Find your purpose and align yourself with your vision.
I am and have always been as helpful and as humble as I could possibly be. I tend to see the good in others even when they can't. I surround myself with likeminded individuals so that I can continue to grow and learn.
Things become very clear what you need to do but for some reason it isn’t what you want to do. This causes major conflict within. You begin to doubt yourself and what’s really right and wrong. It’s not really about what’s right or wrong but then again it is. You see if you’re doing something you know is wrong but it’s what you want you’d still be unhappy no matter how hard you try to be happy. Sometimes you just have to take a chance and do what you want for once because if you don’t you’ll end up being unhappy anyway.
Much of the time the only reason we are unhappy with our decisions is for the way we are all connected as humans and it’s hard to accept hurting someone else and there’s always someone that’s going to be unhappy with your decision. It’s your choice though and you cannot please everyone and yourself. I understand it may affect someone else with your decision and it’s ok to feel a bit of resistance to just go for it. However the best things in life come from being uncomfortable and making those hard decisions. Just remember it’s your life not theirs and only you have to be able to live with the decision you make.
So the question becomes can you live with yourself and the decision you made? What are the benefits? What are the pitfalls? What is an outcome? Is it what you want for you or what someone else wants? Why do you want what you want and is that reason good enough to go after it? Not all things in life come easy, as a matter of fact most things that are worth anything in life are hard and you have to work at it. Personally I have been a real piece of work myself and it’s hard at times to be ok with who I am now. Not because I’m a bad person or anything but because I care so much of others that It hurts me when I need to make a decision for me but it affects them in some negative way.
I try to convince myself that it’s ok and for the right reasons and I cannot be held responsible for their feelings. Is that selfish? I’m not really sure but I think we are all entitled to our own feelings and we can choose how to feel about something if we choose to see it from a different perspective. Life doesn’t happen to me, Life happens because of me, but not if I’m not living that life. If I’m not living then I’m dying.
I’ve been asked on several occasions what is the meaning of life??? Well I’ll tell you… The meaning of life is whatever you decide it is for you. There is no purpose or value that is greater than your own and that goes for everyone. So what is the meaning of life for me? To give more than I take and to make a difference in some ones life other than my own. To feel worthy of the life I was given by being significant to the ones around me. It’s not them that gives my life meaning or purpose but without them I can’t say I’d have much of one, It is the feeling I get from my significance in their life that brings me joy and happiness. It is also what makes me want to do and be better.
To become fulfilled and have inner peace you need acceptance. Not from others but from yourself. If you cannot accept you for who you are you can never be happy or fulfilled nor find peace within. If it is happiness you are looking for then you will be disappointed for most of your life. Don’t want tomorrow when you haven’t lived today, it will always leave you empty and awaiting what you think you want. I mean once you have what you think you want then what?
It’s easy to get wrapped up in society and the world around you, influence and expectations of others, but you can’t forget who you are or why. Personally I like to learn any and all things and wake up everyday knowing that I am ignorant. For most it would be hard to say “I’m ignorant” and accept that to be true because egotistically you feel like you are not dumb. Indeed you are, you can not possibly know what you don’t know and what we don’t know is far greater than what we do know. So keeping the state of mind that knows I have much to learn, keeps me open to possibilities and knowledge.
We never learn if we already know it all and that’s why I get up knowing today I may know more than I did yesterday but there is far more that I don’t. This helps me grow because I am more open to others opinions and beliefs. Your meaning of life has everything to do with interpretation and perception on things and your environment has every influence on what you think and believe. You perceive things in your own way and that forms your own meaning of life. It can mean whatever you want it to, your not limited by a belief, because you can always choose to believe something different. One way or another doesn’t have to be the only way of living or believing.
Having a purpose in life is what some would say gives their life meaning. Having purpose is more fulfilling as well and gives you a reason for living and doing the things you do. Most people have a hard time finding their purpose or place in this world and that’s because they are looking for something although they don’t know what. When you are looking for something you usually miss what’s right in front of you and your purpose usually comes from what’s right in front of you. To make this a little more insightful, it goes back to interpretation and perception, what you choose to see is what keeps you where you are or allows you to grow. If you are open to different interpretations or perceptions then you can expand your world view and also expand your own possibilities.
“You’ll never find yourself by being wrapped up in someone else”
Everyone sees their purpose as different when indeed it is all for the greater good. The greater good being your own beliefs and perception. What you believe is your purpose is based on what you see and how you see it. However you have to stop and ask yourself is it your greater good or does it contribute to the greater good of humanity? Is what you do to work towards your purpose really a purpose that the fellow man can benefit from in a progressive way? Having a purpose is what gives your life meaning and everyone’s is different based on perceptions and belief systems, which as we’ve discussed can be changed as we progress.
