Archief van
Auteur: Danny Joosten

Facing Big Decisions – A Framework for Optimal Decision Making

Facing Big Decisions – A Framework for Optimal Decision Making

A few weeks ago I wrote about how I was tackling a big decision. A decision has been made. Although at the moment it’s rather a stern preference where some logistics are still to be worked out, I am quite confident that it will play out in a way that all pieces will fit the preferred puzzle.

In the meanwhile I have talked to a few people that are in front of similar challenges. The decisions they’ll make will have a profound impact on how their lives will play out in the near and/or far future. A danger that accompanies decisions like these is decision paralysis, doing nothing at all! It’s heavily related to the “paradox of choice” (look it up if you haven’t heard about it yet, knowledge is power). I can tell by other people’s experience that it’s not a happymaker.

In the light of this paralysis and a recent discovery I made while studying I feel obligated and delighted to share the process I have followed to come to a conclusion regarding my challenge. The delighted part is due to the fact that my method appeared to be backed by ‘decision-making-science‘. The scientific way is quite intuitive, hence it matched my strategy.

Decision Making Steps

The steps for reaching a decision are as follows:

  1. Set up a decision tree and walk through all paths and outcomes
  2. Determine chances
  3. Value the outcomes
  4. Determine (and value) additional variables
  5. Calculate the return on each alternative
  6. Choose the alternative with the highest return

Step 1 & 4

For the situation I wrote about a while ago the decision tree would’ve looked somewhat like this:

Decision Making Tree

The challenge was choosing a path forward after my bachelors (masters or working), those choices are accompanied by some additional variables, and they all have a similar or separate outcome. Although, I could’ve added another column on the right, in which they probably would have the same outcome in the end (equifinality).

Step 2

Then, in step 2, you start calculating the chances of achieving the second column. The way you calculate these depends on the situation. You can estimate them intuitively, or look at success rate based on notes in the past and experience from other people for example. The first is quicker, the second is more statistically rooted and probably more accurate.

Let’s assume the chances here are distributed as follows:

  • Masters BE: 1
  • Masters NL: 0.8
  • Job: 0.6

Step 3 and the rest of 4

In step 3 and step 4 you value the outcomes and the additional variables from an upfront chosen scale. This of course is 100% subjective as it is you who decides how much value a single variable or outcome has for you. You’ll see in the table later on that I used a 1-10 scale for the valuation of the variables and outcomes. But you can use a scale from 1-100 or from -5 to 5 and so forth if you’d like to.

Step 5 and 6

And last you calculate your yield (step 5), or return, based on the chances and outcomes. This is done as follows:

Table decision making

For the geeks among us, formalized it would look like this:

Y(A) = P(A) * V(A) + VAA(A) + VAB(A) + VAC(A) + VAD(A)

  • Y(A) = Yield outcome A (Msc. Science Belgium)
  • P(A) = Chance of achieving outcome A
  • V(A) = Value of outcome A
  • VAA(A) = Value of additional variable A for outcome A
  • etc.

After performing the same calculation for Y(B) and Y(C) you can decide which decision gives you the most return, or yield, and decide (step 6). According to these calculations I should choose the option ‘Masters in Belgium’, as that is the one with the highest yield.

NB: This is fictional data and doesn’t represent the whole decision process and the real outcome of the decision made in this situation. The formula is not a necessity. Excuse the bad quality of the pictures.

Good luck on whatever decisions you’ll have to make. Life is made up of decisions and the memories they leave behind. If they are important enough, don’t hesitate to take your time and start deliberating in a timely manner, and be excited about the opportunity being able to shape your own future. If you have any questions, we’d be glad to help a hand based on what we have encountered until this day.

It is in moments of decision that your destiny is shaped ~ Tony Robbins

Did you like this article? Or do you know someone who could benefit by it? Please like or share it. And let us know what you think, by commenting or reacting. Like our page and subscribe on our website, to get the latest updates.

 

 

What do You See When You Look in the Mirror?

What do You See When You Look in the Mirror?

Some two years ago I came across this profound poem of Dale Wimbrow that contains a life lesson for young and old.


The Guy in the Glass, by Dale Wimbrow, (c) 1934

When you get what you want in your struggle for self,

And the world makes you King for a day,

Then go to the mirror and look at yourself,

And see what that guy has to say.




For it isn't your Father, or Mother, or Wife,

Who judgement upon you must pass.

The feller whose verdict counts most in your life

Is the guy staring back from the glass.




He's the feller to please, never mind all the rest,

For he's with you clear up to the end,

And you've passed your most dangerous, difficult test

If the guy in the glass is your friend.




You may be like Jack Horner and "chisel" a plum,

And think you're a wonderful guy,

But the man in the glass says you're only a bum

If you can't look him straight in the eye.




You can fool the whole world down the pathway of years,

And get pats on the back as you pass,

But your final reward will be heartaches and tears

If you've cheated the guy in the glass.

 

So why is this an ideal moment?

Well, for the readers who read regularly, they may have noticed that I got into a bit of bitcoin and blockchain investing lately. It is a very, very exciting endeavor with huge potential. It is history being written with me right in the middle. Have you ever caught yourself thinking, while watching clips, movies or documentaries, or reading texts or books about historical moments… “God damn, I’d wish I’d witnessed that!!”. Muhammad Ali’s rise and prime for example. Or Abraham Lincoln ending slavery. World War II!! Well, maybe not WWII, but you get the point I guess. I, at least, catch myself thinking that a lot!

I believe Blockchain is such a point in history. So I am very, VERY enthusiastic about it. And when I am enthusiastic about something, I want to share it with as much as people as possible. I (just like Michel) am all for change and progress, how can I not share that with others? I can confidently say that I am wired like that. The only extra, and with that, the extra problem with cryptocurrency (Bitcoin and all the other alternative coins, or altcoins) is that there is money involved. And I’ve noticed, that when there is money involved people get kind of wary.

