10 Mental Concepts that Will Make You Smarter

Credit: Alex Brogan
Credit: @_alexbrogan

Systems vs. Goals

To achieve more, focus on the process first—the system—that will get you to the goal.

Doing something every day is a system—like writing for 1 hour.

Writing a book is a goal.

“Goals determine your direction. Systems determine your progress.”
—James Clear

Effectiveness vs. Efficiency

Effectiveness: Doing the right things—getting the result you intend.

Efficiency: Doing things right—working with minimal waste of time and effort.

To achieve more, you must be both effective & efficient, but effectiveness should come first.

Curse of Knowledge

Once we know something, we assume everyone else knows it, too.

It’s why some experts can’t explain their field in simple terms and people don’t share knowledge that could benefit others.

Lesson: There are always people to teach and people to learn from. 

Zero-Sum Heuristic

We judge situations to be zero-sum (person A’s gain is person B’s loss) when they’re actually non-zero-sum (both parties can gain together).

In most of modern life, the more you help others win, the more you will win.
When possible, play positive-sum games. 

The Approval Paradox

The more you want someone’s approval, the harder it is to get it.

Approval seeking is a sign of insecurity and neediness, both unattractive traits.

“When you’re content to simply be yourself and not compare or compete, everyone will respect you.”
—Lao Tzu 

Selective Perception

We tend to ignore or quickly forget stimuli that cause emotional discomfort or that contradict our prior beliefs.

Don’t let small problems become bigger problems through a lack of appropriate attention.

”Pain + Reflection = Progress”
—Ray Dalio 

Time-Saving Bias

We misestimate the time that could be saved (or lost) when increasing (or decreasing) speed.

Speeding in a car over a short distance doesn’t actually save that much time.

Lesson: Always consider the influence and importance of speed on your outcome. 

The Moment

We believe we are one person, and our happiness is based on being content with our lives in the moment.

In reality, we are multiple selves—the future and now.

To be happy now and content later, we must give adequate attention to what we will need in the future. 

Gambler’s Fallacy

We think future possibilities are affected by past events.

You’ve lost 9 in a row, but you’re sure to win the next one!

You’ve won 9 in a row, how could you possibly lose the next one?!

Lesson: Treat each possibility independent of the past. 

Fundamental Attribution Error

We underemphasize situational factors and over-emphasize character traits in assessing others.

You haven’t slept well so you know why you’re slow, they haven’t slept well so you assume they’re a slow person.

View other’s situations with charity. 

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Credit: Alex Brogan