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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