Multiple people have asked me if I work for bitcoin, some jokingly, other more seriously. So I started wondering, why are they saying that?? Am I doing something wrong? Maybe I shouldn’t do this…

The Guy in the Glass

And at some point I remembered this poem, The Guy in the Glass. As long as we are able to look ourselves in the eyes when we wake up in the morning and go back to bed at night, we should not worry too much about the judgments of others. (This is not true for psychopaths, by the way)

Like I said, I am hardwired to help other people. It’s why I have been a teacher, it’s why I chose psychology, it’s why I am writing this blog, and it is why I am sharing stuff I am enthusiastic about over-enthusiastically! I did this too when meditation just came up for example. Only there is no latent potential, tangible benefit for me when sharing that, so the only comment I got at the moment was: “I can see you ending up at a mountain all alone with some goats” (only to hear from the same guy a year later that he is considering taking a course). I would love a place in the mountains though!

Judgement
We’re all judges

To conclude, people will always make judgments. Talking about being hardwired, people are hardwired to judge (except monks). Me too, way more than I would like to. I catch myself judging the shit out of everything when I’m walking the streets (although it’s less when I meditate regularly, YOU SHOULD TRY IT, IT’S AWESOME…).

But if you think about it, judgments often times say more about the (casual) judge then about the judgee.

So with all the things you do, however crazy or outrageous or pretentious they might look to others, if you’re able to look yourself in the eyes in the glass, without remorse..?

Keep Calm and Carry On

Did you guys like it?! Then like it! And more important, complete, adjust or diminish our ‘timeless wisdom’… Do you feel left out in the open? Teach us! (and don’t forget to like us on FB, thanks!)

Acknowledging our Ignorance – Bounded Rationality

Acknowledging our Ignorance – Bounded Rationality

A few weeks ago I heard a TV-maker in a talk show say that people make about 35000 decisions a day. 35000!! As you can imagine, they are mostly not life-changing decisions, but decisions like: do I snooze or do I get up, do I keep my fart in or will I let it go, do I give 2 or 4 kisses while greeting someone in France, stuff like that. These decisions of course do not need extensive research and reasoning.

But what happens if the decisions are about merging two company cultures, having another baby, deciding whether or not to start/keep deforesting the jungles in Brasil, or whatever decision you have to make that is bigger than yourself? I hope we can all agree that when complex issues like these come up, tossing a coin to make a decision won’t do. We all hope (I hope) that people gather all the objective information they can and make a decision according to what they’ve found. And still… company mergers fail because of culture clashes. Poor people keep adding babies without being able to pay for their upbringing. And flora and fauna in Brasil (and elsewhere) is being destroyed.

So why do these kind of things happen anyway??

In earlier pieces Michel and I wrote about shortcomings and limitations in human behavior and our control, or lack there of, over it. I’m no better than the rest of us, let alone Michel..! We are all prone to cognitive biases and heuristics that prevent us from seeing the world objectively, as it is, at any given moment. Humans have a tendency to want the stuff they want right now, and not in 10/20/30 years. And lastly we often fail to take into account the complete system of the problem at hand.

This means that we don’t even perfectly interpret the imperfect information that we do have. We misperceive risk, thinking  that some things are way more dangerous and others much less than they really are. Also, we pay too much attention to recent experience and too little  attention to the past, focusing on current events  rather than long-term behavior.

Bounded Rationality

Even today I ran into a guy whom I managed convinced to invest in cryptocurrency. He told me he sold them, after it went down a few dollars. If he’d done a little analysis, gathered some more information, and kept them he would’ve doubled his initial deposit today. Confirmation bias determines what kind of news we let in or not (indeed, we do not completely decide ourselves). All of this means that overall we do not make optimal decisions for our own, let alone for the greater good. This phenomenon is called Bounded Rationality.

Bounded rationality is the idea that when individuals make decisions, their rationality is limited by the tractability of the decision problem, the cognitive limitations of their minds, and the time available to make the decision. ~ Wikipedia

bounded rationality

Thought Experiment

Before we start blaming people for the stupid decisions they make I have a little thought experiment for you that I found in the book ‘Thinking in Systems by Donella H. Meadows’ (highly recommended), where I also first learned about the concept of Bounded Rationality.

Suppose for a moment you are for some reason lifted out of your usual place in society and put in the place of someone whose behavior you have never understood. Having been a firm critic of government for example, you suddenly become a member of parliament. Or as a donator to Greenpeace or WWF who hates Shell and the likes, but suddenly you become the person at Shell who makes the decisions regarding the environment.

In your new position, you’ll experience the information flows, the incentives and disincentives, the goals and discrepancies, the pressures – the bounded rationality – that goes with that position. You very likely will base your decisions on the information you have in that position. If you’d become very poor, you’d probably see the short-term rationality, the hope, the opportunity having many children would bring. As a farmer who has a family to feed, a house to pay for and incomplete information about the state of the Amazon, you’d probably take down those trees.

perspective
It’s a matter of perspective

Don’t believe this? I’d suggest you look up on YouTube the Stanford Prison Experiment by Zimbardo. You’ll be shocked how fast you might forget who you were and how little control people really can have over themselves. As Dr. Meadows says, this is no excuse for narrow-minded behavior, it just provides an understanding.

Step Back

To change this narrow-minded behavior it is first and foremost necessary to take a step back and try to get an overview of the complete system. This way it might be possible to restructure the information flows, the goals, the incentives, so that bounded rational actions add up to desired results. Knowledge is potential power. The more complete the information is you got, the better decisions you’ll be able to make.

The bounded rationality of each actor in a system – determined by the information, (dis)incentives, goals, stresses, and constraints impinging on that actor – may or may not lead to decisions that further the welfare of the system as a whole. If they do not, putting new actors into the same system will not improve the system’s performance very likely. What makes a difference is redesigning the system to improve the information, (dis)incentives, goals, stresses, and constraints that have an effect on specific actors.

