2024 March 12 Live life in your own moment

Mar 12, 2024

Hi, this is Jim Cranston from 7EveryMinute and 7EveryMinute.com, the podcast and website about reimagining your life. Thanks for joining me today to talk about how we sometimes trick ourselves into false visions. So let's get started. If you like what you hear today, please leave a like, tell your friends, send me a message.


First, if you were listening last week, you may remember I talked about my brother's friend in Ukraine we hadn't heard from. He is still in Ukraine keeping busy, helping where he can, and he is okay. He's still helping out, and he's doing well. I was very pleased to learn that. 


But on to the topic at hand: setting a realistic vision. As humans, we possess some interesting survival and societal traits. Two that we'll talk about today are negativity bias and observer bias. 


Negativity bias is when we tend to remember bad things or threatening events more than remember the good things. It makes sense from a survival standpoint. If you go down there and you remember the bear lives there, you really want to remember that. If there are good berries over there and pretty good berries somewhere else, it doesn't matter which ones you get.


Remembering the bad makes a lot of sense for survival. But with all the information we get every day now, all that information has the possibility of just flooding our memory with bad thoughts, either real or just imagined. It's not that there's necessarily more bad going on, but especially with the news always highlighting the worst case possibilities, we're exposed to more negativity than before when we weren't always so connected. This primes our brain to come up with negative thoughts about ourselves, our capabilities, and our future potential because everything is bad.


All you hear is bad news, so you're always looking for more negative stuff because that's what you see all day. If you go back to our morning routines (we did some, some episodes on that), part of the reason for doing those instead of opening up your phone and looking at the news is to start off your day by starting with positive things in your day and to offset that negative bias that creeps into our brain just from the way the news is presented these days.


The second bias is called observer bias. We tend to believe ourselves more than other people. We tend to interpret the world in a way that supports our existing beliefs. There are a lot of negative thoughts associated with that, but this is just a survival mechanism, too.


It wouldn't be good if every time you decided you were going to do something, the next piece of data completely disrupted everything you thought about, or even reversed what you thought. You change your mind so often, you never get anything done. Observer bias keeps you on an even keel until there's overwhelming evidence to make a change. The way you do that is by interpreting things that are consistent with the way you already believe them to be. 


But too much of a good thing isn't good at all. If we're too inflexible, we tend to let our presumptions and expectations define our reality. We really want them to temper reality and cause us to question when things change. 


Over time, you change your beliefs. We've talked about that insofar as reprogramming our brains, but when we put these two traits together, of negativity bias and observer bias, we mix an oversupply of constant bad news and add in a bunch of self criticism.


We have our own cultural expectations of how everyone else is doing better than us because the things that we see: the fancy car, the new house, the trips, and no matter how hard we try, it becomes very difficult to create a plausible vision for ourselves. We have a negative version of ourselves that we're living through, a negative vision of the world around us, and our own observer bias is saying everyone else is doing better than we are. 


This isn't a really good way to then look at our principles and put together a really upbeat vision that we want to live to. It's an easy trap to fall into. Sometimes it seems hard to break, but is it really hard to break? This is another place where our old friend mindfulness comes in.


First off, are we really so inferior and pitiful because we're just walking around our neighborhood, instead of having a barbecue on the back porch? Does that make us just horrible instead of going for that weekend trip to Dallas to get the best barbecue in Texas. I really don't think so.


Let me share a picture here. That's Moose. This is actually one of the places near me where Moose and I used to go walking. I live in a very pretty area, but in reality, most areas are actually very pretty. They have pretty features about them if you look for them. I still get constant comments about pictures I send to people. about how amazing things look. Where am I? Where's that waterfall? Where's that place with the dog? That's just beautiful. What that really is, is them wanting what I have. They want to go to that place where that waterfall is. They want to go to the place where that trail is. They want to go to this overlook. The secret is to remember that what I have. other people desire. It's easy to forget the beauty right in front of you.


People travel from other states, sometimes halfway across the country, to come to exactly where I live. That was really a huge revelation for me. It really changed my perspective on a whole lot of things. I used to think that everyone had these other things. New Hampshire's much nicer. Vermont's much nicer. Everything else is better. But then I realized that there's a lot of people who would give anything to live in this area. I'd lived here for years, and I liked it, but I just never really thought about it. 


You've really got to pay attention to what is around you, and become aware of what you have. It's not just what you think other people have. When we take those two innate biases that we have, negativity and observer biases, and be mindful of what we have, we've really pretty much canceled out the negativity bias because we remember that we do have a lot of things.


We do have friends. We may not be the best-looking person in the world, but some people think we're okay. The negativity bias is created by us perceiving that we're missing something. Whether it's a physical thing in our lives, our personality traits, looks, wealth - the list goes on and on, marketing makes sure there's lots of things that you want. But by being aware of all the good things that we have in our lives, negativity bias is automatically reduced and can even be largely eliminated.


