How we can benefit from understanding irrationality

Dan Ariely in his The Upside of Irrationality: The Unexpected Benefits of Defying Logic talks about his research that link to how we can benefit from understanding our irrational behaviour.

One of the studies in particular linked strongly to my day job. It concluded that in case our work and creations have no future – the more we experience paying effort on things that will be discarded, demolished or simply not used nor published, we lose motivation to continue with it much quicker than if we would not see the outcome nor the destruction firsthand. Ar work, the more effort I put in the designs I make that will go to trash, never unused, the less motivated I am to continue; the less effort I want to pay in the whole process.

What I experience in these cases is the irrational side taking over. The message I get from not having the designs selected is telling me that I suck. Even though in reality, that is not the case. Every enterprise should focus on results, not egos and that is the right way to grow. As Ariely’s research shows, we will feel less motivated anyway, be the reason for trashing our creations as noble as it could get. Our feelings are often out of our control.

This all reminded me of when I was thirteen and fourteen. It was a time for me – perhaps it is common among many – when I thought that nobody liked me. I hung out with some group of people quite often and it was somehow fun, yet I didn’t think that I was liked by the rest. Seven years later I happened to run into one of the guys. Drunk as he was, he shared with me all the insights from those times. Turned out, all the guys had had a crush on me and one of the girls I didn’t feel the most welcome with, had seen me as a role model.

What this little chat taught me changed a lot about how I perceived present moments, my relationships and what I thought other people thought of me. It improved my life in a big way and the outcome of Ariely’s experiment can be concluded in the same words:

Things are always better than perceived at first glance.


By going in depth with others’ motives we can see that what we feel is often based completely on irrational grounds. We still feel and take action without stepping back to analyze why we feel what we feel. We cannot stop some of these feelings, but keeping some of these concepts in mind will improve our resistance and preserverence.

Our gut feeling isn’t the one we should be consulting when strong emotions should have taken control over us. We know less about why we react, feel, or behave the way we do than we think we do.  The more I read, the more I learn how much there is yet to discover.

The underlining motive here is to listen to yourself in times of turmoil, read studies, accept that you feel the way you do because you are human – we would all feel the same. Self-reflection always helps. Some feelings cannot be avoided, but we can avoid the actions we would regret taking.

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