Overcome your overconfidence bias

“There is nothing like success to blind one to the possibility of failure.” – Roger Lowenstein

Every day we hold onto certain kind of expectations about ourselves, others and about our circumstances. These expectations we hold about ourselves directly influence our attitudes, decisions, behaviours, perspectives, as well as interactions with others. To succeed in our goals and to achieve our objectives, we must have a realistic assessment of our expectations. Being confident that your expectations will be met is important in business or work and life in general. But confidence is not about having it all. Instead, it’s about being okay with whatever you have and using it to its best potential. However, If you don’t use it wisely, it turns into overconfidence which then turns against you. It is important not to be overconfident. For instance. being overconfident while making a decision, you may overlook something important or might not look at all because you are confident that you already know what to choose. 

You might be creative, hardworking, ambitious and might think you are much better in what you do. At the same time. you also might allow the confidence you gain from your talents to delude you into believing that you could do everything else to the same level of success in other areas. As a result, you become overconfident in your abilities. Such thinking can make you think that you’re invaluable to your company or in the work you do where in fact almost anyone could do your job. Research shows that we overestimate our precision of information that we have about a situation and thus tend to believe something is much more likely to occur than it really is. Such bias from overconfidence is quite prevalent where most of us believe that our judgments and decisions are better than they really are.

So, what is a overconfidence bias?

Overconfidence bias is in which people demonstrate unwarranted faith in their own intuitive reasoning, judgments or cognitive abilities. It is a tendency to hold a false and misleading assessment of our skills, knowledge, intellect or talent. You might come across such bias in yourself or in people around you in your personal or professional environments. You may see yourself a more capable than your colleagues, more knowledgeable or even ethical and talented.

What causes overconfidence bias?

Emotional and cognitive distortion that creates overconfidence can be a major hindrance to any form of success. Overconfidence bias might occur after recent success or because of a sense of self-importance. Sometimes it may be due to social pressure when the stakes are high as people tend to act on pretended knowledge as a preferred solution. It is also caused by doubt-avoidance, inconsistency-avoidance, incentives, denial and due to believing first and doubting later.

Sometimes, we all become victims of our own delusions of self-confidence where we begin to see ourselves valuable, honest and intelligent. We start viewing our successes as the result of our own efforts attributing it to our natural abilities thereby forgetting the others contributions or timing and other factors. We fail to recognise that skill in one area doesn’t always translate to skills in another. Each success confirms our heightened self-image creating overconfidence bias.

Overconfidence is something that can make us blind to the mistakes in our decisions and thought processes. It further manifests into overestimation where you overestimate your actual abilities, performance, the amount of control you have , or your chance of success. It also can manifest into overplacement where you believe that your position is higher than those of around you. Like for instance, you think you received higher score than your friend and in reality, your friend receives better scores than you do, in this situation, you have overplaced your scores. And it also manifests into overprecision when you are confident that you are correct.

Why overconfidence bias is bad for you?

Overconfidence affects your judgments and decisions in different ways. Here are some ways in which it does.

Over ranking

Overconfidence affects a people’s judgment as it relates their own personal performance as higher than it actually is. Generally, most of us think we are better at something than we really are and we are less likely to admit when we are not as good as we would like to be. This can cause problems as it can make you feel more valuable within a team or group or workplace and may end up taking too many risks. This creates a pattern for failure as your skills do not match up to your beliefs.

Illusion of control

This happens with the idea that if we can quantify something, we can measure it, understand it, and thus manage it.

Believing that you have more control over a situation than you actually do leads to you taking unnecessary risk, or inability to assess the risk involved in the situation. Also, this can lead to wrong decisions and choices in both personal and professional matters. Failure to accurately assess risk leads to failure in managing and accomplishing your goals.

Desirability effect

The desirability effect happens when people overestimate the odds of something happening simply because the outcome of a situation is desirable. This is also a type of overconfidence bias. Many times, this leads to many mistakes and faulty behaviours simply because we believe our desired outcome is more probable just because that’s the outcome we want.

Timing optimism

This occurs when we are too optimistic about how quickly we can perform a task and underestimate how long it takes to get things done. One outcome of over-confidence is missed deadlines and delayed projects on account of the planning fallacy. When is the last time that you finished any task or project early? And this leads to creating unrealistic project plans in hopes that the future will somehow be different than the present.

Overconfidence bias can do a lot of damage to your relationships, career, financial or investing choices, business and your productivity levels. Overconfidence bias leads to many errors in various walks of our daily lives. It becomes a major hindrance when it comes to improving your understanding of a situation.

