Helping you to think better

I’m going to ask you this when was the last time you didn’t know what to do?

The worrying thing is most of us think we already know what to do most of the time, but this doesn’t always guarantee we are making the right decisions. In fact, psychologists and sociologists will tell us that most of our behaviour is predictable, and it’s only when we are aware of what’s under the surface that we can gain the insight to think more critically about our lives.

Our lives are a result of the decisions we have made in the past, and the decisions we make now affect the life we are going to lead in the future. So if you want to change your life the logic follows that you really need to spend some time thinking about how you think and especially about how you make those decisions that will affect your future self.

There’s a theory about how we make decisions called Dual Process Theory; this theory proposes that when we make decisions, we do so in two ways with;

  • Fast unconscious (Type1) impulsive decisions or
  • Slow conscious (Type 2) reasoned decisions.

If you look at all the decisions you make in a single day; it has been found that up to 90% of the of you make are the Type 1 automatic and unconscious decisions. Commonly these are our hard wired or ‘hard-learned’ responses that happen automatically and given we are creatures habit we are probably making those same habitual decisions day in and day out.

The origin of Type 1 decisions are from instinct and repetitive habit; they are also made up of some of our innate and survival responses. This Type 1 thinking is mainly unconscious, it usually happens below our awareness, it is fast and impulsive, and because of this, it leaves itself open to errors in our thinking called cognitive biases that cause most of our errors of judgement and also some of the poor decisions that we can make in life.

Type 2 thinking is reasoned thinking, the trouble is with Type 2 thinking is that it’s more mentally tiring and it’s too slow, so we can’t run our lives on it because it’d mentally wear us out and we’d soon be overloaded by the first complex task we had to do.

Without our Type 1 thinking going on the background we’d be overwhelmed. So what we do mentally is to speed up our type 2 thinking and make it less taxing, so when we learn a new task with repetition we can imprint new mental short cuts, when we do this enough our tasks that take Type 2 thinking start to become like Type 1 tasks and similarly almost happen automatically too, think of this a bit like the expression; ‘he’s done so many he could do them in his sleep’.

We mentally construct these cognitive short cuts all the time, for instance, if I said 7 x 7 = you’d hopefully (and almost instantly say 49).

I’d also guess that none of you had to add up each of the 7’s or did any long-winded arithmetic to get the answer. Instead, you consciously employ mental shortcuts which are also called heuristics; and we employ these heuristics every day of our lives; they help us to make our daily tasks easier, quicker, and mentally less challenging to do.

When our thinking goes wrong, either it’s because our Type 1 thinking is being influenced by cognitive biases and gets distorted, or possibly because we are using the wrong mental shortcuts to speed up our type 2 decisions.

There’s a pattern to a lot of the cognitive biases, they are a predictable irrationality in our decision making, they are sometimes a deviation from what seems like common sense, and I particularly see these biases affecting a person’s thinking particularly when they are stuck in a problem.

I also see people use the wrong shortcuts and heuristics when they try and think themselves out of their problem, their learned responses to life situations are just not good enough, they haven’t the experience, the training, they’ve not learned what to do, or they just haven’t got the mental conditioning needed to process that particular problem. They don’t have what I call Success Heuristics which are the mental short cuts and patterns of thinking that really successful people consistently use.

This course concentrates introduces you to the cognitive biases that really do hold people back in life, by giving you real-life examples of how they lead people mentally astray you can learn that they exist and consciously scan your thoughts for similar examples when they happen to you so you don’t fall into the same trap.

More importantly, we can consciously override these distorted thinking patterns and make better-unbiased decisions instead. Also, I’m going to give you some rules of thumb, some examples of success heuristics and some really good mental short cuts that you can employ in certain situations to get better results.

Overriding some of your cognitive biases is called cognitive debiasing, and better mental shortcuts I call success heuristics.

We could also benefit from overriding and decoupling (this is another word psychologists use) some of our hard-wired, and hard-learned patterns of thinking especially the ones that are holding us back.

The cognitive bias which is giving you the most problems is dependent on the individual, and I’d say for most of us it’s more than just one that is causing an issue. It’s also dependent on the problems you are facing, your stress levels, and the environment you are in at the time. The same goes for mental short cuts, the success heuristic that is going to help you the most is also dependent on you and the situation you are in.

I don’t know everyone who is reading this article, I’ve never met you and all I can do is give you some real-life examples of the biased thinking patterns that commonly hold people back when they get stuck in life, and also the examples of where better mental shortcuts could make a real difference.

I have arranged the courses in a way that takes you on a journey of change, bringing in these biases and success heuristics in an order that’s going to help you the most.

Dr Jeff Stoker

Clinician, writer, educator, speaker, and problem expert. Helping people to think better, to solve problems, and get their lives unstuck.