we live in remind me of the Brave New World.

On my first encounter with mindfulness and Eastern philosophy, it seemed nihilistic. In fact, many of my peers practice yoga and seem to reject the religions that are common in their societies, usually Christianity of some description. What many fail to realise, of course, that yoga and its associated spirituality is a filling the same need a religion filled in the past. For others, it is politics. The fervour with which people hold on to political beliefs is fascinating. They may not have a deity in the heavens, but they almost certainly identify with a historical figure or a modern day pharaoh.

mindfulness-nihilism-buddhism-cristianity

Eastern philosophy seems to abhor any kind of resistance and perpetually focus on the present. You know who only focuses on the present? The kids who had the marshmallow straight away. People on drugs. Criminals. People who don’t worry about the past and the future. What makes them different? I guess they have different values and no discipline. The East in all about discipline. Mindfulness is a perfect example of that – but it’s not really a form of resistance. It is a way of embracing the present moment rather than diving into whatever form of escapism is distracting us at that time. They seem to believe in acceptance, no matter what. For example, Pema Chödrön talks about two ways to go into a gas chamber: free or not free. For someone who detests nihilism, the only correct way is to die fighting long before he is faced with a gas chamber. Interestingly, Buddhists believe that anyone can become a Buddha – and powerfully affect other people’s lives. This doesn’t seem nihilistic at all, though getting there does. In fact, it’s really empowering. You can, kind of, be a sort of God. Buddhists also believe that understand reality is key. This means they accept that there is a true world – a belief inconsistent with nihilism. It’s not that the world is meaningless, it is that the meaning is ambiguous. This concept is too abstract for the kinds of circumstances that we humans usually use religion to deal with. That’s one explanation as to why while the religion may not be nihilistic – its followers tend to be. At the same time, I find it hard to see a Buddhist who is ambitiously crossing off items off his to-do list. Thinking of the future doesn’t seem to gel with Buddhism as it inevitably takes you away from the present moment.

On the other hand, in Western religions, we are told to forget about the present. It’s all about making it into heaven. There is a purpose. We’re all about resisting temptation in the West. Pure resistance. However, this is precisely the sort of thing Nietzsche called nihilistic. He claimed that Western religions get us to forsake our current life for a promise of a better life in heaven.

It turns out that it doesn’t matter: you can focus on the present or on the future. You can be all about resistance or not at all… And still end up a nihilist. A religious one, too.

Could it be that religion, and its substitutes, tends to attract people who are inherently prone to nihilism? Religion gives us the illusion that there is always someone to fall back on; that if we’re good, it will all work out. It’s a way of letting go of responsibility and finding explanations for everything. It is a way of finding someone who will lead us. Perhaps, looking for a leader is in and of itself a nihilistic thing. People who cannot find the inherent meaning and value of life look for ways to explain what it’s really about – looking for ready-made answers, where, perhaps, the only way to find them is by on your own.

Where does it leave us then with mindfulness? Mindfulness comes from a non-nihilist tradition. It’s about understanding the world. For most of us, the context is that we are either too concerned with the future or too preoccupied with escaping the present. Hence, it is a safe way to get a better grip on life.

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Our brains are story telling machines

Why do coincidences occur? Why is it that you randomly remembered the girl you used to play with in junior infants  and she suddenly added on Facebook the next day? Isn’t it fascinating? It is easily explained: you thought of hundreds of people that day and one of them just happened to come across you on Facebook. The feeling of a miracle with a deeper meaning remains though – because it makes a good story.

If there’s one thing that we have a lot of, it is information. I belong to the generation that was asked to learn facts in school as if it made a difference. Google was only starting up back then. Now, the landscape is somewhat different. There’s too much information available, so the skill is in making choices on how you use it.

Our brains don’t like working hard, understandably. They have evolved to conserve energy and focus on what’s important. For many of us, the important – safety, shelter and food – is easily accessible. An adaptive response would be to try and retrain our brains to see past this.

