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5 Tricks of the Mind You Need to Master

5 Tricks of the Mind You Need to Master

Our mind plays tricks on us all the time. Unfortunately, advertisers, co-workers, friends, and family around us exploit those common tricks daily. Our minds are so mischievous that we can’t really be sure that anything is the way we see it. What I have learned from my research is that our mind acts in ways that would have helped us with survival at one point. And perhaps these mind tricks still help at times, but often they are now a liability.

Here are common tricks that our brains play on us, and how we can avoid their dangers and exploit their benefits:

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1. Thinking about the future. Fearing the future.

The human ability to plan for the future is a very important part of what makes us so successful in our ability to live and thrive. Being able to plan involves making predictions about what will happen in the future, which allows us to acting accordingly. The drawback to this skill is that we sometimes let it run away with itself and see a future that causes us to be afraid.

Fear is a powerful motivator and a great tool if we are in danger, but it can plague us in modern times, when dangers aren’t so obvious and the solution to them isn’t as simple as fight or flee. In Seneca’s words, we suffer more often in imagination than in reality. If you need to approach a difficult situation, use fear as a fuel for motivation. Channel it, rather than letting it paralyze you.

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 2. Thinking about thinking about thinking…

When we are faced with the question, ‘Who am I?’ many people listen to the thoughts in their heads; the internal narrative they hear in their daily lives. However, when you recognize that voice as just thoughts, you realize that there is some other form of consciousness that is observing those thoughts. The discipline of metacognition can be called ‘thinking about thinking’, or ‘knowing about knowing’. Simply put, it allows us to realize that our thoughts aren’t set in stone and can be altered by other thoughts.

If we were to observe a person on the street who says everything that goes through their head, most of us label them as mentally unhinged. However, the same thing goes on in our heads when we let our thoughts carry on unchecked. The fact that we can change our thoughts by thinking about them is the basis for Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and one of the arguments for a more spiritual aspect to humanity, or some form of larger consciousness. Thinking about your thoughts can change your thought patterns and your behavior.

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3. Old habits die hard.

Routine has been called the crutch of the mind, and that is entirely true. The remark is often made as an insult and a reason to break routine; but acting unpredictably and without routine on a daily basis would be absolutely exhausting. Habit formation is in no way unique to humans, as Pavlov’s dogs would argue, but our ability to cultivate good habits is something we can learn, once we’ve gone through the (above) process of thinking about how we act and think. Creating a ‘routine’ to frequently exercise, or to express love to a spouse, or to work without distraction, is one of the benefits of having a reprogrammable mind.

4. Winter is coming. Time to hibernate.

When winter starts to approach, our bodies are programmed to conserve energy by eating more or exercising less. This is a natural response when you are in a low-food or temperature environment, but one that is no longer necessary if you are have adequate food and heat. You will feel more tired and hungry than you have any right to be, and your body will try to store fat when it can. Don’t let it. This is one of those tricks of the mind that can’t really be used usefully, only overcome.

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5. My reality is not your reality.

Studies by Loftus and Palmer showed that eyewitnesses to car accidents can be incredibly far off the mark when estimating the speed of the vehicles and they can be influenced by the words used when they are asked questions. When it comes to street fights, baffled police frequently come across two people who are convinced that the other person threw the first punch, and neither appears to be lying.

Our minds are able to restructure our memories of an event to make us appear like the good guy, even if we weren’t. And the opposite – anybody trying to introduce themselves to somebody attractive has probably experienced ‘approach anxiety’, where any small comment or gesture becomes a hurtful insult. The positive aspect here is that we can retrain ourselves to see the good in situations instead. The wildly optimistic person may be a bit unrealistic, but it’s hard not to envy him.

Featured photo credit: Young man with pensive expression via Shutterstock

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Last Updated on January 21, 2020

The Best Way to Create a Vision for the Life You Want

The Best Way to Create a Vision for the Life You Want

Creating a vision for your life might seem like a frivolous, fantastical waste of time, but it’s not: creating a compelling vision of the life you want is actually one of the most effective strategies for achieving the life of your dreams. Perhaps the best way to look at the concept of a life vision is as a compass to help guide you to take the best actions and make the right choices that help propel you toward your best life.

your vision of where or who you want to be is the greatest asset you have

    Why You Need a Vision

    Experts and life success stories support the idea that with a vision in mind, you are more likely to succeed far beyond what you could otherwise achieve without a clear vision. Think of crafting your life vision as mapping a path to your personal and professional dreams. Life satisfaction and personal happiness are within reach. The harsh reality is that if you don’t develop your own vision, you’ll allow other people and circumstances to direct the course of your life.

