Intuitions, Impulsiveness, errors, mistakes –– the science behind it!

I have been intuitive and impulsive for most of early life, which has got me into trouble on a lot of occasions. I have been lucky to receive tough love several times from special people in my life and realize some of my shortcomings. This leads me to read (have been able to finish 21 books in 10 months) books. I have never been a reader, thanks to Kindle and Audiobooks which has encouraged me to become more comfortable with books. The best part about books, is the best thinkers of the last few thousand years tell you their nuggets of wisdom. There are several ways you can apply and use the concepts you learn. I will just try to put in some techniques which could help in better decision-making process enabling to reduce mistakes and errors. Making a mistake is not a problem, not learning from mistakes is a problem, and must admit I have learned slowly. Building a foundation is hard work. The key here is brutal honesty with yourself about what you really know and applying yourself using the science you learn. I will try to point out the source/science of the process leading us to errors and mistakes from a few books I read.

In the book “Thinking, Fast and Slow

Daniel Kahneman shows how the mind works and offers practical and enlightening insights into how choices are made in both our business and personal lives–and how we can guard against the mental glitches that often get us into trouble.

Kahneman talks about two imaginary characters in our mind:


We have an impulsive, emotional, and intuitive decision-making system he calls as System 1. A deliberative, reasoning, and (sometimes) rational decision-making system as System 2.

He says “Intuition is nothing more and nothing less than recognition of these silent stored pieces of information. These are just thoughts which have been there before and not which you may like them to be. Intuition is the recognition of something we’ve seen before, we recognize a situation and we know how to respond because our brain sees the pattern and relates to them. Perhaps this results from direct experience (we’ve lived it, older conditioning, past experiences, Astro reason, or could be anything) without thinking to see if it’s the right situation to use System 1 or System 2.

Kahneman describes several errors we commit in numerous life aspects, which causes us behavioural changes embedded within us. Here is a short list of some errors and mistakes which are made by fast thinking:

  • Fast thinking concludes that something must be appropriate if it is identified with pleasant feelings.
  • It focuses on existing evidence and neglects absent evidence (we don’t seek into longer-term causes and conditions, forget the context, don’t even ask what happened just before or what will happen next, and get into wrong views).
  • It suppresses doubt and neglects ambiguity.
  • It responds more strongly to losses than to gains, leading further to fears and unrealistic planning
  • It interprets and finds causes and intentions—innumerable relational messes begin here. Just imagine the number of situations in your life, which could have been better had a calmer and effortful mind system 2 be in place.
  • It generates a limited set of basic assessments that lead to ridiculous statements like “How hard is it to be a President?, Definitely I can do a better job in this case” because we only have a minimal idea of what it takes given our finite views coming from our tiny set of possible assessments/ observations.

Here is an Example which he gives, if you are asked two questions, “Are you a good driver” and “Are you better than average as a driver?
The answer to the first question comes easy as a Yes or a No. In most of the cases for the second answer, we would start comparing ourselves to an average driver, without even knowing anything about it and starting to relate to it and come up with an answer. The second answer is almost impossible to answer as it would mean us to know the details of calculating the average good driver skills of the whole world and then assessing our skills to come up with a somewhat close answer. It’s our general tendency to find a pattern and draw a conclusion without really putting in an effort to understand the actuality.

The list goes on, a lot of his chapters are based on various study fields to provide detailed insights. And we are mostly blind to these events for the reasons cited above. Which of these do we fall into? How could we find out? Have we thought of reflecting and looking into those situations and learn from them? The next time you have a tough decision to make try putting yourself in someone else’ shoes. Ask yourself how they would handle the problem. Many of the messes we are in the middle of arising because we are unaware of the mischief of our autopilot mode thinking(system 1).

We are continually making decisions even without we know. He emphasizes on slowing down be being more deliberate and logical before giving any kind of response to various situations in life. This ultra-useful hack could be very helpful in personal and professional life. Kahneman reveals where we can and cannot trust our intuitions and how we can tap into the benefits of slow thinking.

It’s impossible to completely avoid errors and mistakes. After all, we are making thousands of decisions every day, many of them subconsciously and automatically. By automating the unimportant ones to system 1, you can spare the scarce resources of our System 2 brain and put in a conscious effort you’ll hopefully avoid errors in important decisions when the stakes are high.

I will try to elaborate another author’s idea:

We usually identify ourselves with the thoughts in our mind, where do these thoughts come from is a good question to ask. Thoughts emerge from consciousness and slip away as easily as they appear. Take, for example, the inner dialogue that occupies our monkey mind, have you ever noticed when tons of thoughts keep running continually in your mind? When you are in the middle of something and a sudden internal chatter gets ticked in your mind? The thoughts then just get registered with us without we know if they are really we need to keep with us.

It’s just our general tendency to perceive any situation at a time. Your awareness registers what you see through your nervous system, yet your mind is compelled to add a dialogue about what it perceives, rather than just observing it with your awareness.

In the book “The Power of Now: A Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment ” Eckhart Tolle says

“People tend to dwell more on negative things than on good things. So the mind then becomes obsessed with negative things, with judgments, guilt, and anxiety produced by thoughts about the future and dwells in the past.”

He makes another powerful point “Rather than being your thoughts and emotions, be the awareness behind them.

The moment we identify ourselves with the thoughts and extend them more attention and get carried away, we drift into the boat with them. As we identify and attach ourselves to them, we flounder. We then believe in our thoughts rather than seeking to analyze what genuinely is appropriate and good in our situation. Flowing with the thoughts leads us to all kind of stress, suffering, errors, mistakes. The point he explains, is thoughts are not the true essence of who you are, the author then suggests a quick fix to the negative thought patterns.

Eckhart Tolle says “Be present as the watcher of your mind — of your thoughts and emotions as well as your reactions in various situations. Be at least as interested in your reactions as in the situation or person that causes you to react.”

Shunning the inner dialogue leading to dwelling into unneeded thoughts could be avoided by observing and letting go. To follow all our thoughts, which might not be even we intend to make us agree with them. Thoughts are influenced by our: beliefs, the past, moods, nutrition, illness, and level of consciousness he explains. By changing these where possible, we shift the intensity of future thoughts. I also read a line which got registered within me “Imagine a world where we witness thoughts without becoming them and experience feelings without being overwhelmed by them”.

Practices like Yoga, Meditation, Mindfulness, awareness, could systematically slow down the nervous system, allowing more of the wisdom of our slower thinking to come forward and enabling us observing our thoughts rather than getting flown with them. Also, having regular breaks from continual work schedules to stop the momentum of our racing minds, could be even helpful. Spending time on personal reflection helps too. There is no one rule or formula to correct and perfect the path to errors, mistakes, decision making but the insights could make us conscious, aware and alert when we fall prey to such situations. My purpose was to just highlight the systematic errors we keep making and leave it there. To end here are two quotes from Socrates “The only true smartness is in knowing you know nothing.” and he also says I cannot teach anybody anything. I can only make them think”.

This topic is a broad and complex one, I have just tried to gather up just a few fundamental points and put them across in a simple manner! Am thankful for you to spare your valuable time reading this article!

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