 

Did you guys like it?! Then like it! And more important, complete, adjust or diminish our ‘timeless wisdom’… Do you feel left out in the open? Teach us! (and don’t forget to like us on FB, thanks!)

A lot of this article was lend from the book “Thinking in Systems: A Primer – Donella H. Meadows”, which I highly recommend to anyone who runs into some problems to solve once in a while. Read for a taste of Systems Thinking here

Doing Shit When You Don’t Feel Like Doing Shit

Doing Shit When You Don’t Feel Like Doing Shit

consistency – the quality of always behaving or performing in a similar way, or of always happening in a similar way

Consistency, ladies and gentlemen. It’s the twin-sister of durability, of discipline, of persistence, of grit. Their mother Conscientiousness and father Steadfastness did an awesome job. I’ll use them interchangeably here. Why am I writing about this? The reason is two-fold.

The first reason is that I had this subject written down in my subject list for this magnificent blog for a while now. I am convinced that consistency is a much better predictor of achieving what you want in life than intelligence is. Intelligence without a certain amount of action is, of course, useless. There always has to be some form of action to produce something. And of course, I’m not telling anything new here. I think we all know that guy who invented, among some other things, the quote: “Genius is one per cent inspiration, ninety-nine per cent perspiration”.

Genius is one per cent inspiration, ninety-nine per cent perspiration ~ T. Edison

A great example is a girl I had in my class when I went to university (for the first time). She had two diploma’s already! She climbed up the education ladder to get to university. And with all due respect to her, but she wasn’t the smartest of the bunch. But the point of this article is that exactly that doesn’t matter! She worked her ass off and to be honest, she kicked mine!

Consistency in action
He looks quite consistent…

The second, and most important, reason is the fact that I’m without inspiration the whole week already (although I have a huge subject list ready for use). And without inspiration, motivation lacks too. Without motivation, it is hard to be prolific. To be prolific, you have to be consistent. The circle is complete.

It sucks to be without inspiration! But it happens. And if you want to reach a certain goal, especially if they’re a bit bigger, you’ll have to deal with it. I think the magic trick is to search for a drop of consistency in your body somewhere in the very moment of shortage of inspiration and motivation, and just start, see where it goes. Or maybe the other way around, maybe you’re able to find a drop of inspiration to get on that consistency track again. Josh Waitzkin (author of The Art of Learning) once stated that “growth comes at the point of resistance“. This is such a point.

If you don’t feel like running, go run. If you don’t feel like practicing your violin, go practice. If you don’t feel like completing your assignment, go complete it. If you don’t feel like writing, go and write. Growth comes at the point of resistance.

Timeless wisdom

SO!! Now comes the part where I share my timeless wisdom with the world, so that it can be a better place and flourish forever and eventually there will be world peace. So listen closely. I think there are two sorts of categories to keep your consistency. Let’s call them ‘fast carbs’ and ‘slow carbs’. Fast carbs are a quick fix, slow carbs are in there for the long run, just like with real carbs (what a coincidence). Here’s a short, non-exhaustive list

  • Fast carbs
    • Quotes. Quotes might be cheesy, or cliche. But oftentimes they come from very smart and/or cunning people who have some serious thinking power or a treasure full of experience. It’s the smallest summary of knowledge you can get.
    • (Parts of) Speeches. See previous, only a bit less byte-sized.
    • Excercise. Do 50 jumping jacks, or 20 push ups, or sit-ups. Whatever makes you happy! You’d be surprised how much difference 2 minutes can make.
    • Music. This worked when I didn’t want to go out ten years ago and people wanted to persuade me. Maybe you can use it for something that’s actually useful… (Sports for example?)
    • Just do the first 5 minutes.
CARBS! Source: The Rock/Twitter
CARBS!
Source: The Rock/Twitter
  • Slow carbs
    • A goal. If you have a goal that really, REALLY, resonates with you. A goal you really believe in. One you want to achieve no matter what. (This one might not come as a surprise).
    • Accountability. The good old “stick behind the door”, as we say in our precious Holland. The responsibility you have towards others serves as a propeller as well. Thanks Michel! And thank you too, thousands of potential readers!
    • Pat on your back. Celebrate your wins. Reflect in the morning on the things you’re happy you did the day before. (CAVEAT: a hint of consistency is needed to be able to apply this, could evolve into a virtuous circle though)

I’m off for a run… Don’t feel like it at all though! Cheers!

 

Did you guys like it?! Then like it! And more important, complete, adjust or diminish my ‘timeless wisdom’. Do you feel left out in the open? Teach us! (and don’t forget to like us on FB, thanks!)

 

The Struggle is Real – Societal Expectations

The Struggle is Real – Societal Expectations

Hi Magnanimites,

I’m facing a big decision. A decision that will have a profound impact on how (a big part of) the rest of my life will look like. It’s a decision that doesn’t have a single best answer, and so it is worth spending a little more time than average with the matter (and luckily I’m starting to think about it way before the deadline. Thinking ahead is a virtue). Maybe it’s not just a decision, but rather a dilemma. When I answer the question
will this bring me closer to my objective in life“, the answer is yes to a plurality of possible decisions.

What will I do after my BSc. in Psychology?

The immediate environment

What’s more important at this point to me however is another aspect of this challenge. I wrote an article about the Art of not giving a F@#$. It turns out it is quite hard to do that, especially when you’re on a road less traveled. And I can confidently label my path a less traveled one. A few weeks away from my 30th birthday, a student at university, happy as a child when I meet someone who is 25! The single fact that I almost don’t get to meet people of my own age in the environment I mostly reside is proof that the path I have chosen is quite a ‘lonely’ one.