• You misjudge your value, opinion, beliefs or abilities or you may oversimplify things.

• You may not prepare properly for a situation or may get into a situation that you are not equipped to handle.

• You may procrastinate to failure because of your timing optimism.

• Overestimating your abilities causes missed deadlines, shoddy performance and stress at the cost of your money, time, and your well-being.

• You may take excessive risks and make decisions that are not beneficial to you or your team.

• Being overconfident can affect your work, attitude and behaviour towards others.

• Leads to unreal expectations and makes you more vulnerable to disappointment.

How to avoid overconfidence bias?

Biased way of looking at a situation is considered as the most pervasive and potentially damaging of all the cognitive biases to which most of us fall victim. Almost all of us suffer from some kind of overconfidence bias in various situations. Here are few ways to stay unbiased.

• Past successes inflates our perception of our own abilities. When your self-image becomes tied to your last success, you may tend to overlook your mistakes and become judgmental. Success in past or expertise is no guarantee of future success. Just because you had a string of correct decisions has no bearing on the one you face now. Treat each new decision as if it were your first. Discuss the matter objectively and make a thorough assessment of the risk involved.

• Overconfidence by its very nature, distorts your own image of reality. It is important to recheck your facts about a situation. Disregard your initial judgment about a situation and check the validity of your assumptions. Develop habits and systems that provide feedback to stay connected to reality. Each success brings you closer to overconfidence and complacency. Cultivating a realistic attitude towards your successes and failures prevents you from untoward consequences.

• With overconfidence bias, you tend to ignore criticism and you might get into a false sense of security. Acknowledging your mistakes instead of blaming others helps you clear your heads of any hubris that might cloud your judgment. Reflecting as to what plans worked and what decisions yielded good results and what decisions ended up wrong, you can use your mistakes and failures as learning opportunities. When you get criticised, instead of defending, deal with it constructively to help improve yourself.

• As we accomplish more and more things, it is easy to believe that what we are doing is right. Trying to control every situation or believing that your contribution to a decision is more valuable than it actually is or trying to handle everything yourself or insisting that your way is the only way is a recipe for disaster. Recognising the role that others had in your success will keep you grounded and focusing on your specific role in failures will remind you that you have areas that you can improve.

• Look at multiple perspectives and think through the implication and consequences of a belief or an action. Alternate perspectives push you out of your comfort zone and force you to think critically and you may discover better way of doing things or improve yourself instead of giving into your overconfidence bias. Healthy discussions always give you new perspectives and let’s you see ways of doing things or improving yourself. So when making decision, be humble, seek out new perspectives and be well-informed to take into consideration of all the factors and risks involved.

• During our decision-making process or while making a choice, we first assess the familiarity of the options or opinions and search for facts in order to construct an explanation about why the familiar option is true. An explanation forms in our mind that really seems right and we tend to focus on that first familiar option which may not be right. Instead of option-fixation, make a best possible guess, then assume that guess is inaccurate, and then generate plausible reasons for why the guess was inaccurate. Research shows that overconfidence is reduced after listing the arguments that contradict the reasoning that lead to the guess and often the more estimates that are averaged the better, so long as they are based on different reasoning. This will minimise risk. Keeping your thinking in present instead of outcome lets you focus on what is needed right now and much more realistic and more achievable.

• The inherent state of overconfidence is strong when projecting our beliefs about our future. We tend to overestimate our ability to predict the time frame as we tend to put higher probability on desired events than undesired events. Work is always better done when more time is spent on it. Try to give yourself a bit more time than your first estimate. Double it if you can for completion of your tasks or projects. The more time you give yourself, the less chance you take of missing deadlines.

To conclude,

We all fall victim to moments and sometimes stretches of over-confidence which often end with disappointment or failure. And yet, despite what we think we have learned for next time, we continue to be over-optimistic about our abilities and the state of the future. The same mistakes occur again and again. We often take into account only our planning and generally ignore external factors and tend to indulge in over-assessment of our expectations and capabilities. We rate our competence too high and plunge into overconfidence bias. If over-confidence is not constantly checked, it leads to poor outcomes, failures and disappointments. To overcome this bias, you need to install objectivity into your systems and thinking. Keep yourself responsible and objective and try the above techniques to consciously confront overconfidence bias before it distorts your view of reality.

