Business Struggling with a career decision? Cognitive dissonance may...

Struggling with a career decision? Cognitive dissonance may be to blame


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By Heather Cherry—

You have been given two viable options for a new career. The first option is what you’ve always wanted – the role sounds like a perfect match. But the second option comes with higher pay and better benefits. What are you going to do?

Feeling conflicted about the choices can be the result of: cognitive dissonance– discomfort, tension or anxiety resulting from holding two conflicting beliefs at the same time.

Here’s what you can do.

Free choice paradigm

Psychologists call the cognitive dissonance experienced when making decisions the free choice paradigm. “When it comes to making decisions, we usually don’t get presented with one perfect option, which means we have to weigh one imperfect option against another imperfect option (there are pluses and minuses to both), causing dissonance,” he said. dr. Michele Lenofounder and owner of DML Psychological Services PLLC and host of Mind Matters with Dr. Michele. “You experience internal conflict as your brain tries to balance those two (or more) choices.”

people who experience cognitive dissonance could have:

  • shame about feeling wrong about the beliefs they previously held;
  • shame or regret about past actions or decisions;
  • guilt for hiding or doing something they think is bad; and
  • discomfort because they do something that contradicts what they believe.

sometimes it cognitive dissonance can come long after a decision is made. “This can lead you to rationalize why you made a choice,” said Dr. leno. “People rationalize their choices when faced with difficult decisions by claiming that they never wanted the option they didn’t choose.”

Cognitive dissonance and self-sabotage

Psychologist Jack Brehm first examined the relationship between dissonance and decision-making in 1956. Leon Festinger formulated it in a theory (1957), which suggests that when you force yourself to do something that is not in line with your core beliefs or values, you become unbalanced. Festinger’s theory identified that people need consistency between their behaviors, perceptions, attitudes, emotions and ideas. And sometimes achieving that balance doesn’t happen rationally.

This is because when? cognitive dissonance occurs, the brain tends to respond accordingly based on habits or behavior. “When we have negative thoughts, our behavior usually follows the same, and then we may find ourselves acting against our best interests,” he said Judy HoPh.D., ADPP, a board-certified clinical and forensic neuropsychologist and associate professor of psychology at Pepperdine University.

“When customers struggle with issues related to their success or growth, it can point to their underlying core beliefs,” said dr. Lindsay Barlow, a clinical psychologist at the Huntsman Mental Health Institute. “Changing the relationship with the unproductive thought paves the way for eventually letting it go.”

And cognitive dissonance can be linked to self-sabotaging behavior. “When faced with new information that challenges one of our deeply held beliefs, our minds prefer to confirm what we already know, a phenomenon psychologists call confirmation bias,” said Dr. Whoa. “Sometimes we don’t even notice the confirmation bias because our brains have automated it. This can drive self-sabotageespecially when new information could lead us to scrutinize our current behavior and change the behavior that isn’t working.”


When it comes to decision making, cognitive dissonanceIt can be problematic if you begin to justify or rationalize destructive behavior. Or if you start to stress yourself by trying to explain the dissonance. “If cognitive dissonance is not addressed, it can not only cause anxiety, but it can also lead to impaired decision-making,” said dr. Grant Brenner, MD DFAPA, board-certified physician-psychiatrist, author, and speaker. “But when cognitive dissonance is properly addressed, it can lead to better decision-making and greater self-awareness.”

The best way to deal with it cognitive dissonance when making decisions is to tackle it directly. “Take responsibility for everything you do,” explains Dr. Leno out. “Be as real as possible with yourself.”

Reduce cognitive dissonance and self-sabotage by conducting a self-examination through attentiveness. Set the alarm for intermittent times of the day. When the alarm goes off, take a moment to think about what you were thinking. Then jot down your thoughts in a notebook so you can spot patterns. “The next time you feel a distressing or painful emotion during your decision-making, assess what you were thinking right before noticing the emotion. Thoughts precede emotionsand events have no specific meaning until you ascribe thoughts to them,” said Dr. Ho.

Work on identifying the cause of inconsistencies in your mind. Consider these ideas.

  • Evaluate the pros and cons of your decision. What are you willing to give up?
  • How will giving up that thing (if any) affect the situation? And does this impact have long-term consequences?
  • How does this decision directly contradict your belief system? What beliefs in particular does this decision infringe?
  • What motivates you to consider your decision in the first place?

Digging in you cognitive dissonance may feel uncomfortable at first. But identifying them is a step toward understanding the reasoning behind your behavior, ultimately allowing you to make a more responsible decision.

Heather Cherry is a versatile writer and editor with 15 years of experience in content creation. She writes on a variety of topics, but specializes in health and wellness content. She is the author of the Small Business Marketing Guide, Market your A$$ discount.

Shreya Christina
Shreya has been with for 3 years, writing copy for client websites, blog posts, EDMs and other mediums to engage readers and encourage action. By collaborating with clients, our SEO manager and the wider team, Shreya seeks to understand an audience before creating memorable, persuasive copy.


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