Peanut butter, favourite holiday destinations and your career....
No, it’s not that we just randomly generated some words for this title. We haven’t used any sophisticated SEO & Google Analytics to get your attention. We just thought - as it’s Blue Monday* today, it may be a good idea to start with an opening exciting line!
If the first thing that crossed your mind was: “I get the peanut butter and the favourite holiday destination but why would you call my career exciting?” We’re very happy that you’re reading this article.
As we work in the recruitment industry - there is not a single week when we are not faced with the eternal candidate’s dilemma: Should I give a new opportunity a chance? Should I leave my comfort zone, something that feels familiar, and explore the unknown?
Let’s get back to the exciting stuff. Peanut butter, maybe?** Imagine a life when all you’ve ever tried is [some random brand]’s peanut butter. You thought it was okay so there was no need for you to check out any alternatives. Actually, imagine that you’re so set on your favourite that you haven’t even thought of trying almond butter. Would you be happy? Possibly. Is there a chance you could be happier? Are you missing out on something? YOU DON’T KNOW.
And now - moving on to an even more exciting (exotic!) topic - your favourite holiday destination. Just drift off to those memories of the perfect white sandy beach and the sun touching your skin while you’re sipping on the 4th Caipirinha (and / or Mojito). And it’s not even lunchtime yet! Paradise. Let’s say that you’ve spent every single summer break there and it’s just perfect. You’ve never considered going anywhere else. And it’s great, honestly. Is there any chance you could be happier? Are you missing out on something? Well… you don’t know for sure.
These are just theoretical examples. Of course, most of us would try all different variations of peanut butter (why wouldn’t you?!) and would consider going to various holiday destinations. But when it comes to bigger decisions - such as, for example, changing a job, some serious mechanisms come into effect.
We have a natural tendency to avoid potential loss (and it’s way stronger than the urge to acquire additional gains). That’s why you might be really keen to try a new peanut butter (not that much to lose), a bit more wary when choosing your next holiday destination (a slightly higher stake), and totally rethink a new job opportunity hundreds of times (big risk).
That phenomenon, loss aversion, was proposed as an explanation for the endowment effect - the fact that people usually place a higher value on a good that they own than on a similar good that they do not own. It’s actually pretty funny when you think about it.
According to the studies on this subject - people tend to pay more to retain something that they own already, than to obtain something new. (It works even if there is no cause for attachment or even if the object was assigned to them only minutes ago). For example, participants first given a Swiss chocolate bar were generally unwilling to trade it for a coffee mug, whereas participants first given the coffee mug were generally unwilling to trade it for the chocolate bar.***
Even though it may seem a bit ridiculous, this mechanism is influencing us on a daily basis. We’re not saying that you should ditch your favourite peanut butter brand or never visit your favourite Canary Island again. We just wanted to make you aware of a process that may not always be working in your favour.
So when you’re thinking of whether or not you should pursue a new job opportunity, try to keep in mind that your brain is playing some tricks on you. You are literally hardwired to avoid any potential losses even if the prize, (a potential benefit,) may be great. And even though this mechanism used to protect us back in the day, it’s worth remembering that it’s not always rational and useful nowadays.
It’s a short read but we know that you’re probably exhausted and falling asleep already (even if you’re reading this with your morning coffee). Blue Monday, told ya!...****
Hopefully this piece brought back some nice summer memories. Or if not, go and get that peanut butter. It always helps.
*Blue Monday - a name given to a day in January (typically the third or the fourth Monday of the month) claimed to be the most depressing day of the year. The idea is considered pseudoscience, with its formula derided by scientists as nonsensical. (Wikipedia - Blue Monday) We can discuss if it’s actually this Monday or if it was the last Monday. You can leave a comment if you’ve got a strong point of view here. We, on the other hand, believe that January is miserable. In general. So are Mondays. In general.
** Yes, the author is a peanut butter addict. But they say it’s got healthy fats so all good!
**** No worries, spring is only round the corner, right?
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