Practice being non-judgmental

“You May judge others only according to your knowledge of yourself.”- Kahlil Gibran

We all have a natural innate tendency to be drawn to those similar to us and judge or criticise those who are different. Whenever we come across people who have different values, lifestyles or preferences, we tend to categorise them in a negative way or either criticise or think that they are wrong. Compartmentalizing, better known as judging, aids us in defining who and what we are. Sometimes, we judge a whole group of people by the action of one individual and make assumptions about their behaviour based on single person’s actions. Many of us are aware that prejudice or being judgmental is wrong, but get trapped eventually into biased thought patterns. In order to become non-judgmental and to be aware of our preconceived notions about others, we need to change our view of others and how we ourselves.

What is being judgmental?

Being judgmental is the tendency to criticise or form an opinion or to come to a conclusion about something too quickly without totally being aware of the person or the situation involved. To infer, think or hold as an opinion, or assess or conclude without knowing all the facts leads to assumptions. These assumptions can be on a person’s behaviour, morals, actions or beliefs. Assumptions often lead to inaccurate judgment. Even if your opinions are justified, criticising others ususally makes them wary and defensive of their faults or mistakes.

Jumping to conclusions rather easily, making up your mind before you hear all the facts, or not even keen on listening to what others are saying, all these traits indicate that you are being judgmental. While no one necessarily likes to admit that they evaluate and label others, sometimes it happens so subconsciously that we don’t even realize we’re judfing. Because judgments are ingrained so deeply that it can be hard to break the habit of labeling others or generalizing a person or situation.

“Judging a person does not define who they are. It defines who you are.”– Wayne Dyer

Why do we judge others?

We all like judging others and pass our judgments of others very publicly. It feels harmless to pass our judgment of others as it can give you an instant high and create a temporary sense of power and make you feel good. But, there’s a downside to us being judgmental. It causes unhappiness, guilt, and negativity. We almost become opinionated about many things and people. Due to increased access to one another, we develop a judgmental attitude on just about everything and everyone, from choices, tastes, habits, views and beliefs.

The main reason we become judgmental is because of our own perception of ourselves in comparison to others and could also be a sign of deeper negativity. Here are some reasons why we judge others. We judge

  • When we are ignorant of what the other person is going through.
  • When we don’t understand the situation.
  • When we have unrealistic expectations of people.
  • When we are being superior to others.
  • Being self-centered and not being grateful or curious.

Being judgmental of people and situations only signifies your discontentment and the more you judge, the more you fear being judged. This undermines your self-esteem and makes you turn to your inner-critic giving rise to fallacies and biases. According to a research, the more positively someone described the other person, the more likely they were to be happy, kind-hearted, and emotionally stable themselves. Those who are judgmental were harsh and more likely to be narcissistic and unstable.

Why you should stop being judgmental

Being prejudiced can be bad for your well-being. You sabotage your confidence and potential by being too judgmental of yourself and others. Here is why you should stop being judgmental

  • Being prejudiced, you may stop yourself from trying something new because you already come to conclusions that either you wouldn’t like to do or may not be worth doing a particular task. These conclusions may or may not be true. Instead, by being non-judgmental, you can open yourself to new experiences and try doing something new which you may eventually find it exciting.
  • You cannot build better relations if you are always judgmental as others feel hesitant to share everything about them because you either ridicule them or judge them. However, by being non-judgmental, you create a safe environment to share and they can trust you to do so and can build better relationships with others.
  • Being judgmental leads to non-acceptance of things as they are and makes you resistant to change or adopt yourself to new and different environments and beliefs.  Being non-judgmental leads to acceptance of things as they are and you can develop more resilience to other people’s judgment of you.  This way, you don’t get weigh down by trying to figure out the opinions of others.
  • By frequently forming conclusions or judgments of others, you end up creating lot of negativity in yourself and in those around you. You cannot attain freedom of being your true self and also cannot see others inherent true self. You cannot find your inner-peace as it makes you frustrated and unhappy.

How do you become non-judgmental?

If we realize how habitually we come judgmental, we can try and unlearn that behavior. We cannot solve a problem or help any situation form place of judgment. One of the best changes you can make to help yourself be happier is by learning to let go of your judgment of others.  Here are few ways to let go of your prejudice and become non-judgmental.

Develop awareness of others before you get judgmental about them. Sometimes we grow unhappy with the things we notice in our friends or kids or co-workers because we judge them for what they are doing. It may be their unhealthy habits, or behavior and so on. we start labeling them without understanding what they are going through. We are all human. We must remind ourselves that we all have our own weaknesses; we all make wrong decisions.There might be other reasons behind their such behavior, maybe it is their health problem, either they are feeling stuck, or scared. Focus on their positives to try and understand the reason behind and get curious in knowing what they are going through.

