This bestselling self-help book vastly improved my decision-making skills — and helped me spot my own confirmation bias

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  • I read the book “Thinking, Fast and Slow” by Daniel Kahneman and it drastically changed how I think.
  • Kahneman argues that we have two modes of thinking, System 1 and System 2, that impact our choices.
  • Read below to learn how the book (audiobook also available) helped me think more mindfully.

During the pandemic, I embraced quarantine life by pursuing more of my hobbies. There was just one problem: All of them led to a much busier schedule. From writing to taking a dance class to volunteering, I felt like I was always hustling from one thing to the next. 

As my days continued to fill up with more and more activities, it felt like I was constantly checking off something on a list and moving to the next item as quickly as possible. Groceries? Check. Laundry? Check. Zumba? Check.

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Sometimes we think fast and sometimes we think slow. One of the book’s main ideas is to showcase how the brain uses these two systems for thinking and decision-making processes. System 1 operates intuitively and automatically – we use it to think fast, like when we drive a car or recall our age in conversation. Meanwhile, System 2 uses problem-solving and concentration – we use it to think slowly, like when we calculate a math problem or fill out our tax returns. 

Since thinking slow requires conscious effort, System 2 is best activated when we have self-control, concentration, and focus. However, in situations when we don’t have those – like when we feel tired or stressed — System 1 impulsively takes over, coloring our judgment. 

I recognized that my fast thinking was attributed to the fact that I was busy all the time and didn’t incorporate very many breaks into my schedule. I felt exhausted and distracted at the end of long days, so I was using System 1 to make decisions instead of System 2. To gain more concentration and focus, I started practicing more mindfulness strategies and incorporating more breaks, which have helped me tremendously in making better choices for myself.

One of the main reasons we jump to conclusions is confirmation bias.

Kahneman says our System 1 is gullible and biased, whereas our System 2 is doubting and questioning — and we need both to shape our beliefs and values. When I was making a decision, I found that I was searching for evidence that supported my choice, rather than finding counterexamples. I made decisions so quickly using System 1 that I didn’t start questioning those decisions until I realized I didn’t make the right choice. 

Now, I make sure I’m truly weighing the pros and cons of each decision, especially when the stakes are high. For example, I’m moving to a different city in the next few months and am currently looking at apartments. I first thought about moving to a particular place based on a friend’s recommendation, which seemed like the easiest thing to do. 

But, after reading the book, I learned I was actually rushing the decision and looking for evidence to support moving there, instead of really thinking things through. Now, I’m making sure to look at a wide variety of options with things I like and things I dislike about each apartment, such as price, location, and amenities.

When making a decision, we should always focus on multiple factors.

Klaus Vedfelt/Getty Images

When I read this part of the book, I found this point extremely relatable. Most decisions are tied to weighing multiple factors, but sometimes we only focus on the one factor we’re getting the most pleasure from, which can be a big mistake, because the factor that we initially find fulfilling often gives us less pleasure as time progresses. 

Using this logic, I look at the bigger picture and make sure I am attracted to a commitment for multiple reasons. In my apartment hunt, I’m now prioritizing moving into buildings with a rooftop, gym, and lobby, so I can not only enjoy those amenities but easily meet new people in a new city. There are always a few apartments I come across with a beautiful, renovated kitchen, and while it would be so nice to cook with a luxury oven and stove, I realize that I’d get used to those appliances and it wouldn’t make a difference to me as much as being able to hang out with my neighbors or friends on the roof. 

The bottom line

If you’re having a tough time slowing down and making decisions, it can be a great time to explore and understand your thinking patterns to improve, and this book can help you do it.

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