We spend a lifetime accumulating common knowledge that our society has ordained as truth.
But what happens when it isn’t true?
One of life’s worst experiences occurs when we adopt a belief or philosophy that only leads to disappointment. This is incredibly frustrating after we’ve mentally and even emotionally invested in that belief.
What is Common Knowledge?
It’s the stuff that everyone knows. You don’t need to look up the kind of knowledge because it’s so familiar. It’s the basic building blocks of information that we all share.
But what exactly is common knowledge? And how do we know what counts as common knowledge?
Interestingly, there is no definitive answer to either of these questions. What one person considers to be common knowledge might be news to someone else. And what is considered common knowledge can change over time.
For example, think about the phrase “the world is round.” This was once a piece of information that was not considered common knowledge. In fact, most people believed that the world was flat. But as our understanding of the world increased, the idea that the world is round becoming more widely accepted.
Today, it is considered common knowledge.
The fact is that there’s a multitude of common knowledge out there that are notoriously unreliable or just plain wrong. For instance, here are some popular myths that science has disproved:
- We only use 10% of our brains.
- Organic food is more nutritious and pesticide-free.
- An apple a day keeps the doctor away.
- Eating chocolate gives you acne.
These are just a few; there are thousands of them out there. Many have circulated throughout our society for several decades.
While believing many of these myths will have little effect on our lives, we cannot say the same for all assumptions we make.
Some are very misleading and create problems for us down the road.
16 Surprising Truths that Greatly Impact our Life
Experts from the field of brain research have uncovered several instances where the best methods of behavior and beliefs are incredibly counterintuitive.
In other words, there are many instances when common sense and conventional wisdom let us down. Several meticulously conducted brain studies have concluded that going against our instincts is the best choice in certain cases.
Let us examine 16 of these circumstances where our best choices are counterintuitive.
1) Keep your Personal Goals Private
Whenever you’ve set a long-term personal goal for yourself, don’t tell anyone about it — or at least tell as few people as possible.
This is because the fewer individuals you tell about your goal, the better your chances of achieving it.
Research has discovered that telling people about a goal doesn’t increase your chances of succeeding. In fact, the opposite is true, as it decreases your chances of success.
There’s a misconception that the more people we tell about our goals, the more committed and invested we become, and are more likely to follow through.
However, what happens is that each time we tell someone, we experience a slight feeling of having already completed our goal. Over time, our desire and motivation to achieve that goal in real life diminish, so we fall short of its completion.
Researchers refer to this phenomenon as the intention-behavior gap, which is the difference between people’s actions and plans. This gap widens when we announce our goals too broadly.
2) Treat your Self-Control as a Muscle
Studies have revealed that our sense of self-control behaves like a muscle. Whenever we work out at the gym, we exhaust many muscles. The muscles become less useful and fatigued but much stronger when they heal.
According to science, the same process seems to apply to our self-control.
A significant study was conducted where participants were asked to quit eating sweets for two weeks.
They were also asked to participate in a stop-signal experiment that involved watching a computer screen. Whenever a rectangle appeared on the right side of the screen, they would press a button with their right hand. The same was true for rectangles appearing on the left side of the screen — using their left hands to respond.
However, about 25% of the time, a beep would sound when the rectangle appeared. When they heard the beep, they were instructed to press no keys at all. This sounds simple, but it is a robust test of a person’s self-control as one part of the brain is pitted against another.
After the two weeks passed, most participants successfully eliminated sweets from their diet.
But the most exciting observation was that they demonstrated remarkable improvement when they repeated the stop-signal test.
Thus, when self-control is practiced, self-control is improved — precisely as muscles do.
3) Delay Gratification
The ability to delay gratification is a fascinating but very significant trait — as it turns out.
A huge study known as the marshmallow test was conducted over 40 years ago. During this study, children were challenged with a self-control test. These experiments wound up laying the groundwork for future studies of self-control.
