You and your friend each buy a quick pick lottery ticket. You ask him to hold your ticket while you tie your shoe lace, and you later realise the tickets must have been jumbled – the one you have is not the same one you originally had. Does this bother you?

  1. Yes, very much
  2. Maybe a little
  3. No, it makes no difference

Most of us harbour a sense of control – unrealistic but nevertheless – seemingly real. There’s really no way to know beforehand whether such beliefs will turn out to be justified or realistic. Creating such illusions is part of our brain’s mechanism to create a sense of bonhomie.

In games involving pure chance, we imagine we can somehow influence the outcome even though, we can’t. For instance, rolling the dice softly if we want low numbers and hard if we want high numbers.

We create illusions all the time. The biggest illusion that most of us have is that of “control”. Having an unrealistically positive self – image and an exaggerated sense of control over events may be construed as being ego-centric.

But one thing to note is that memory is organised ego-centrically – more personal and meaningful something is or the more self- relevant it is, the easier it is to remember. Positive self – illusions feed back into our memory.

Organizations can now use this insight into improving employee performance. People with high self – perception and personal control will often be more motivated and persistent. Such people will also tend to show better performance because of this. If you are introducing a change, inform these employees before hand – they will adopt the change and not just adapt to it.

What’s more – now you need not ask questions like the one I mentioned earlier to know how realistic or optimistic your employee is. Now there are technologically advanced apps – game based assessments that can help you identify self –control, optimism, persistence and more such traits.

Here’s hoping that you take charge of this financial year and hire employees who will perform.

Write to me at to share your views on self-control, illusion and optimism.