Could optimism bias cause failure?!

Recently while watching a video, one of the characters happened to mention the term Optimism bias. It was a new word for me; up until now I knew only about 2 type of behaviors – Pessimistic or Optimistic. And that being optimistic is a better approach towards life, than being a pessimist, I have also written a quickie titled ‘Winner's Philosophy'. Now I thought to myself that being a little too optimistic isn’t such a big deal, but as I read more into it, I realized the kind of negative impact it can have on our lives and the decisions we make.


Yes, that was my reaction too!

What is optimism bias:

Optimism bias also known as cognitive bias, is the illusion of being impervious; the one that leads us to believe that we will not suffer any misfortunes that others might have been affected with or our strategy wouldn’t fail us. The evolution of humans may have wired our brains into having an optimistic thinking or maybe we fake our brains to have the optimistic thinking as failure is not an option for us!

NB: Surprisingly, I came to know that there has being research that shows even birds and rats can impacted by optimistic biases. So, we aren’t alone in this 😉

How does it impact us:

We all might have come across motivational quotes, inspiring stories and talks that promote the idea of optimistic thinking, never losing one’s hope of being successful. It’s also a scientifically proven fact that how just by thinking about happy thoughts make you feel happy and sad thoughts make you feel sad. So please let those inspirational and motivational WhatsApp forwards keep coming...

But at times we overestimate our odds; odds of winning a lottery, landing a job or building a successful business. This bias can have a major impact on our lives; take the example of the ongoing covid virus; we have come across individuals who do not adhere to safety protocols, be it wearing a mask when in public or ignoring social distancing or other examples such as wearing seatbelt or helmets while driving. Even though we know the negative impact of not following these protocols, we have seen people around us suffer from these lapses, yet at times our brain sends us signals that would make us feel indestructible and this egocentric nature, might be the cause of our downfall. Our optimistic bias leads us to believe “It won’t happen to me”…

Not just personal lives but this bias can have an impact on our professional lives as well… There are times when we build business plans with over enthusiasm but miss out to consider possibilities of them failing, not building a plan B in case of failure; because “HOW CAN I FAIL”.

How to remove the bias out of optimism:

While completely removing the bias might not really possible, but there are a few ways which can help us in reducing it… One such way of countering the optimism bias can be by injecting the aspect of failure. Having an attitude of “Why worry, it will never happen” will only lead us to disappointments, rather be prepared for ‘What if it fails’. By ensuring you have a Plan B in place you will be able to better negate any failure and in the end be happy and successful!

To summarize i want to quote Tali Sharot, who has researched and also written a book on the topic named “The Optimism Bias”

The glass remains half full. It is possible to strike a balance, to believe we will stay healthy but get medical insurance anyway; to be certain the sun will shine but grab an umbrella on our way out the door — just in case.
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