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How often do you get yourself in a twist?

You make big, lofty plans because you’re extremely motivated. Then after some weeks, sometimes a few days, you fall back to where you started.


Remember, your New Year goals?

Well, 2020 is pretty much done.

You’re not alone. Our ability to envision what we want our future to look like is extremely powerful. But many times, we get held back due to cognitive biases that surface in our everyday activities.

There are so many biases but I’ve highlighted the main unconscious biases that keep you from becoming productive.

The next time you think:

“why do I always do this?”

Pause and ask yourself which bias is at work.

Let’s get to them!


Planning Fallacy

You underestimate how much time it’ll take to do the work. And make this mistake over and over — across projects and new goals.


Bandwagon Effect

Ignore other factors and choose to follow an approach (e.g. keto diet) because it’s popular, one celebrity talked about it, and everyone is trying it.

But this makes you try things you don’t like (e.g. drink soylent — eww) and sooner or later you’re back to where you started.


Optimism Bias

This is usually strong at the beginning of a new adventure. You envision everything will go so fantastic, you’ll have zero obstacles, and everyone will fall in love with your outcome. This makes you carry on without making alternative plans. Beyond plan A, you refuse to make space for plans B,C,D...


Endowment Effect

You overvalue what you have bought more than you should and this makes you hold on to the past a little too much. Example, you know you should declutter your house. But that chair you bought, nope it’s going no where. What about those old clothes you still hoard even though they make you look broke.


Default Bias

Falling back to the same old approach you have used in the past even when you know you should use a different technique.

You don’t want to try anything new but you also complain that your life is boring.



Dunning–Kruger Effect

You think you’re hot shit 🔥 and overestimate your ability as greater than it truly is.

And this holds you back from listening to others or learning from them.


Extrinsic Incentive Bias

You think money will sustain your motivation to stay passionate.

But it doesn’t.


Halo Effect

Because someone’s great at one area, you falsely assume they’ll be amazing in another.

Example, because someone is smart, you assume they’d be kind but that turns out to be false. In the coding world, you see someone who’s excellent at coding and assuming they’d become an excellent manager.

But then everyone hates them.



Present Bias

You prefer quick & instant gratification compared to long-term benefits.

Why stay away from social media and study when social media gives me that dopamine hit ✨.

Why exercise now when I could just binge Netflix. But the bad choices compound over time and when you look back, you see a trail of disappointments.

Yeah, it’s July already.


Sunk Costs Fallacy

You’ve spent too much time on a project and refuse to let it go even when all signs point that it is over.


Hindsight Bias

After you break through a barrier, you say:

“I knew it all along”

Even though you initially struggled for a long time to figure it out.

This prevents you from having empathy for others struggling as noobs to the problem space.

It also prevents you from learning.

One common example: before elections, everyone seems skeptical about who’ll win; but when the results are out:

“I knew it, the signs were there”

But did you.


Self-Serving Bias

If it worked out well, you made it work; but if it failed miserably, it’s other people’s fault.

This is more common in organizations particularly with horrible teammates.

Are you that teammate to others? Oh of course, and in families too, remember that one selfish uncle or aunt?


Peak-End Rule

This is the last one.

In peak-end rule, you only remember the most intense parts (the peak) of an experience as well as the ending; rather than some type of average of all the emotions you experienced.

This makes you think an experience sucked or was amazing based on your selective reflections.

Ever gone to a party and one person says it was amazing while the other said it sucked?

Yep, peak-end rule.


Okay, what should I do?

Becoming self-aware is the first step to overcoming these biases.

But awareness is not enough.

You need to go an extra step and become proactive to prevent them from holding you back.


Thanks for reading

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Heads Up - I love research so I tend to back my advice and approach with concepts from Behavioral Psychology and Neuroscience.