In this experiment, preschool children were presented with a plate of marshmallows. Then they were told that the instructor must leave the room but were presented with a choice. If the child waited until the instructor returned, they would get two marshmallows.
However, if the child could wait no longer, they could ring a bell, and the instructor would return instantly but would only give them one marshmallow. In other words, was the child willing to delay gratification for a bigger reward?
This led to exciting behavior pattern detection over the next few decades. For instance, teenagers who were willing to delay gratification scored much higher on the SATs. Adults had very similar outcomes.
Several children who participated in the original marshmallow test were tracked down as adults in their 40s.
And it was observed that most of those who had delayed gratification maintained their willpower and self-control throughout their adult lives, while those who did poorly still exhibited less self-control.
Amazingly, their differences in willpower had largely been maintained over four decades.
4) We Get a Limited Supply of Daily Willpower
There is a phenomenon called ‘willpower depletion,’ and it is very well-known among scientists. It simply implies that when one element of your life draws from your supply of willpower, it can deplete your ability to use your willpower for another aspect of your life.
The thing is that willpower uses up brainpower and also depletes your blood sugar. But there’s more. The willpower used for external reasons requires more of your supply than willpower used for internal desires and objectives.
One significant example is when people live in poverty, they typically exercise much more willpower when they spend their limited income than people at higher income levels.
This is because they have more spending decisions to make, and simple tasks like grocery shopping become a massive test of self-control — while wealthier people can save their willpower for other things in life.
A study even discovered that when participants were forced to deplete willpower, they became much more impulsive — to the point they would often pay more for the same service or product.
5) The Myth of Multi-Tasking
This may be one myth you’ve already heard about. This is because much discussion about multi-tasking has occurred over the past decade.
Multi-tasking had become a badge of honor because such a skill was perceived to be extremely valuable in today’s complex modern world.
However, when researchers took a closer look at multi-tasking, this was not the case at all. The exact opposite result was observed during testing.
Not only were reductions in performance discovered during multi-tasking, but those reductions were also quite significant — soundly dispelling the myth.
It turns out there are limits to how effectively humans can process simultaneous information streams.
While the human brain can perform more than one parallel operation at times, it all goes awry whenever bottlenecks occur. Some specific brain activities can only be processed one task at a time.
Along with multi-tasking comes the deceptive feeling of doing two things at once, but in reality, we are simply switching between two things rapidly. Over time, doing this requires more brain resources than are available, leading to performance deterioration.
Of course, as we all know, sometimes we have no choice but to multi-task. In such cases, it helps reserve trivial tasks for multi-tasking.
6) The Perception of How Time Passes
Adults, especially older adults, fully understand the concept of how time seems to go by faster as we get older. Conversely, as children, time seemed to drag along.
Experts contend this is because our brain encodes the passing of years based on the amount of information we process in a given time interval.
As children, we experience many new things, making time seem slower. But as we age, life becomes routine and mundane, so time appears to pass at an increased rate.
Therefore, the standard advice for slowing down our perception of time is to create as many new experiences as possible in our life. For some of us, this advice isn’t convenient. The alternative would be to pay more attention and be more mindful of each moment — regardless of how mundane — to discover more novelty by taking a deeper dive into our daily life.
7) Decide in Advance Where to Fail
One part of being human is understanding that there will be some things at which we will underachieve. This may be the case in helping your child with their Algebra homework or taking a crack at fixing the bathroom faucet.
But even some tasks within your area of expertise will sometimes suffer simply because your energy or your time is limited.
While it’d be noble to give every task your absolute best, it is not always practical. We already know the perils of multi-tasking and that when we do so, we can expect a reduction in performance.
Whenever you determine in advance what you are willing to fail at, it simply means the area where you won’t expect excellence. For instance, consider a case where you need to finish a critical report, and your desk needs to be decluttered.
The report would need your very best effort, whereas the desk decluttering could get by with adequate effort.
The mindset of deciding where to fail upfront allows for focusing your energy and time more efficiently. Thus, you are replacing the insane high-pressure quest for optimum work-life balance with a more reasonable approach — a realistic, slightly imbalanced one that works much better.
