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9 Serious Mental Errors (You Probably Don’t Realize You’re Doing)

by | Jan 2, 2023 | Life Hacks

Once you’ve suffered severe mental illness and recovered, you become obsessed with the mind.

That’s what happened to me. My battle was over a long time ago.

Since then I’ve become addicted to decoding how the mind produces mental errors that create bigger problems in life.

Because most life problems aren’t a result of environment or equality, but how a person thinks. Master the mind, master your life.

Avoid these mental errors.

Being tricked by the “reciprocation bias”

This one tricks a lot of people.

It’s why so many things are given away to you for free. Not because influencers or online businesses are generous. No. It’s because of the reciprocation bias, which says we feel compelled to reciprocate actions others have done to us (mostly good actions).

This causes us to repay debts, go to events we don’t care about, and return favors we never wanted done in the first place.

It’s why I rarely accept free help. I know it’ll come with an even bigger (unknown) debt later on.

Charge me full price baby.

Let me give you an example. You walk into a car dealership and the salesman offers you a coffee. Why?

It tricks you into compliance. You feel like you owe them something, like you have to at least listen to them because they gave you $1 of coffee beans in hot water.

The purchasing departments at large companies know all about the reciprocation bias. That’s why they don’t let purchasing managers accept gifts or be “wined and dined.”

I had an entire career based on the reciprocation bias and only recently spotted the error.

In banking, it was my job to take clients out to restaurants. I had a quota. I got in trouble when my corporate card bill was too low. My hidden job was to make customers feel obligated to buy from me … and I didn’t know it.

Be wary of favors. They come with mental strings attached.

Small mind syndrome

Notice how many people major in minor things?

They’ll go out of their way to save a dollar on gas but won’t spend the time to negotiate their salary properly and earn 1000s of dollars more.

It’s why people watch so much sport. It’s small. It’s a distraction. It doesn’t matter in the grand scheme of things.

The trouble is when you zoom in on the small stuff it makes you by definition closed-minded. The big picture gets missed.

Charles Bukowski summed it up nicely:

People are strange: They are constantly angered by trivial things. But on a major matter like totally wasting their lives, they hardly seem to notice.

The way to avoid this mental error is to stop focusing on trivial things. Who cares about what team won the football final. Who cares about what happened on some random Netflix tv show that everyone will forget in three months.

  • What is life?
  • What are you doing with your life?
  • What is consciousness?
  • Will humans ever live on another planet?

These are the existential questions that matter. When you focus on them they expand your mind.

An expanded mind can see opportunities a small mind cannot.

The “value of money delusion”

I made this one up.

The cost of money changes over time. Many people make the mental error of comparing the price difference between something they bought years ago with the price today, without factoring in inflation or the devaluing of every currency on the planet.

A friend of mine said “Yo, Timbo, my house went up 30% in the last 5 years.” Taxes, inflation, and the declining dollar weren’t factored in.

Why do we fall for this mental error?

We tend to tell ourselves we’re more financially savvy than we really are. Don’t worry, I do it too. I told people how much I made in crypto. I conveniently forget how much I lost in recent times.

I’ll conveniently remember how big my gains are when the crypto bull market returns LOL.

Measure your wealth based on the true value and cost of money.

The psychological effect that causes businesses to fail or stagnate

I’ve attended a million meetings I reckon over my career.

All of them are about obscure topics such as supply chain issues, recruitment challenges, marketing problems, HR issues.

Then it hit me. All business problems lead to one common mental error: a failure to understand human motivation.

  • Hard to recruit talent? You’re not motivating people enough to join.
  • Marketing problems? You’re not motivating people to do business with your employer.
  • HR issues? Humans aren’t getting along because the incentives that motivate them are causing conflicts.
  • Product market fit not there? You don’t understand the motivations and problems of the target market, so they ignore your product.

Everyone in business should study psychology.

Otherwise, you’ll fail to see human motivations and be fooled by the lack of awareness. That’ll cause you to look for a sexy yellow canary in a coal mine that doesn’t exist.

The mind flipper complex

Many years ago, I told people if they didn’t wake up at 4 am they were a zombie. Legit.

Now, with a newborn baby, obviously I don’t believe this limited view of the world anymore. But I got roasted for it when I changed my mind. It’s a dangerous societal trend.

A healthy mind changes course often. Beliefs should change over time, otherwise you’re not growing — that means you’re psychologically dying.

We shouldn’t demonize or criticize a changed mind.

We should worship it. It’s a miracle in a world of fixed minds stuck in social media echo chambers.

Amazon founder Jeff Bezos (billionaire with all the bikini girlfriends) once said “anybody who doesn’t change their mind a lot is dramatically underestimating the complexity of the world that we live in.”

It’s cool to dumb stuff down, but life is much more complex than we can ever imagine.

A changed mind is a beautiful mind. Change your mind often.

The gamification mental trap

Phone manufacturers and video game companies love gamification.

It’s why they design products where you level up, see live scores, and do disguised quests or missions. Social media is a game in a way. Get the most likes, score the most followers, and you win the booby prize of fame.

Even corporations are jumping on the trend. Tech companies are gamifying the lives of software engineers by making them join clans, giving them Warcraft-style avatars, and calling product launches quests.

Agile software was the start of the shift when teams transformed into tribes. Soon your entire life will be gamified so you can be manipulated to achieve other people’s goals.

The good news is you can use this gamification mental error in your favor.

Gamify your big goals. Make your own games with unique quests and a scoring system.

The psychological entrapment of material wealth

When people flex their material wealth they signal that they won the conventional game the matrix presented them.

They had to sell their soul and give up their time to get it, often, with a lot of anxiety. This mental error doesn’t give them happiness at all.

The way to avoid this mental error is to exit the matrix by focusing on mental wealth over financial wealth.

  • Time to read
  • Time with family
  • Time to be mindful
  • Time to think deeply
  • Time to pursue your curiosity
  • Time to relax and enjoy new experiences

Don’t get psychologically enslaved by the money game. You’ll never have enough (by design).

Heaven’s Reward Fallacy

This mental error forces you to believe sacrifice pays off.

That if we just roll up to work, be a good little employee, follow the rules, ask for permission and wait our turn, we’ll get rewarded.

The heaven’s reward fallacy says that most hard work goes unnoticed.

Part of the problem is related to the popularization of Karma — the idea that some fairytale man/woman is up in the sky keeping track of all your good deeds. When expectations aren’t met you become disappointed.

Disappointment becomes frustration. Frustration forces you to bite the hands that feed you and can provide more opportunities.

Don’t wait for sacrifice to pay off. Be unreasonable enough to ask for what you want. To try alternate options when the one you’ve chosen leads you to people who can’t see your worth.

And don’t expect external validation. Praise is overrated. Most people don’t have time to honor you because they’re trying to get honored themselves.

The best reward is when you know you earned success by yourself and nobody can take that away from you.

The 0.00000001% rule

What happens in your life represents approximately 0.00000001% of what has happened in the world.

Oddly, according to finance writer Morgan Housel, this experience dictates about 80% of how you believe the world works. Wow, what a mental error!

Assume you don’t know 99.9999% of how the world works and you’ll stop letting your personal experience lead you astray.

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