The fox wanted the grapes, but when she found she couldn’t reach them she decided that they were probably sour, so she revised her original intention and believed that she never really wanted the grapes in the first place.
– The fox and the sour grapes, Aesop’s fable
One more year has passed and hopefully you have become wiser in life. You have not done the same mistakes like the year before, you know how foolish it is to do the same mistake twice. You have handed in all deadlines in time, you have ended all bad habits and you have never been to fatigue to care about your beloved ones.
Every year there is a constant strive to improve us to the next. New Years resolution is an excellent way to give us bad conscious. We set goals for the coming year, but do we act with them?
We all know that we sometimes cave into urges and don’t always do what we planned and we follow old habits even though we know they are bad for us. Our capacity to make decisions has limitations and we tend to use heuristics (i.e. mental shortcuts) in our everyday decision making Simon (1990). It seems to be very hard for us individuals to accept that we not all the time act with our intentions. When you look back on 2014, what would you remember? What are your best and worst moments? Is it the ones that Facebook would summarize, or is it the ones that social norms and society would define?
When you scrutinize yourself and the year, would you be grateful of your success stories or disappointed of that you haven’t accomplished?
There appears like we accept ourselves when we act in line with the rational Home economicus, but there is important to understand that happiness do not correspond to utility Clark et al. (2008). Happiness is subjective and very hard do define. If we would be more accepting towards our inadequacies and be more satisfied with out actions, would we be happier?
What if we could use cognitive biases to our advantage and with this be more satisfied with ourselves? I will give you my New Years Resolution “nudge”. It might be self-serving to argue for the benefits of mental shortcuts. But it helped me to be more satisfied with myself this year. I want to encourage you to accept your own decisions and that it’s fine to change your beliefs.
The fox and the sour grapes is a story that capture the psychological theory, cognitive dissonance, where people change their beliefs in order to reconcile with their past actions and behaviour Festinger (1957). We fall for self-deception and do not see things for what the really are, irrational behaviour. The theory states that people are motivated to avoid having their beliefs in a dissonant or conflicting relationship, and that we feel uncomfortable when dissonance occurs. But the brilliant function of cognitive dissonance is that it is much easier to change your beliefs than your actions. Even though it is obscuring the realities of situations and could lead to bad decisions it still is one way to bolster self-esteem and increase the sense of wellbeing, or even increase happiness.
So, – Did you accomplish all your New Years resolutions? Don’t forget to have The fox and the sour grapes in mind, it might nudge you to be more satisfied with the year.
SNN wishes you a fruitful 2015 🙂
Clark AndrewE, Frijters Paul, Shields MichaelA. (2007) Relative income, happiness, and utility: an explanation for the Easterlin paradox and other puzzles. Journal of Economic Literature.
Festinger, L. (1957). A theory of cognitive dissonance. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.
Herbert A. Simon. (1990). Invariants of Human Behavior, Annual Review of Psuchology