The other factor to that, and quite a powerful one as well, is my ‘historical’ environment. My long time, same-age-friends have almost all chosen a more common path. They’re all doing great! A great girlfriend (in which area, I must say, I am the luckiest one, hehe), a great job with even greater perspective, their own place called home, babies are starting to pop up here and there. I have 3 or 4 marriages on the agenda the coming year for christ’s, mohammad’s and/or buddha’s sake!

And god damn I’m proud of them all. I am happy for them, I’m blessed to have them as my friends and for me they’re indispensible and irreplacable and I’ll do my best to let them know. There you are guys, you know who you are.

Talking and listening to them also gives me that feeling of… “For f@#!’s sake, I want that too!”. BUT… I want it at my terms. And these terms are not yet all fulfilled. So that longing to have that as well, I conclude, must come from these societal expectations and norms. Yet they are inherently artificial. Or is there someone reading this that can substantiate why we’re expected to live by this template? Interesting discussion.

Rat race?

Anyways, life is not a race, but that’s hard to realize when others are ‘in front‘. The road less traveled is quite bumpy at times. You’re tested on multiple levels, especially on the social one. Society has certain expectations, after high school you go and get a degree, get a girlfriend/boyfriend in the meanwhile, get a job, live together, marry and have kids (in whatever order), and then live your kids life, instead of your own. Of course it’s not as rigid as I’m painting the picture, but grosso modo these are the steps considered a normal path.

Societal expectations

The more and the longer you stay off that path, the more people begin to worry and the more they start asking questions. Of course it’s all well-meant, but this element partly is what makes life feel like a race at certain points. This is where it get’s cloudy at the intersection of what I want and what society expects. On the other hand I must admit that I also get a lot of respect from people for the fact that I dared to make the choice and choose this path. Thank you for that open-mindedness.

Now what..?

The most important thing for me at this point, is that I don’t get paralyzed by moments that require decisions such as these. So how do I plan to go about this?

  • Case studies
    • I will be looking at what other people did in a similar situation, preferably people in my own network. This will get me various perspectives, ideas and inspiration.
    • One get-together has already pointed me to the idea of consulting with companies for example, and have some orientating chat’s. (Thanks Frank!)
    • Another friend gave me a total opposite idea. How’s that for different perspectives!
  • Literature study
    • Are there any reliable texts and/or books on this problem.
  • Consult with friends
    • And of course I consult with my earlier named friends. People who have my interest as much at heart as I do myself in this case.

What works for me

These three bullet-points are all about getting new insights, new perspectives, new knowledge about what might work and what might not. The most important thing however, is that I choose something that not only works, but works for me! That is the hard part, this is how I plan to do that:

  • Try to be fully aware of what my body and heart tells me, and not my head
    • Your head is your conscious awareness, simply put. It’s exactly that part that is influenced by the outside world the most in a situation like this. I have to try and find the subconscious desires and drives (more about this difference in a later post, it’s powerful!). And I believe the way to do that is to go deep. How? That’s the question. My guesses:
      • meditation
      • intuition
      • (emotional) reflexes

Knowledge is potential power. Gain knowledge, do something with it, proceed.

Equifinality

I already mentioned that there is not just a single answer to my question. In psychodynamics there is this concept of equifinality, which means that more roads can lead to the same outcome. That is the feeling I have here as well. Then again, I think some roads will lead to more opportunities besides just the desired outcome at this moment. This is where systems thinking comes in. A way of thinking that is essential with challenges like these.

Equifinality
Equifinality

I’m not looking for pity. I’m sharing and structuring my thoughts on life defining situations we all face, in one way or another. The question is, how do we deal with it?? I’d say, grab the bull by the horns and look for the best possible outcome. The worst thing you can do is walk away and choose the easiest route. I’m afraid that happens more than we could wish for, and we all know at least someone who chose this way. This is where Michel’s question comes in handy again. Although this question doesn’t give me a definite answer, it sure does discard some easy ones.

To be continued…

 

Did you enjoy the article and found value in it? Do you have experience and ideas regarding the subject? Let us know in the comments, subscribe and like our facebookpage. You can find the button on the right (non-mobile) or on the bottom (mobile). Thanks for reading!

Instant Gratification and a Recipe for Success

Instant Gratification and a Recipe for Success

Today I’d like to share quite a famous psychological experiment with you guys. An experiment every single one of the people reading this will be familiar with. If not directly, you will be indirectly. Be it in your life (which is highly probable) or in the life of someone you know. I’d say the sum of these two probabilities is one. I’m talking about instant, or, immediate gratification.

When we fall prey to the phenomenon of instant gratification, we fail to resist the urge of short-term (insignificant) pleasures versus long-term (significant) gains. We sin one time too often and drink that delicious glass of Muruve wine or that marvelous new edition of Leffe Royale (no advertisement, but you can always contact me or send some samples) in stead of keeping ourselves to our diet with one cheater moment a week and fail to meet our monthly decline in kilos. Or we skip one or two nights working on that assignment because we missed our friends too much. After all we didn’t see them for three days already! Resulting in a missed deadline, failed exam, and university debacle. Maybe you recognize the story of postponing that visit to the gym because there is an immensely interesting program on, which somehow couldn’t be recorded. But as often the case, tomorrow never comes.

Climate!

A salient topic in this regard, which I don’t want to be left unspoken and touch very shortly, is climate change. It’s a huge, inclusive, global example of immediate gratification. We want to eat that meat now, we want to keep the money now (instead of isolating our homes), we want to be alone in the car to work now, we don’t want to wait until we encounter a trashcan, we want to take a long shower now. Of course, in this regard, the short-term gains are indeed still more or less quite significant. But relatively speaking…

Alright. In the case these examples didn’t paint the picture clearly enough, I have a short video of the marshmallow experiment I was referring to in the introductory paragraph. If it was clear enough, I’d suggest you watch it anyway, solely for the reason that it’s fun.

