There are many things that are good for us that we still don’t do. For example, brushing your teeth with coconut oil, voting in elections, or telling the truth on your Facebook, Tinder, or Instagram profile – not to mention your CV.
Similarly, there are lots of activities that we know serve no purpose, but for whatever reason – pleasure, curiosity, a lack of time – we incorporate them and let them become second nature to us. We eat things that aren’t good for our body. We know about this, we feel this, but we still do this. For me, this is the case with chocolate. This is the only fruit (and vegetable) that I eat every day.
We check our partner’s e-mails because we can’t resist the temptation, and then we get stressed because there’s nothing we can do with the information we’ve gained. And the problem with these new facts – once they are in our minds, they stay there for ever – no way to make them disappear.
We always take the same route to work, even though we’re aware that it neither benefits our brain nor helps in developing creativity. It also doesn’t make us more watchful on the road. But these same hills and valleys on the road give us a sense of security. We all like the rhythmic movement of a car.
We watch movies, TV shows, and sports instead of creating our own movies and playing sports with our friends (I, of course, have at least 10 reasons why Scandal is so useful. Working until 3:00 in the morning, and checking a report about snacks – that’s not one of them).
We spend time complaining instead of letting go, moving forward, and not ruining our mood or the moods of others. However, an idea comes to mind: if you let go once, and let go a second time, then you will be a loser forever.
We gossip behind our friends’ backs knowing it’s bad, but… we can’t find another way to vent our emotions. Still, for some reason, we think that even in issues involving friends, acquaintances, or enemies, we HAVE to be warriors of truth.
We look for excuses and reasons, we say we’re too young, too old, too poor, too tall, too ugly – just to avoid doing something we want to do, something we need to do, something we should do. I think IZMAŁKOWA could write a separate report devoted to what Poles complain about and what Poles believe is wrong with themselves. It would be quite useful.
We spend more time on the Internet than we should – others know about this, we know about this… but we still do it.
We complain that time slips through our fingers, that we didn’t realize how three hours on Facebook just flew by, but we feel uneasy when we don’t have Wi-Fi.
Sometimes, we even delete Facebook, blaming it for all of our lost time, because it’s always easier and better to find a guilty party. But we soon begin to miss it, we can’t stand it, and we come back to regain the longed-for access to the whole world and collection of our fears.
The fact is that we live in a world in which life without Facebook is difficult (not impossible, just difficult), so we think that only extreme solutions will help.
But quitting Facebook is worse than quitting smoking. You have to go through the nightmare of the initial withdrawal period, and then you still usually return to your bad habits… unless you found something different, something better to act as a replacement.
The problem with these behaviors is that they are ineffective.
It is always worth trying, but situations in which cutting yourself off and escaping bring long-term and effective results are rare. Even if you’re successful, these situations ALWAYS burden you with some kind of suffering. Sometimes it’s physical, and sometimes it’s much worse – mental suffering.
As we know from numerous psychological books, we’re all different. So, each of us has or should have a strategy which suits them best in different situations. If we force poor strategies on ourselves, the chances of success unfortunately fall to zero – when it comes to breaking the habit.
There are people who walk into cold water and dive in immediately. Then there are those who need to get used to it first – neither strategy is better or worse. The main thing is that it’s good for the person using it.
From the same psychology books, we know one more thing: we are more alike than we are different. I know – it’s a sad fact, because we cherish our uniqueness in difficult times, but… we’re only human. In other words, repeatable creatures. At least 90% of the mechanisms that guide us also guide billions of people who live, lived, or will live on this planet.
One of these mechanisms tells us that the mind is not a terrorist. You can’t just force it to do things the way you want. You need to negotiate with it.
I scratch your back, you scratch mine.
You might say that this isn’t OK because, in the end, who’s in charge here?!
The correct answer is: the neuron. Neuron connections are in charge.
Therefore, working on our habits means changing those neuron connections for other ones. And making these new connections much stronger than the old ones. Then, we have a chance at success.
This isn’t a particularly sophisticated rule; I would even say that it’s the “disco polo” of psychology. Every student knows this. We can find this in every “self-help” book.