Be aware of your judgmental thoughts. Explore how being judgmental about others makes you feel. If you feel angry or dismissive of someone, if you’re complaining of someone, commenting or gossiping about them, these are the signs that you are judging. Pay attention to such thoughts and instead of coming to conclusions, ask yourself, “why are you judging?”, “What unrealistic expectations you have about others or yourself?’, “what can you appreciate in other person?”, “what would you do if you were going through similar situation?”, “Where is this thought coming from?”, ‘Is this thought fair?’ or ‘Are you making any assumptions?’. Once you understand the irrational nature of your judgmental thoughts, you will be able to actively challenge your assumptions and can see your prejudice irrational.

Figure out the roots of your judgmental thoughts. Look for some past beliefs you have that are influencing your preconceived opinions. Past prejudiced beliefs which you may have learned overtime may be the reason behind you being judgmental. Your true self is a combination of natural tendencies, experiences you have had and the choices you have made. When you have deep-seated beliefs about a group of people or a person, you begin to see those beliefs reflected in being judgmental towards others. Checking whether your beliefs are really true can help you to handle situations that are against your beliefs. This way, you can still respect the person who holds different views and beliefs than yours.

Be mindful of thoughts that are coming to your mind and words that you speak. it is okay to disagree with the thoughts or opinions expressed by other people. But it doesnt give you the right to judge them just because you dont agree with them. You must be mindful of how you respond, represent, and react to others. When you feel the urge to judge or speak in an unloving way,  practice to pause for a moment, and rephrase your internal thoughts before you communicate it to them. Dont deem someone’s actions as bad or good and avoid using words that are overtly negative or condescending.  The communication must be positive or at the very least not ill-spirited.

Consider others perspective before judging. Everyone has their personality that affects their behaviour. Before leaping to judgment or evaluating someone else’s actions or personality, place yourself in their shoes and understand where they are coming from and their perspective. Everyone makes choices according to their life circumstances. Not everyone has same experiences you have had. You must accept the fact that everyone has a free will to decide what they want to do and how they want to live. It is all relative to their story, values, and beliefs.  Be empathetic and look for basic goodness in everyone. By developing a helpful outlook to others, you can practice being non-judgmental towards them.

Finally, exposing yourself to different places, cultures, and people, you can begin to break your prejudiced thought patterns and you can adopt alternative ways of thinking. Sometimes what we consider normal in one place or culture may be different in other. The more you are able to accept the differences, the more you can practice being non-judgmental.

Conclusion

Judging is rooted deep within all of us. We pass unrighteous judgment on others based on our observations and interactions which creates the tone for why we place people into categories. But it is always possible to avoid our judgment of others if we practice being non-judgmental in our day to day behaviours and interpretations. Next time when you find yourself judging others, question yourself “am I judging them” and if you are, remind yourself of above mentioned strategies to break the cycle of judging.

“Be curious, not judgmental.” – Walt Whitman

Break your worry habit

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“There isn’t enough room in your mind for both worry and faith. You must decide which one will live here.”

Worry is something we all experience from time to time while some have a habit of worrying more than others. What sets worry apart from other emotional states is the extent it pollutes the emotional atmosphere around us. This emotional state can release negativity and stress-inducing vibes that negatively impact our lives. When we worry, we feel irritable, grumpy, cranky and on edge. Our tolerance gets lower and we are much more likely to be bothered by minor frustrations which we ordinarily shrug off. It surges our stress hormones and makes us sensitive and reactive to everything with a threat in sight. Worrying seriously effects your personal growth. It is self limiting and sometimes holds you back from taking up life changing opportunities.

What is worry?

Reduced to its simplest form, it is simply an unhealthy and destructive mental habit. The destructive quality of worry is further indicated by the fact that the word itself is derived from an Anglo-Saxon word meaning “to choke”! It is like what you do to yourself by long-held and habitual worry. Studies reveal that many cases of illnesses are brought on directly by fear, aggravated by worry and a feeling of insecurity.

How to manage your worry

Worries fall into number of domains like health, work, finances, fear of future, lack of confidence or a myriad of other issues.
Worrying most of the times is unnecessary and doesn’t do any good. It doesn’t change things and certainly doesn’t fix them. It only increases your stress and makes things seem worse than they already are.

