How to Fight Your Optimism Bias

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  • "I will complete these tasks by 5pm."
  • "I will grow this company into $10MM in three years."
  • "I will complete 5 projects entirely by this Friday."
  • "I will be more productive today than I was yesterday."

When deadlines arrive, you're barely 10% into accomplishing your original goals.

You do this often.

  1. You set goals.
  2. You fail to meet them.
  3. Repeat vicious cycle.

"I suck," you tell yourself.

But you don't suck; you're human.


Why do you often fail at your goals?

Humans have a tendency to be overly optimistic about their abilities and their futures.

Take Bob.

  1. "I will use credit cards to buy X!"
  2. "I will make so much more money to pay these off!"
  3. "YAY!"

Bob soon drowns in debt.

Bob's not the only overly-confident person.

  • 80% of drivers believe they're above-average drivers
  • 94% of professors believe they do above-average work
  • 99% of students believe they're above-average in getting along well with others
  • The majority of Americans believe they'll be above-average income earners in the future
  • The majority of corporate CEOs believe their companies will thrive more than their average industry-counterpart.

We human peeps believe in ridiculous fantasies -- a sense that everything will go according to our idealistic plans; when we come short of our expectations, we cry.

How do you do you combat optimism bias?

This cheese:

  • Shoot for the moon; even if you miss, you'll land among the stars.

That is:

  1. Choose a desirable goal - something you would like to accomplish.
  2. Choose a goal that's much more crazy-ridiculous.
  3. Aim for the crazy-ridculous one.

Even if you miss, you'll have a much higher chance of accomplishing your original goal.

For instance, say you're shooting to build a solid $5MM business in 5 years.

  1. Now, set a ridiculous goal (e.g., $25MM in 5 years).
  2. Shoot for that ridiculous goal.Result: You set yourself with much higher chances to achieve the goal you originally set.

Setting a more ridiculous goal than what's desirable helps you fight against the common human tendency to be overly optimistic about your abilities/future.


Shoot for the moon's mother.

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Posted on June 02

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