Business people entering a building. — Image © Tim Sandle
Our brains are at the centre of everything we do in business and in life. We are constantly thinking through our actions, decisions, and emotions in order to go about our days. Whilst, as important as our mind is to our success, it can also hinder us from pursuing our goals.
One of the things that gets in the way of effective business activities are what are referred to as “mind traps”. These are errors in thinking that impact a person’s ability to act and perform effectively in their jobs.
Often people do not even realize they are stuck inside a mind trap until it is actively pointed out to them.
These are some key observations from businessman Brandon Dawson, author of Nine-Figure Mindset: How to Go from Zero to Over $100 Million in Net Worth. Dawson observes that identifying different mind traps and evaluating whether or not you may be stuck in one is the first step in moving past the trap and becoming a more effective business owner or leader.
Dawson has provided Digital Journal with the five most common mind traps he has come across in his career.
The Spotlight Effect
According to Dawson: “The Spotlight Effect is when people tend to overestimate how much others are observing and judging them. A desire to be liked and understood is typical of human nature, but it is easy to let this instinct affect how we go about our lives.”
He adds: “If you are constantly thinking about what others think about you or worrying about their judgment, you are giving up valuable mental space to push yourself forward and accomplish your goals. You may also be less likely to take calculated risks that could make or break your path to success because of how others might perceive you and your choices. This is a super common mind trap, but one that is fairly easy to overcome if you’re open to shifting your mindset in a few different ways.”
To challenge this, Dawson states: “First, it’s important to put others’ judgment into perspective. Sure, people will have their opinions about certain things you do or say, but most of the time, they are more focused on their own challenges and goals than observing yours. There are only so many hours in a day, and people don’t have time to waste constantly watching your every move.”
Second, according to Dawson: “Know that being liked and being respected are different things, and being liked is not a requirement for your success. In fact, I’d much rather someone respect me but not like me than vice versa. Being liked means people enjoy being around you or spending time with you, but that does not always equal respect, which means that people trust your judgment and will often put your needs before their own.”
The Halo Effect
The Halo Effect is a cognitive bias where a person’s positive impression of a particular attribute of a person or object influences their overall judgment of it.
Dawson describes this as: “If you like someone or have positive experiences with them, it makes it much harder to objectively evaluate their actions or communication with you, and it may become harder to see red flags or protect yourself from harm at the hands of this person. While easy to overcome, the Halo Effect can be detrimental to your success if it goes unrecognized and unaddressed for too long. Now, I’m not saying you should never form positive relationships with people, but what I am saying is that you need to remain as objective and neutral as possible when it comes to their influence on your life or decisions.”
For example, Dawson states: “Let’s say you meet someone at a networking event and have an amazing conversation with that person. They seem nice, funny, and driven, but you don’t know much about them otherwise. This person approaches you a few weeks later with a business idea and asks for your investment, but you see flaws in the business plan. The Halo Effect may talk you into investing without truly evaluating the risks, which could have big consequences. In order to overcome the Halo Effect, make sure you’re not making rash decisions based on emotions alone in any scenario, but especially in a business context. Take the time to weigh the risks and benefits of decisions and evaluate if your positive impression of a person is weighing more heavily than it should on your choice.”
The Anchoring Effect
The Anchoring Effect is the tendency to use a starting point or anchor when making guesses or decisions.
Dawson finds: “In other words, this mind trap occurs when you rely too heavily on whatever information you got first and rely less heavily on subsequent information. More often than not, the first piece of information you receive about a topic is not the most important, and, depending on the context, it may be inflated or exaggerated information in order to grab attention. If you are taking that first piece of information and using that to establish your opinion, you’re not weighing all of the information holistically and forming a fully fleshed-out decision or action plan. You’re also using potentially unreliable information as your basis instead of evaluating all information for accuracy and reliability. It can be easy to latch onto the first information you receive, but in order to overcome the Anchoring Effect, you need to resist the temptation to do so and instead be an active listener and evaluator of all facts before jumping to conclusions.”
The Contrast Effect
The Contrast Effect is when we judge two things while comparing them to each other instead of assessing them individually.
Dawson observes: “Comparison is a very helpful tool that everyone uses every day to evaluate opportunities, people, or situations, but it can be potentially harmful to your decision-making in a few different ways.”
And on this he finds:
- First, it’s unrealistic and unhelpful to compare apples to oranges because the two things you’re comparing are completely different from each other. This will yield a biased and inaccurate comparison because of the heavy contrast.
- Secondarily, a comparison will really only give you a limited amount of information to base your decision on — you’re simply assessing the comparison instead of the things themselves, which will uncover a multitude of additional information that will be crucial to a decision.
To overcome this, Dawson advises: “Similarly to the Anchoring Effect, in order to break free of the Contrast Effect, it’s important to gather as much information about two options or things before forming an opinion. This will allow you to look at a decision holistically and understand all angles, including the risks and benefits.”
Lastly, Confirmation Bias is the tendency to cherry-pick information that confirms our existing beliefs or ideas.
Dawson indicates: “I think everyone is guilty of Confirmation Bias sometimes because no one likes to admit they’re wrong. But, an opinion or idea with one-sided information is not effective and will set you up for others to poke holes. When you have an idea or belief, it’s okay to find supporting evidence or arguments that align, but it’s even more important to find conflicting evidence so you can either change your belief or address it when you present ideas. Being conscious of Confirmation Bias is the first step in overcoming it, and then it’s all about information gathering and painting a fuller picture of your beliefs, even if there’s a significant amount of contrasting evidence.”
To redress this, Dawson notes: “Awareness is the first step to understanding and overcoming these mindsets. There’s a reason these are called mind “traps,” and that’s because they hold you in place and stop you from growing and pursuing your dreams, but understanding these mind traps is half the battle to overcome them.”