The human brain operates by using pattern recognition as a short cut to decision making, rather than consuming all available data, all the time, for all decisions. These patterns can be thought of as mental filters (prejudices) and are a way of thinking about ourselves and the world.
It follows that the mental filters on which we rely can be predictably productive or unproductive. Productive filters, such as positivity, can result in success and happiness. Unproductive filters, such as negativity, can result in failure, stress, anxiety and depression.
The good news is that mental filters are like habits. If you can identify your unproductive filters, and realize they are unproductive, you can work to replace them with a healthier view.
Here are 10 common mental filters to avoid:
- Negativity is assuming your future will unfold in a way that is negative to your well-being. Negative thinking leads to a host of problems, including insecurity, lack of confidence, fear of failure and therefore paralysis and stress. It also leads to other negative filters, like perfectionism.
- Absolutism is a belief in absolute principles and, therefore, not allowing for a middle ground. Nothing worth thinking about is ever black or white. As a leader, you need to understand the shades of grey while, at the same time, not becoming paralyzed by the nuances.
- Musterbation is a term used in phycology to describe a phenomenon whereby people live by a set of absolute and unrealistic demands that they place on themselves, others and the world. “There are three musts that hold us back: I must do well. You must treat me well. And the world must be easy.” – Albert Ellis.
- Self-Serving Bias is a condition in which being right is more important than the facts or feelings of others. This filter is not only applicable in political, social and family matters, but is alarmingly prevalent in business – particularly in troubled businesses.
- Entitlement is a filter that causes the belief that the same rules that apply to others should not apply to you or that, as Albert Ellis said, the “world must be easy”.
- Repetition ofthe same behaviors over and over, while hoping for different results, was Einstein’s definition of insanity. If you want a different result, you need to do something different.
- Personalizing is a belief that the things other people do or say are a direct, personal reaction to you.
- Blaming is where you hold other people responsible for your problems and, in a sense, is opposite of Personalizing.
- Overthinking is a filter that believes excessive worry is required for solutions.
- Basing future decisions on sunk costs. Sunk costs are resources, such as money or time, that are already spent and cannot be recovered. What’s done is done.