The obvious way of dealing with information is by making stories. The media don’t say: “We will run this fact”. They say “We will run this story”. We consume information based on stories. However, this approach is ridden with problems.

It seems that picking out the information to retain – and use in making decisions – is the point at which biases occur. The first step to retraining how we think is to become aware of what’s already there on autopilot.

cognitive biases story telling

To deal with an avalanche of information, we have adapted in the following ways:

  • Availability heuristic. We overestimate the probability that an event will occur if a similar event occurred recently or impacted us emotionally. Anything unusual is worth remembering – and more likely to occur. Ignore the expected”. It’s like Seth Godin’s Purple Cow. A doctor who recently saw a case of TB meningitis will be thinking about this rare cause for every nervous system-related case for months.
  • Base rate neglect. We opt for contextual conclusions that make a better story than what it is actually more likely.“If it makes a good story, it is likely.” Imagine you see a 20 something year old with long hair, tattoos and an attitudinal look. You are then asked, what is the likelihood that he a Christian and what is the likelihood that he is a satan worshipper? People will rate satan worshipper much higher than it is ignoring the fact that there are billions of Christians and very few satan worshippers. This is closely related to the Illusion of validity. We have an unshakeable belief that we can make sense of information, even if there is no sense to be made of it, i.e. it is known to be random. “What story is this data telling me?” Furthermore, when we don’t know something, our brains will plug the difference from our history and our stereotypes. Expectations get confused with reality a lot. “I can’t be wrong” This forms the basis of the placebo effect. The placebo effect always scares me. It’s more than a cognitive error, it actually has a physiological basis. Our brains will literally dampen the pain of an electric shock if we’re expecting it to be a 1/10 when it is actually a 7/10. It also forms the basis of the halo effect: “A good doctor is also a responsible driver.”
  • Anchoring. “It’s only the change that matters, not the absolute value”. We are also emotional about it as is demonstrated by the framing effect: “Is the change good or bad?” Getting caught up in assessing these changes, we lose track of what the actual result is. For example, if we give people the option to sign up now with a discount for earlier registration, they are much less likely to sign up than if you tell them that there is a penalty for signing up later. The money values are all the same, the behaviours are different.
  • Attentional bias. It is the tendency of our perception to be affected by our recurring thoughts. We only pay more attention to things that interest us than we realise – and ignore things that don’t interest us too. “I am only interested in X and I can ignore Y.” This is how people become infatuated with other people and how the “Law of Attraction” works. If you only focus on the positive, you will only see the positive. It’s a close cousin of the Confirmation bias – which is we pay more attention to information that supports our views. “I prefer data points that agree with me.” The famed Ben Franklin psychological hack, “foot-in-the-door”, is using this. If Harry asks you for a small favour, you are likely to do it – because you are nice. If Harry then asks you to do a bigger favour, you are more likely to do it than if he never asked you for the small favour. What’s happening in your brain is as follows: I’ve already done this guy a favour, hence, I like him. If I like him, surely, I will do another favour. In other words, we are rationalising that we are consistent and looking for reasons to confirm our conclusion. It could be argued that this isn’t irrational though. If you feel like you are building a relationship with a person through these favours, you may be going ahead with them even though you are completely aware of the trick.
  • The illusory truth effect. The more something is repeated to us, the more it becomes true in our minds. “If it’s repeated, it’s true.” It is of course made worse by attentional and confirmation bias leading us into the downward spiral of a nice and resonant echo chamber. Were you, perhaps, surprised that Trump got elected?
  • Mere-exposure effect. We like people and things more when we see them often. “I like you cause you’re around.” Thank God, or there would have been a divorce rate of 100%.
  • Cue-dependent forgetting. We can’t recall information without memory cues. “Oh and remember it was raining outside?” When you are asked about turtles, your brain searches within its repository for “turtles”. A Google search would look through a gazillion files and look for the word “turtles”. This is not how our brains search. Memories are retrieved through association. You will think of the documentary that you saw about soft-shelled turtles in Ussuriland. So far, so good – just like Google. But, that will also pull up memories of who you watched it with and the comfy red jammies you had at the time. Neither of those facts related to turtles according to Google, but they do, according to our brains. If turtles were never brought up, you probably would never have remembered these particular pyjamas you once had.
  • Frequency illusion. We begin to notice something a lot more when we learn about it. “I am shopping for a black BMW, but I just noticed that everyone seems to have one!”
  • Hot-cold empathy gap. It is difficult to relate to an experience when you are in a certain state. “I am not a psychopath, but why are you sad if I am happy?” If you are hungry, it is difficult to focus on anything else. If you are calm, it is hard to imagine what it’s like to have a panic attack.
  • Omission bias. We judge harmful actions more harshly than harmful inactions. “You cannot do this!” Euthanasia gets people much more emotional than letting someone die by not actively treating them with every last option.
  • Picture superiority effect. “A picture says a 1000 words.” It is easier to take information from a picture. This is probably because it builds context – and so tells a story.
  • Naive realism/ naive cynicism. “I see the world like it is, and anyone who thinks I am wrong is biased.” We ignore the fact that we are only looking at the world through a set of filters and lenses.

