The one thing I did to design a life I love, one that was catered to my own needs was to stop taking career advice.
I began thinking for myself.
Ironically, I do have a coaching business where I give life, health, and career “advice” but hear me out.
1) There is conventional advice.
For example, “we must have a stable career, and salary and make upwards of six figures to be happy.”
2) And there is advice— formed from someone else’s experience.
Example of advice from your single friend: “I quit my job and now I get to work from wherever and whenever I want. I’m so happy! You should do the same!”
3) Then there is advice or an opinion, you form where you take all of everything into consideration to form a relevant solution tailored specifically for your needs.
For example, I have a great job with a high salary but I’m not satisfied and I want more time to spend with my family. I can’t just quit my job because I’m the breadwinner… but perhaps I can spend 30min each day learning a new skill.
What I’m saying is that once you start thinking for yourself, your world will change.
This was easier for me because I grew up with a contrarian mindset since I was exposed to books and ideas at a very early age, and then I became a dedicated athlete at 20 (my dad was a triathlete) which helped develop a growth mindset.
Others may have not developed these interests early on but it’s never too late to learn anything.
I’m going to provide you with some tools to kickstart you on your journey so you start thinking for yourself.
In order to think for yourself:
- you need to recondition your mind to think differently (unlearning is harder than learning)
- you need to continuously collect data (information or experiences)
- understand how to interpret the data (through repetition and self-reflection)
- never stop learning or be open to opposing views so you are constantly exposed to new data
- repeat this cycle over and over
You can’t live for yourself if you don’t know yourself.
An Important Question: Do You Know Who You Are?
Most people think they know themselves but they don’t.
Because our brains are strange things that are basically wired to keep us alive and littered with cognitive biases which are subconscious errors in thinking.
Does our brain make errors?!
Yes! Fortunately and unfortunately…
Cognitive biases are unconscious and automated processes designed to make decision-making efficient.
A Lesson On Cognitive Biases
Do you ever find yourself looking for evidence on social media to validate what you know or surround yourself with friends who only agree with you? You trash all other information that challenges them. That’s called confirmation bias; when you interpret new information as confirmation of your preexisting beliefs.
Do you find yourself making decisions based on something you learned a long time ago that may be obviously outdated to others? That’s anchoring bias; when people rely too heavily on the very first piece of information they learn
Do you ever hear yourself saying, “I told you so!” That’s hindsight bias; when we perceive past events as more predictable than they actually were.
There Are Many Types Of Cognitive Biases
Biases tend to lead us to misinterpret information because they force us to take quick mental shortcuts and rely on heuristics to make decisions. Now that seems silly considering we are supposed to be intellectual beings at top of the food chain, but that’s exactly why we are here.
Cognitive biases exist because our world is incredibly complex and our mind simply cannot process the 11 million bits of information coming at us per second when it can only process about 40 bits per second.
Without these biases, we would do the same as dogs lounging at moving cars or birds— because their undeveloped brains are overwhelmed by sensory data in our environment.
Unless you begin the hard work of self-examination, inner work, and diving deep into your subconscious where most of your true thoughts, behaviors, habits, and emotions lie, you will be a prisoner of these biases.
How to Overcome Cognitive Biases
Fortunately, we can take advantage of neuroplasticity and train our minds to adopt new patterns of thinking. Our brain has an incredible ability to change and adapt from experiences called ‘neuroplasticity’. This is achieved through repetition.
- Be Aware. Simply bringing these biases into your existence gives you the power to judge it from a different perspective. Remember, your mind can’t fix what it doesn’t understand.
- Look out for your own patterns. Catch yourself when you feel triggered and ask yourself, “why am I feeling this way.” Journaling your thoughts and answers will accelerate your personal growth.
- Identify what makes you uncomfortable and embrace the opposite. Go out there and expose yourself to new experiences, that way you can expand the “database” that is our minds.
- Stay curious. Extreme curiosity will keep your brain stimulated and your life interesting. Do this by questioning everything and not being afraid to ask questions. Always be a student— there is never an end to learning.
- Seek multiple perspectives. Surround yourself with people with opposing views. Ditch the acquaintances who suck up to you. Those keep you stuck in your bubble, feeding your ego, and preventing you from coming out of your own biases.
- Have variety. Consume content, read books, and listen to podcasts on subjects that are completely different than what you normally consume.
- “Do Your Research.” Ah, everyone’s favorite line during the pandemic. But seriously, if you don’t agree with something, research the side you don’t agree with thoroughly before forming an opinion. We often disagree because we don’t understand. It’s easier to brush things aside than to do the work and learn about it (run away versus towards). So let’s agree to disagree and all do our ‘research’, okay? That means the ‘research’ on the side of the argument you supposedly don’t agree with.
Overcoming cognitive biases is a lifelong journey and you will never get rid of them entirely.
Our brains will always gravitate toward biases so the only solution is to strengthen our minds to catch ourselves every time they appear.
Just like forming any other type of habit, if we repetitively do things listed above, it will only get easier over time because we are fundamentally forming new ways of thinking by rewiring our brains.
We are breaking ourselves out of the mold.
Overcoming Cognitive Biases: Breaking Out Of The Mold
Speaking of molds, do you not agree with me that we are all conditioned to think a certain way from birth?
Our parents, friends, that uncle you see every 5 years and some random person on Twitter bombarding you with unsolicited advice— our brains are absorbing all of this subconsciously and slowly changing you… and most of us are unaware of this sneaky conditioning.
Tieing this back to career advice, ask yourself:
Is the work I’m doing a culmination of what I think I’m supposed to be doing because everyone else is doing it? Am I living life on my own terms or am I doing it because society tells you this is the only way?
Now, I’m not here to disrupt anyone who is truly content with their life but there are many of us who will begin to ask questions at some point in our lives.
But if you ever start to feel a tug— in the form of anxiety, a moment of despair, fear, or even depression… it may be a good thing. We only feel those negative emotions because our brain is telling us something in our lives needs to be changed.
So let’s stop asking for specific career advice externally. Let’s turn our focus internally and start asking ourselves what we truly want.
I don’t have the answer to your destiny but I gave you some tools to understand your brain and overcome cognitive biases, and I hope that will lead you down your own rabbit hole into personal development to further explore your subconscious.
That is where all your true desires lie waiting for you to go deep enough to uncover the buried treasure. It may sound a little vague and mysterious but the journey to inner work is a…. journey. Everyone’s journey is different and it’s up to you to find your own path.
Remember, unlearning is harder than learning.
You have decades of conditioning to undo but don’t worry, it’s not as bad as it sounds.
The secret is to learn how your brain works.
Once you are in control of your thoughts, you are in control of your life.