Headwinds/Tailwinds Asymmetry:

You probably feel more "unlucky" than most people. Most people do. However, there's a possibility that our feelings of bad luck are not actually caused by injustice, but result from a cognitive bias called the "headwinds/tailwinds asymmetry." To visualize this, imagine yourself going for a bike ride, you are painfully aware when biking into the wind (headwind), yet as soon as you turn around to go the other way, you quickly forget about the tailwind pushing you along. We painfully notice the headwinds, we don’t notice tailwinds.

This is a metaphor created by the research of Tom Gilovich and Shai Davidai for how our mind perceives negative events more readily than positive ones. We’re bound to encounter some measure of bad luck, just like everyone else. With more than eight billion people (and counting), almost everyone will encouter some 1 in a 1,000,000 misfortune from time to time. And (almost) everyone will feel like their 1 in a 1,000,000 was uniquely unlucky (which it often is). No two people will experience the same random combination of bad luck and misfortune in their lives. But, when we take bad events personally, we are setting ourselves up to feel constantly attacked by the mere existence of randomness and entropy in the world.

Unfortunately, the world has a lot of randomness, and randomness leads to unique situations of fortune and misfortune. Sometimes it works in our favour, sometimes it doesn’t. Try not to get too caught up in the headwinds. The tailwinds are often there somewhere in the background, they’re just harder to see at first.

Ricky Giesbrecht

Ricky Giesbrecht


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