We tend to acquire worry as a habit. As we can change any habit and acquired attitudes, we can be free of this habit too.
A direct action is essential to eliminate any undesired habit. So is to break the worry as a habit. Here are few ways to break worry as a habit.

Figure out the source

The best way to reduce worry is to figure out what is making you worrisome. Consider what might have caused the worry. Most of the times the issue that triggered the worry might be simple. It is often simple things that cause worry and the solutions can be sort out. Reflect upon things and disengage from the possible causes. Be honest with yourself about what is bothering you. Simply acknowledging can make you come out with plausible solutions. Don’t concern yourself with things you can’t do anything about.

Be conscious of worry thought patterns

Worry most of the times is illusionary. It creates “What-if” scenario or a scenario that doesn’t even exists. This false scenario is created with no clear explanation about how or what might happen. One reason we get worrier is that we saturate our minds with apprehension thoughts and gloomy thoughts. Most of the times we worry about things that never actually happen. It is important to address this worry thinking pattern. When a worrying thought arises, simply be conscious and aware of it, question how far it is true and then deal with it. Don’t fall prey to worry’s false scenario. Replace them with positive and faith producing thoughts. After you have done your best to deal with a situation, avoid speculating the outcome and go on to the next thing.

Avoid complicated thinking

“worry often gives a small thing a big shadow.”- Swedish Proverb

If your mind is too full of complicated ideas, take a moment to clear them out. Live with simple and positive attitude. Your distrust of others, doubts, or being emotional or trapped by inferiority complex may be the causes of your worry. Everyday many things happen that could be either seeds of happiness or seeds of trouble and anxiety. Try to keep rolling without worrying or dwelling too much over the tiny problems or disappointments. Think of the problems as opportunities for action.

Stop comparing yourself to others

Many worry that they are not clever or luckier in comparison with others. Some rate their own abilities too high. They feel that they could have done better than they are doing now, but in actual fact they are unable to keep up. The pain of jealousy and discontentment can become the cause of worry. As long as they compare themselves to others, they will not ultimately be winners. Their struggle for primacy becomes their worry. Rather than worrying being better than others, it is better to look at your own efforts. Evaluate yourself by reflecting and refining your own abilities. Evaluate yourself by assessing the growth and progress you made compared to an earlier period from your life.

Embrace your weaknesses and shortcomings

Many worry that they lack intelligence or other qualifications and abilities. Intelligence does not necessarily lead to success. You should not end up regarding them as absolutes. If you feel you are lacking in one area, you will find that you are gifted in some other field. People bemoan their lack of innate ability. If you worry about your innate ability, just remember in the final reckoning it is the amount you were able to grow, your rate of development, and the degree to which you exerted yourself that matters. Accept imperfections and focus on improvement.

Free yourself from expectations

Most of your worry springs from not being able to get what you wanted. This might be the pain of not being loved by others or of not being appreciated. The reason is that we cannot change the way others think and feel about you and if we focus on this too much it results in worry and frustration is born being unable to achieve the desired appreciation. It is you yourself who create your own worry by craving recognition and expecting others to acknowledge. If you have this tendency, make an effort to overcome it and practice self-appreciation and self-love.

Practice Gratitude

Worrying involves a negative state of mind and curbs your further potential. A lack of something, be it a relationship, confidence, self respect, happiness, career, or money causes discontentment and dissatisfaction. Focusing on what you lack is a major cause of worry for many. Gratitude creates positive state of mind and reduces worry. Do not take things you have for granted. Next time when you feel stressed about what you lack, be thankful for what you have and the things that are going well in your life.

Face your fears

The process of mind drainage is important in overcoming worry and fear thoughts, unless drained off, can clog the mind. Fear is just a comfort zone which needs to be broken. It is just a self limiting thought. Many of us paint scenarios about what could happen and what could go wrong. Each time you face the fear, the comfort zone is broken and you can come out of this negative state of mind. Fill your mind with thoughts of faith, hope and courage. You became a worrier by practicing worry. You can become free of it by practicing the opposite.

Finally, If you are worrying about something right now, take action by doing what you need to do to stop worrying. Shift your focus onto your goals and your purpose. We usually worry about things about future and often simple things. Remind yourself of the larger picture and things for which you can be grateful and reflect on your abilities and achievements.
Follow these simple steps to break your worry habit and you will start to see change.

“Drag your thoughts away from your troubles..by the ears, by the heels, or any other way you can manage it.”- Mark Twain