Subconsciously making decisions

In her book “Mastermind” Maria Konnikova writes about how our mind is influenced by our environment. This mostly doesn’t happen with our full awareness, but often by our subconsciousness. As an example she points out that universities have a higher apply-rate on sunny days than on rainy days. And of course the place looks more beautiful, feels nicer and warmer when you visit it on a sunny day and thus giving you a better feeling about it.  However it doesn’t seem very clever letting the decision of where to study depend on the weather.

This subconscious decision making is the basis of A/B-testing in the web. Obama’s campaign 2008 for example  ran this experiment with the website visitors. They tried different subscribe buttons, as well as different videos or pictures above it. It turned out that the most effective combination was a “Learn more”-button alongside a picture of Obama’s family, leading to a much higher subscribing rate than the other options. This shows that somehow a little text and one picture can already change a lot in ourselves, leading us into making a decision, which we maybe wouldn’t make if the text of the button would be different.

Seeing how such simple variations can have such an impact on us, makes me wonder how many decisions I made with the help of such little tricks. Today I’m pretty sure that we all participate in such an experiment every day (although I couldn’t find any numbers yet). But companies are always trying to find the best way to sell their products to us and persuading our subconsciousness by beautiful and friendly looking buttons and pictures that their product is the best. And this seems to achieve the wanted effect very well and efficiently, especially in this era where online shopping grows more and more, making it very easy to run these experiments and finding out what our subconsciousness likes the most.

The mean thing about this is, that the user or buyer doesn’t realize, how he is being influenced. The only thing that we can do to prevent making unwanted decisions is reflecting more about the use of one product before buying it or making a decision. Being aware that you’re probably manipulated by outer influences probably already does half of the job. Reminding yourself of this over and over again makes you think automatically more about your decisions and falling less for the nice environment.

It’s always hard to do so and keep this in mind all the time, since it’s a very hidden manipulation of our feelings and thus never falls to our eyes. We have to think about it actively. But don’t let us make stupid decisions due to our subconsciousness, especially when they are important and better rethink once again before making a final decision, which we may regret some day.

Trying to develop new habits

Hi everyone,

it has been a very long time since I announced my will to do the blog challenge and nothing followed.

That has multiple reasons. I guess the main reason was that I had to write a paper for my university and got stressed a lot because I started too late with it (lesson learned – I hope). After that I had a wonderful vacation in Indonesia and met my lovely girlfriend for the first time, which was amazing! (I will tell you more about the vacation maybe in future posts…) So in the following months after I came back to Germany, I didn’t really think about this blog anymore and somehow let it out of my sight.

After I finished my exams for the semesters I had a lot of free time and found myself pretty unmotivated for doing anything, wasting time by looking at my phone and switching between the same 4 apps over and over again. This made me fed up and weary, which was leading to even less motivation. I felt like moving in a spiral downwards. Every evening I went to sleep with the thoughts of getting up early on the next day and going running or so, but in the end I found my phone being more interesting.

In the end this showed me two things:

  1.  If you break with a habit, which you want to establish new to your life, it’s really really hard to get it back on track.
  2. If you break with one habit, you get unhappy with yourself and start to break the others as well.

Luckily for me I got my motivation back through my girlfriend. She started to do workout every day and go swimming weekly and suggested that I should do the same – big thanks to her! It’s much more effective when such a nudge (or big push in this case) comes from someone other than you. Because the other person will keep asking you (more often than you would ask yourself) if you already went swimming or whatever habit you want to establish. Also it’s a lot harder to deny these questions because you don’t want the other one to be disappointed and thus have to come up with an apology. Picturing that situation in my mind, I think it’s a lot easier to just go swimming than trying to squirm myself out of that question. So probably she saved me a lot of bad and unhappy weeks or maybe even months by making me actually do the things, which I always want myself to do.

With the goal of going swimming once a week, I started slowly again. Being able to do that I got more and more motivated and added other habits one by one. Going running, doing some workout every day – even when it’s only some push-ups, the main part is that I did something at least – and now back to write this blog once again.

My plan is to write one post every Tuesday evening. I made the experience that I follow a schedule more than when I just have the goal without a specific time to do it. Before that I wanna reflect my week and write down some notes about what I’m proud of, the things I accomplished the week before and the things which I regret having done.

I see this as a little experiment to make me pleased with myself and I’m looking forward to realize this idea. Hopefully I will be able to finally begin and finish the blog challenge. I would be thankful for every reminder and uncomfortable question when I try to break with this new habit. But hopefully that will never happen!

I’m so thankful that I could write all of this to you, it is relieving some bad feelings in me and making me even more motivated and comfortable with myself.

How do I get stressed?

I guess we all know the feeling of having stress, seeing that huge amount of work in front of you and panicking and thinking you won’t be able to do all of that. I have been there too a lot of times, and since it’s not a nice feeling I’m asking myself how did I even let this come so far or could I have avoided it somehow?

When I think back to the times where I was stressed a lot, I remember that I always had a long TODO-list in my mind. And on that list was always a whole bunch of tasks that just seemed so many and when I finally got myself to do them, they suddenly went off the list very quickly so I was left with just a few tasks that took some longer time. The thing is that even those leftover tasks needed much more time than the others, it didn’t look that much. This made me feel better and more relaxed about everything. You can trick your mind here in the same way it gets tricked lifting things, picking up little things always feels heavier than picking up the same weight but in a lot bigger version. So a small TODO-list looks less than a big one with the same amount of time you have to put into it. Also I felt much more comfortable and could focus on the few tasks much better and thus working on them more concentrated. That was always the way out for me of stressed feelings.

So this means actually that my way into the stress was usually being too lazy to do the small quick tasks, like doing the laundry or so. But this is pretty stupid right? This means that I could actually save myself from all the stress if I just do every short task, like 10-minutes-tasks, right after it comes up and this way my TODO-list will always stay clean and short.

Realizing this I’m trying now to make myself to do everything directly that doesn’t take long – sometimes you even save time with that since for example you can wash the dishes more easily when they are not dried yet – and this way trying to keep my TODO-list short. This has the nice side effect that my weekly scheduling also gets easier, since there are not that much things anymore that I have to fit into my schedule. It could happen that a spontaneous task will interfere with my planned schedule, but since it just takes not longer than 10 or 15 minutes, the delay should still stay in bounds.