“When your thoughts are more powerful than your emotions you create change.”
“Until you make the unconscious conscious, it will direct your life and you will call it fate.”
As you might know, A life altering near-death experience surviving the Tsunami in Thailand in 2004 awakened me to my deep sense of purpose and the fact that our time on earth is limited.
This was the very start of my determination to leverage this experience to make a difference in people’s lives.
To empower others to live a more intentional and regrets-free life.
To not let the fear of the unknown prevent one from truly feeling and enjoying this life, in and out of work.
“Putting things off is the biggest waste of life: it snatches away each day as it comes, and denies us the present by promising the future. The greatest obstacle to living is expectancy, which hangs upon tomorrow, and loses today. You are arranging what lies in Fortune’s control, and abandoning what lies in yours. What are you looking at? To what goal are you straining? The whole future lies in uncertainty: live immediately. […] You act like mortals in all that you fear, and like immortals in all that you desire… How late it is to begin really to live just when life must end!”Seneca, On The Shortness Of Life
From this day onwards more than ever before, I developed an acute awareness that everything is impermanent, that everything and everyone is precious. The “normal” life we take for granted is fragile, and thus not really normal. Even in the most breath-taking places, when one feels in heaven and safe, everything can actually happen, in the blink of an eye.
Yet, the way the human brain works can sabotage the choices we make.
Our human brain is a powerful, but we can all fall in the trap of letting it play us
1. Our minds don’t work in absolutes, which means we think in relative terms
In the Ebbinghaus illusion, because the blue circles on the left are so large, our brain registers the orange circle on the left as smaller than the one on the right, even though they are both the same size.
The same goes for our flawed perception of what will make us happy
At any given point in time, if we have a new job or house or car for example – we will probably be happy. But it is also possible that 6 months or 1 year in, that feeling of happiness will start to fade away. We are most often comparing ourselves – to what we have done / invested in time or money, to others, our environment, and to what we see on TV or social media. This impacts what we think we want, which then distracts from what we actually want.
2. Knowing Is Half The Battle
Knowing our cognitive biases is not enough to overcome them. This predicament can be illustrated using the Müller-Lyer illusion, pictured below.
Even though we know that the shafts of each arrow are exactly the same length, when asked to point out the longer of the two, we invariably choose the arrow whose tails point outward.
Some psychological traps might cost us fulfilment in our personal & professional life
Below are 3, with tips on how to overcome them.
Trap 1: Sunk Cost Fallacy
Do you often find yourself continuing on a path that doesn’t feel right, only because you have already invested so much time or money into it?
People demonstrate “a greater tendency to continue a behavior or endeavor as a result of previously invested resources (time, money or effort) – even if this doesn’t fulfil them, hereby just digging deeper in a hole.
Not giving up even in the face of adversity is a wonderful trait, but it needs to always be intentional and for the right reasons, keeping in mind that the greatest sunk cost is our own time, which we cannot recover.
1. We don’t want to feel that we spent anything in vain – time, money, anything. However, even if we know deep inside that our approach is wrong, we still have trouble abandoning it.
E.g. clothes or shoes that don’t fit well but since you spent a lot of money on it they are still in your closet; time invested in a career path or relationship that doesn’t make your heart sing anymore and yet is difficult to leave; or a business idea that appears to be less commercially viable than initially thought and yet you keep going because you already invested so much money – think Concorde…
Solution: Make sure you are not in a situation solely because you made the investment in the first place. Unless you can do something that changes the expected outcome. Cut your losses and move on!
2. We fear “looking foolish” as if cutting losses is admitted a mistake, if not in public, at least to ourselves.
Solution: Reframe that quitting is not failing (actually, it might precisely be the opposite).
3. We feel emotionally attached to what we committed to. And the bigger the commitment, the harder it is to let go.
It is a human bias to be overly confident that everything we set ourselves to do will pay off. (This is known as overly optimistic probability bias.)
Solution: Be aware of the natural bias to stay on our current course of action. While considering other options, evaluate the status quo as if it was simply another option, rather than the only one.
4. We become so attached to the means and loose sights of the end and bigger perspective.
Solution: Always be mindful of long-term goals, purpose and values driving you. E.g. if you want to have fun, you might watch a movie that turns out to be a bad one. We could forget that our goal was not to spend two hours watching a movie, but to have fun. Or turn it off and go have fun, another way.
