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Let’s Try to Hack a Few Biases

Today, we will look at two biases and explore ways we can hack them:

  • Attentional bias, The tendency of perception to be affected by recurring thoughts.

  • Automation bias, The tendency to depend excessively on automated systems which can lead to erroneous automated information overriding correct decisions.


I think these two biases can be used together to create a positive weight loss result. Usually, when it comes to weight loss problems or body image issues, Attentional Bias is the root cause. Then, Automation Bias amplifies in two different ways. The recurring thoughts that form the Attentional Bias become automated, and poor food/eating choices become automated. Charlie Munger talks about the Lollapalooza Effect, which is when more than one Bias acts at the same time magnifying the result into something more than both.


To do this, we need to do a few things. First, we need our recurring thoughts to be positive and constructive. Second, our automated systems need to reinforce the our recurring thoughts.


Positive Thoughts

Negative thoughts enter into our subconscious and entrench themselves very easily. Negative thoughts are difficult to dislodge and replace with positive thoughts. That’s why you’ll hear athletic coaches say things like “The words ‘I Can’t’ don’t exist in this room!”. In addition, your subconscious doesn’t really understand the past or the future, only the now. So “I will” doesn’t really do anything either. “I am” is probably the strongest phrase to incorporate into your internal dialogue. “I am strong”, “I am active”, “I am making progress”, “I am a healthy eater”, etc. These types of statements are strong, positive, and in the present. The positive thoughts will alter your perception of yourself in a positive way. But, one negative statement has immensely more power than a positive statement. So you need to use another cognitive bias to continually reinforce the positive thoughts and the creation of those thoughts.


Automation

Automation is really about habits. I talk a lot about habits in my book and I created a 5 Day Habit Challenge because I believe building good habits around weight loss will probably have the biggest payback. There are many things surrounding food and exercise we can automate. For some of us, we’re already automating things, but we have bad habits instead of good ones.


Automate the positive thoughts. Every time you find your internal conversation going negative, steer it positive. Use the statements discussed above in your everyday internal conversation. Examples:

  • I love broccoli!

  • I am a healthy eater.

  • I love lifting weights

  • I really like taking a walk in the morning

Automating your positive thoughts will take practice. You can use techniques such as self hypnosis, repetition, and meditation. In addition, you need to catch yourself having those negative thoughts, and stop them. Then replace them with positive thoughts. Practice, practice, practice. Olympic level athletes never started off as Olympians. They had to start with the basics and use repetition. Keeping your thoughts positive is the same. You need to start with easy things and use repetition. Then you can advance to self hypnosis or meditation. Finally, finish with visualization.


We also need to automate the consumption of food that is good for us as well as automating the purchase of good food. So do things like create grocery lists and stick to them, don’t shop on an empty stomach. Don’t pull down an entire snack bag, instead put a small serving in a bowl. Don’t mindlessly eat, instead be aware of everything you consume, and eat it slowly.


We also need to automate our exercise routines. Even the lack of an exercise routine can be considered an automated routine, because what your doing while not exercising is itself a routine. Identify simple things you can do to add exercise into your routine. Use stairs instead of the elevator or escalator. Go for walks during coffee and lunch breaks. Find a gym that is on the way home, get a membership at that gym, and go every day after work on your way home. Plan for some sort of activity every day. Join a team or a group.


These are just a few ideas, with practice or more work on your part, you should be able to come up with your own ideas on what you can do. Eventually, the automation routines keep you thinking good thoughts and get you doing the right things. When you have that happening, losing weight becomes easy.

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