Just being aware of these can be a massive advantage in life
Being smart doesn’t shield you from the pitfalls of the inherently imperfect mind — in fact, it can (sometimes) even make you more susceptible to such snags.
So, just being aware of these pitfalls can give you incredible leverage in life. While you won’t always be able to circumvent them, the few times you do will yield massive rewards.
Having known plenty of smart folks in my life, I’ve noticed 3 common mental hiccups — not to mention that I’m pretty smart myself and have experienced them firsthand.
There goes the first pitfall.
The Grand-Daddy of Biases
This great ancestor goes by the name of “Ego-Centrism” — the human mind’s addiction to stroke the ego in any and every situation.
You can’t even trust your own memory since it’s rigged to remember things in an ego-centric manner.
Taking credit for positive events. Blaming others (or external factors) for negative ones. Hesitating to admit you were wrong. Striving to prove yourself right in arguments. Despising people that don’t align with your beliefs.
It all stems from your mind revolving around the ego. Evolutionarily, this has helped to ensure our survival, but in today’s world, has become a problem.
“Ego is the enemy of what you want and of what you have: Of mastering a craft. Of working well with others. Of repeating and retaining your success. It repulses advantages and opportunities. It is Scylla and Charybdis.”
But there’s a simple cure to this — assume less credit and more blame.
Best case, you’re on-spot with reality. Worst case, you overcompensate — but then that would motivate you to work harder and change things for the better.
It’s a win-win.
The Trap of Being Aware of Biases
The moment I learned about biases, I started strutting around as a psychology expert.
I took pride in being “objective” — since I knew the most common biases, I was unbiased, right?
Wrong. Being aware of your biases is a bias in itself.
It’s an insidious loop of inception. If you’re aware of the bias in being aware of your biases, a new bias presents itself — the bias of being aware of the bias being aware of your biases.
Going down that rabbit hole every time you think is a recipe for burnout and insanity. You don’t have to either.
Since, by definition, we can never be fully free of our biases — the moment we think we are “free”, we create a new bias. It’s an infinite loop.
But there’s a solution. Irrespective of whether you’re alone or talking to someone, spell out loud, “I think X but I might be biased by my personal experiences.”
This isn’t just for when you aren’t certain about something. In fact, the more certain you’re about something, the higher the role your biases could have played.
The Deep-Trench Effect
When you stumble across beliefs or ideas that appeal to you, you’ll internalize them.
The smarter you are, the easier you’ll come up with rationalizations for them, the deeper the trench you’ll dig — and the harder it will be to climb out of it.
It also makes you a “radicalizer” of the ideas you come across.
While I’m still a “red-piller”, I don’t agree with all of their beliefs and have climbed out of a few deep trenches.
Thanks to the shiny object syndrome, new beliefs and perspectives will always hold charm — but be wary and dig only as deep of a trench as necessary.
When stuck in the Mariana trench, getting out is going to be a painstakingly hard endeavor.
The only way to become better at catching your mental pitfalls as they spring up is to develop self-awareness.
The best tool to do so is introspection — spending at least 10 minutes every single day reflecting on your thoughts, actions, and events.
With time, this will get ingrained into your subconscious, and introspection will go on auto-pilot.
Higher self-awareness = smarter decisions = a much better life.