Two dozen coats

I lived in South East Asia for 15 years where the seasons range from hot and hotter to scorching hot in a combination of wet, wetter and soaking wet. During that period, I owned about two dozen winter coats, mostly super thick ones. Why did I do that? Fortunately, it was not due to insanity but due to my perception and decision bias.

Whenever I pack to go to a cold place, be it London or New York, I check the weather forecast. I go to my closet and pick a coat. Sitting in the tropics with an air conditioner on full blast, all I can think of is how hot it is. I stare at the heavy coat, try it on and conclude that it is too heavy. I replace it with a lighter one.

Once I arrive at the destination, I realize I packed too light. I am shivering but refuse to buy a new coat. After all, I live in the tropics and I don’t need winter coats. I already have too many even for someone living in a cold climate. I try to manage. It is usually the third day that I finally give up and buy a coat. After shivering for three days, all I can think of is staying warm. I buy the thickest one I can find.

Why do I repeat the same mistake over and over? When we make a decision for our future, our present has a huge influence on our decision. Sitting in the tropics makes my brain discount the impact of coldness. The opposite happens. People sitting in the snow-covered Alps are likely to discount the impact of a direct tropical sun. Prof. Dan Gilbert who studies on happiness and other psychological fallacies we humans have explains this well in his lecture.

People who are successful often believe that their future will be as successful as the present. They do little risk management. People who are content with their current status do little to plan for the future as they assume the future will be as good as the present. People who are unhappy about the present have difficulty seeing opportunities or potential for the future as their present state clouds their judgement.

Know how our mind works, it is important to counterbalance our own fallacies. That’s what we do with our clients.