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Category: Psychology (page 1 of 2)

What is the Meaning of Life?

By Christian Staal

Imagine asking a chess master about the best possible move in chess:

Asking about the meaning of life is the same thing. There is no universal meaning of life – it depends on the circumstances of your life.

More:
Man’s Search for Meaning (book) by Viktor E. Frankl (I totally stole the analogy from this brilliant book!)

Primary Pain vs Secondary Pain

By Christian Staal

Psychologists distinguish between two types of pain:

  • Primary pain relates to a specific event (e.g. worrying about a job interview)
  • Secondary pain is emotional gasoline thrown into the fire (e.g. being sad/angry/worried about being worried)

Secondary pain accounts for more misery than primary pain. You can reduce secondary pain by accepting – rather than fighting – primary pain (one way to train this is meditation).

More:
What do you carry? (Puzzle.blog)
The Upside of Your Dark Side (book) by Robert Biswas-Diener and Todd Kashdan

Meaningful Work: Building a Cathedral

By Christian Staal

A traveller came upon two bricklayers, and asked them what they were doing:

Your perception of your work influences your motivation, productivity and happiness. Are you laying bricks, or building a cathedral?

More:

Man’s Search for Meaning (book) by Viktor Frankl
Want To Make Your Work More Meaningful? (article) by Michelle McQuaid

 

 

The Peak-End Rule

By Christian Staal

Think of one of your most cherished memories. What do you think determines how you remember it today? You would think that your memory of the experience is determined by how good you felt, and for how long. However, research shows that the duration of an experience is mostly neglected when we think about our past.

Two things influence how you remember an experience: how you felt at the emotional peak of the experience, and how you felt at the end. 

More:
The riddle of experience vs. memory (TED Talk) by Daniel Kahneman
Thinking, Fast and Slow (book) by Daniel Kahneman

What are you bad at?

By Christian Staal

It’s never fun to find out that you’re bad at something, but it’s often a blessing in disguise. Everybody has weaknesses, and only by seeing yours clearly, can you overcome them.

In Principles, Ray Dalio puts it eloquently: You shouldn’t be upset if you find out that you’re bad at something – you should be happy that you found out, because knowing that and dealing with it will improve your chances of getting what you want.

More:

Principles (book) by Ray Dalio [from principle #1.10e]

The other side of the river

By Christian Staal

People tend to overestimate how well they understand each other. This is a dangerous mistake to make, because it reinforces false beliefs and blinds us to reality. Your best defense here is humility. When talking to someone who disagrees with you, don’t assume that she doesn’t understand you; assume you don’t understand her. It’s only by realising how little you know, that you get to learn more.

More:

Mindwise (book) by Nicholas Epley

The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People (book, habit #5) by Stephen Covey

The Sunk Cost Fallacy

By Christian Staal

Humans hate losing, and we want our decisions to turn out well. Therefore, we sometimes overcommit to bad decisions. It’s often wiser to cut our losses. As Warren Buffet says: When you find yourself in a hole, it’s time to stop digging.

More:

Sunk cost (Wikipedia)

The Black Swan: We Know Less About the Future Than We Think

By Christian Staal

A Black Swan is an event with the following characteristics:

  1. It’s unpredictable
  2. It carries an extreme impact
  3. It seems predictable after the fact (and people will find explanations that seem logical in hindsight, but weren’t obvious before the fact)

This makes us overconfident in our ability to predict the future. World War I, 9-11 and the rise of the Internet, are all examples of Black Swans.

More:
The Black Swan (book) by Nassim Taleb
Thinking, Fast and Slow (book) by Daniel Kahneman

Thinking, Fast and Slow

By Christian Staal

You use two systems for thinking. System 1 is fast, automatic and unconscious (when you see 2 + 2, your brain automatically says 4). System 2 is slow, deliberate and taxing on your mental resources (if you see 22 x 17, you probably need to think to find the answer). System 1 makes thousands of unconscious decisions everyday – and most of them are fine. Sometimes, however, System 1 makes mistakes, which can lead to cognitive biases.

More:

The Curse of Knowledge

By Christian Staal

The more you know about a subject, the harder it is to empathise with beginners. Once you know something, you don’t understand what it feels like not to know it. Therefore, many experts are bad teachers. If you’re talking to a novice about your field of expertise, remember that it’s probably harder to understand than you think it is.

More:

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