Check Yourself, Before You Wreck Yourself

Aren’t they cute??? I know, right? Hilarious! Let’s watch them again… Anyways! The intriguing thing about this video, is that it is fairly possible to predict which of these children will be more successful in ten and twenty years on a variety of topics and which ones less so. Make a wild guess. Well done! The ones who are able to delay gratification, on average turn out to be more successful. It’s a matter of self-control. A matter of controlling your impulses and emotions. Impulses don’t take into account long-term consequences. Making decisions when emotional is NEVER A GOOD IDEAGOD DAMNIT!! Sorry….

How to…

Good News People! As we humans are equipped with the capacity for life long learning, it’s never too late to develop that invaluable ingredient for success. The ingredient for loosing weight, for gaining muscles, for more money in your pocket, for succeeding at business or school, for a better world. The more I am writing here on this website, the more I discover how the ingredients of achieving your goals, big or small, are interconnected. Fun fact is, that we both (Michel and I) already shared some articles that lead to an increase of deferred, or, delayed gratification. I’d say, read on (or read again)!

  1. Know thyself (two links, one per word)
    • Know the moments you get weak. Be honest with yourself. From the moment on you know your weaknesses in and out, you’ll be able to recognize them in time and interfere with them when they come up. “Woops! No wine for me today!”.
  2. Ask yourself this question
    • You don’t even need to read the whole article. Find the question Michel proposed. Instant and delayed gratification is a matter decision making. Deciding to eat or drink the forbidden fruit, deciding to watch House of Cards, deciding to throw that litter over your shoulder.
  3. Educate yourself
    • “Knowlegde is potential power” – Tony Robbins. The easiest way to gain knowledge is described in this article. It’ll help you to get where you need to be. Point three is in perfect alignment with point one.
  4. One step at a time
    • Don’t overwhelm yourself. Ever! It’s demotivating. It might seem like you save time, but in the end you’ll loose it. Here’s how to avoid that.
  5. Learn to love the process
    • Don’t focus too much on that goal of yours. That is what can make it overwhelming, especially if you dream big. Love the little wins, and celebrate them.
  6. Always remember, good things don’t come easy.

 

Did you enjoy the article and found value in it? Let us know in the comments and don’t forget to subscribe and like our facebookpage. You can find the button on the right. Thanks for listening!

From Lost Boy to Purpose Driven – Creating Self-Awareness

From Lost Boy to Purpose Driven – Creating Self-Awareness

Self-Awareness

having a clear perception of your personality, including strengths, weaknesses, thoughts, beliefs, motivation, and emotions

The following phrases are actual statements different people told me multiple times, be it in different wording.

  • My job is great actually. Even the pay is fine! But it’s just not for me…
  • I hate my job! “So why do you stay?”, I ask. What else should I do?!
  • I keep ending up with these wrong type of guys
  • This is my third education, but it’s still not what I’m looking for
  • Dan, how’d you advise me to get a sense of direction..??
  • etc..

MyStory

Imagine being eighteen and having the idea that you have to choose the direction of the rest of your life. You choose to attend university to become a high school teacher. In the third year you think: “what on earth am I doing here?!”. You’re about to quit, but you get offered a job as a teacher. You take it because you’ll make money, and because it’s “not that bad” (and because you are 21 years old). Of course your motivation is so low that you don’t make it to the finish line and you take another direction. You start a business with a friend in an utterly commercial sector which strands for certain reasons. Then you’re 25 and standing clueless in a retail store for a while. Diagnosis: Self-Awareness-Lack-itis.

Without a Root, There’s no Grip

Self-awareness is the necessary root for the right direction. It’s the little brother/sister of self-knowledge, and they go hand in hand. Respectively they’re the what and the why of your feelings, thoughts, emotions and actions. Together, these elements determine where you are and where you will be in life.

Self-Awareness, together with self-knowledge, will provide you with a grip on your life. Control. Control might have a freakish connotation about it. But paradoxically enough, control leads to freedom. Two fundamental needs of our human species. The freedom to choose, the freedom to have an own opinion, the freedom to execute on your ideas. Personal control, inherently, is a premise to these propositions.

Answering the Questions Asked

Now let’s address the questions we started of with. What exactly can, and in my opinion, should you do to become more self-aware.

  1. Meditate!

This one is by far, by miles distance, the best place to start and the biggest shortcut. To become self-aware, you have to be mindful of the things you do (or don’t do), think and feel. Meditation is about observing the contents and the qualities of your consciousness, which are the senses plus the thoughts and emotions. Meditating is for the mind, what sports is for the muscles. The more you train, the stronger it gets. Your awareness in general will expand, which is a life changing event in itself. I’ll stop myself from listing the other benefits science has ‘discovered’, millennia after the far east monks had empirically tested this already.

for Self-Awareness

  1. Ask the right questions

The last question in the introduction was asked me by a colleague a few years ago. The answer I gave him, I’d still give today. They seem so simple, yet they are fundamental. Just as the questions asked are fundamental questions. And the questions posed here connect seamlessly with Michel’s most important question. (Any questions?)

  1. What makes you happy? What daily events put a smile on your face?
  2. What are you good at?
  3. How can I make a money with this? How can I arrange my life so that my priorities will be in the foreground?

Answering these questions isn’t a matter of minutes. So don’t expect to answer them in a jiffy. To answer these questions you’ll need to prioritze them and be mindful (#1) of the answers daily life gives you. Also answer the opposite of questions a & b. Don’t underestimate it, and use #3!

  1. Write. Shit. Down.

In an older post I’ve already written about the con artist living in our skull. Some people are blessed with a memory like a vault. I only know a few of them. Good thing is, it is 2017. From 5 to 85 years old, everyone walks around with an external hard disk in his pocket. I’m in love with Evernote, but there are plenty of other ‘note’able apps (pun intended) that will improve your memory and creativity.