Perception Or Deception
Is what you know your own perception or is it someone else’s expectations or beliefs that you’ve incorporated into your own B.S. (belief system)? The concepts in which you’ve seen, heard and learned from have indeed formed your own B.S or (belief system). So in order to find your own purpose and develop your own perception of things you have to be able to make sense of what you believe. Ask yourself is what I believe something that makes sense? If so then how? If not then why do you believe it? If you find yourself wondering why you ever believed something that you now discover doesn’t make sense chances are it’s because it was always someone else’s B.S that you never questioned.
Knowing that you can now choose to believe something else that makes sense to you. Now you have a different perception and interpretation of what is and what can be so you can develop your own B.S. in a way that helps you to find your own purpose in life and know that it is your own and not someone else’s. We lie to ourselves all the time trying to make sense of what we believe because we don’t understand that we can change that belief to fit our own perception not the other way around. You can’t force yourself to believe something unless you know why you believe it and if it makes sense to you.
Why do we act in the ways that we do, and how can we apply our knowledge of human behaviour to the world of business?
We will explore behavioural economics and what we know about how people make decisions. Additionally, you will learn how vital it is to choose the right messenger and the influence of those who communicate information. You will understand the definition of norms, and how and why people follow them. With this knowledge, you will learn how to apply and harness positive norms to specific audiences.
Identify the ways in which you can harness ego to create desired behaviours with:
-High Risk Consequences
Learn how to utilise effective messengers, understand the influence of socio-cultural norms, and recognise the role of the ego to better serve the needs of your employees and your customers.
Discover nudging and the rational model
You’ll explore behavioural economics and what we know about how people make decisions.
This will help you identify the shortcomings of the rational model of human behaviour and give you an understanding of heuristics and biases.
You’ll learn how vital it is to choose the right messenger and the influence of those who communicate information.
Exploring the main characteristics and differences between hard and soft messengers, you’ll learn how to choose the right one to communicate an effective message.
Learn how to harness norms and ego
You’ll understand the definition of norms, and how and why people follow them. With this knowledge, you’ll learn how to apply and harness positive norms to specific audiences.
You’ll also identify the ways you can harness ego to create desired behaviours.
Demonstrate how to leverage effective behaviour change using different social psychological factors.
Behavioural science is the science of human behaviour. It combines insights from many fields but principally sits at the intersection between the two disciplines of economics and psychology. This learning activity will introduce the economic approach to human behaviour. It’s often said that economists like to explain 90% of the behaviour with 10% of the information, relying on a bare-bones model of behaviour which hopes to predict rather than describe. Traditionally, economists have been interested in how people respond to incentives: if we change the costs and benefits of different courses of action, then people will respond in predictable ways, without us needing to know exactly what is happening inside their heads.
The canonical model, sometimes referred to as homo economicus, depicts humans as self-interested and hyper-rational creatures. Like Star Trek’s Mr Spock, a character who operates solely within the realms of pure logic, humans have all the information about their decisions, know what they want, and have unlimited willpower and cognitive capacity. They think meticulously through every consequence of their decisions and act accordingly. They not only have access to all available information—they are able to process that information perfectly rationally.
Although few economists truly believe this is how humans behave, they believe it is a good starting point for predicting human behaviour, on average. Through modelling people as having individual preferences, and acting consistently based on those preferences, we can know how they will respond to changes in the costs and benefits of their decisions.
Many criticisms of this rational model have focused on its unrealistic assumptions. People rarely have all the information they need to make a decision. People are not just self-interested but are social, behaving altruistically towards others and hoping that their behaviour will be reciprocated. And people use a variety of heuristics or mental shortcuts which help them to make day to day decisions.
An important insight of the economic approach is that these nuances of human behaviour may not matter for prediction. The notion that ‘price goes up, demand goes down’ is a cornerstone of the economic approach. When economists model this, they assume that people respond to prices like Spock, paying attention to everything they could buy and responding immediately to any changes in price so that they get the best deal. As a result, if the price of a commodity increases, people will buy less of it—and vice-versa.
Although the model isn’t strictly true, several authors have shown that you can instead assume that people are irrational, that is, they choose what they buy completely randomly and still predict that a higher price means less demand. On average the rational theory does give us sensible predictions about consumer behaviour: namely, that they will buy more of something when it’s cheaper, and less when it’s more expensive.
One consequence (or cause) of economists’ approach is how relaxed they are about individual preferences. They generally view choice as a good thing and think individuals should not be judged, or at least not interfered with by politicians for the decisions they make. In the model of homo economicus it doesn’t matter what preferences are for—they could be for unhealthy foods or a gym membership—because people will still respond in the same way to changes in prices, income, and other characteristics of the goods. To an economist, all that really matters for individuals to be rational is that they behave consistently: if they prefer bananas to apples, and apples to oranges, they shouldn’t prefer oranges to bananas. There is no judgment over which is the better fruit to choose.
