Archive for predictably irrational

What makes us do things that we KNOW are irresponsible, counterproductive and just plain stupid?  What makes us do these things even during the process of thinking inside, “You know, this is reallystupid”??

I call it the “Default Setting” of human irrationality.  Duke University professor Dan Ariely, in his recent book Predictably Irrational, demonstrates how and why we are prompted to do things during certain times that we would never even think of during others.    He gives countless examples in the book – one major theme is that men and women who are aroused sexually make on-the-spot decisions about certain sex acts they would never consider otherwise.  

Other times, according to Ariely, we continue to present a mixed persona to the world around us, much the same way as Dr. Jekyl became Mr. Hyde, then tried to cover up the transformation as best he could.  An honest person, when presented with an option to make a lot of money, will often engage in (and try to hide) his or her actions even if it ends up hurting him or others.  If so, a quick justification usually solves the problem for the moment.  If the end result is that no one notices and the money comes, we are further prompted to continue the same activity, setting ourselves up for a lifelong habit – and eventual fall.  

Self-sabotage is the use of inner justification to engage in activities that hurt the one doing the action.  If I want to get a nice job and wear a clown mask to the interview, I could be labeled a career saboteur.  However, if I only did the interview to please my overbearing father and had no intention of working for this company,  the action takes on a different light. 

The key is openness with our own intentions.  As long as we silently engage in the acts of pleasing or helping others at our own expense, sabotage will usually creep in.  Learning to say “no” is the cure for this ailment, and it can even be done diplomatically and effectively.

But what about the sabotage we experience that seemingly comes out of nowhere?  The “Why did I do THAT”  syndrome…??  There are many times when self-sabotage is not obvious until the damage is done.  In these cases, a deeper understaning of motivation is required.  

Hidden decisions are the basis for our default action settings.  They come as a result of decisions made during key moments in our lives – when we were prompted or “nudged” to choose one response to events over another.  Emotion usually plays a big part, and these actions are often tied in with cultural norms and behaviors.  

For example, a man who was emotionally abused as a child may have made the decision to hate those in authority and fight them at every turn.  Another who experienced the same thing may have decided that action is futile and he needs to give up all hope of happiness or success. While abuse may seem like the exception, it is unfortunatly not.  All of us – at one time or another – have experienced a frustration to our perceptions about how the world should be . . . and how it actually is.  

Abuse does not mean physical or emotional beatings.  If could also pertain to the withholding of something cherished or desired.  When in high school, to use a personal example, I really wanted to accompany some classmates to Costa Rica for the summer, but my parents could not afford to send me.  The decisions I made about money – or the lack therof – formed my expectations as an adult that money and exotic experiences were hard to come by.  While I eventually (and fortunately) made a NEW decision later in life, many don’t.  They continue operating on the old default settings without knowing it could be different.       

Self-sabotage is present in our everyday thoughts, beliefs and personal paradigms.  We see the world through colored glasses and operate as if it is that way for everyone.  Take off the glasses.  See the world as it really IS, knowing full well that new decisions about the world can be made any time.  It will take some courage to look at our own “stuff” – and the “stuff” given us by our ancestors and culture – but the end result is dynamic energy, happiness, abundance and love.  

Is it worth it?  I vote yes.  

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