Be mindful, notice what makes you happy, and write down how you can build your life around it and monetize it (you have to eat after all).

  1. Read

Another phenomenon that I underestimated for the biggest part of my life. Reading the right books will give you perspectives you’ve otherwise would never get. It will give you new insights. It’ll take you to places you’ve never been, and it’ll teach you about yourself in a way that other people wouldn’t be able to.

We lose ourselves in books. We find ourselves there too

  1. Life is an experiment

This is how I look at life. And it’s actually quite a scientific way to look at it. You have to try to prove or disprove your hypotheses, your assumptions, beliefs. This leaves room for mistakes, which supports the idea of freedom. Basically you have to be ready to get high fived. In the face. With a chair. Preferably not by the Hulk, but it’s a possibility! It’s not the end though. That’s freedom.

for self-awareness

Good things don’t come easy. Absent self-awareness will not appear on it’s own. So you have to give it some effort. If you’re not prepared to put in a few minutes of your day, to determine the course of the rest of your life, then this post is not for you. And on top of that, you’re breaking our heart. Now you wouldn’t want that, would you?!

Did you like the article? Or not? Or maybe you’d like to add something? Leave a comment in the section down below and don’t forget to like our facebook page. Thanks for stopping by and see you next week!

What Carnival Taught Me About Mindfulness

What Carnival Taught Me About Mindfulness

Oi Magnanimites!

Yes… Yes that is me on top of this blogpost. And yes, you may laugh, like everybody does (including myself) when I proudly show them this picture! That is me. Some 15 years ago. It was one of the best times of my life. I was crowned Prince Carnival and I was the ruler of the ‘Youth Sjansemaekers Empire’. I held speeches, I was the frontrunner in tons of polonaises, I had a few personal assistants who all had their specialized tasks, and once in a while I chanted a slogan that everyone chanted with me. It was truly marvelous and it is as silly as it looks.

Running after eachother in a line with big smiles on your face. That's what polonaises are.
Running after one another in a line, singing, with big smiles on your face. That’s what polonaises are.

Carnival in the Netherlands is mainly celebrated in the southern part of the country. When I was still an active celebrator (I have unfortunately been clean about carnival for a few years now), I really lived up to this time of the year, all year. We built carnival wagons with our group of friends and participated in processions with our piece of art. Well… actually two of the fifteen guys we’re the artists, the other ones (including me) just painted, because we weren’t even able to distinguish between a screw and a bolt.

The actual festivity takes 3 days. For the die hards, it is 5. And even 5 seemed too short when the last day came. The party started preferably around 10 in the morning, and ended somewhere between 5-8… in the morning. The end time depended on who you started the day with, what stuff you digested (or not), who you met in between, what kind of subparty was going on, and where you ended and who you ended with. And the beauty of it… No bloody F’s are given, because it’s carnival!! (This implies that I was the ruler of an empire with only one rule: party until your the last man standing, or die trying).

I was actually planning to write about something totally different for two weeks already. But at this very moment, a completely different world from the real one is going on all around me. A world I have been part of for some 25 years. And I say all around me, because that is what I have always thought when I was still in the middle of it. And exactly that, is what pinpoints the beauty of this festivity to me.

What a procession looks like
What a procession looks like

If you’re a die hard, carnival consumes you. You forget everything around you. You forget that there still is a normal world around, with people who are working (even though you go to restaurants, chip shops and kebabjoints in the meanwhile where working people are serving you), you forget that there is something called time (there are no hours, or days. There’s just parties, hunger, thirst and laughter), and you forget that there is something called health (given your sleep pattern, sleep places and the stuff you enrich yourself with).

The more I reminisce about how it was, how it felt, and about how I see it now as an outsider… the more I realize what an impact this happening has on people. It causes you to forget. And not only because of the alcohol (yes, alcohol flows, we have to somehow have an excuse for dressing up like that), but also because of the dressing up, the build-up towards the event, the utter oppositeness of our daily lives, and the being happy together for no bloody reason.

And of course this isn’t solely the case for carnival. I had the same experiences with Outdoor Summer Festivals. I like to think that those gatherings are, what world peace would look like. I always catch myself walking half as fast as I normally do on festivals. With a big smile on my face. (No, not like on that picture above).

Ok dude… What on earth has this to do with mindfulness?!

Well. Like I said, you are being consumed by the whole ambiance. And as a consequence of that, you forget time, you forget health, you forget work. In other words, you forget to worry. While you are being consumed by this marvelous phenomenon of collective happiness, you cannot be consumed with tomorrow, or yesterday. You aren’t thinking: “F&@#, why have I said this or that to my colleague last week”, or “I hope I will be able to make that deadline in a month”. In fact, you might not be thinking that much at all! You’re just present! Enjoying every moment of your experience!!

And exactly that, I believe, is a big part of what mindfulness is trying to teach us. Being present. Taking in your experience from moment to moment. And of course not every moment in life is as enjoyable as carnivalistic moments are. But learning how to be in the moment will definitely have a positive impact on the neutral moments we experience, to say the least. And carnival (and festivals) shows that good moments will turn into great.

I’ll be back next year, for sure! Before I forget what it’s about…

 

Any experience with mindfulness (or carnival) you’d like to share? Let us know and motivate others to fetch these experiences as well. And oh yeah… it’d be awesome if you’d like that Facebookpage of ours.

This is only a small part of what mindfulness is. More about what mindfulness can do for magnanimous progression in the future.
How Our Brain Unconsciously Influences Our Decisions

How Our Brain Unconsciously Influences Our Decisions

Everything in your life is a reflection of a choice you have made. If you want a different result, make a different choice ~ Unknown

This quote may give you an idea that Captain Obvious has been typing this one, but you’ll be surprised how many people stubbornly keep doing the same thing over and over again. A prerequisite for shaping your life in a Magnanimous way is “knowing thyself“. A good dose of honest self-knowledge will strengthen your identity, clarify what you want and what you’re good at (and equally important, not so good at), and catalyze changes for the better. I bolded ‘honest’ in the previous sentence, because our brain tends to fool ourselves. Regularly. It happens unconsciously, it distorts reality and subsequently impairs decision making.