Another reason for the longevity of this standard economic model is its versatility. Many of the quirks of decision-making can be readily incorporated into the model. Economists can therefore see precisely how departures from reality lead to behaviour that deviates from the rational model. This is why behavioural economics, which accounts for these deviations, has become so widely accepted into the mainstream.
How does an economist’s approach differ to that of a psychologist?
In this article, we will look at the information deficit model, an approach used by both practices, and examine where it falls short.
Psychologists have typically been interested not just in our behaviour but in our attitudes, perceptions, moods, and beliefs. They are interested in describing our behaviour as well as predicting it.
According to psychologists (and other social sciences), we only have access to limited information in order to make our decisions. We have limited ability to process this information and may disagree on what it means. We have to choose which information to pay attention to, and how to incorporate it into our behaviour. Additionally, this process is affected by factors in our environment outside of our control, such as the people around us or even the weather.
How psychologists spend a lot of time on the following descriptions of behaviour:
How goals and values are formed.
How individuals perceive reality.
How people reason their way towards a decision.
How irrational processes (like emotions or external stimuli) affect behaviour.
These generally require direct studies of individuals. For this reason, many psychologists’ empirical studies are laboratory experiments that look in-depth at a limited number of people, allowing them to investigate behaviour at a high level of detail. For example, a widely used approach in psychology tracks eye movement to see what people are paying attention to. Individuals who have a choice between different foods—crisps, bars, sweets, drinks, sandwiches—may only look at a limited number of them, forgetting about sandwiches and drinks as they make their choice. They will also look at the crisps more if they are going to choose them.
Another prominent idea in psychology is the intention-behaviour gap. We frequently pledge to eat more healthily, drink or smoke less, to exercise, to be more patient, kinder, and more productive, but we frequently fall short. If choices simply reflect preferences, then there’s no room for a gap between what we want to do and what we end up doing. But this is simplistic and leaves out the all-important question of how we bring our behaviour into line with our intentions, which may be good for our well-being.
Ironically, although psychologists have a radically different approach to economists, they have historically converged on a similar model of how to change behaviour, known as the information deficit model. This holds that improving decisions is a matter of providing people with the right information: a pamphlet, a website, or a class. For psychologists, if our behaviour is determined by our attitudes, beliefs, and goals, then by changing the way we think we can change our behaviour. For economists, information can help us to better approximate the rational model and understand the costs and benefits of our decisions.
As we will see throughout this article, the information deficit model leaves a lot to be desired. A major failing is its inability to explain why more and better information does not always lead to better decisions. Sometimes information will have no effect at all on behaviour, and at other times it might lead people to actively ignore it. There continues to be an anti-science sentiment—vaccine hesitancy, conspiracy theories, creationism, and climate change denial—even among educated people and in an age of freely available information.
We have seen that economists have traditionally focused on predicting behaviour, using parsimonious theories to make testable statements about peoples’ decision making.
We have also seen that psychologists have traditionally focused on describing behaviour, investigating the nuances and complexities of individuals and how they make decisions.
How do psychologists view risk?
We all have attitudes to risk in our day-to-day lives, and all look at risk differently: we are risk-averse, risk-neutral, or risk-loving. Some of us might invest in stocks while others choose a savings account at the bank. Some of us may participate in extreme sports while others exercise in their back garden. Some of us may completely change our career paths mid-life, while others prefer to stay the course in their current job.
Economists typically approach risk through an approach known as expected utility. As you might guess, this involves the diligent calculation of the costs and benefits of a decision, using the probabilities of each outcome. For example, say you had a choice to engage in a bet where you tossed a coin and won $100 if it turned up heads, and nothing if it came down tails OR to take $50 for certain. The expected value of the gamble is the same as the certain amount.
Economists classify people as risk-averse if they turn down the gamble and take a certain amount (as would most people), as risk-loving if they accept the coin toss and as risk-neutral if they do not mind either way. Economists would tend to observe peoples’ choices when faced with gambles like these (and many more complex ones) to measure their risk attitudes and test their theories of behaviour.
As a takeaway task, we would like you to consider instead how psychologists might approach risk attitudes.
How would we describe, as opposed to predict, attitudes to risk, remembering the key differences between how psychologists and economists approach things?
Which influences might there be on people’s’ risk behaviour that aren’t accounted for in the above example?
Would people have the same risk attitudes over time and across contexts?
Is behaviour rational?
As we have found so far in the articles this week, there seems to be a clear affinity between the economic and psychological approaches, despite the differences we have seen.
