Helping you to think better

By Dr Jeff Stoker | About Juvenate

Oct 06

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 know what to do most of the time because most of the things we do in life we do without thinking. But alas 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 the decisions we make in our lives.

For most of us our lives are determined by the decisions we have made in the past, whilst the decisions we make now affect the life we are going to live in the future. So if you want to change your life the logic follows that you really need to spend some time learning how to change how you think, especially if you want to make better 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 and 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 our fast, unconscious, Type 1 decisions. Commonly these are our automatic, ‘hard-wired’ or ‘hard-learned’ responses that happen impulsively and given we are creatures habit we are probably making these 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 we are born with. Our Type 1 thinking is mainly unconscious, it tends to happen below our conscious awareness, it is fast, it is impulsive, and because of this, it leaves itself open to errors in our thinking called cognitive biases. Cognitive biases are errors of judgement that are the root cause of many if not all of the poor decisions that we can make in life.

Type 2 thinking is reasoned thinking, it is our conscious step-wise, slow rational analytical thinking. it’s when we work out a problem with reasoned effort.

The trouble is with Type 2 thinking is that it’s more mentally tiring and it’s too slow, we can’t run our lives on type 2 thinking because it’d mentally wear us out, we’d soon be overloaded by the first complex task we had to do and if we had to analyse everything we had to do every day one step at a time looking at evert alternative we’d probably never leave the house in the morning .

Without our Type 1 thinking going on the background we’d be simply 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 Type 2 thinking starts to become similar to Type 1 thinking as we use the shortcuts or ‘heuristics’ we’ve developed to help us complete any semi-complex task, think of this a bit like the expression; ‘he’s done it so many times he could do it 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 a mental shortcut to get the answer, we employ these heuristics or short cuts every day of our lives, they help us to make many of 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 that cause us to make poor decisions, there is a predictable irrationality in our decision making, cognitive biases are sometimes also called a deviation away from what seems like common sense. I particularly see these biases affecting a person’s thinking particularly when they are stuck in a problem or when they are stuck in life.

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;

Success Heuristics are the mental short cuts and patterns of thinking that really successful people consistently use to improve their lives.

Our courses introduce you to the cognitive biases that hold people back in life, by giving you real-life examples of how poor thinking leads people mentally astray you can learn to consciously scan your thoughts so that you don’t fall into the same trap too.

More importantly, we can consciously override these distorted thinking patterns and make better-unbiased decisions instead. The courses also give you some examples of success heuristics i.e. the really good mental short cuts that you can employ in difficult situations to get a better result.

We can always 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 causing destructive patterns of behaviour.

The cognitive bias which is giving you the most problem is dependent on the individual, I’d say it’s almost always a combination of many that could be causing you an issue. It is also dependent on the problems you are facing, your stress levels, and the environment you are in at the time, and the same goes for mental short cuts, the success heuristic that is going to help you the most is also dependent on the situation you are in and the problems you are facing.

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 in your life.

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