There's that cliche, "If you think you can't, you can't," or something like that. The idea is that if you decide that you're not going to be able to do something, you'll self-sabotage and be unable to do it even if you have the inherent skill or resources. That's true, but it's only the tip of the self-talk iceberg.
You know those psychological studies where children are given the choice of a small prize now or a big prize later, and the ones who take the big prize end up having better lives in almost every regard? Well, a psychologist did that experiment in my middle school, and I took the small prize. Some people, myself included, have a natural tendency to prioritize the immediate.
So I want to rewire myself to be more long-term focused. To do this, I use self talk. Whenever I do something that isn't immediately satisfying, but is likely to have long term benefits, I pump myself up a little bit. So if I play good poker but lose money, I think to myself how it's good that I'm a profitable player, how well I did making good decisions even when losing money, and how good it is to be able to lose money and not freak out. I actually congratulate myself. If I resist buying a new laptop that I don't really need, I congratulate myself. If I push through a tough workout, I congratulate myself.
All of this seems silly, and would sound really silly if you could hear the internal monologue, but it actually works. The way we talk to ourselves really does affect our subconscious over the long term. That minuscule dopamine spike I get from praising myself every time I do something that is aligned with my goals creates little reward pathways in my brain that makes doing that thing easy next time.
I do this with a bunch of things, but the longest running is healthy food. When I first started eating healthy, I would make sure to take a few seconds after every meal and think about how good I felt and about what a good thing I was doing for my body. Sometimes I'd even imagine eighty-year-old Tynan being really glad that twenty-five-year-old Tynan ate broccoli instead of fries, and that would pump a little bit of dopamine into my system. I know that objectively crappy food often tastes better, but my real experience now is that I prefer healthy food. I consistently make the pro long-term choice.
I've also done the same thing with work. I love work. When I get a good chunk of work done, especially if I had to push myself to do it, I'll sometimes actually look in the mirror and complement myself on doing a good job. This sounds ridiculous, of course, but it's effective, so I don't really care.
I guess only time will tell, but I like to think that these sorts of ongoing habits will turn me into the kind of adult that started as a big-prize-later taker.
Photo is part of the display in the Bellagio Garden... one of my favorite Vegas things.
I'm sitting outside the Viking Museum in Oslo Norway. The museum is closed, but the little ice cream stand in the otherwise empty parking lot is still open. I'm on my third ice cream.
Eating ice cream in Norway is about as nonsensical as it gets. The ice creams are the crappy kind you find in freezer chests at truck stops. Norway is the most expensive country on the Big Mac index (and easily the most expensive country I've ever visited), so each ice cream costs around $4 US. It's not really warm here. Oh-- and I don't usually eat ice cream.
When I travel in new countries for short periods of time, say under a week, I allow myself to eat anything and everything. I do poorly with grey areas, so my diet is either 100% on or 100% off (although some things, like soda and margarine, are so offensive that I never eat them). It's usually 100% on, but I recognize that with two or three days in a country, my time may not be best spent scouting around for a decently healthy restaurant. Also, I'm pragmatic enough to know that a few days of eating crap food probably won't affect my long term health.
Mike Radivis just asked asked some good questions on "Chase Meaning, Not Happiness" -
How do you measure meaning if not in terms of happiness? Aren't things that create more happiness for a longer time for a larger number of individuals better than those things who lack those qualities but are proclaimed to be personal achievements anyway? Does the scope of happiness make happiness meaningful to you or not? What are achievements good for if they aren't good at facilitating happiness? Imagine you wouldn't experience any pleasant or unpleasant emotions and would have to decide rationally what to pursue (assuming that is possible at all). Then what you want to do with your life? (Another way to formulate this question maybe would be to ask what's your grand strategy in that situation.)
I'm quite interested in your answers. I like that your blog posts are so outspoken. It's just that the message of this post is hard for me to grasp, as I'm pretty much utilitarian in my thinking.
Good questions. I'll go through it line by line.
How do you measure meaning if not in terms of happiness?