Mental Traps That Will Derail Your Career Development

Key Points:

  • Author Anna Borges has a great new book out called The More or Less Definitive Guide to Self-Care and an article for CNBC about mental traps successful people never fall for.
  • Among the 5 mental traps are emotional reasoning, blaming, catastrophization, the fallacy of fairness, and personalization.
  • Successful people in the building industry have certainly figured out how to recognize and avoid these mental traps.

Mental Traps Successful People Never Fall For

A CNBC article about mental traps that successful people never fall for has some great points to keep in mind as you navigate your career in building materials or residential construction.  The article discusses how our brains “are wired to make sense of things by drawing connections between thoughts, ideas, actions, and consequences”.  But unfortunately, those often end up being wrong, negative, or even misleading.

Author Anna Borges learned that these instances are called cognitive distortions and that they can cause us to perceive reality differently than how it is supposed to be.  That said, successful people have figured out how to recognize and avoid these errors.  For her book, “The More or Less Definitive Guide to Self-Care,” Anna met with psychologists to learn about these distortions and how they can get in the way of hitting her goals.

Below are the 5 mental traps that successful people never fall for that Anna learned during her interviews and how to overcome them.  As you read through these take account of how you handle and absorb situations in the office and out in the field.

1. Emotional Reasoning

Emotional reasoning is believing that our emotions are evidence for the truth.

Emotional reasoning can often cause us to make poor choices. In his 2015 letter to shareholders, Amazon founder Jeff Bezos warned against the dangers of letting emotions overwhelm you when making important decisions, rather than taking a step back and trying to learn what you can about a problem.

employee displaying mental trap in the workplace
employee displaying mental trap in the workplace

“Some decisions are consequential and irreversible or nearly irreversible,” he wrote. “These decisions must be made methodically, carefully, slowly, with great deliberation and consultation.”

To combat emotional reasoning, cognitive therapists suggest asking yourself questions like, “What are the facts that support my emotionally-based determination?” Or, “Is it possible that my feelings are clouded by some bias that ought to be reevaluated?”

2. Blaming

Blaming others for something that you are accountable for is another mental trap successful people avoid.

We often blame others because it helps us “preserve our sense of self-esteem by avoiding awareness of our own flaws or failings,” according to Susan Whitbourne, a Professor Emerita of Psychological and Brain Sciences at the University of Massachusetts Amherst.

But failing to take responsibility for the consequences of your own behavior means you’re not learning from your mistakes. And being able to grow through your experiences, especially the unpleasant ones, is crucial to success.

3. Catastrophization

Catastrophization is a trap of negativity where you expect that disaster will happen.

Fear, especially irrational fear, plays a big part in catastrophizing, researchers have found. But always anticipating the worst possible outcome is far from useful. In fact, studies show that it can lead to anxiety and depression.

4. Fallacy of Fairness

job seeker displaying mental traps including negativityThe fallacy of fairness is the mental trap where you perceive every outcome needs to be fair.

When engaged in the fallacy of fairness, you’re more likely to wind up feeling angry, resentful, or hopeless.

Psychology professors at Brigham Young University-Idaho suggest that stating your feelings as preferences can help change the way you feel about a situation.

So instead of letting yourself be consumed by bitterness, tell yourself: “It would be nice to get a promotion, but I don’t always have control over that. Perhaps I can talk to my boss about how I can get one next year.”

5. Personalization

Personalization is when you blame yourself for everything even if you had nothing to do with the bad outcome.

Psychologists have found that personalization can lead to guilt, shame, and feelings of inadequacy. To work through this cognitive distortion, take a step back and think about what part you played in the situation. Then consider how you might not be entirely to blame.

By looking at things from an outsider’s perspective, you may discover that there were a variety of factors at play and that the outcome is not a direct reflection of you.

Support Anna and buy her book:  Anna Borges is a writer, podcast host, mental health advocate, and author of “The More or Less Definitive Guide to Self-Care.” Her work has appeared in Cosmopolitan, The Outline, SELF, and more. She lives in Brooklyn, New York, with her two cats. 

More on Mental Traps That Could Be Holding You Back

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