our brains are story telling machines

Cognitive curiosities: what our minds do without telling us

I am fascinated by the idiosyncrasies of the human mind. This is an ever expanding collection of my finds: biases, assumptions, adaptive mechanisms and shortcuts. I don’t recommend reading all of these books – some are (much) better than others, but here are the highlights by theme.

Awareness

We often deal with difficult questions by answering an easier one instead, usually without noticing the substitution. Is Jenny good at her job? becomes Do I like Jenny? [Thinking Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman]

It’s impossible to learn if you think you already know it. [Ego Is the Enemy by Ryan Holiday]

Self-awareness comes in layers. The first is to recognise an emotion. The second is to ask why the emotion is there. Usually it is due to some event occurring: e.g. a piece of news, a breakup, a raise, someone looked at you funny, etc. The third is to acknowledge what meaning you ascribed to this event through your values and rules. For example, you may believe that someone breaking up with you means you’re not good enough as a person, or that getting a raise is a consequence of your hard work. The more important the relevant value is in the hierarchy of values, the more intense the emotion. The way you decide your values makes all the difference to how you feel. [The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F-ck by Mark Manson]

Emotional contagion is a real thing. [Emotional Intelligence by Daniel Goleman]

We think that other people pay much more attention to us than they actually do. [Mindwise… by Nicholas Epley]

We tend to assume that others see the world similarly to the way we do. [Mindwise… by Nicholas Epley]

When your working memory is occupied, your ability to think is compromised. [Thinking Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman]

Priming: our actions and emotions are affected by things we are often unaware of. [Thinking Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman]

Naïve realism: the feeling that we see the world as it actually is, rather than through the lens of our perception. [Mindwise… by Nicholas Epley]

We are aware of the brain’s finished products, e.g. conclusions, theories, beliefs, emotions, but not so much how these were arrived at. Hence, it is difficult to recognise one’s own errors of cognition/assumptions. [Mindwise… by Nicholas Epley]

Surprise leads to enhance conscious attention. [Thinking Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman]

People believe that they are more attractive than they actually are. This is why most of pictures look so bad. [Mindwise… by Nicholas Epley]

Our brains are story telling machines. If we don’t know the facts, the brain will pad the story with assumptions. [Mindwise… by Nicholas Epley] It is easier to come up with a story that makes sense when you know fewer facts – as it is a simpler puzzle to solve. This is because we have an unbelievably powerful way of ignoring what we don’t know. [Thinking Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman]

“The media” are frequently accused of being biased. However, they never seems to be accused of being biased in favour of those accusing it. [Mindwise… by Nicholas Epley]

God always seems to agree with the person citing him. [Mindwise… by Nicholas Epley]

