Let's Be Rational
Pardon me for being a bit boring but my mind is filled with numbers and graphs as I spend sleepless nights studying not the most exciting subject on the planet - economics. I had this assignment that I had to do which was quite unusual and made me think a lot about my life decisions. Basically, I had to write a diary describing situations when I acted irrationally that ended in negative outcomes. Strange assignment, don't you think?
Well, I sat down armed with a cup of coffee and a healthy amount of sarcasm and... couldn't write a word. And here I thought I was my own Freud (and I even spend plenty of time on a leather couch!)! Yet, while I think I over analyze everything, I have never really rationalized my decisions. It has mostly been me getting down to where I come from and why I act like I act, but turns out I rarely make objective judgements. It is extremely hard to be honest with yourself! The task included me also thinking about how things would have turned out if I acted more rationally. Let me tell you, my life would have been absolutely and completely something else. I am glad that it isn't, but many little unpleasant moments could have definitely been avoided.
Here is what my professor defined as reasons for irrational behavior:
- We are creatures of emotion. We respond to situations from the gut, and do not consider consequences.
- A person has unmet needs based on early childhood experiences.
- We make decision based on intuition and do not consider alternatives.
- We are creatures of habit and culture. We follow the pack.
- We often have a very short time horizon.
- We are lazy and do not bother to calculate costs or benefits.
- We are lazy and do not follow the action that we know is best for ourselves.
- Our brain is harmed by chronic stress.
I definitely hit all of the bullet points at least once. Or a thousand times. You know, rationality definitely doesn't hurt, but, man, those irrational decisions were really the ones that brought in the flavor. Like moving across the ocean with nothing waiting for me, or leaving a Ukrainian college my senior year because I was bored to death, or wearing white after labor day last year. You know what I'm talking about?
The irrational decisions are always the gamble and they can either make you fall on your face hard or lift you above the clouds. I listed all the reasons above just as an exercise for you to take some time and look at your life as if you were a rationalization machine. Think of it as if there is no right or wrong, you are not criticizing yourself, just making assumptions and playing with various outcomes. Did you find any situations where rationality could have definitely helped? Like that time you ate a gallon of icecream because you were moody and while your rational mind was telling you to put the spoon down and rather go work out you shushed it and continued eating till the brain freeze? Or when you parked under the "no parking" sign because you were going to run into the store just for a second and decided to test your luck only to come back to a parking ticket?
Rationality is logic: if you do A it will lead you to B. We are lucky that in life there are many roads and it just so happens that sometimes we get away with being irrational. The parking lady might have not gotten to your car yet, or maybe you suffer from a rare sugar deffiency decease and you needed that icecream to save your life, who knows, but testing your decisions before acting on them really helps you understand why you are doing what you are doing. Do you really need that new pair of shoes or are you just trying to make yourself feel better after a shitty work day?
As cool as rationality is (get it? cooool), it doesn't always work. We are not robots and dry theory isn't always applicable in real life. I can give you an example. It wasn't rational for me to go on a trip to the mountains alone with no idea what the outdoors are like. As I was climbing the waterfall I realized that I definitely don't have enough water. The rational me should have turned back right then and there. The irrational me finished the hike and cried my eyes out because the view from above was the best view of my life. (The rational me wouldn't have cried to preserve water).
All I am saying is pick your battles. Be irrational when you really feel it's the right thing to do, but play by the rules when it's necessary. It doesn't hurt to take a moment, get out of your head and look at the situation from the outside. You and only you know what's best. Trust yourself. But try parking at designated spots.