In my previous post I already mentioned a cognitive bias (Misattribion of Arousal) and how to take advantage of our brain fooling us. When we talk about cognition, simply put we’re talking about everything related to thinking, reasoning and remembering. I promised to write about some more of these unconscious tricksters. These are the ones I believe we encounter a lot and will help us steer our decisions in the right direction, the more we get acquainted with them.

Confirmation Bias

The assumption. We as humans think we’re able to always objectively know how to interpret and recall information.

The wake-up call. When we’re presented with information we automatically, unconsciously search for, interpret or recall information that suits our preconceptions about a certain topic.

This is a bias you will see all around, once you know about it. How, for example, is it possible that two equally intelligent people assess the behaviour of the annoying orange that is in power of US in completely opposite ways? Or how is it possible that when Ajax plays a football match against Feyenoord, their respective supporters both have a totally different opinion who was best? Or even if that foul was a yellow card or not?

Another manifestation of this phenomenon that all of you can relate to (from approximately 16 years old on, depending on where you’re from), is when you have been talking about a car with a friend, or thought about buying one. The following weeks you will be thinking that there are more Range Rover Sports (aim high) on these streets than before, which is obviously not true.

Aim High
Aim High

The use. If you’d like to have an honest discussion with your girl or man the next time, form an honest opinion on something political, or feverishly defend your favorite beer against a great suggestion from another connoisseur, remember this bias. Take the time to place yourself in her/his shoes. Take the effort to read news outlets that support your antagonist. And the hardest of all, taste the damn beer without prejudice. (I’d recommend ‘Leffe Royale Whitbread Golding’)

Availability Heuristic

The assumption. We’re quite apt at estimating risks and we know about which risky stuff we should worry.

The wake-up call. We trust our limited memory too much which causes us to have a cloudy judgment. Believe it or not, but we homo sapiens tend to believe that if we CAN remember it, it HAS to be something important. And the faster we retrieve it, the more important it is. We even tend to discount information that isn’t in our memories. Remember this the next time someone brings up a fact about a topic you know something about, but unfortunately not that specific fact.

An interesting inference can be drawn here regarding the phrase: “there’s no such thing as bad publicity”. The more you hear about a company or a person, good or bad, the easier, of course, you’ll retrieve it. Chances are it’ll work out fine for the specific company either way. So no worries, Patricia Paay!

The use. The next time your in a conversation about a topic and someone brings something up that you aren’t thinking of, don’t assume it’s not true, because you’re not thinking of it (note to self). And more important, when you’re about to make a decision, don’t solely rely on your inherently flawed memory. Get extra information from other sources. Don’t dismiss them, verify them.

The Framing Effect

The assumption. It doesn’t matter in which way a premise is presented to me. A premise is a premise.

The wake-up call. If people are presented the same premise, but with another choice of words, on average they will choose another option. And with other choice of words I mean a negative vs. a positive frame. People tend to be more risk seeking when a negative frame is presented versus a tendency to react risk averse when a positive frame is presented.

Let’s try the next premise from an experiment, conducted by (Nobel prize winner) Kahnemann & Tversky (1981).

Imagine 600 people are affected by a dangerous infectious decease. There are two treatments, which one would you choose:

  1. 200 people will be saved.
  2. A 33% chance of saving all 600 people, 66% possibility of saving no one.

Your choice..? Ok…

Now consider these treatments:

  1. 400 people will die.
  2. A 33% chance that no people will die, 66% probability that all 600 will die.

Which one do you choose..? Aha!

Now maybe you didn’t choose the other one, as you were given the theory behind it already. Or maybe you would’ve chosen the same option anyways. But the tendency is that people choose differently, while it’s the same situation. I invite you to test it on the next party you’re on. In this particular research, treatment 1 was chosen 72% of the time in a positive frame (saving lives), whereas it was only 22% in the negative frame (dying people).

The use. The next time when you are offered a holiday, for example, and you get offered the expensive one in such a way that you would rather choose that one over the cheaper one… Think twice. And a very useful, but underestimated trick – ask yourself this: Do you have problems? Or do you encounter challenges?

Framing effect
Half full or half empty? Framing options for yourself in a certain way too has an influence on how you proceed, and thus on how many chances you take… Or don’t.

Anchoring

The assumption. We rationally examine and take into account all factors, before making a decision.

The wake-up call. The first perception of information lingers in our minds and affects our emotions and decisions.

I know some people, who know some people who heard from some people that they used this trick when they were still working in a retail store. When a potential client came up to them with a product with no price tag on and asked for the price, they told they client that they ‘thought’ the price was $100, but to be sure they’d look it up. In the meanwhile they knew damn well that it was only $80! At first the client’s went “Uff, that’s a lot”. When the real, cheaper price came they thought: “Alright! That’s not so bad!! Give it to me!”.

Cha-Ching! This of course works especially when we’re oblivious about a topic. The $100 got anchored in the mind of the clients. That amount was too high. Another psychological effect at work here is that people want what they can’t have. So in the mean time the client is hoping for a lower price, because he or she wants the product even more, and he or she eventually get’s the lower price! What an awesome ‘lucky’ day…

The use. Next time you hear an amount about something you know nothing about, try to reason and/or find other information that can add some value towards a better decision. Or the other way around, aim high when selling your house or in negotiations (without overdoing it of course). And don’t trust those watch salesmen who are taking a look in the system to find the ‘real’ price…

Cognitive Biases
A comprehensive list of cognitive biases. For the crazy ones and the misfits among us. Zoom in or click to enlarge.

