When we succeed at something, we like to look for a pattern. And that's great -- we can then share and repeat that pattern for more success. But let's say your success is accidental or based on luck. Then, maybe you mistakenly look for a pattern that doesn't exist. Credit.com calls this "Accidental Reinforcement", and says that it can hold you back.
Photo by Brandon Grasley
In a post on how certain mindsets can keep you from your financial goals, Credit.com uses a helpful metaphor:
Imagine you've been put a rat in a trap maze. If the rat solves the maze, she gets a piece of food dispensed from above. The idea here is to teach the rat to solve the maze as quickly as possible. But let's say you work in a lab that's particularly hard-hit by funding cutbacks, and your rate maze hasn't been updated since the 1960s. It's been acting up lately, but you have a test to run, so you drop the critter into the maze. She's skittish, and so the first thing she does is panic and bang into a maze wall. Your ageing trap shakes, and your food dispenser erroneously delivers a food pellet right where the rat is now seeing stars...
The rat jealously scoops up the crumb, devours it with satisfaction, and then starts banging her head into the wall, expecting more food… She learned quickly that banging walls = food, and she's going to keep on trying that, again and again. This is the torture called accidental reinforcement.
Basically, hooking onto the wrong pattern can lead to a lot of headache, and not a lot of payoff.
How does this relate to finance? Let's say, thanks to good luck, you score big on the stock market. But instead of chalking it up to luck, you convince yourself that you're an investing genius. If you accidentally reinforce your behaviour, you could end up making a series of bad investment choices, seriously hurting your finances.
This could also apply to your career goals. Let's say you ask for raise by complaining to your boss about your finances. Not a good tactic, according to experts. Then let's say you get the raise, but it's not because of your complaint. If you hook on to the idea that complaining about your personal life = getting a raise, this could hurt your income over time.
"Accidental reinforcement" can apply to different types of goals, not just financial ones. To combat it, it helps to take a deeper look at your success, and, of course, consider the role of luck and other circumstances. For more detail, check out Credit.com's full post.
5 Mindsets That Can Keep You From Your Goals [Credit.com]