Unconscious Bias: 3 ways your brain is unknowingly holding you back (and what to do about it)

“A life lived of choice is a life of conscious action. A life lived of chance is a life of unconscious creation.” – Neale Donald Walsch

We usually think of our brain as our greatest asset.

It’s what makes us human and allows us to grow and learn. However, the more we begin to understand the complex link between our psychology and our physiology, the more we start to see that a lot of the time, our brains are actually holding us back.

This is because we live in a world vastly different from the one our brains evolved in. As a result, we can have a number of issues with things such as confidence, anxiety and even just rational decision making.

Fortunately, by taking a clear look at ways in which our brains might be holding us back, we can start to develop and utilize the more rational parts of our mind, and free ourselves from these barriers.

Here are three common ways your brain might be holding you back (and what to do about them).

  1. Self-judgement Fatigue

Self-judgement fatigue occurs when we spend a disproportionate amount of time critically looking at ourselves and questioning out abilities. All the energy that could be invested towards completing a task is wasted on our own rumination.

Key Takeaway:

When you notice a self-judgement, label it as such, simply recognise that it’s trying to help you (this is a key aspect of Acceptance and Commitment Therapy), but that it’s a thought that is taking away your energy and is not necessary. From there try to make decisions with less hesitation, and direct your focus outwards towards a task as opposed to inwards towards yourself.

  1. The Someday Fallacy

This is when we put too much reliance on our future self. The underlying belief here is that our future self will be more inspired to act than our current self. Unfortunately that’s never really the case and most people live a life where their dreams get relegated to the ‘someday pile.’

Key Takeaway:

Learn to take action now and not expect that your future self will take care of things for you. Assume that in the future there’s a high probability that you’ll be less likely to do something than you are now.  One effective way to overcome the someday fallacy is to be meticulous with goal setting; tracking dates and milestones to measure your progress objectively and see where you’ve been putting things off.

  1. Mood-congruent Memory Bias

This happens with all of us, almost all of the time, to varying degrees.

There’s an old saying “when it rains it pours” which basically means when things are good they’re really good, but when things are bad they’re really bad. However, this is actually a cognitive bias, rather than a statistical truth.

The reason behind this is because when things are going well we’re better able to retrieve memories related to other times when things were going well, however when things are going poorly, we tend to remember other times when things were going poorly.

This is particularly dangerous for anyone who suffers from depression or bipolar disorders as they can get stuck in negative or manic cycles of thought as their mood colors their memories and therefore their experience.

Key Takeaway:

Keep a journal and track your moods and actions. Make it a habit to complete important tasks independently of how you feel. Whether you’re motivated and inspired, or sick and tired, try to be as consistent as possible and not get swept up relying on your feelings for momentum.

Attention Pick the Brain Readers!

Would you like to learn more about how your mind is holding you back?

Then take our FREE psycho-metric style personality quiz and receive feedback based on your psychological profile:

How Well Do You Know Your Unconscious Mental Barriers?

Ben Fishel is a freelance writer, and the creator of Project Monkey Mind – a blog that delves deep into psychology, spirituality, and the mind, and offers practical wisdom for the digital age.

Don’t forget to follow Project Monkey Mind on Facebook!


Erin shows overscheduled, overwhelmed women how to do less so that they can achieve more. Traditional productivity books—written by men—barely touch the tangle of cultural pressures that women feel when facing down a to-do list. How to Get Sh*t Done will teach you how to zero in on the three areas of your life where you want to excel, and then it will show you how to off-load, outsource, or just stop giving a damn about the rest.

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