We have an overwhelming need to be consistent. We assume that other’s are consistent too, it’s called the halo effect. In our minds, a brilliant pianist is automatically a great driver and family man. However, a convicted criminal is automatically an aggressive driver and a wife-beater. [Thinking Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman]

Desiring a positive experience is a negative experience. However, accepting a negative experience is a positive experience.The more you want X, the more 1/X you will feel. This applies to wanting to improve your appearance, mood and spirituality. The key point of the book, phrased more civilly, is to play to your strengths. [The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F-ck by Mark Manson]

Leaving your sense of self open to be influenced by external circumstances is dangeorous.
The narcissistically inclined live in an unwalled city. [Ego Is the Enemy by Ryan Holiday]

What feels bad isn’t necessarily bad and vice versa. Negative feelings are biology’s way to draw our attention to a (potential) problem. [The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F-ck by Mark Manson] [Principles by Ray Dalio]

Feeling bad is made worse by taking things personally, believing that it’s going to last forever and affects absolutely every area of your life. [Multiple works by Martin Seligman]

cognitive biases mental health

Time

Future-oriented people tend to be more successful professionally and academically, to eat well, to exercise regularly, and to schedule preventative doctor’s exams. But they are the least likely to help others in need. When faced with a choice to engage in a behaviour, future-oriented people believe that they are choosing the consequences, rather than the behaviour. [The Time Paradox by Philip Zimbardo and John Boyd]

Present-oriented people tend to be willing to help others, but appear less willing or able to help themselves. They are the least likely to be successful. Good leaders are in the moment and have a way of communicating this to their audience to make them feel like they are the leader’s sole focus. [The Time Paradox by Philip Zimbardo and John Boyd]

How we think and feel today influences how we remember yesterday. [The Time Paradox by Philip Zimbardo and John Boyd]

Anything that limits our sense of an unlimited future changes our motivations and priorities so that they now focus on emotional satisfaction in the present. Those who feel like the future in unlimited, favour quantity over quality: more friends, more hobbies, etc. Those who feel the future in only short, e.g. due to a terminal disease, favour quality over quantity.  [The Time Paradox by Philip Zimbardo and John Boyd] This is interesting in the context of stoic philosophy.

Money

We respond to a change in wealth in a measure that is inversely proportional to the initial amount of wealth. [Thinking Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman]

We take on more risk when all our options are bad. [Thinking Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman]

We perceive value as relating to gains and losses rather than to wealth. [Thinking Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman]

Having explicit goals has a positive impact on achievement. [Thinking Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman]

Understanding other people

Spending more time together doesn’t help you read the mind of the other person. It gives you the illusion that you can. [Mindwise… by Nicholas Epley]

Emotion is carried through voice more than it is through visual expression. [Mindwise… by Nicholas Epley]

Reading body language and trying to take on the other’s perspective doesn’t seem to help to understand the person better. What does help is creating situations where people can openly tell you what they think – and listen carefully. [Mindwise… by Nicholas Epley]

A quick way to build rapport with someone is to unveil private thoughts or memories to each other.  [Mindwise… by Nicholas Epley]

A relationship is more likely to succeed if bad experiences are avoided. It has less to do with the good experiences.[Thinking Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman]

Body language

We smile when we feel happy, but also, when we’re forced to smile by holding a pen in our teeth, it makes us feel happy. [Amy Cuddy: Your body language shapes who you are]

Two minutes in a power pose (think Wonder Woman or Usain Bolt crossing the finish line) lead to these hormonal changes in cortisol and testosterone that configure your brain to be assertive, confident and comfortable. Conversely, a small pose (arms and legs crossed) leads to changes that cause you to be stress-reactive, and feeling shut down. [Amy Cuddy: Your body language shapes who you are]

When you are in the high-power pose condition, it causes you to take more risks. [Amy Cuddy: Your body language shapes who you are]

It is difficult to empathise with a person fully until you assume their physical position. [Emotional Intelligence by Daniel Goleman]