By bringing a richer and more realistic account of how human beings make decisions, psychologists can help economists make accurate predictions and better understand the world. By bringing rigour at the theoretical and empirical levels, economists can help psychologists to discipline their approach rather than having a range of conflicting experimental results.
It was two psychologists, Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky, who revolutionised the field of behavioural economics when they applied psychological insights to economic models. Kahneman and Tversky were fascinated by the quirks of human decision-making and identified a number of heuristics and biases we still use today (Kahneman and Tversky, 1974).
Heuristics are the mental shortcuts we use to make decisions. Biases result when the heuristic leads to faulty decision making. As Kahneman and Tversky are keen to emphasise, heuristics are extremely useful, but they misfire, and when they do, they lead to biases.
A famous example of theirs was of a sergeant in the Israeli Air Force who praised his pilots for landing well and admonished them for doing badly. He noticed that the ones he praised went on to perform disappointingly in the next round, while those he admonished went on to perform better. He concluded that praise was counterproductive, while criticism was effective—the most obvious explanation based on the information available to him.
The sergeant was unaware of a widely observed phenomenon in statistics known as regression to the mean. Tall parents tend to have shorter children; students who perform well in a test tend to do worse in the subsequent one, pilots who have landed smoothly tend to mess up next time, while those who land badly tend to do better next time. It’s probable neither the sergeant’s praise nor his criticism were having much effect.
Kahneman and Tversky also popularised the notion that people compare themselves to reference points, which they explore in their widely cited paper Prospect Theory: An Analysis of Decision Under Risk. Reference points are points of comparison: individuals might notice changes in their wealth relative to their existing level, rather than the absolute level. So, if your salary starts at a low level and increases each year, you might feel better than if you started with a much higher salary that gave you more money in total over the years but that never increased. We will look at reference points much more later in the course.
Behavioural science has followed on from the examples of Kahneman and Tversky, as well as other pioneers like Richard Thaler and Cass Sunstein, to identify the key drivers of human behaviour. It involves the use of mathematical models which are not strictly true, but which predict behaviour well in the lab or the field. It also involves some looking ‘under the hood’ of human behaviour and measuring brain activity. Behavioural science is inherently pluralist in its approach, seeking to use the best methods to understand human behaviour.
A prominent example is the availability heuristic, which retrieves information most vivid and readily available to us. Availability explains why people tend to fear statistically improbable accidents such as terrorism or lightning strikes, which are fantastical and often reported by the media; versus probable ones like car crashes or falling down the stairs, which are more mundane but more likely and just as deadly.
How does availability bias affect you? What type of things do you worry about in terms of risks of going out or risk of death? Are you more likely to be scared of terrorism than a fall down the stairs?
As the discipline of behavioral science has emerged, some key ideas have become central to how we think about behavior. Perhaps the most prominent of these is the idea that there are two systems of thinking.
The Dual Processing model
Behavioral scientists often use the Dual Processing model of human behavior, popularized by Daniel Kahneman in his bestseller Thinking, Fast and Slow (1). The model splits human decision making into System 1 and System 2, which can be thought of as processes in the brain.
System 1 is fast, effortless, and automatic—it’s how you know that 2 + 2 = 4. It is considered more basic and is shared by animals and humans. Sometimes it might happen 100% automatically, like being automatically repelled by an insect or salivating when seeing an appetizing dish.
System 2 is slow, effortful, and reflective—you would use it to work out 37 x 59. It is slow and sequential, allowing for the abstract and analytical thinking that characterizes the human mind. System 2 is more closely related to what we would normally consider intelligence.
We will learn much more about Dual Processing Theory (DPT) as the course goes on, but for now, it is worth bearing in mind two warnings. Firstly, DPT does not imply, and nor is it considered true, that there are literally two systems in the brain. There are a variety of areas in the brain and virtually any thought process will engage multiple areas at once. DPT is a model of the world used by behavioral scientists to understand behavior, rather than a literal description of it. Secondly, it is tempting but inaccurate to think of System 1 as irrational and System 2 as rational. Although System 2 is generally more reflective and would be used for making big, complicated decisions, System 1 can be extremely fast and effective, even with limited information. The German psychologist Gerd Gigerenzer has emphasized the benefits of intuition and using System 1 for some decisions: doctors regularly make quick, life-saving decisions (2). This is a good example of where lots of training and experience using System 2 allows decisions to move into System 1 and, on the face, be made without too much effort. Think also of how sports players train hard and then play as if they are not thinking about their shots.
Reflection on two systems
How does the two-system model make you reflect on your own behavior? Can you think of everyday examples where you use System 1 and System 2?
So far, we have seen that behavioural science sits at the intersection of the two disciplines of psychology and economics, and has evolved to incorporate the best elements of both to become the science of human behaviour.