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    How to Create Your Life Vision

    Don’t expect a clear and well-defined vision overnight—envisioning your life and determining the course you will follow requires time, and reflection. You need to cultivate vision and perspective, and you also need to apply logic and planning for the practical application of your vision. Your best vision blossoms from your dreams, hopes, and aspirations. It will resonate with your values and ideals, and will generate energy and enthusiasm to help strengthen your commitment to explore the possibilities of your life.

    What Do You Want?

    The question sounds deceptively simple, but it’s often the most difficult to answer. Allowing yourself to explore your deepest desires can be very frightening. You may also not think you have the time to consider something as fanciful as what you want out of life, but it’s important to remind yourself that a life of fulfillment does not usually happen by chance, but by design.

    It’s helpful to ask some thought-provoking questions to help you discover the possibilities of what you want out of life. Consider every aspect of your life, personal and professional, tangible and intangible. Contemplate all the important areas, family and friends, career and success, health and quality of life, spiritual connection and personal growth, and don’t forget about fun and enjoyment.

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    Some tips to guide you:

    • Remember to ask why you want certain things
    • Think about what you want, not on what you don’t want.
    • Give yourself permission to dream.
    • Be creative. Consider ideas that you never thought possible.
    • Focus on your wishes, not what others expect of you.

    Some questions to start your exploration:

    • What really matters to you in life? Not what should matter, what does matter.
    • What would you like to have more of in your life?
    • Set aside money for a moment; what do you want in your career?
    • What are your secret passions and dreams?
    • What would bring more joy and happiness into your life?
    • What do you want your relationships to be like?
    • What qualities would you like to develop?
    • What are your values? What issues do you care about?
    • What are your talents? What’s special about you?
    • What would you most like to accomplish?
    • What would legacy would you like to leave behind?

    It may be helpful to write your thoughts down in a journal or creative vision board if you’re the creative type. Add your own questions, and ask others what they want out of life. Relax and make this exercise fun. You may want to set your answers aside for a while and come back to them later to see if any have changed or if you have anything to add.

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    What Would Your Best Life Look Like?

    Describe your ideal life in detail. Allow yourself to dream and imagine, and create a vivid picture. If you can’t visualize a picture, focus on how your best life would feel. If you find it difficult to envision your life 20 or 30 years from now, start with five years—even a few years into the future will give you a place to start. What you see may surprise you. Set aside preconceived notions. This is your chance to dream and fantasize.

    A few prompts to get you started:

    • What will you have accomplished already?
    • How will you feel about yourself?
    • What kind of people are in your life? How do you feel about them?
    • What does your ideal day look like?
    • Where are you? Where do you live? Think specifics, what city, state, or country, type of community, house or an apartment, style and atmosphere.
    • What would you be doing?
    • Are you with another person, a group of people, or are you by yourself?
    • How are you dressed?
    • What’s your state of mind? Happy or sad? Contented or frustrated?
    • What does your physical body look like? How do you feel about that?
    • Does your best life make you smile and make your heart sing? If it doesn’t, dig deeper, dream bigger.

    It’s important to focus on the result, or at least a way-point in your life. Don’t think about the process for getting there yet—that’s the next stepGive yourself permission to revisit this vision every day, even if only for a few minutes. Keep your vision alive and in the front of your mind.

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    Plan Backwards

    It may sound counter-intuitive to plan backwards rather than forwards, but when you’re planning your life from the end result, it’s often more useful to consider the last step and work your way back to the first. This is actually a valuable and practical strategy for making your vision a reality.

    • What’s the last thing that would’ve had to happen to achieve your best life?
    • What’s the most important choice you would’ve had to make?
    • What would you have needed to learn along the way?
    • What important actions would you have had to take?
    • What beliefs would you have needed to change?
    • What habits or behaviors would you have had to cultivate?
    • What type of support would you have had to enlist?
    • How long will it have taken you to realize your best life?
    • What steps or milestones would you have needed to reach along the way?

    Now it’s time to think about your first step, and the next step after that. Ponder the gap between where you are now and where you want to be in the future. It may seem impossible, but it’s quite achievable if you take it step-by-step.

    It’s important to revisit this vision from time to time. Don’t be surprised if your answers to the questions, your technicolor vision, and the resulting plans change. That can actually be a very good thing; as you change in unforeseeable ways, the best life you envision will change as well. For now, it’s important to use the process, create your vision, and take the first step towards making that vision a reality.

    Featured photo credit: Matt Noble via unsplash.com

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