Slow vs. fast thinking

We make thousands of decisions every day, from what to wear, where to drive, how to eat, who to speak to, etc.  The majority of these decisions are made without even thinking. Only a small percentage of our daily decisions do we actually think about.  Imagine if we had to consciously think about everything we did…our brains would be on OVERLOAD!

Let’s say that you have a habit that you’d like to change.  Habits are decisions made “without thinking.”  Another term for this is “fast thinking.”  When you’re in “fast thinking” mode, you are choosing the default option, the easiest option, or the most rewarding option.  Our brains are hard-wired to seek pleasure and avoid pain.  Let me give you an example.  You come home from work and feel tired and stressed.  Your mind only cares about relieving the stress and fatigue and feeling some pleasure.  Without thinking, you head immediately to the kitchen for your favorite salty snack because it will bring instantaneous pleasure.  Your mind doesn’t care about the “pain” that may come later (i.e. ruined appetite, guilt, disappointment, etc.).  Again, this is “fast thinking.”

Now, the opposite of this scenario is engaging in “slow thinking.”  When we want to change a behavior we have to consciously choose to switch from fast to slow thinking.  Slow thinking takes us off of auto-pilot and gives us time to intentionally choose what will be most rewarding in the long-term instead of the short-term.  Someone once told me, “You have to play the tape to the end.”  Meaning, think through your decision until you see all the consequences.  Only then can you make the decision that is best for you at that time.

How do we do that?  Here are a few suggestions:

  • Pause and take a few deep breaths.
  • Leave the room, close your eyes, and think your decision through.
  • Decide ahead of time what you will do before you even encounter the difficult situation.
  • Be patient with yourself and don’t ever give up!

You can apply slow thinking to any behavior you want to change, from eating to exercise and everything in between.   Just remember to pause, take a breath, and think it through.  Now you are in control instead of “fast thinking”!

Please share, what do you need to apply “slow thinking” to?