Surprisingly, many in the workforce today struggle with prioritizing their tasks in this manner.
8) Understand that Some Passions can be Destructive
Over the years, we’ve heard positive thinking gurus advise us to find our ‘passion’ in life. And that when we do this, everything else is simple and straightforward. Unfortunately, passion is not that simple, and there’s more that needs to be considered.
There are harmonious passions, and there are obsessive passions. Harmonious passions are healthy and serve you well. Conversely, obsessive passions are unhealthy and destructive.
It’s pretty easy to tell the difference; pursuing one of them empowers you greatly, and pursuing the other one drains your energy while turning you into someone you don’t like.
Sometimes we even get on the hamster wheel of pursuing a toxic passion in an attempt to please someone else – or the status quo. We must learn the difference.
9) Career Success is Strongly Linked to being Conscientious
There are times when we’re unsure if we are on the right track regarding our life’s calling. It’s like we expect some neon sign to pop up and point us toward our path. But as we’ve all learned, it doesn’t quite work that way.
However, we get indicators from time to time to let us know we’re getting warmer in reaching that quest.
One of those indicators happens to be how conscientious we are. Many psychologists have discovered that this feeling is associated with our true calling because conscientious people are much more industrious and self-disciplined.
The very fact that you are concerned about career success in this way gives you a leg up over many colleagues. Learn to embrace this fact rather than stress out about it.
10) Passion is Stronger When We Do Things We Believe In – Rather than Things We Enjoy
Most of us think we know where our passions come from.
However, researchers discovered this not to be the case. They learned that those who think that passion comes from pleasurable things were far less apt to feel that they’d found passion this way.
Passion was far more evident among those who felt they were doing things that mattered the most.
Some believe this is because working for sheer pleasure is not noble enough for our psyche and that working toward objectives we deeply care about is more worthy.
The researchers also concluded that our work passion has more to do with our beliefs than what our actual jobs entail.
11) More Times than Not, Our Work Becomes our Passion and Not the Other Way Around
Let’s face it, many of us would’ve never guessed that we’d be making a living doing our present jobs. On top of that, we’d never believed that such a job would eventually become our career.
In other words, our jobs grew into our passions — and there’s a good reason for this. The more we invested our time, skills, and know-how into our jobs, the bigger our stakes in those companies became.
As time went on, we claimed more and more ownership of our jobs. We built reputations, products, and services that we cared about. In fact, a German survey illustrated this very point.
This should be somewhat of a relief for those frustrated trying to figure out their true calling. It might have already found you. And this means you don’t have to expect your calling to drop in your lap out of the clear blue sky.
12) Unanswered Life Callings are Worse than Having No Calling at All
For those who can’t figure out their true purpose, there is actually something worse — much worse, according to researchers. And that’s having a calling and doing nothing about it.
A research team from the University of South Florida evaluated hundreds of study participants. The participants were divided into three groups: 1) those who had no calling in life, 2) those who answered a calling, or 3) those with callings that weren’t answered.
These three groups answered career, commitment, life satisfaction, work engagement, and health questions. The group that had failed to answer their calling did far worse than the other two groups in every measure.
From this surprising conclusion, the researchers surmised that callings are only beneficial when they are answered. Otherwise, they are detrimental.
13) The importance of (Sometimes) Doing Nothing
The thing is that learning to do nothing can be very important in our lives. This depends on the individual and how well they’ve established their own life balance. And no, this is not a license to be lazy and unproductive.
If you are unable to be comfortable with doing nothing sometimes, then you’re more apt to make poor choices with your time.
Yearning for productivity can cause us to rush into activities that don’t matter.
Look around you; there’s always someone that’s working their butts off but doesn’t seem to get anywhere. Most likely, these people have busied themselves with low-priority tasks that don’t make much of a difference. They certainly haven’t learned the importance of doing anything.
