How to get Success in your Life in 10 Ways
Most of us are ignorant of the mental processes that lie behind our decisions. Luckily, what psychologists and microbiologists are finding may help us all make better choices. Here we bring together some of their many fascinating discoveries to help you make up your mind.
1 – Don’t Fear the Consequences
Whether it’s choosing between a new car versus a bigger house, or even who to marry, almost every decision we make entails predicting the future. We imagine how our choices will make us feel, and we usually go for the option we think will make us the happiest. The problem with this sort of ” affective forecasting” is that we are not very good at it.
People routinely overestimate the impact of decision outcomes, both good and bad.
“The hedonic consequences of most events are less intense and briefer than most people imagine ” says Psychologist from Harvard University. This is true for trivial events such as going to a restaurant, as it is for major ones such as losing a job.
A major factor leading us to make bad predictions is “loss aversion” the belief that a loss will hurt more than a corresponding gain will please. Yet researcher has shown that while loss aversion affected people choices, when they did lose they found it much less painful than they had anticipated.
So what are we to do?
Rather than looking inwards and imagining how an outcome might make you feel, try to find someone who has made the same choice and see how they felt. Remember also that whatever the future holds, it will probably hurt or please you less than you imagine.
2. Go With Your Gut
While it’s tempting to think that good decisions require time, sometimes an instinctive choice is just as good, if not better.
A Survey by Princeton University found that we make judgments about a person’s competence, trustworthiness, aggressiveness, like ability and attractiveness within the first 100 milliseconds of seeing a new face.
Given longer to look – up to one second – the researches found that observers hardly revised their views, they only became more confident in their snap decisions.
It stands to reason that extra information can help you make rational decisions. Yet paradoxically, sometimes the more information you have, the better off you may be going with your instincts.
The Redboud University Nijmegan in the Netherlands found that when making simple purchases, such as clothes, shoppers were happier with their decisions a few weeks later if they had weighed up the alternatives.
For more complex purchases such as furniture , however, those who relied on their gut instinct ended up happier.
3. Consider Your Emotions
You might think that emotions are the enemy of decision making, but in fact they are integral to it. Whenever you make up your mind, your limbic system the brain’s emotional center is active.
University of Southern California microbiologist, has studied people with damage to only the emotional parts of their brains, and found that they were unable to make basic choices about what to wear or eat. University speculates this may be because our brains store emotional memories of past choices, which we use to inform present decisions.
However, making choices under the influence of an emotion can seriously affect the outcome. A study of the University od Mississippi and the University of Pittsburgh found that angry consumers were more likely to opt for the first thing they were offered rather than considering other alternatives. It seems anger can make us impetuous, selfish and risk-prone.
All emotions affect our thinking and motivation, so it may be best to avoid making important decisions under their influence. Yet strangely there is one emotion that seems to help us make good choices.
The American researches found that the sad people took time to consider the various alternatives on offer, and ended up making the best choices.
In fact many studies show that depressed people have the most realistic take on the world. Psychologists have even coined name for it: depressive realism.
4. Play the Devil’s Advocate
Have you ever had an argument with someone about a vexatious issue and been frustrated because they only drew on evidence that supported their opinions and ignored anything to the contrary? This is the ubiquitous confirmation bias. This bias becomes a problem if we believe we are making a decision by weighing the alternatives, when in fact we already have favored opinion that we simply want to justify.
To make good decisions, you need to do more than latch on to facts and figures that you like best. Admittedly, searching for evidance that could prove you wrong is a paintfull process.
“Perhaps it is enough to realise that we are unlikely to be truly objective” says psychologist Raymond Nickerson at Tufts University in Massachusetts. ” Just recognizing that this bias exits and that we are all subject to it, is probably a good thing”.
At the very least, we might hold our views little less dogmatically and choose with a bit more humility.
