Nothing in life is as important as you think it is while you are thinking about it.

Hello. My name is Michael Kwan and I have protagonist disease. Try as I might to the contrary, I still go about life as if I’m the main character of the story. Everyone else is just a supporting character or even a background actor. In this way, what’s important to me must be the most important thing, and everyone else should be working to support those wants and needs. They should be working exclusively to move my story forward.

Intellectually, I know this isn’t the case. Of course, it isn’t. Everyone has their own story. Everyone has their own struggles and challenges, triumphs and accomplishments. But, to some degree, we all suffer from protagonist disease. What’s more, we all get caught up in the minutiae of the day-to-day that we forget about what’s actually most important. When we look back at some of the decisions we make, we oftentimes come to realize how inconsequential they really were.

Cognitive Bias

It feels really important at the time, but in the grand scheme of things, did it really matter? Just yesterday, I was at the food court at the mall and I had to decide what I wanted for lunch. I narrowed it down to two places — Chef Tony’s for dim sum or Burger King for a burger — and I couldn’t make up my mind. But really, did it really matter?

We go through life thinking we have to do this or we ought not do that. However, perhaps one of the biggest lessons we can glean from cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is that the human mind is full of unconscious biases. We trigger automatic thoughts that are inherently faulty and totally illogical, all without realizing it. All-or-nothing thinking. “Should” statements.

The Psychology of Decisions

Daniel Kahneman is the author of New York Times bestsellers Thinking Fast and Slow and The Undoing Project. The Nobel Memorial Prize-winning psychologist is best known for his work on the psychology of decision-making and judgment, particularly as it pertains to cognitive biases and heuristics. He’s also worked extensively in behavioral economics.

In the quote above, he reminds us of the distorted thinking we can have in the heat of the moment. You might think that something is important right now, because it’s front of mind, but it might not be so important when you look at the big picture.

For my part, I’ve stuck to publishing four blog posts a week on Beyond the Rhetoric for a couple years. And I’ve been pretty good about keeping up with that blogging schedule, except I missed a couple posts in the last couple months. In my mind, that’s a very big deal. On some level, I feel like I’ve failed.

But if I didn’t point it out, most readers of this blog wouldn’t even notice. Even now that I’ve pointed it out, most readers probably wouldn’t even notice where the missing posts should be either. So, cut yourself some slack. It’s okay.

Thinking About Thinking

If you’re interested in more lessons from the world of psychology, check out my previous Sunday Snippet entries with Albert Ellis (on control), Abraham Maslow (on self-actualization), and Carl Jung (on individual happiness). Puts it all into perspective, doesn’t it?