It’s Easy to Influence Our Decisions


This TED video, presented by Dan Ariely, shows startling examples of how our decisions can be influenced by flaws in our perception and thinking processes. Dan calls this cognitive illusion. This is one fact that I feel needs to be considered constantly in our own lives. People scratch their heads wondering why a woman would leave her abusive boyfriend only to return to him a week later. Or we talk to smokers who say they actually hate smoking but they can’t quit. There are so many things we see in life that just don’t make sense. But when you consider how many things are going on behind-the-scenes, so to speak, it’s not really all that shocking that we sometimes make irrational decisions. In one example, even after Dan takes the red lines away from the table pictures, we still only see the illusion, regardless of the fact that we know what reality is. This means we can sometimes even know that something is irrational, but we still choose it. Gotta love being human, right?

It really can be easy to fool us into making bad or irrational decisions. But taking this one step further, think about your own life. I’m sure there are decisions you’ve made that you’ve regretted, especially the next day when, after a good night of sleep (and maybe being sober helps too), a decision you made suddenly looks like a really brilliant one (tongue-in-cheek). That’s why it’s such a good idea to walk away or even “sleep on it” before you make a big or difficult decision. Also, don’t be so hard on yourself if you’ve made stupid decisions. Just remember how easily we can be fooled by our sometimes-faulty perceptions or even simply having too many options, or peer and work pressures, or having too many beers, etc. It’s too easy for things to look one way today and look completely different tomorrow, especially when we’re no longer in the same environment when we faced making a decision.

Keep an open mind when trying to understand other people’s “bad” or irrational behavior too. Don’t get me wrong, it’s important for us to take full responsibility for the choices we make in our lives. But there’s great power in understanding how our behavior and thoughts can be nudged in a certain direction. Just being aware of that will, I hope, make you more tolerant when you see someone making what appears to be an irrational decision. A little patience and compassion goes a long way if you want to understand or even help someone.

The most important lesson I hope you take away from this video, and even every post on this blog, is that no matter what the past is like, each moment, we can reevaluate where we are in life and start making better decisions. Our own awareness is the best possible influence in our lives.

Do you have an opinion about this?   Tell me what you think.

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Comments

  1. Scott – I love the new blog! I can tell by the design and your writing style that it will indeed be a hit, just keep doing what you’re doing 🙂

    In regards to this post, I definitely think that although the past can influence our decisions of today very very easily, we have to consciously look within and know that we can really do whatever we want at anytime, and the past is the past and that’s that.

    I like to look at the past so I can learn from my mistakes and know how to act now, but I never default to act a certain way because “that’s how it was” before.

    Cheers!

    • Pat,

      Thanks! Your complements mean a lot to me. As for your post comments, I agree that it’s important to check in with ourselves. Like you said, we can do whatever we want. I am totally in agreement with you. I think it’s important for people to understand how our senses and past experiences can fool us into making poor choices but being aware of this, gives us another tool that makes us stronger. I think I’m most passionate about my message in the final paragraph of this post:

      “The most important lesson I hope you take away from this video, and even every post on this blog, is that no matter what the past is like, each moment, we can reevaluate where we are in life and start making better decisions. Our own awareness is the best possible influence in our lives.”

      I can see from your comments that we agree. So, it’s pretty obvious, Pat, that great minds think alike. 😉

      All the best!

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