5. Keep Your Eye on the Ball
Our decisions sometimes become attached to irrelevant facts and figures. In a classic study that introduced this “anchoring effect”, Kahneman add the late Amos Tversky asked participants to estimate the percentage of African countries in the UN. Before answering, they has to spin a wheel with numbers ranging from 0-100 and indicate whether that number was higher or lower than the percentage of African countries in the UN. This had nothing to do with the actual question but the effect on the answers was dramatic.
On average participants with a ten on the wheel gave estimate of 25% ; those who got 65 estimated 45%. It seems they had taken their cue from the spin of a wheel.
The same thing happens every time we see something marked “reduced ” in a shop. The original price serves as an anchor against which we compare the discounted price, making it look like a bargain even if in absolute terms it is expensive.
So how do you beat the anchor effect?
” It is very hard to shake “, admits psychologist of Cornell University in Ithaca, New York. One strategy might be to create your own counterbalancing anchors, but even this has its affected by an anchor, so it is hard to compensate for it” says Gilovich.
6. Beware of Social Pressure
You may like think of yourself as a single-minded individual, but no one is immune to social pressure.
In 1971 an experiment at California Stanford University famously had to be stopped when a group of students who had been assigned to act as prison guards started mentally abusing another group acting as a prisoners.
How can you avoid the malign influence of Social pressure?
First, if you suspect you are making a choice because you think it is what your boss would want, think again. If you are member of a group, never assume the group knows best, and if you find everyone agreeing, play the contrarian.
Finally, beware situations in which you have little individual reponsibility that is when you are most likely to make irresponsible choices.
7. Look it Another Way
The “FRAMING EFFECT” – where our chioces are skewed by the way the alternatives are presented – expalins why we has rather buy snacks that are “90% fat free” than those “10% fat”. We prefer options that seems to involve gains, and are averse to those that seem to involve losses. Another factor is whether we see a choice as part of a bigger picture or as separate from previous decisions.
We cannot learn to ignore framing effects but just knowing that we have this bias is important. There is evidence that experience and better education can counteract this bias but there is simple measure to avoid it.
Look at your options from more than one angle.
8. Don’t Cry Over Split Milk
At the back of your wardrobe lurks an ill- fitting item of clothing you refuse to throw away because you spent a fortune on it.The force behind this bad decision is called the sunk cost fallacy.
The reason behind this is the more we invest in something , the more commitment we feel towards it. The investment need not to be financial. Who has not persevered with a tedious book? Always remind yourself that the past is the past.
“If at the time of considering whether to end a project you would not initiate it, then it is probably not a good idea to continue”, says Arkes.
9. Limit Your Options
More choice makes more demands on your information processing skills, and the process can be confusing and time consuming. Greater choice also increases the chances of making a mistake, so you may feel less satisfied because of a fear that you have missed a better opportunity.
The paradox of choice hits some harder than others. Worst affected are “maxi-misers” – those who examine all options before making up their minds. ” Satisficers” – the people who tent to choose the first opinion that meets their requirements – suffer less.
So instead of searching for your ideal camera, ask a friend if he is happy with his. If he is, it will probably do for you too, says Schwartz.
Even in situations when a choice seems far too important to simply satisfied, try to limit the number of options you consider.
10. Have Someone Else Choose
We tend to believe we will be happier making our own decisions. Yet, no matter the outcome, the process of making decision can sometimes leave us feeling dissatisfied. Then, it may be better to relinquish control.
Researchers from the Cornell and University of Chicago published a series of experiments that explore this idea. In one test, subjects had to choose between several items without any information to guide them. When asked to indicate their level of satisfaction with the outcome and how they felt about the decision, they were all less satisfied than people who had simply been assigned an option.
The reason, say the researches, is that the choosers could not give themselves credit even if they ended up with a good option, yet still felt burdened by the thought that they might not have chosen the best alternative. Even when choosers had a little information – though not enough to feel responsible for the outcome- they felt no happier choosing than being chosen for.
Researchers believe these findings have broad implications for any decisions that’s either or trivial or distasteful. For instance, try letting someone else choose the wine during dinner.
“There is a fixation with choice, a belief it brings happiness” they says. “Sometimes it does not”.