The Shell Game

In the Shell Game, three or more identical containers (often “shells”) are placed face down on a surface. A small ball (or other object) is placed beneath one of the containers so that it cannot be seen. Then the operator of the game shuffles the containers in plain view. The player or players of the game place bets to see if they can correctly identify under which container the ball lies.

The Shell Game

It sounds like a straightforward game of chance—but it’s generally a confidence game. Players always lose their bets because misdirection and/or manipulation is involved.

Did you ever consider that your mind works a bit like the shell game?

When it comes time to make decision, we tend to think only of the options we’ve explored before. We tend to think that the right answer must be under one of the two or three “shells” that we’ve been watching and understand. Our minds have been misdirected to believing that our options are limited to those presented.

In an infinite universe, limiting our choices to what we’ve already experienced can misdirect us into losing the bet.

To avoid (or remediate) this mental bias, we can take some steps to make sure we have more options. We can:

  • ask for ideas from other people (especially experts)
  • make sure that our options include some that have not previously been explored
  • consider breaking the issue into short-term and long-term choices or options
  • choose now and schedule an additional choice point later
  • evaluate our choices to not favor the familiar (already tried) ones

When life keeps presenting us with similar problems over and over we become frustrated. We say to ourselves, “This again? Why am I in this kind of trouble again?”

It’s because we keep making the same choices based on the same limited beliefs and ideas. It’s because we’re playing the shell game with our own lives.

In areas of our lives that are no longer working well, let’s stop playing the shell game. Let’s take risks on new ways of thinking. Let’s make different choices. Let’s recognize that new thoughts, new ideas and new choices are necessary if we wish to have a different result in our lives.

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