Objective vs Subjective reality
We create stories to help us understand and explain the world we live in. And we grow attached to the stories we develop. It is easy for us to think we got it right.
Yet, every story has missing parts, carries a bias, or sometimes, is just poorly written.
Furthermore, each story we create goes on and affects other stories in our lives.
Over time, the reality in our heads is different from the reality that is happening.
Impression and Heuristics
There's so much information we encounter and so many decisions we have to make every day. Accurately assessing each person or each piece of information, or analysing details of each decision would simply drive us crazy. We'll simply not be able to live our lives.
To help us cope, we have evolved to form quick impressions and make decisions with broad heuristics.
Most of the time, we are fairly accurate and avoid major errors. But sometimes, we do form the wrong impressions and make the wrong assessments. Sometimes, we might not even realise when and what had influenced our impressions and heuristics.
Most of us seem to have the same idea about behaviour. If we can just tell people what the right thing to do is, they will naturally adopt the right behaviour.
Sometimes, this is useful. Having strong clarity on"why" we should do something pushes us towards action.
But at other times, this is somewhat laughable. An estimated 40% of deaths are accelerated by our own action - overeating and overdrinking, not wearing a seatbelt, not wearing a mask during Covid, smoking, drinking and driving, or falling off a cliff trying to get a picture for Instagram.
Our behaviour can be driven by the strongest reasons. Equally, they can be driven by the most trival factors. Surely, health is super important? Yet, more than 1/3 of patients do not finish a course of medication. So how have we convinced people to take their meds? Well, by shifting focus away from the seemingly obvious answer of saving their own lives, to imposing short-term pain or gain: timely pill-takers get a chance at a lottery, non-timely ones get ratted to naggng relatives.
We want to think we act for the "right reasons. But can it be that for us to change behaviour, we have to start with the "wrong reasons"?
Ever had this experience while talking to someone? It's impossible to change this person's mind. This person simply refuses to change his view no matter how much the evidence suggests otherwise.
We've all had such experiences, across a wide range of people: from those closest to us whom we have tried to convince for years, to our colleagues and bosses at work, to the politician we didn't vote at a debate.
But have you wondered that as we think this of others, are there also those who think the same of us?
Find out why changing our minds is very difficult for a variety of reasons. Check out the craziest examples of what lengths people had to go to convince others. And explore the most effective ways to change someone's (including your own!) mind
Rethinking Reward and Motivation
Whether you think you can or you can't, you're right! You are capable of so much more than you think! It always seems impossible until it's done!
Motivation has always been popular, and it can certainly provide an external jolt, a temporary burst of energy and optimism. But there is an innate problem - motivation in the form portrayed in popular culture doesn't last. We struggle because there times we just don't feel like doing something.
But what some of us don't realise or misunderstand (psychologists are particularly prone at getting this wrong) is that we have an internal motivational system. When we know how this system works, we can get ourselves to do more, without the need for big quotes and loud voices.
Emotions carry an oddly dichotomous reputation these days.
Half the time, they are seen as an impediment to rational thinking, and if only we could all be like Spock we will be less biased and make better decisions.
The other half of the time, we are asked to "recognise and embrace our emotions; it's ok to feel what we are feeling."
But what are emotions? How do they affect us? And are we really better off without them?
Parent and Kids
A child or a teenager has a very different brain from adults. The most rational part of the brain only fully matures at age 25. But the emotional regions and neurochemcial systems are developed early. So how should we deal with kids and teens?
And how can parents find the balance between sharing life experience to prevent the child from making major mistakes, yet not seeing our children as a second chance at living our own lives?
Your amazing brain
Our life story - who we are and the life we lead is written in our brain, Every thought, feeling (contrary to popular belief - it's your brain and not your heart that feels), action, reaction, idea, memory, and behaviour takes place in your brain.
It is the most complex object we know of, constantly changing (even as you read this), learning, and predicting, wired and influenced by what happened millions of years ago to our ancestors to what chemicals were secreted milliseconds ago between our 100 billion neurons.
Not understanding our brains is not understanding ourselves. Find out more about the broad workings and specific intricacies of our amazing brain
Tools for change
Life decisions, making changes, and improving ourselves is really hard. Utilise some of these tools to help you on your way.
Nature vs Nurture
The eternal question. Are we natue or nurture?
It is in our nature to want a definitive answer. But take a look at the picture of New York above. Is Central Park really "Nature", if it was designed by man? But are the blocks around completely devoid of nature, with birds and cats and fish and plants and weeds?
In much the same way, did you know that only 2% of our DNA codes for genes. What about the other 98%? They act as switches, turning on and off genes basedon interaction with the environment.
Are we nature or nuture? Well, is the length or breath more important in calculating the area of a square?
The life stories written by others
An important and difficult question that all of us have to answer is - what is the life story that we want to write?
Unsurprisingly, it is a very difficult question to answer. We only have one shot at life, and it is too short for us to experience everything.
But we can learn from the experiences of others. What gave them meaning in life? And what did they have to overcome? There is no perfect answer to what a good life story is, but we can always improve our life story.