Trap 2: Cost of inaction
In life and in business, when we have a big decision to make or need to have a difficult conversation, push ourselves to do something for the first time or expose ourselves, we might have a tendency to err on the side of caution, staying in our comfort zone and the “known”.
We are neurologically wired to overestimate the size of risks, underestimate our ability to handle them, and downplay the costs of inaction.
We are very good at thinking about how we will feel an hour from now. We weigh the potential cost of taking action, and that holds us back.
But we are less so good at stepping in the shoes of our future self – what might my life look like 1 year, 3 years or 5 years, even 10 years from now, if we avoid taking this action or making a decision?
And less good therefore at asking ourselves – What will I feel if I don’t? What is the cost of inaction today? How can I live today in a way I look forward to, tomorrow?
So we come up with these reasons to stay where we are.
But here is the issue: Delay grows increasingly expensive. Fear keeps many of us from reaching our full potential and living the lives we want.
Are you discounting the cost of inaction?
Think about what preserving the status quo will cost you 6 months, 1 year, and 3 years into the future. These can be emotional, physical, and/or financial costs.
Think about the people in your life this will affect.
Understanding these costs will help you assess more objectively the future return of investment or loss opportunity linked to taking the uncomfortable action.
Trap 3: Cost of inner peace
Anything that costs us our peace of mind and sense of aliveness is far too expensive.
How much are you REALLY making when you factor in how much that “success” is costing you?
When you make a wish list,
Do you choose
Some “stuff” you want
A feeling, a state of mind … a Way of being?
Because we can have the things we want …
Without feeling the way we thought we would feel when we have them.
You know what I mean?
Our extrinsic desires (wealth, money, status, fame, prestige, admiration), have no intrinsic value and are worthless if they do not contribute to happiness. They are a means to an end.
They may only be desirable if having them or the thoughts of having them lead to positive emotions or meaning.
How we feel when we wear designer clothes, are in a dream destination in a luxury hotel or drive a sports car can’t be bought.
But it can be challenging for you to put a price tag on these intangibles.
Think about it – How much are you REALLY making when you factor in how much that “success” is costing you?
How do you really KNOW how much it is worth to you to NOT be looking back at your life saying:
“I wish I lived a life true for me instead of what others expected of me”
“I wish I hadn’t worked so much”
“I wish I took more time to enjoy it and have fun”
“I wish I had spent more time with my loved ones”?
But to live today in a way you look forward to looking back.
It is hard to know that price. But we can try!
So you make $______________ per year.
Now take that number,
MINUS what it is costing you in:
– Not having the depth of social connections / relationships you desire
– The amount of time you spend in overwhelm, fear, energy drain, stress or wondering when it ever gets easy.
– All the moments trying to get there, the future, or fearing or hoping for something in the future, instead of enjoying here, the present moment rarely slowing down enough to simply enjoy life and all the things you can afford to have, to relax and make space for love and play.
– Feeling physically and mentally fatigued, drained from the workload piling and what feels like running a permanent race.
– Add on …
I challenge you to do the math …
How much are you REALLY making when you factor in how much that “success” is costing you?
Remember: success without happiness, wellness and positive relationships is the ultimate failure!
Success and happiness is created when what you think, how you feel, and what you do are all in harmony with who YOU are.
Not living and working in alignment with our true self, can make us stressed, or even anxious, sometimes until the point of burn out.
Hereby losing inner peace. Our sense of freedom and fulfilment … and ultimately damaging our wellbeing, relationships, and happiness.
The way the human brain works can sabotage the choices we make.
Fear keeps many of us from reaching our full potential and living the lives we want.
Living even more fully … This is the promise I made to myself, after that unforgettable Boxing Day. To constantly endeavor to drink in every moment of life, and empower others to do the same.
For this reason, nothing gets me more excited than seeing people take action instead of sitting and waiting for the conditions to be right.
Remember – Right now is when you have the most vitality to enjoy life.
To do something meaningful with your life.
To have an impact on this world.
To let your unique potential shine through.
So ask yourself, how do I really want to live my ONE LIFE?