While psychologists have been primarily interested in describing behaviour, economists have primarily been interested in predicting behaviour. Drawing their insights together has led to rich and realistic models of behaviour that can be used to predict behaviour change.
Behavioural scientists have identified the heuristics and biases that characterise human behaviour. Heuristics are the mental shortcuts we use to make decisions quickly and with minimal effort, while biases result when these heuristics misfire.
A prominent example is the availability heuristic, which retrieves information most vivid and readily available to us. Availability explains why people tend to fear statistically improbable accidents such as terrorism or lightning strikes, which are fantastical and often reported by the media, versus probable ones like car crashes or falling down the stairs, which are more mundane but more likely and just as deadly.
Behavioural scientists most commonly draw from a model known as Dual Process Theory (DPT), popularised by Kahneman, which splits the human mind into two systems. System 1 is fast, effortless, and automatic; System 2 is slow, effortful, and reflective. System 1 knows how to walk without thinking too much about it; System 2 is used to decide which direction you need to walk in to get to the restaurant. System 2 is more often associated with what we think of as intelligence, but that doesn’t mean it is always right or morally superior; functioning without System 1 would be nigh-on impossible.
The most widespread application of behavioural science has been nudge, popularised by Thaler and Sunstein. Nudge harnesses DPT to argue that we can change behaviour by changing the environment in which people operate. Traditionally, the Information Deficit Model (IDM) held that changing behaviour was just a matter of providing people with the right information so they could make informed decisions—in other words, engaging System 2 by changing their minds. However, this has proved to be ineffective as changing peoples’ minds is extremely difficult.
Since System 1 is affected by the decision-making environment where people will go for the easiest choice, the most attention-grabbing choice, the choice others are making, or the expert-endorsed choice. By manipulating the environment we can exert reliable influences on behaviour without having to change minds. Crucially, nudge relies on a libertarian paternalist approach, so while choices are affected, none are taken away. People can still make the choice they want to make but are nudged towards ones that are judged to be good for them and society at large. The use of nudge has proliferated across the globe, with many successful examples in areas ranging from health to crime to the environment.
We have synthesised existing behavioural science to come up with the MINDSPACE framework, a pneumonic that captures 9 reliable influences on behaviour. MINDSPACE stands for Messenger, Incentives, Norms, Defaults, Salience, Priming, Affect, Commitment, and Ego. It is a recipe book from which you, as future behavioural scientists, are encouraged to draw from, to design ways to change behaviour pragmatically and carefully. In the rest of this course, we will begin to explore each element of the MINDSPACE framework in much more detail.
Have you ever checked if you turned the oven up or if you locked the house? If you have it’s because you’re having to think about something that you’ve automated. Your system one has made it easy for you to turn the oven off and lock the house up in ways without you having to think about it. So when you think about whether you’ve done it, you’re not sure. Your processing models have really been the biggest advance we’ve seen in behavioural science over the last couple of decades. So much of what we do simply comes about rather than being thought about.
Now, it is worth saying that there aren’t really two systems in the brain, but it’s a nice characterization of how we make our decisions because for a very long time, we thought about system two, your effortful conscious thoughtful self, being the star of the show. If you think about something, you act upon it. Actually, it turns out that, as I say, most of what we do simply comes about rather than being thought about. System one, your automatic unconscious effortless brain, is making most of your decisions for you. And most of the time, that’s fantastic, right? Because it makes life easy for you. It turns the oven off, it locks the house.
This is all very exciting because what it means is that we can think about changing behaviour without having to change people’s minds. Because, actually, changing your mind is really effortful, isn’t it? And actually, we don’t do it very often, right? Think about the last time you actually really changed your mind about something important. Probably quite a long time ago, if ever. Whereas changing environments or context within which people act can have very powerful effects on what we do.
So this tool processing model is actually really exciting if we want to change behaviour because we don’t have to rely on changing people’s minds, we don’t need to change the way they think about things, but change the environments within which they act. So, for example, if you want to eat more healthy food or you want your staff to eat more healthy food, then put the healthy food towards the front of the canteen rather than the back. You’re making it easier for system one to do the right thing without having to properly engage system two to think about whether to do the right thing or not.
This provides us with so many opportunities to not only change behaviours in individuals, but in large populations relatively cheaply, easily, and quickly.
We would like you to reflect on the usefulness of nudging your research from the previous step. Nudges have been tried in a wide variety of settings and in some, they have proved useful while in others they may not have worked as well. In some settings, nudges may be enough but some behavioural scientists now argue for stronger policies that move beyond nudge to change behaviour. And there are also those who argue against nudges on ethical grounds, an issue that will come up later in the course.
Use the following poll to tell us your opinion of nudge, and the comments section to discuss with other learners the nudge(s) you investigated and why they led you to the conclusion they did.