I think that even those professors who loved me in college would say that I’ve completely “gone to the dogs” for writing about such basic things.
And still, what’s more – I know how many terrible habits I still have, even though I know how to change them.
I am a researcher, so I know that among the thousands of people that we study each year, we rarely meet someone who would apply these basic principles to their life.
So this text is a bit like a reminder that a car only runs when it has an engine and gasoline. A driver was once needed, but not anymore.
Unfortunately, the brain still needs a driver. It needs its own warrior which will be more like Obama than Trump – a warrior who discusses and negotiates rather than one who orders and ridicules.
Telling a mind that has grown accustomed to certain things “because I said so,” or worse, “because someone else said so,” doesn’t change anything.
Prohibiting something, as we know, only leads to strengthened defiance, more aggression, and more cheating.
When I ride in a train’s “Wars” dining car, I can’t get over the signs that say “Don’t work here – Eat here!” Thank you very much for that useful and practical information – I’d rather know why this train is constantly late or why it’s going much slower than the Shinkansen in Japan. But no, I have to be satisfied with the information that we’re supposed to eat here. Feeling like I’m in a school cafeteria, I want to behave like I’m actually in one. So I open my computer and say “and I’M working!”
From a psychological point of view, what “Wars” has done is totally useless.
And I’m not talking about understanding why Polish Railways did this, because that’s none of my business. In the end, who am I? Only a client who, along with millions of other customers, pays for the services of this company. From a psychological point of view, what Polish Railways does is totally ineffective, and from the point of view of things more important than psychology – i.e. reality –this is STUPID.
Before anything else, a smartphone is a computer.
So what’s the difference between typing on a smartphone and typing on a laptop?
Why is someone who is playing on Facebook more acceptable than someone who is writing their doctorate or a report in Word (like me and my researchers).
Secondly, the fact that Polish Railways has its own philosophy on how we should function is nice and noble (they care about us so much), but … what is their role in this?
The only effective way that ever convinced me to turn off my computer and focus on a conversation with other people (which is also not welcome in a “Wars” dining car) was when I couldn’t find the password to the Internet…
Once, I was in the beautiful village of Cabo Polonia in Uruguay. It’s a place where there is no electricity and the whole island sinks into the night or is bathed in candlelight.
Some visitors have batteries, and for a few hours at night, they turn on the lights or… the Internet.
My greatest addiction.
And an addiction for all those who want to put a picture on Instagram to show that there is no light, no Internet, and no Instagram.
When I arrived the first time and asked for the password, I was given a piece of paper which read as follows:
Connect, or look at the stars.
The next day:
Connect, or listen to the sound of the sea.
They didn’t demand. They didn’t order. They gave you a choice.
They gave me a choice that embarrassed me.
A choice which showed me that by choosing the Internet, I am hurting myself.
But NOBODY FORCED ME TO DO ANYTHING.
They treated me like an adult.
On the third day, I came without my laptop and phone, I looked at the stars, I ate fish, and I listened to the sea. I sat in my room, where there were candles, because they also gave you a choice: you can live with traditional electricity if you are used to it, or as all the locals live here every day – only by candlelight or in the dark.
This gentle but effective persuasion to not use the Internet initiated other changes. I started to run without music. I still took my iPhone for a few days but … by the halfway point, I was only using Endomondo, and iTunes was turned off. I met many people who come to Cabo Polonia all the time – almost like a rehabilitation clinic, except this one keeps you away from the media. There, you can do everything, and you don’t need anything. But you come back different.
Treating the mind and another person with respect.
Like a mentally-capable person who is able to make an independent decision.
Yes – you are the king, you rule here. It’s your brain and your mind. But there is a difference between a king and a tyrant.
The king builds loyalty, and thanks to that can sleep peacefully. He doesn’t have to be afraid that if something goes wrong (starting lunch) – the whole kingdom will collapse (diet, gym, and a return to eating donuts every day). When you have allies, singular failures are like a mosquito bite because you have something more important. You have tradition, rituals, or, in the world of an individual – a habit.
So it’s your decision – do you want to be a king or a tyrant?
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