Challenging Mental Structures, Biases and Habits at Work

Challenging mental structures, biases, and habits at work

How much of your daily routine is a conscious decision vs an autopilot activity? 
If you needed to say a percentage, what would it be? Normally 80% of the activities are running in autopilot and only 20% of the decisions we take are decided consciously. And that’s ok, we can’t decide each day how to prepare our coffee or how to brush our teeth, that would be exhausting and probably dangerous for our own sake. But we need to think about other activities that we have left on our autopilot program but shouldn’t have.

Paradigms are created out of personal beliefs and values. Two concepts that have been influenced by external factors and have shaped us since our childhood.

Over time, these values and beliefs become principles, which are present in our heads in a rational way and materialize in assumptions and interpretations of reality. This, in turn, reinforces a certain behavior that manifests itself in verbal and non-verbal expressions, behaviors, and character. Mental structures are what help us process all the information that comes constantly to our brains.

They are built based on experiences, culture, perception, feelings, emotions, and past learnings. They serve as shortcuts, identifying certain characteristics that resemble previously processed information, thus using the same classification.

Cognitive biases are a type of mental structure, that we use to “judge” and make decisions based on. They’re not always bad: they help us make faster decisions and may lead to more effective actions in specific situations. There are many types of cognitive biases such as:

  • Confirmation bias
  • Authority bias
  • Self-service bias
  • Halo effect
  • Heuristic availability
This happens to all of us and it is virtually impossible not to fall into some cognitive bias, the important thing is to be aware of these, to make sure we make the best decision. These questions help us identify if we’re making a biased decision:
  • Why do I think this?
  • How do I know this is true?
  • What if I thought the opposite?
  • What if I am wrong?
  • What might others think?
Moreover, there are some mental models that can help us improve our decision-making:
  • Circle of competences
  • Elementary principles
  • Probabilistic thinking
  • Experimental behavior
Most of us operate and make important decisions unconsciously, so it is a priority to expand our tools when solving problems.
When the only tool you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail.
Finally, in order to change a habit, we must change from identity (the deepest). James Cleary explains how habits work in these 5 stages:
  1. Understand why we want to change it (Motivation).
  2. Come up with different scenarios and create a plan B to meet our goal (Clarity).
  3. Take care of the environment so that it helps you achieve your objective (Wanting).
  4. Being ready to go vs. being ready to finish (Doing).
  5. Create little milestones from the beginning, to generate momentum and avoid giving up (Liking).
Habits are the compound interest of self-improvement
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