learn from our mistakes

I’m currently taking A Beginner’s Guide to Irrational Behavior course by Dan Ariely on Coursera.

I have only finished watching all lectures in Week 1 but man, it’s so interesting. In week 1, Dan defined ‘Irrationality‘ by covering topics on Visual and Decision Illusions, Defaults, Do We Know Our Preferences?, Choice Sets and Relativity, The Long-lasting Effects of Decisions, Learning from Our Mistakes. The most fascinating area for me is the application of Defaults. It’s indeed happening in our daily life; everyday, everywhere, with everyone; and it’s just so rarely we question why we do the thing we do. Why is ‘being non-member’ at NTUC default but not the other way round? Why should you put ‘reply with N to opt out’ rather than ‘reply with Y to opt in’? (This is easy to answer but yea, you’ve got the idea!)

The second most fascinating thing I’ve also learned is we all are making decisions based on our intuition which is constantly made up of visual and decision illusion. And this is why we are prone to make wrong or unjustifiable decisions, on a daily basis. Having that said, we – human beings make a lot of mistakes. There is one interesting point that Dan brings up in the last lecture about ‘Learning from our mistakes’ which dawns on me. It was when he mentioned the experience of getting the bandages removed, fatally painful for him but he wasn’t aware that it was also painful (in another category) for the nurse performing the removal until the nurse approached him to let him know a few years later. Intuitionally, the nurse appeared to be calm and professional, which created an illusion that she wasn’t having any suffering and for this she was discounted from the painful experience that Dan had.

In the same relatable way, I’ve been feeling uncomfortable lately for what I would just use #quarterlifecrisis to sum up. I thought that people don’t understand me. I thought that things go rouge because others care less than i do. I thought that I am not listened to. I am tired of half-baked considerations, frustrated with broken promises, torn with indifference, trapped in neglection and crushed in being misunderstood . Because of all this, I have been being a PITA (pain in the ass) for everyone close to me. Now, I calmly step a step back and see if ‘my pain is also in some ways others’ pains‘? When things go rouge, isn’t me the only one who suffers? When promises are broken, isn’t me the only one who feels sorry? When I’m down, am I dragging anyone down with me? Often times, we are so self-centered that potentially false intuitions get to lead our emotions and ride on our feelings. We only see the issues pressing on our personal self and we discount all other factors/people in the picture.

So to avoid all the #dramabanana, Dan suggests using the computer-hacker approach. That is breaking down everything that happens into smaller pieces and find the knot that we can untie or figure out the part where we can optimize or fix. Always doubt your intuition and experiment! This is obviously ideal and I would definitely take this personally for me to apply on my own thinking process. However, I was just wondering if this will be applicable (yet and selectively) on a larger scale (say, for organizations, corporates etc) when practically the days are getting shorter and all business operations are expected to be completed ridiculously faster.

To sum up, if you are super duper curious and have all kinds of funny questions about human behaviors in your head (like me :P), I do seriously recommend you check out the course, or at least watch the lectures (if you don’t aim for the certificate). It’s totally worth your time, I promise 🙂


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