Doing nothing means letting the world go and letting it exist as it will. Sometimes we try to control and manipulate when we’d be better off letting go — we get in our own way when the things we want are coming our way — if we let it.
When you learn to let go and relax more, your anxiety will naturally decrease, and make better choices.
14) Understanding your Brain’s Reward System
Believe it or not, our brains record a ‘reward value’ for the different places, people, and things we experience. And the more rewarding that our brains believe an experience is, the stronger the habits pertaining to it will become.
However, these reward values often become outdated and even distorted over time. For instance, a passion for brownies that we developed as a teen might make us lightheaded and sick as an adult after eating three of them.
What this implies is that we can change a habit by changing the reward system it is based upon.
Thus, we need a closer look at the habits at work in our current lives. In theory, we can update the new reward value in our brain whenever we perform the habit until we are no longer attracted to it.
For example, if there’s too much anxiety in your life, you begin taking note of situations that create anxiety in your daily life. Make mental notes of how it makes you feel physically and mentally, and ask yourself why.
This process is an opportunity to learn more about yourself and grow, not a time for self-judgment and criticism. Over time, your brain will become disenchanted with your developed anxiety habits – and seek new ones.
Unless you’re dealing with an addiction of some sort – when done properly, you can do this with little discomfort.
15) Daydreaming can Help Boost your Mood
Research in the past has indicated that a wandering mind reflects an unhappy mind. The rationale for this is that people are less happy when they’re not focused on what they’re doing.
This could very well be true, but there’s a caveat.
It depends on the content of your daydreams. If your wandering mind keeps replaying your past mistakes and screw-ups and how often you’ve failed to reach your goals, then yes, your mind will be unhappy.
But what if you are thoughts are about the exact opposite?
Suppose you think about your successes and how eager you are about your next project; wouldn’t that be different?
Yes, it would.
In fact, according to a 2013 study, it makes a huge difference. They found that their moods improved when people daydreamed about more positive and exciting things. The same was reported in similar studies when people daydreamed about their future potential or the people they love.
Researchers also found that mind-wandering can be more of an effective antidote for depression than a cause.
In many cases, they found that poor moods often led to mind wandering, but the opposite wasn’t necessarily true — suggesting that daydreaming can indeed help people feel better.
16) Solitude Feeds a Creative Mind
Today, many pundits emphasize the importance of teamwork and how teams can brainstorm creative ways to solve problems and streamline processes.
There is something to be said about the ‘two minds are better than one ’ mentality, but genuinely creative people need the opposite approach.
Science has confirmed what countless artists have been demonstrating for centuries — that solitude feeds a creative mind.
Neuroscientists found that whenever we conduct inwardly focused reflection while in solitude, we utilize a completely different brain network than we would with outwardly concentrated attention.
When our focus points towards the outside world, our executive attention network is engaged, but our imaginative network is suppressed.
This is why solitude is vital to our life balance. We need to give ourselves time and space to reflect, pursue new connections, and find deeper meanings.
Unfortunately, modern society places a lower value on solitude — causing many to feel bad about wanting alone time. Too often, we hear solitude described as wasted time, reflecting antisocial behavior and poor mental health. This is not always the case.
I’ll be the first to admit that many of the items listed here contradict other articles posted in this blog. There is no doubt about this.
However, we cannot forget the fact that we humans are extremely complex creatures. In addition to that, it is virtually impossible to create any recipe for success, wealth, or anything else that guarantees the desired results for everyone.
This is because we are all very unique with our own sets of passions, desires, strengths, weaknesses, and a multitude of idiosyncrasies. And it is safe to say that probably no one person will benefit from all 16 of the items listed in this post.
But I believe everyone will find that at least one of these items will be helpful in their lives and give them a new distinction.
Not everyone realizes that a new distinction has the ability to change lives – even a slight distinction. Sometimes that’s all we need to push our mindset and vision to new levels. And the secret to all things in life comes from our mindset.
It is my wish that you find something here that helps you immensely.
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