The Rationality of Irrational Behavior

I have been studying the processes and mechanisms of human behavior for five years now and the one thing pops up frequently if you study human behavior is our irrational tendencies. At first, I found it fascinating how mindless we are collectively, then I found it frightening, and now I just accept and cherish it. Spoiler alert…if you are a human, you are more irrational than rational and for the majority of us, that’s ok.

Ninety-five percent of what we do on a daily basis is governed by our adaptive subconscious and half of what we do daily is carried out in the form of our habits. My entire platform on personal development is rooted on trying to take advantage of this fact and inform people about their mechanisms of habits and mindset (which is our habit of thinking) and to illustrate how we can work to make these powers work for us instead of against us.

“A two million dollar automobile is completely irrational but it is a high luxury item and the world of luxury is completely irrational, so it is a good business.” -Horacio Pagani founder of Pagani Automobiles

If you were to start trying to eliminate every irrational thing you did, you would have to be committed. It just isn’t happening. What I’ve learned is that if you can accept that we are all irrational social beings, you’re good. We won’t beat ourselves up when we do stupid things, we can forgive easier, we can be more empathetic and compassionate, we will actually be less fearful of failing or looking foolish so we will re-engage our natural tendencies to explore and learn and most importantly, we can work to address those few things here and there that we will want to change or improve and become more rational at.

Consciousness did not evolve to make us rational beings. Elevated consciousness is not even necessary for survival. If you become aware that you are being mindless or irrational, who cares as long you are not creating a destructive environment for yourself or others. I like shoes. I have enough pairs of shoes to last a lifetime. I’m not irresponsible with my spending. I treat myself accordingly when I see fit. This is a completely irrational procedure but I’m ok with it. I’m not hurting myself or anyone else.

As social animals we require connection with one another and the mechanism that affords us this connection is irrational in its processes but necessary. It’s just how it played out in natural selection and evolution. There are however a group of people that for whatever reason have a tendency to be far more rational beings than most. They make up less than one percent of humans and we have a name specifically for them, psychopaths. The real life version of a mostly rational person is not Mr. Spock but more like Hannibal Lecter. Be easy on yourself, and others, when a display of irrational behavior rears its head. There could be a million reasons why it surfaced and you will never know it, so just create a constructive narrative as to the why. Have a laugh about it and work to correct it if necessary. If not, then just file it with all the other irrational things we do, after all ninety-five of our behavior is governed by the adaptive subconscious which is largely irrational.

Elliot is a personal development author. His latest book, "The Bitter & The Sweet: Benefits of a Balanced Perspective in Life, and How to Achieve It" out now.