Based on your research from the previous step, do you think nudging is an effective way to change behaviour?
Yes, nudging is effective
No, nudging is not effective
It wasn’t that long ago that many more planes crashed than is the case now. You know, one of the main reasons for that is planes were taking off without co-pilot. Now, that seems a very obvious thing, doesn’t it, to have a co-pilot present? It’s obvious that it’s often overlooked. When a pilot is sitting in the cockpit, he or she is paying attention to what’s in front of them. Are the engine’s running and so on? But not paying attention to fundamentally what really matters, for example, whether there’s a co-pilot there. This is called situational blindness. We pay attention to what’s in front of us, and not necessarily to what really matters.
One of the most powerful ways to overcome situational blindness, and this has led to fewer planes crashing, is to have very simple checklists. The pilot would have a checklist that contains the item, is there a co-pilot. Tick, done, plane takes off safely. The power of checklists has been shown in so many other environments, too. For example, surgical operating theatres, where again, really simple items on the checklist have a really significant effect on outcomes. Are we operating on the right patient? I mean, really, really obvious things that sometimes get overlooked. I can’t emphasise enough to you how much the obvious gets overlooked. And we can think about using checklists in behavioural science, too.
Let’s draw out the main mechanisms that influence us, largely through system one processes, so that policy makers and decision makers have those in front of them when they’re designing behavioural interventions.
Anyone who is transitioning from a corporate job to business owner
Someone who is trying to establish an authority role or figure
Anyone that has anxiety or feels pressured when making decisions
When transitioning from any position into another one of authority, it’s normal to feel these types of inadequacy, and there’s nothing wrong with admitting that you feel out of your element. For most of us it just takes a little time and practice in our new roles before this feeling will go away. All you’re really experiencing is inexperience and unfamiliarity and that reduces your confidence in becoming the leader you and I both know you can be. By answering the poll below you will be contributing to a larger part of the research done on imposter syndrome if you’d like to participate your feedback is important.
What is Imposter syndrome?
Imposter syndrome is also called Imposter Phenomenon, or Fraud Syndrome and is a term to describe the psychological experience of feelings like you don’t deserve your success. It’s just “an internal experience of intellectual phoniness”. If you say things like “I got lucky” or “I don’t belong here” or even “I’m a fraud, and it’s just a matter of time before they find out” You may be experiencing Imposter Syndrome. Most of us have experienced feelings of doubt and unworthiness at some point in our professional and personal lives. Although it can affect anyone, research has shown high-achieving individuals experience it often. Research has also shown that less than half of men thought that imposter syndrome affected their personal lives, whereas more than 73 percent of women thought it did.
First introduced in 1978 in an article written by Pauline R. Clance and Suzanne A. Imes, they described the phenomenon as: “an internal experience of intellectual phoniness”
At the time, their research focused on women in higher education and professional industries. This syndrome is essentially our subconscious way of saying to yourself and others that “I am not enough” or “I am unworthy”. You feel you are undeserving of awards, accolades, and recognition you’ve received. Along with these feelings, you may carry guilt that you are deceiving others into thinking you are more competent than you believe yourself to be and fear that someone will eventually find you out and expose you. These moments of doubt pose a barrier for individuals to achieve their full potential.
Maybe you can you relate to some or all of these common imposter beliefs and behaviours: Make a note of the ones that resonate with you. We will explore ways in which you can overcome imposter syndrome.
feeling like you’re a fraud and that it’s only a matter of time before you’re ‘found out’
feeling you’re not ready, worthy or in some way ‘good enough’
suffering from unhealthy levels of self-doubt, self-criticism or self-judgement
feeling exhausted by any/all of the Deadly P’s: Perfecting, Pleasing, Proving, Performing, Pretending and Procrastinating
undervaluing your talents and downplaying or belittling your accomplishments
holding back in meetings, not expressing your opinions or sharing your knowledge
passing up opportunities and staying ‘safe’ in roles for which you are over-qualified or have outgrown
being haunted by subtle feelings that you don’t belong in your role, your team or your organisation
Just because you doubt your abilities doesn’t mean that you’re suffering from impostor syndrome.
Sometimes, you really will be out of your depth! In these instances, it’s important to be honest and seek help from your manager or others.
Next we will explore the cycle of imposter syndrome and how we can get caught up in a dangerous loop of self-talk and thinking.
The imposter cycle describes a pattern of behaviour commonly experienced by individuals, especially those who move into new roles or commitments. Proposed by Pauline Clance in 1985 the model provides a visual representation of the thought processes and feelings at particular points when an individual is provided with an achievement-related task. You begin to have feelings of uncertainty and self-doubt, and that you have tricked your organisation to employ you. Each time you are given a new task, the struggle is internal, and you feel that no matter how hard you work, you end up in the same spot.