The keyword here is of course: information. The more information you have, the better decisions you make? Not necessarily. But solely relying on what you know and ignoring other information, or not analyzing the information at hand is probably not a good idea. There is one downside to this. It will cause you to question a lot of things, including yourself, which subsequently will cause uncertainty. But the pros will outweigh the cons, and your decisions will improve, and with that your QoL (Quality of Life). Balance is key.

Share, like, comment, spread the love, grow the tribe! 

A Curious, Science Based Technique to Curb Your Fear

A Curious, Science Based Technique to Curb Your Fear

Fear has been a recurrent theme in a few of my writings. While I’m wondering why that might be, I realize it might be because I’m an expert in fear. Like I said in my first soloblog, life in itself contains fear provoking situations, or maybe even consists of fearful ie. stressful periods. Approaching that guy/girl, getting your first job, speaking your mind (don’t underestimate this one, I see it everyday in the lecture halls), having that relationship after you’ve approached that guy/girl, putting something personal online.

These are absolutely, one by one, all situations that did provoke a sense of fear in me. Some more than the other, but they did. And sometimes still do. So, why the f… do I do all these things? Like blogging, having (had) a business, being sure to want to build a new business, start my academic life over without the security I will make it, or be any good at it?! (Paraphrased my dad with this last one here…)

I’ve had a lot worries in my life, most of which never came true ~ Mark Twain

QoL

A part of it can definitely be called exposure therapy. What good is a life that is controlled by fear? Fear leads to stress and stress is killing to your health and Quality of Life (QoL). KILLING! (literally). Conquering fear by exposing yourself to it, by definition, is an improvement to your health and QoL to say the least, tell ‘em I told you that.

The other part is because of a technique I applied by accident. It’s somewhat embarrassing, to be honest… Almost everyone who knows me, will tell you I’m a very outgoing, maybe even an extraverted guy (although I’m an ambivert). But in the past, in certain social situations, when a kind of burning feeling in my chest arose, it kind of frightened me and I toned my participation to the conversation down a notch. Actually it was just happiness that came up while we were talking! I know, weird right??

I only discovered this after rationally examining the very situations, because it bothered the hell out of me. It robbed me of pure moments of joy actually. So I decided to interpret that feeling as excitement and joy, in stead of stress and fear. What a difference that made, if only for me. Everyone reading this has had moments of fear and moments of excitement. Now imagine them both seperately in social situations. And now compare them. Yep…

Where the science comes in

The cool thing about this technique, is that it is actually based in science, as I found out at University. There are two concepts that are worth discussing here.

Misattribution

The first one is about a research that has been conducted in the seventies . The scientists (Dutton & Aron, 1974) had a woman standing in the middle of an immensely high, creeking and cracking, wobbly, anxiety provoking suspension bridge, having the men who crossed the bridge fill out a questionnaire. After the last question, the men got to see a picture of a woman with her hands in front of her face. The men had to make up a story about what they saw.

Because in science a control group is always needed, to compare and verify, the researchers did the same routine at a steady bridge only a few meters high. Both groups (high and low bridge) got the questionnaire woman’s number after they completed their tasks, “in case they would’ve wanted an explanation about the study afterwards”. The real reason though, was to measure the response rate.

The result was that only 12.5% of the ‘small bridge guys’ called, whereas 50% of the ‘suspension bridge guys’ called back. And besides that, the narrative about the woman on the picture was twice as much sexually suggestive with the men on the suspension bridge, than with the men on the baby bridge!!

Now! What does this tell us? The men on the high bridge, must’ve been physiologically aroused. Understandably more so than the men on the low, steady bridge. The conclusion is that they attributed that arousal to the woman they met on the bridge, instead of to their fear, and because of that made more callbacks and created more dirty stories about the woman on the picture (the pigs!).

So what, dude?! What’s in it for me?!

Well… The conclusion for us, is that we as humans believe we always know what is going on with our bodies and our emotions. But we don’t! Even if we think we do, we can be wrong.

This guys’ still not making sense to me…

Alright… Now watch this phenomenom being transformed and being used to our advantage.

Missatribution of Fear
Also Einstein gets Misattributed

Reattribution

General practicioners (GP’s) often, VERY often, get patients with symptoms they can’t ascribe to a certain physiological cause. Backpain for example. Only 10% of the time someone comes with a complaint like this, it is specific. The other 90% are categorized under Medically Unspecified Symptoms, short: MUS.

In a lot of cases, these complaints can be explained by psychological factors. Pain, after all, is a subjective symptom. In other words, when Michel starts whining after a nipple twist, doesn’t mean I have to whine as well after the same nipple twist done to me. (Because I’m way cooler, of course)

Nowadays more and more GP’s in the Netherlands and Belgium work together with psychologists in their practice. And a technique both GP’s and psychologists use for MUS patients is reattribution. The aim is to let patients link the physiological symptoms to a psychological cause. Result? A reduction in MUS’es and an improvement in functioning for the patients. Intruiging, eye-opening, and awesome!!! I love my field!

So this should’ve been a substantiation of that tribute-thing-story..?”

Now curb it…

Well, yes! This namely means, that you can curb physiological symptoms, which emotions sometimes are! Like I did with my social awkward feeling I had! Or when I have to present a show and speak in public. In my examples, excitement and fear are two very similar physiological concepts, so they can be interchanged pretty easily. That of course is not always the case, as every situation is different. Sometimes it will need a bit more effort to apply this technique.

But it makes a world of difference and it’s worth it. And sometimes you don’t even need extensive training or whatever to do that. Only awareness about a feeling you would want to curb, or reattribute. Then decide to which feeling you want to curb it, and test it!

As always. Start small, make incremental steps, one situation at a time. And don’t worry about fooling yourself. We’re doing that a lot more than you would like to.

How we do that, I’ll tell you in two weeks.