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Making Decisions: An Insider's Look at How To Make Better Life Choices
Making Better Decisions
We have more decisions to make than ever before. Careers, friendships, health, and finances all demand making good choices. But experts agree that unconscious biases skew our perception. This distortion creates blind spots on our options. The better you understand these blind spots, the better you’ll be able to steer around these mental obstacles to make wiser life choices.
No one wants to look back on their life and wonder if they could have done better. Making decisions we can be proud of is what we want in order to build the best life possible. Here we’ll show you how to leverage effective decision making to make better life choices that meet your goals and maximize your strengths.
Top Articles on Decision Making
Nir’s Note: This post part of a series on cognitive bias co-authored by Nir Eyal and illustrated by Lakshmi Mani. Discover other reasons you make terrible life choices like confirmation bias, hyperbolic discounting and distinction bias.
There I was, sitting in a packed movie theatre. I waited two years for this sequel and I’ve got enough popcorn and diet soda to last me a full three hours. Fifteen minutes into the movie, the hero and villain are facing off for the first time when a lady bursts into the theater. Trying to find a seat, she awkwardly tries to squeeze into the middle of the row in front of me blocking the best part of the movie. “What a rude and inconsiderate person!” I think to myself as I dodge her body when she scuffles by.
A week later I’m rushing to catch another film with my friends. It’s pouring rain and traffic is crazy. I hope I make it before the previews end but when I reach the theater (soaking wet I might add), the movie has already begun. I have to turn on the flashlight on my phone to find my seat and accidentally step on a few movie goers’ toes. I hear tuts and loud sighs. It’s clear these people think I’m a complete jerk. read more…
Nir’s Note: This post part of a series on cognitive bias co-authored with and illustrated by Lakshmi Mani. Discover other reasons you make terrible life choices like confirmation bias, hyperbolic discounting and distinction bias.
It’s New Year’s Eve. There I am on the dance floor – it’s teeming with people and there’s hardly space to breathe. Loud thumping music pierces my eardrums and I have no idea where my friends are.
Then, the guy next to me takes a misstep, spills an entire cup of beer down my shoulder. I gasp as the cold brew winds its way down my back. But he’s too drunk and the music is too loud for him to notice. Is this supposed to be fun? What am I doing here? I hail a ride to get out of there.
At home, after wringing out my shirt and getting ready for bed, I take a minute to pull up my phone and glance at my Instagram stories.
There I see the plate of chocolate cake from the dinner with friends that started the evening.
Nir’s Note: This post part of a series on cognitive bias co-authored with and illustrated by Lakshmi Mani. Discover other reasons you make terrible life choices like confirmation bias and hyperbolic discounting.
There I was, looking at an enormous wall of television screens. Each one flashed the exact same scene — a beautiful flower slowly blooming to reveal each petal, pistil, and stamen in exquisite super high definition detail. It was downright sexy. But now it was time to make my choice.
Would I buy the $400 television within my budget or would I splurge on the $500 deluxe model that somehow helped me understand plant biology in a new, more intimate way?
Though every cone and rod in my eyeballs begged me to buy the better one, my more sensible instinct kicked in. “Your budget is $400, remember?” Sighing, I bought the crappy model and braced for a life of media mediocrity.
Nir’s Note: This post is co-authored with and illustrated by Lakshmi Mani, a product designer working in San Francisco.
You walk into your first yoga class. You’re a little insecure about your weight and how your yoga clothes cling to your body revealing every flaw. You’re nervous about making a fool of yourself.
Your eyes instantly zoom onto the fit model-esque people chatting in the corner. As you walk past them, your ears pick up the tinkle of laughter. My god, are they laughing at me?
You pick a spot in the back of the classroom where no one can see you. The teacher asks everyone to get into crouching fish pose. Do people know this pose?
You flail around on your mat and fall over with a big thump.
Nir’s Note: This guest post is written and illustrated by Lakshmi Mani, a product designer working in San Francisco.
Have you ever had a mounting pile of work you know you need to do but for some reason didn’t? There’s an important deadline looming, your boss is breathing down your neck, the pressure is on — all signs are pointing to you getting it done. Yet you put it off, turn on Netflix, and fantasize about how you’re going to crush it tomorrow.
Nir’s Note: This guest post is by Paulette Perhach. Paulette writes about finances, psychology, technology, travel, and better living for the likes of The New York Times, Elle, and Slate.
I learned how to respect authority from my father. At the top of a huge water slide at a theme park, he put me, my siblings and cousins in a huge, round raft, then started to get in himself. “No sir, that’s too many,” said the attendant. My father simply replied, “Hup, too late!” Then jumped in and shoved off. We caught air on the bumps, making the ride much more wild than it would have been, had we followed the rules.
