How To Master the Superpower of Overriding Status Quo Biases and Crush Your Fear of Change

How To Master the Superpower of Overriding Status Quo Biases and Crush Your Fear of Change (Sjoerd Blok blog)

Special thanks to Rhett Wesley for his photo on Unsplash

“Change before you have to.” – Jack Welch

“By changing nothing, nothing changes.” – Tony Robbins

“What we fear doing most is usually what we most need to do.” – Timothy Ferriss

As I stated before, humans are creatures of habits and for creatures of habits, change is one of the biggest challenges that exists.

We simply prefer to hold on to familiarities, rather than walk off the beaten path once in a while. In extreme cases, this is referred to as neophobia, or:

“the fear of anything new, especially a persistent and abnormal fear.”

As long as it doesn’t take on abnormal proportions, having a hard time diverging from the current state of affairs can be referred to as a status quo bias.

Suppressing our ability to change, status quo biases withhold us from taking action, recovering and growing while stimulating us to be passive, deteriorate and diminish.

The ability to override status quo biases can be looked at as a superpower. It resurrects and strengthens the mind to reveal alternative solutions. Unfortunately, superpowers generally aren’t easy to acquire…

The biggest obstacle withholding us to override status quo biases often is to see nothing but risks. Don’t get me wrong, risk-assessment isn’t useless…

Risk-assessment of change is actually necessary to minimize catastrophic outcomes. However, in case of status quo biases, risk-assessment often is a one-way street. We only tend to see risks that may follow change and ignore any risks that may occur as a result of not changing anything.

But how exactly can you learn to override status quo biases?

Well, just realizing where you’re standing on this subject can go a long way. Heck, it may even wave your idea of this post being a whole lot of crap away in an instant!

For starters, recalling the last non-changing decision you’ve made, try to answer the following questions honestly:

  • Did you take the risks of not changing anything into account?

  • Even if you did, was it a fair comparison?

  • Haven’t you made the risks of change seem bigger than they actually were?

  • Haven’t you made the chances of the risks actually occurring bigger than they were?

These are just some example questions you can ask yourself to assess whether you’ve given the path of change a fair chance in recent events. It can also be helpful to see if you have been suffering from regular status quo biases (usually without noticing).

An alternative and tremendously often applied technique to override status quo biases (which I highly recommend not to apply yourself) is to continue with the status quo until you have absolutely no choice left, other than to change. Application of this technique usually results in very unpleasant experiences.

When it hasn’t been warmer than 10°C (50°F) for ages and therefore you decide to wear a T-shirt and a thick sweater, but it turns out to become 25°C (77°F) on a given day, you can ‘act’ in at least three different ways:

  1. You listen to your instinct and assess both the risks of changing and not changing. You pull out your sweater, keep a comfortable body temperature, you feel great the entire day and you can enjoy the weather.

  2. At first, you ignore your instinct which point out that change is necessary. Stubborn as you are, you keep on your sweater until you start to become overheated, sweating like crazy and you realize the current situation is no longer an option. You’re forced to pull out your sweater and you slowly start to cool down a bit so that, at the end of the day you feel fine again and may even enjoy the weather for a bit.

  3. You ignore all signs informing you about the necessity for change and keep on your sweater because ‘you sure as hell didn’t put it on for nothing!’. You start to become overheated, every minute you’re feeling worse and worse until eventually, your body punishes you. You pass out and, after waking up again with a huge headache because your head hit the floor when you passed out, your forced to pull out your sweater anyway. You feel miserable for the rest of the day, making it impossible to do anything, let alone enjoy the nice weather.

Clearly, option one would have been your best friend in this case. Yet, as clear as this example might seem, in reality we often apply option two or three.

By learning to override status quo biases, unpleasant experiences as a result of unwillingness to change can be avoided and enjoyable experiences as a result of willingness to change can be advocated.

Really all there is to it, is to realize whether or not you give change a fair chance.

Just noticing you’re not giving change a fair chance, will make you reconsider. As a result, doors to change will open, which become alternative solutions, which result in alternative outcomes, which ultimately leading to alternative experiences.

As long as you continue to perform risk-assessment for the status quo- and the changing solutions equally, it will be inevitable to experience the alternative solutions becoming better solutions, the alternative outcomes becoming better outcomes and the alternative experiences becoming better experiences.

Once you’ve had a couple of positive experience with change, there’s no way back. Your willingness to change will only continue to grow and before you know it, you’ve mastered status quo overriding and improved your decision-making power immensely.

As always, I hope I’ll be able to help at least one person on the planet with this post, even if it may just be in the smallest way possible.

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