Us humans have weak minds.
We stick to the status quo when we should be making a change.
We hardly ever change our minds, even when we're wrong.
We make terrible, and easily avoidable, financial choices.
And we're scared of sharks, even though 733X as many humans are killed by freshwater snails.
But it's not all bad news for us.
Every coin has two sides, and there are some definite benefits to a weak mind.
Just as we are constantly and unknowingly tricked by our surroundings, we can learn to trick ourselves to achieve a desired outcome.
For example, who doesn't like to be happy?
It's nice to feel positive, grateful, and full of life. A positive outlook is also healthy: It improves our day-to-day constitution and may even help us live longer.
There are an incredible number of ways to take advantage of our susceptibility to various cognitive quirks in order to foster greater contentment in our lives.
One particulary helpful quirk to put to use is the framing effect.
Wikipedia sums it up nicely:
The framing effect is an example of cognitive bias, in which people react to a particular choice in different ways depending on how it is presented
One specific framing technique I use regularly is reframing "Have to" statements as "Get to" statements.
Rather than "I have to go to the gym now", think "I get to go to the gym now!"
"I have to go to work" --> "I get to go to work."
"I have to clean the house" --> "I get to clean the house."
You can even take it a step further and reframe the activity as well:
"I have to go to the gym" --> "I get to go move and strengthen my body."
"I have to go to work" --> "I get to go add real value to the world today and solve some problems."
"I have to clean the house" --> "I get to indulge my god damn OCD and get this place in order."
Inherent in a "get to" frame is gratitude. When you remind yourself that you get to go on a run, you can't help but be grateful for the fact that running is something you can do. It's not something everybody gets to do. Some people never get to do it.
This may seem cheesy or silly at first. But the shift, although subtle, can make a big difference. The words we use do matter. And the internal scripts we repeat in our minds do make a big difference, and they compound over time.
So go ahead and give it a try (but remember, you don't have to).
Peter Koehler's Writing Archive