Let’s breakdown each step of the cycle, using the workplace as an example. Although, you can get caught in the cycle in any situation in your professional or personal life. Just a brief exercise to see where you stand on things…
Let’s try an exercise and Imagine yourself in this situation……
I want you to imagine your supervisor has come to you with a task they would like you to complete by the end of the month. It’s a report on the latest costings for a new product that is being developed. As the task and expectations are explained to you, your mind starts to kick in with anxiety, self-doubt and worry. “I’ve never done this before”, “Why are they asking me to do it?”… all the while you are outwardly displaying confidence. You supervisor then leaves you to it, and inside you are starting to experience heightened levels of anxiousness. At this point of the cycle, you might either procrastinate or over-prepare to the point of stress.
Once you have completed the task, meeting set deadlines and expectations, you experience a feeling of relief and your supervisor provides you with positive feedback on the results. You discount the feedback and attribute it to high effort (over-preparation) or just luck (with procrastination). This then leads to sustained feelings of perceived fraudulence, self-doubt, depression or anxiety. “Phew, I can’t believe they liked the report”. “I got away with that one”. “I got lucky that time”. There is a spike in these feelings of fraud.
The cycle continues to loop over and over, and you may find yourself feeling trapped. Essentially, any challenge will cause someone with imposter syndrome to freak out, setting off the cycle of worry and self-doubt. To cope, they fall into either a pattern of procrastination or perfectionism or toggle between the two.
Perfectionism and imposter syndrome often feed off each other. In the workplace, it can manifest itself as over-working or over-preparing in a constant effort to achieve the unachievable goals set. When the individual fails to reach the goals, feelings of self-doubt and worry rise within themselves. Self-talk continues to be “I knew I wasn’t capable of doing it.” “I don’t have the skills or qualifications to take on this task”. “I don’t know why they gave that task to me”. A self-fulfilling prophecy.
How did you feel when you were given a task that you believed should be given to someone else?
How did you approach the task?
What was the outcome?
Which camp did you fall into? Perfectionist or procrastination – or juggle between the two?
Did you feel as if you weren’t suitably qualified for the job or have the skills to do it?
It’s important to note, continuing to be caught in the cycle can affect the following:
taking on responsibilities (either at work or in your personal life)
Perfectionist: Set excessively high goals for themselves, and when they fail, they experience self-doubt and worry about measuring up. This group can also be “control freaks” which may not sit well with some, however, perfectionists feel like if they want something done right, they have to do it themselves.
Have you been accused of being a micromanager?
Do you have difficulty delegating?
Even when able to do so, do you feel frustrated by the results?
When you miss something, do you accuse yourself or think that you are “not cut out” for your job/role and go over and over it in your head for days?
The Expert:measure their competence based on “what” and “how much” they know how to do something. They believe they will never know enough and fear being exposed as inexperienced or unknowledgeable. It’s true, there’s always more to learn, however this can be taken too far.
Do you shy away from applying for jobs unless you meet every single requirement?
Are you constantly looking to do courses or certifications because you think you need these to improve your skills to succeed?
Even though you’ve been in your role for a long time, do you still feel as though you don’t know “enough”?
Do you feel embarrassed when someone calls you an “expert”?
The Soloist: asking for help reveals their phoniness. It is ok to be independent, but not to the extent that you refuse assistance just to prove your worth. There is no shame in asking for help.
Do you firmly believe that you need to accomplish things on your own?
“I don’t need anyone’s help.” Does that sound like you?
Do you frame requests in terms of the project rather than your need?
Natural Genius: judge their competence based on ease and speed rather than their efforts. If they take a long time to master something, they feel shame. Set their internal bar impossibly high (similar to perfectionists). They judge themselves on being able to achieve something the first time. They should see themselves as a work in progress.
Are you used to excelling without much effort?
Do you have a track record of straight ‘As’ or gold stars in everything you do?
When you’re faced with a setback, does your confidence tumble?
Do you often avoid challenges?
The Superperson: convinced they’re phonies amongst real-deal colleagues and often push themselves to work harder and harder. This is considered a false cover-up for their insecurities and the work overload may harm not only mental health, but relationships with others.
Do you stay later at the office than the rest of your team?
Do you get stressed when you’re not working and find downtime completely wasteful?
Have you left hobbies and passions – sacrificed to work?
The core reason that people experience imposter syndrome is really due to our unrealistic, unstainable notions about what it means to be competent. Reflect on the ones that resonate the most to you and don’t forget to leave us a comment and your experience with imposter syndrome.
Who experiences imposter syndrome?
The short answer is everyone. Even all the famous and well known leaders have confessed to feelings of self-doubt, fear and inadequacy.
