Wise Thinking #3: The Availability Goldmine
Why does Weight Watchers® work? Partly, it’s due to great tracking tools and the science behind the SmartPoints® system. Mostly, it’s because they nurture a powerful culture of success. In meetings and on the members-only social media site, people celebrate their own achievements and cheer one another on.
We’ve been talking about heuristics, tiny and easily overlooked mechanisms in your brain which drive you like a LIDAR drives a Waymo. We like to believe our decisions are based on fact, and we’re informed about the future. Often, without knowing it, our decisions are affected by the order in which we make them and our expectation for the future is tainted by our recent experiences. Heuristics can help us make decisions faster, but they are primitive, and we want to be wiser than Captain Caveman. If you’ve just joined the discussion, check out the first Wise Thinking article on Anchoring and the second on The Gambler’s Fallacy.
Why do social media and meetings boost your chances of weight loss? Why do I feel more spiritually peaceful when I attend church? Why do I feel more motivated after talking to a writer or successful entrepreneur? Why did I feel like America was on the verge of civil war last summer?
Let’s start with the last question. The Availability Heuristic makes us believe something is more likely to happen if we have a strong or recent memory of it occurring, or if someone’s told us an emotion-inducing story about it. The stronger the emotion, the more likely it feels, and it gains power as it becomes a hot topic of discussion. Its shadowy friend is the Prospect Bias, which tells us potential risk is more realistic than potential good. This can become a self-fulfilling prophecy, which explains the cascade of fear and distrust which turned deadly in 2016. I was impressed by the people who recognized this and brought wisdom and hope to our cities. Watch my video from the first Unite My City event in Tulsa here.
“Instead of worrying about what you cannot control, shift your energy to what you can create.” ― Roy T. Bennett, The Light in the Heart
When we’re aware of our mental LIDAR, we can use it for our benefit. People left the Unite My City meeting full of hope, ready to make positive change. The Availability Heuristic can be a powerful motivator, and groups like Weight Watchers, churches and networking associations put it to work. In a meeting where people focus on one positive purpose, I can be energized for a week, strong in the belief that I will get where I want to go.
On a long road, building a new lifestyle or business, we need to refresh our motivation regularly. Our minds are prone to Recency Bias, which lends more weight to recent events. If I haven’t heard a story which inspires me for two weeks, but this week I experienced rejection or lack of movement, my motivation declines. Diligence and well-executed actions are no less effective, but the Recency Bias makes the slump feel like a permanent reality. How can you use the tools of Availability and Recency to strike gold?
- Do your homework. What reliable, proven tactics can you use to achieve your goal? If you dream of being an entrepreneur, but don’t know where to start, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org . My friend Kim White has a terrific series of bite-sized lessons, which will take you all the way through building a successful, sustainable business.
- Schedule daily times to experience your goal. Write about it, describe it to someone, envision it.
- Track little steps you’ve taken to reach that goal, and give yourself snaps for every step.
- Read, watch or talk to people who share their own success stories.
- Find a church, meet-up, Toastmasters club, Weight Watchers meeting, or networking association, and participate. The most effective meetings include the following:
- Stories and tips from people who’ve gone all the way.
- Stories of victory from people who are slightly ahead of us but not “there” yet.
- People we can encourage with our own stories.
- If you don’t have a chance to share your story, go for a walk or a cup of coffee with someone. Enjoy the conversation, and insert some way you’ve made good choices or done something right. Your positive experience will help both of you.
Hebrews 10:25a NLT And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another…