This leaves observer bias. This is an interesting one, because it arises from seeing other people. You try to be kind and have a really good outlook about other people.You see that cute couple when you're out. They're walking hand in hand or they're giggling together. It's all very cute. You immediately tend to imagine what a wonderful life they must have. Maybe they're traveling. They seem so in love. Maybe they're retired. They look like they're retired. 


We build this big story from a single snapshot into somebody else's lives. For all we know, they're so happy because they just survived a bad car crash yesterday, and they're present enough to live in the moment and seek out joy to realize how fortunate they are. But that's not what we think, because we want them to be happy. That leaves us to torment ourselves over all the things that we don't have. 


If we see somebody with a big car, we choose to interpret that that must make them happy when in reality, perhaps every night when they get home, they can't believe they bought the stupid car because they can barely afford the car payment. 


So we create this whole world and then use it to torment ourselves. We look at something, and how we interpret it is totally up to us. If we start assuming things about other people's lives based either upon a single snapshot or these external influences, all we're doing to ourselves is putting ourselves in this position of putting ourselves down, thinking they must have all these things. I don't have them, so I'm inferior. 


So we set our vision, and our vision is to be like them. But really, what is that? Look at what's in your own life. Appreciate what's in your life. See all the good things around you. See the good things that are in yourself. Then look at other people. If you see other things in them that you really like, then maybe you want to incorporate that into your vision. But if every time you see something new and you covet it, your vision is going to be constantly changing. That's really not having a vision at all. If you're in that situation, it indicates that maybe your vision isn't really at the deep and driving level that it needs to be, because when your vision is really based upon your principles, then the details become less important.


If your vision is to help other people, for example, does it really matter if you help 99 people instead of 100 people? Your vision was to help people. You've helped a whole bunch of people. Setting arbitrary goals is fine for goal setting and motivational reasons, but your vision isn't arbitrary. It should be driven off your true passions, those things that really move you. 


Be mindful of your own life. What brings you joy, contentment, feelings of accomplishment? When you keep that in mind, it's easy to set your vision, because now you know what brings you contentment. You know what brings you satisfaction. Things that you can accomplish can make life better, because those are driven from your inner principles, so there is no ambiguity in your vision.


You know what you're trying to do. It'll change a little over time. You might refine it. The details don't really matter. You're not saying My vision is to help a hundred people. Your vision is to help people. Your vision is to be kind to other people. If it's 99, 100, or 1000 that you have managed to do, you're still working towards your vision. 


Try and avoid the whole wicked wants as you go through the world. There's nothing wrong with discovering something that looks like it might add pleasure and meaning to your life, but the important point is to make sure that it's aligned with your true vision and not letting some short term want become a false vision. 


Hopefully now you have more ideas on how to find more contentment and positive motivation in your life and in the modern world. We're constantly bombarded in ways that tend to make us have negative thoughts and we often turn them against ourselves. But we have lots of signs of happiness. We have to be careful about seeing things that are conspicuous consumption or becoming envious of other lifestyles without looking below the surface and seeing if that really applies to us.


If it's just something to be entertained by, don't let it sway you from where you're really heading. In both cases, solutions go to a deeper layer. Ask yourself how this really affects you and if it's really something that you should want. Often the answer to one or both of those questions is no. Then we're able to move beyond the distraction and find the joy and beauty in our own lives. That's what will bring us joy and move us towards our own real vision. 


That's it for the evening. Your homework (always optional) is to think about something that you've seen recently that caused you to have the wicked wants.


Think if it really would bring you joy. Extra points if you want to do the same thing when looking at other people's lives. It's great to be kind and hope they're having a wonderful life, but then look again and see if it really looks like the life that you want. If it's not, just smile, be happy, and wish them well. If it is, add it to your vision. 


That's it for the evening. Please remember, the war in Ukraine and everything going on in Israel and Palestine. If you're able to, there are donation links at UKR7.com. You can also donate to the World Central Kitchen at WCK.org. They work to bring food to disaster areas throughout the world. 


As always, remember, one of the best ways to care for yourself is to care for others. Even if it's as simple as just smiling and saying hi to someone.


And so when somebody says, how's your day going? I usually say, things are going pretty good. Because the reality is, things are going pretty good. I'm just, I'm alive, I have no horrific diseases, and so, you get past the real basics. That's a pretty good start for an okay life. 


I think it's important to keep in mind that sometimes doing nothing but listening to somebody can be one of the best things that happen in their day. So if you can and you're able, try and take a minute or two in your day just to make somebody else feel a little better. It can turn somebody's day around. 


So that's it. I know I tend to dwell on that a lot, but it's really a simple but important point in life that people in the modern world seem to forget, so I try and remind everybody. 


As always, thank you for stopping by. If you found something interesting or useful, please pass it along. Please hit that like button. If not, please drop me a comment as to what you'd like to hear. Have a great week. Remember to live the life that you dreamed of, because that's the path to true contentment. Love and encouragement to everyone. See you next week on 7EveryMinute and 7EveryMinute.com. Thank you. 

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