Albert Einstein, Penelope Cruz, Agatha Christie, Michelle Obama
Have you felt these emotions as a leader? If so, you are in good company!
Consider and write down your thoughts on the following questions.
Would you have thought these people would have experienced insecurities or felt like they didn’t deserve their success?
Why do you think high achievers are more likely to suffer from imposter syndrome?
What would you say to someone who you admired who confessed that they felt like a fraud?
Leadership theory could exhaust a lifetime of study. It is more important to consider the impact of imposter syndrome on leadership styles and vice versa.
For those in a leadership position or aspiring to be a leader, at some point you will come up against a situation and think “I don’t know what to do”. It may be a team issue that you can’t seem to solve, or maybe you need to lead a project which lies outside of your field of expertise. Whilst imposter syndrome feels uncomfortable and unpleasant, it’s not the real problem. The problem occurs when feelings of self-doubt and insecurity causes you to stop trying, to back off or to quit.
As a leader, when you stop believing in yourself, start second guessing your decisions, stay quiet or take a back seat it can potentially limit your leadership pipeline or produce an underperforming team.
When leaders appreciate the strengths and weaknesses of a practiced leadership style, they develop greater awareness of their abilities, values and beliefs, as well as greater understanding of how they are perceived by team members. The understanding and practice of a leadership style creates a personal leadership framework that can be further developed, extended and refined through everyday workplace leadership experiences.
Leaders also need to consider how compatible their fundamental leadership style is with their organisation. If the styles are clearly incompatible (e.g. a servant leader in an autocratic, command-and-control, hierarchical organisation) effective leadership will be difficult. Therefore, the same leader may be very welcome and successful in one organisation, and struggle and possibly fail in another.
If you are currently in a leadership position (paid or voluntary), reflect on your current self-talk and self-belief. Take a step back from those you are leading, try and observe how the team is functioning. What impact are your thoughts, feelings, beliefs having on their performance, as a team and individually? What is the impact on you as a leader?
If you are not in a leadership position (paid or voluntary), is there an opportunity for you to undertake this type of role? What might be stopping you from seeking this opportunity? What is your current self-talk or belief?
How do you know if you have it?
You may have already recognised some elements of the syndrome in yourself as you explored the videos and content. It’s not simply the feeling of insecurity and self-doubt which most of us have felt at some point in our lives, but is a pattern of an inability to internalise success. As you’ve already discovered, it isn’t uncommon and 70% of people have experienced it at some time or other.
So, how do you know if you are experiencing imposter syndrome? You have already spent sometime asking yourself questions, particularly related to type, however, this section provides you with a number of resources to access which will provide further insight and guidance for you.
do you attribute your success to luck or external factors?
do you downplay your expertise even when you are truly the expert?
do you feel like someone is watching you and will call you out as a phony?
You need to become comfortable confronting some of the deeply ingrained beliefs you hold about yourself. This can be hard, because you may not even realise you hold them. Overcoming imposter syndrome requires self-acceptance; you don’t have to attain perfection to be worthy of the success you’ve achieved and any accolades you earn along the way. It’s not about lowering the bar, it’s about resetting it to a realistic level that doesn’t leave you forever overreaching and feeling inadequate.
Think of a time when you may have had some of the feelings associated with imposter syndrome. Consider and write down some thoughts in response to the following questions:
What were the thoughts associated with the feelings?
Are these thoughts valid? What is the evidence?
What would an alternative thought be?
Causes and symptoms of imposter syndrome.
We know that certain factors can contribute to the more general experience of imposter syndrome.
Across the board, it’s more common when trying something new or feeling the pressure to succeed. Those who suffer from imposter syndrome often have similar personality traits, including an external locus of control. This means they believe their accomplishments to be attributed to external factors such as luck or timing rather than the hard work they put in or their expertise. At work, people often experience acute imposter syndrome when given praise or reward.
Generally though, the emotions associated with the syndrome are internalised within the individual, rather than shared with others.
Early family dynamics – pressuring you to do well in school, praising you only when you do something good, comparing you to siblings or other children, overemphasizing your natural talents and shaming you when you struggle, or being over protective (helicopter parents) and instilling fear.
School and work experiences – Past stories of success and failure can affect how you see yourself and how you feel about taking on new projects and assignments.
Cultural pressures – We live in a culture of “-est”. That is we admire the biggest, prettiest, richest, fastest etc. We learn to measure success and ultimately worth through external factors including dollars, awards, number of likes on social media. In this environment it’s easy to judge ourselves.
Engaging in something new – we can be creatures of habit and comfort and it can be challenging when you start something new. Imposter syndrome can show up when you’re trying something you’ve never done before.
Write down and share your ideas about the following aspects: