3 Shocking Thinking Mistakes You Make & 3 Giant Pitfalls to Avoid for BETTER DECISIONS


How did I get this one wrong?  It was by far the biggest decision of my career.

A hell of a lot was at stake –

If I got it right I’d be a forward-looking genius, willing to risk everything for what I believe.

If not, it would be a financial disaster for the company and badly damage my reputation.

So I carefully looked over the facts and figures that were available to me.

I even took the time to consult with two of my most trusted colleagues.

I made an objective decision…or did I?

Let’s rewind…

After reviewing all the relevant information I decided to meet with the colleagues before making my final decision.

I knew they’d both give me honest opinions, even after hearing which way I was leaning.

I really liked the opinion presented by colleague A so I quickly took her input on board.

Although I also valued colleague B’s opinion, I ignored the facts and reasons he presented as they weren’t aligned with mine.

Needless to say, things didn’t go as I expected.

I see now that if I’d taken the information presented by B into consideration, I would have made a much better decision.

I obviously surrounded myself with information and opinions that matched my beliefs…

Has this ever happened to you? Maybe not a career make-or-break decision but in another situation where your brain made a thinking error?

This is known as the confirmation bias, a common but flawed pattern in how we think.

Incidentally, this bias applies to everyone no matter how well-educated or intelligent.

It is natural to surround yourself with information that matches your beliefs.  If you didn’t, you wouldn’be be human.

In fact, your brain seeks out information that confirms your beliefs.

In this article I’m going to show you 2 more dangerous thinking patterns and give you 3 tips to avoid these pitfalls so that you can make better decisions.




Chutes & Ladders1When I was growing up there was a popular board game called “Chutes & Ladders”.

The objective of the game was to reach square 100 but in order to make it to the end you had to avoid the “chutes” or pitfalls that could send you back to the beginning.

However, the “ladders” could help you jump ahead on your goal to reach the hundredth square.

Here are 2 more common pitfalls you might encounter on your journey to the winning goals:

Pitfall 1:

You’ve been watching an item on eBay for a few days now.

At this point you’ve probably invested a good 2 ½ -3 hours in this auction so far.

And now, the real bidding has started…

In the final minutes leading up to the final bid the price has increased far beyond what you were willing to pay when you started a few days ago.

But you’ve invested way too much time and energy to turn back now.

3…2…1…You got it!  You’ve won…or have you?

You’ve paid much more than you wanted to, and possibly more than the thing is worth brand new.

Don’t worry, you’re not crazy.  You simply experienced the very normal sunk cost fallacy.

As you had already invested or lost a lot of time and energy (sunk), you weren’t about to walk away.

Perhaps now totally clear, but not at all clear when your emotions were involved.

Pitfall 2:

Image you’re planning a day trip to the mountains with your friends and family, including a big outdoor picnic.

It has rained the last three weekends so you think it’s safe to plan it for this upcoming weekend as the odds are clearly in your favor…or are they?

If you decide to go and it rains you would fall victim to the classic gambler’s fallacy – illogically placing too much weight on past events believing they will have an effect on future outcomes.

You have simply confused memory with reality.  The logical truth is that past events make absolutely no difference to odds.

If you have experienced one or more of the above scenarios it doesn’t mean you have bad judgment or poor decision-making skills.

It simply means that you are human. We are, after all, illogical creatures.

Understanding how emotions can override logic is the first step in building the ladders to help you avoid the chutes.

To read about some fascinating experiments and interesting facts on more pitfalls, see 8 Common Thinking Mistakes Our Brains Make Every Day and How to Prevent Them.



Generally speaking there are two over-arching kinds of decision making:

Type A: While crossing the street a car comes out of nowhere and is speeding right at you…

Type B: You’ve been asked to take a 2-year job assignment abroad.

Type A requires a quick decision from the “gut”, type B a slower more rational approach with the mind.

For type B decisions, here are 2 models which can help:  How to Rise to the Decision-Making Challenge Like a Champion.

In the past these two kinds of decision-making were often separated by matters of the heart (gut instinct) and the head (rational mind).

However, new science points to the need for both, regardless of the situation or needed decision.

In fact, “the more you pay attention to the outcome of trusting your intuition in combination with the facts, the better your future decision making can become,” according to neuroscientist Antonia Damasio of the University of Southern California.

Read more on recent research presented by Lydia Dishman in Scientific Proof That Your Gut Is Best at Making Decisions.



In addition to understanding these common pitfalls of decision-making, here are 3 more tips to avoid these thinking mistakes:

1. Widen Your Options

Remember the sound advice before a complicated medical procedure to get at least 3 opinions.  The same goes for any big decision.

More options will prevent you from having to choose between option 1 and option 2.

Option 2 might be better than option 1 but that doesn’t make it a good option.

2. Get Some Distance

Have you ever gotten the advice to “sleep on it” before confronting someone or making a big purchase?  Well, this was great advice.

Distance will give you some needed perspective and allow you to think about potential consequences of taking an impulsive action.

This may or may not affect your final course of action but it’s better to wait just in case.

3. Provide for Unexpected Outcomes

What could be the worst case if the decision doesn’t work out as planned?

Think about the potential consequences of decisions and plan for how you would handle the worst case scenarios or other unexpected results.



Be aware of these common, human mistakes – learning about them can be eye-opening and sometimes painfully funny!

Learn how the brain works and recognize that it doesn’t always use the best judgement when emotions are involved.

Whenever possible, take a step back and look at the big picture.

Take the time to examine the facts available to you and gather different opinions (this allows you to see the situation more objectively).

Don’t base a big decision on your gut instinct only without at least objectively exploring the data first.

Understanding these 3 thinking pitfalls in the article will help you avoid making poor decisions.

These 3 smart tips will help you make better ones.


Which of these pitfalls have you experienced?  Please share what happened and what you learned?

1 Comment

  • Tim

    Reply Reply December 21, 2015

    Which thinking mistakes are missing from my list?

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