Today's Poor Decisions Are Fuel for Tomorrow's Better Ones

Let's stop seeing our faults as unfortunate ends and start treating them like stepping stones to progress.


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We recently asked Duke University psychologist Dan Ariely whether the study of behavioral economics, of which he is among the world's foremost experts, is an optimistic or pessimistic approach to evaluating human decision-making. You can view his response in the video below, a preview clip for our upcoming Big Think Edge course on decision-making:

If you're not familiar with the concept of behavioral economics, think of it as a study of all the many different elements — emotions, social factors, irrational thinking, etc. — that contribute to human decision-making, as well as how outside parties can take advantage of predictable behaviors. In essence, scholars like Ariely analyze lazy thinking, gullibility, and other forms of irrationality. As he mentions in the video, making a career out of that sort of studying can get pretty dispiriting if you allow it. Yet Ariely chooses not to take that approach. He doesn't just focus on the faults of human nature; he embraces the fact that we've got so much room to grow. In this way, Ariely maintains his optimism in the face of overwhelming evidence that there are over 7 billion irrational people on this planet making major decisions every day.

Ariely makes an excellent point here:

"Our goal as scientists is to figure out where we go wrong and what can we do to not let our nature destroy ourselves and the world. And hopefully get to a slightly better outcome."

Instead of seeing our faulty decisions as unfortunate ends, we need to start treating them like stepping stones to progress. This is the lesson Ariely brings to the table in our upcoming Big Think Edge course on decision-making. The Duke psychologist is joined by other visionary leaders with a diverse array of expertise: economist Larry Summers, former Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner, Nobel Laureate Daniel Kahneman, retired Army General Stanley McChrystal, science educator Julia GalefNew Yorker writer Maria Konnikova, and more. This array of experts will provide advice and guidance to help you better your decision-making and execution strategies.

Ariely is confident we lowly humans have the potential to move past our brain's preferred shortcuts and create our better selves. Remember to allow today's poor decisions to inform your decision-making tomorrow, and the next day. Sometimes the best decisions are the ones you don't make twice.

Learn more about Big Think Edge.

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