Monday, December 22, 2014

AHA moments

This article is a self-help piece for improving your decision making.  Many of the decisions we make day in and day out are made while on autopilot.  We don’t really think about what evidence is primarily driving our decision process and so pre-existing beliefs, the path of least effort, and identity-resonating behaviors often dominate much more than they should. 

The idea of the Aha journal is that whenever you make a decision that has salient enough consequences that it wakes you out of autopilot, you should write it down.  Write down what happened and why you think you chose wrong. This is important because if you don’t, it is easy to attribute it with minimal consciousness to an exception and not bother to even remember the event.  Your decisions will never improve.  But if you train yourself to notice irregularities and inconsistencies, and then make an immediate effort to investigate which of your preexisting beliefs or expectations led you astray, you can learn to be more metacognitively aware and better prepared for decisions in the future. 

This is a talent I am not sure we all have in us.  It requires a very high level of open-mindedness, cognitive focus, and future-thinking.  You also have to be willing to handle identity-dissonance - being able to admit your fallibility.  It is easy to say you can do each of these, plan to do each of these, and imagine yourself doing each of these.  But actually doing them is another story.

The Takeaway

If you can force yourself to keep the Aha moment journal and be open minded enough to be honest about it, this can lead to a huge improvement in your decisions.  It would be applicable across the board for making decisions at work, home life, personal health, socially, and more.  Not only would you get better at specific decisions that you make all the time, but just the ability to maintain metacognitive awareness can make new decisions more reliable by identifying likely shortcuts in advance.

I would recommend an additional piece to the description in the article that might make it easier to get some benefit from an Aha journal (if you are not so great at it) or to make it more powerful (if you are already good at it).  Take the list of Aha moments in your diary and mine it for regularities.  Even if some specific biases don’t occur repeatedly, you might be able to find some similarities.  Perhaps you are often subject to identity-resonance biases but not so much the least effort bias.  That would be enough to help out in many cases. 

Your Turn

Do you have any practices like this?  Please share. Are you willing to give the Aha journal a try?  Let us know how it turns out.