Dodging the regulations of anyone with a whistle or a name tag became my favorite game. I avoided homework in sixth grade and, when I had a solid 0 percent in the class at midterm and my parents grounded me for six weeks, I filibustered my way out of my punishment by the second weekend. For years at school, I did the least amount of work possible, then crammed for tests. In high school, I had the best fake ID.
But, the same sass and laziness I used with my home life got me nearly fired from almost every job I had in high school. When I graduated, I stood in a cap and gown, knowing I was supposed to be educated, but that I only looked educated on paper. Drinking too young, as well, had its consequences. I’m lucky nothing terrible happened, but I still wish I hadn’t been so out of control so young.
As an adult, I learned that there are consequences, and then there are Consequences. Little consequences are the human-imposed rules that I can work around, hack, or ignore. They are a parent’s training ground for real life, a boss’s way to make sure the organization runs smoothly, and a government’s standards for building a society. They are human, and so they are flawed and breakable. I find it fun to find the cracks in the system and sneak through.
Consequences with a capital C are life’s natural effects of our human actions. I can sneak past the guard and ignore the sign at the aquarium that says don’t touch the marine life, but that doesn’t mean a turtle won’t bite my finger off. I can smoke cigarettes when no one’s looking and douse myself in perfume to hide the smell, but I can’t sneak a smoking habit past lung cancer. Much later than it should have taken me, I finally understood that discipline is the way you obey the laws of the universe.
Nir’s Note: This article on goal setting was originally published in early 2016 but got such a great reader response that I decided to expand and update it along with adding the video below. Let me know what you think in the comments.
Over the past four years, I’ve discovered many incredible ways to hack my habits, set better goals, and improve my life. I have taught myself to love running, dramatically improved my diet and found the focus to write a bestselling book. Understanding how the mind works and using it to affect my daily behaviors has yielded tremendous dividends.
Changing habits is hard. But what if there was a way to dramatically improve your odds of quitting even your worst habits? What if this method was shown to be over 8 times more effective than traditional methods at helping people quit a stubborn addiction like smoking? Would you try it? read more…
- Duncan Watts is a sociologist and principal researcher at Microsoft Research. His latest book is Everything Is Obvious (Once You Know the Answer): How Common Sense Fails Us.
- Personal preference, though not entirely arbitrary, is likely constructed and justified on the fly.
- According to Watts, the problem with prediction is not that we’re good or bad at it, but rather we are bad at distinguishing predictions that we can make from those we can’t.
- Business should embrace “strategic uncertainty” and “measure-and-react strategies.”
Nir’s Note: This book review is by Sam McNerney. Sam writes about cognitive psychology, business, and philosophy.
At a special event in the Yerba Buena Center in San Francisco, the CEO of Apple Tim Cook riffed on Apple’s latest gadget, the Apple Watch. “It’s the most personal device we’ve ever created,” Cook said. “It’s not just with you; it’s on you. And since what you wear is an expression of who you are, we designed Apple Watch to appeal to a whole variety of people with different tastes and preferences.” read more…
Nir’s Note: This book review is by Sam McNerney. Sam writes about cognitive psychology, business, and philosophy.
In Moneyball, Michael Lewis tells the story of Billy Bean, the general manager of the Oakland Athletics who transformed the A’s using sabermetrics, the data-driven approach to understanding baseball. Bean noticed that instead of using data to predict player performance, baseball professionals relied on faulty intuitions and anecdotes. Commentators debate how effective sabermetrics actually is, but Bean’s original insight—that we can’t learn that much about baseball just by watching—changed the game. read more…
Nir’s Note: Is “no” the most powerful word in the English language? In this guest post Chikodi Chima explores the power of no and what happens when people say, “No.” Chikodi is a former VentureBeat staff reporter who helps startups with their public relations and marketing. His blog is PR Tips For Startups and he is @Chikodi on Twitter.
Sirens were beautiful creatures from Greek Mythology who lured sailors to their death. The power of their song was so irresistible it would cause captains to steer their boats into the rocks and drown. We are also seduced daily by ideas that sound great at first, but may leave us shipwrecked, unless we have the power to say no.
Investor Marc Suster recently warned about the perils of shiny new objects.”Everything you say “yes” to is incrementally one more thing to support and you die a death by a thousand cuts,” he says. “I strongly believe that your success will be more defined by read more…
A funny thing happens when you lie to people: they tend to believe. Why shouldn’t they? They lie to themselves all the time. Our minds are wired to respond in predictable ways–among them is perceiving the world the way we want to see it, not necessarily the way it is.
Perhaps no other phenomenon demonstrates our brain’s ability to make believe better than the placebo effect. read more…
Oliver Burkeman’s new book, The Antidote: Happiness for People Who Can’t Stand Positive Thinking, challenges many widely-held assumptions. In this video, Burkeman discusses how positivity, goal setting, and visualization, often backfire.