People who have had Botox have duller social senses being unable to mimic the facial expressions of others. [Mindwise… by Nicholas Epley]

cognitive biases psychological hacks

We love echo chambers

Confirmation bias: we pay attention to the facts that confirm our point of view more that the ones that refute it. [Thinking Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman] When volunteers were told that they have poor IQ scores and given the opportunity to read up on IQ tests, they paid more attention to articles that questioned the validity of IQ tests than articles that validated them. [Stumbling upon Happiness by Daniel Gilbert]

The part of the brain that is involved in trying to understand what others are thinking, the medial prefrontal cortex, is more engaged more when you’re thinking about yourself, your close friends and family, and others who have values close to your own. [Mindwise… by Nicholas Epley]

How we are sold

Shoppers were shown four identical pairs of stockings. They didn’t know that they were identical. Shoppers always preferred the stockings on the far right, they were the last that they examined. [Mindwise… by Nicholas Epley]

Making people want the right things

Changing the context is far more effective than changing individual minds. Otherwise cleanly people will litter if there’s already rubbish on the floor. [Mindwise… by Nicholas Epley]

Economies grow only if people are deluded into believing that the production of wealth will make them happy. [Stumbling upon Happiness by Daniel Gilbert]

irrational human minds cognitive biases

Black swans

Our memories cling onto the most outstanding, least likely things. Hence, when we predict the future, we tend to assign erroneously large probabilities to unlikely events.[Stumbling upon Happiness by Daniel Gilbert]

Predictions based on intuition tend to be overconfident and overly extreme. [Thinking Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman]

When we’re not sure about the probability of something, the best course of action is to default to the base rate and the propensity to revert to the mean. [Thinking Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman]

We crave uniqueness

We crave the feeling of being unique and constantly seek evidence to back it up. [Stumbling upon Happiness by Daniel Gilbert]

We are much more likely to notice an opportunity to develop if it makes us feel significant. [Ego Is the Enemy by Ryan Holiday]

A man who claims to be searching for himself is looking for a sense of distinction. [Mindwise… by Nicholas Epley]

We are what we do – not what we think, say or feel. [Too Soon Old, Too Late Smart by Gordon Livingston]

People tend to overestimate the differences between us and other people. This has implications for religious, racial and other conflict. [Mindwise… by Nicholas Epley]

Opinion vs experience

Expert opinions are not significantly more reliable than nonspecialists. [Expert Political Judgment… by Philip Tetlock]

Falsehoods will be accepted as the truth through frequent repetition. [Thinking Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman]

Virtually everybody sees themselves as above average. [Stumbling upon Happiness by Daniel Gilbert] [Thinking Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman]

Our bias towards seeing ourselves as above average is accompanied by the perception that we are also less biased than average. [Stumbling upon Happiness by Daniel Gilbert]

We seek to change our experience before we look to change our attitude to it. We don’t automatically look for silver linings. [Stumbling upon Happiness by Daniel Gilbert]

We become less confident in a decisions when we are asked to produce more arguments to support it. [Thinking Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman]

We rate something based on the memory of the most intense point and the end point of an experience. Hence, an experience of consistent low-intensity pain is remembered as being better than a few intense shocks. [Thinking Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman]

Intense shocks trigger psychological defences, but the mild shocks do not. That’s why you could forgive your spouse for cheating but stay angry about the dishes. [Stumbling upon Happiness by Daniel Gilbert]

A good strategy to predict how we will feel is to find someone who just went through the experience and ask them how they feel. [Stumbling upon Happiness by Daniel Gilbert]

We find cognitive effort at least mildly unpleasant and avoid it as much as possible. [Thinking Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman]

If we deliberately avoid chasing short-term outcomes, the quality of our decisions and outcomes improves. [Thinking Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman]

We are obsessed with sunk-costs. This fallacy keeps people locked into situations that they should have left a long time ago. [Thinking Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman]

The planning fallacy: people are overly optimistic when they make plans. [Thinking Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman]

how to improve self awareness

I know one thing: that I know nothing

It is virtually impossible to remember what it’s like not knowing a fact/skill once you know it.  [Mindwise… by Nicholas Epley] The jury cannot disregard the prosecutor’s snide remarks. [Stumbling upon Happiness by Daniel Gilbert] We cannot reconstruct past states of knowledge. [Thinking Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman] I wonder about that. Is that not how negotiations work? Is that not how we lie to someone?

