Agility vs Momentum

We have a pronounced tendency to keep doing whatever we've always done, the way we've always done it. The momentum of our life is like a huge container ship that takes a precariously long time & distance to change direction or stop. This inability to quickly adapt to present situations is similar to the psychological concept of "sunk-cost bias."

"The sunk-cost bias, also known as the sunk-cost effect or sunk-cost fallacy, is the 'tendency to continue an endeavor once an investment in money, effort, or time has been made'. It often underlies escalation of commitment or entrapment. Although disastrous military campaigns and overbudget public-works projects are publicly visible cases, the sunk-cost bias also manifests itself on a smaller scale for people during everyday life. For example, it can be surprisingly difficult to sell a stock that has fallen in value, to ignore bad advice that one has paid for, or to delete carefully written text from a manuscript. Explanations for the sunk-cost bias include loss aversion, self-justification, and the desire not to appear wasteful.

Answering a call for more research about how to improve decision making and reduce biases, we investigated the relationship between mindfulness and resistance to the sunk-cost bias through one correlational and three experimental studies. In Study 1, a correlational study, we demonstrated a significant positive relationship between trait mindfulness and resistance to the sunk-cost bias. In Studies 2a and 2b, both experiments, we found that a 15-min mindfulness-meditation induction significantly increased resistance to the sunk-cost bias relative to a control induction (the mind-wandering condition). In Study 3, also an experiment, we found that the influence of mindfulness meditation on resistance to the sunk-cost bias was mediated by decreased temporal focus on the future and past and by decreased state negative affect. More specifically, Study 3 found that mindfulness meditation decreased temporal focus on the future and past, which then reduced negative affect, which in turn led to greater resistance to the sunk-cost bias.

In sum, our studies show that in addition to having the previously documented benefits on subjective well-being, mindfulness improves decision making through increasing resistance to the sunk-cost bias."

Andrew C. Hafenbrack, Zoe Kinias, Sigal G. Barsade. "Debiasing the Mind Through Meditation: Mindfulness and the Sunk-Cost Bias." Psychological Science 2014; 25(2): 369–376.

With mindfulness practice, we gain mental / emotional agility as we increasingly stabilize awareness in the present moment. The common, lumbering momentum of our life - like being helplessly stuck in a glider plane, changes with mindfulness practice towards being more like being in a helicopter, where we can stop quickly & easily as needed, hover to reorient, pivot, and readily go in any chosen direction. This is real-time freedom of choice, based on what is happening right now.

Open Road, New Mexico

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