What we call “fact” is simply conjectures that have met a certain minimum standard of proof. [Stumbling upon Happiness by Daniel Gilbert]

People prefer certainty and clarity over uncertainty and mystery. While increasing our chances of survival they diminish happiness. [Stumbling upon Happiness by Daniel Gilbert]

We look for causal relationships to situations that require statistical reasoning. [Thinking Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman]

Happiness

Happiness is determined by expectations and our history rather than by real events alone. [Thinking Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman]

Deliberate attempts to feel happy tend to lead to feeling worse than we did before. [Stumbling upon Happiness by Daniel Gilbert]

We think that we will regret bad actions more than bad omissions. However, 90% of people regret not having done things. [Stumbling upon Happiness by Daniel Gilbert]

“Presentism”: we tend to evaluate historical figures using the values of our own time. Judging Thomas Jefferson for having slaves or Sigmund Freud for patronising women is like arresting someone today for having driven without a seat belt in 1923. [Stumbling upon Happiness by Daniel Gilbert]

We consistently overestimate how bad we will feel and how long this feeling will last if something bad happens. [Stumbling upon Happiness by Daniel Gilbert]

We only care about a parameter when it is highlighted through side-by-side comparison. [Stumbling upon Happiness by Daniel Gilbert]

Optimism is largely inherited. Optimists perform better. They take on more risks that they realise and bounce back from failure more easily. [Thinking Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman]

how to improve motivation

Motivation

People will work harder to avoid bad things than to get good things. It’s a consequence of loss aversion. [Thinking Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman]

It is easier to assume that you’re going to fail than actually testing it. [The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F-ck by Mark Manson]

A sense of control over the outcome is very important to motivation. We have control over how we assign values and thus perceive the world as well as what way we’re going to act [Multiple works by Martin Seligman] The more choices we are able to exercise, the happier we are likely to be. [Too Soon Old, Too Late Smart by Gordon Livingston]

We are more motivated to avoid bad self-definitions than to go after good ones. [Thinking Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman]

When believe that you can achieve something, you work harder. [The Time Paradox by Philip Zimbardo and John Boyd]

Repeated failure in early life creates a sense of learned helplessness and leads you to give up on that area of performance. [The Time Paradox by Philip Zimbardo and John Boyd]

Mentally rehearsing reaching goals step-by-step helps to achieve them. [The Time Paradox by Philip Zimbardo and John Boyd] [Principles by Ray Dalio]

Happiness and self-respect are our strongest desires. [Too Soon Old, Too Late Smart by Gordon Livingston]

Giving up on a dream isn’t always failure. Sometimes we make wrong decisions about what we aspire to (assuming that that in and of itself isn’t a failure). [The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F-ck by Mark Manson]

Anyone who gets really good at something have a belief that there’s lot os room for improvement. They doubt their work a lot. It’s beneficial to accept the possibility of being wrong unemotionally. [The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F-ck by Mark Manson]

Meaning and significant accomplishment is only possible through focusing and saying no. It means massive opportunity cost and less freedom, hence, few people do it. [The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F-ck by Mark Manson] [Ego Is the Enemy by Ryan Holiday]

Intuition

People taking a test do much better when they are in a good mood. They become more creative. They also become more prone to logical errors. Unhappy test subjects were shown to be incapable of performing an intuitive task well. Mood affects our intuition.[Thinking Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman]

Mood

People in depression focus on the past. They feel that ruminating on the causes of their symptoms will help solve their problems. This only leads into a downward spiral. [The Time Paradox by Philip Zimbardo and John Boyd]