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Look Again: How To Bring Back the Passion You Once Had

Look Again

WE habituate everything. The more often we experience something, the less we respond to it. It’s the way we are built. What was once exciting—a relationship, a job, a song—becomes unremarkable after a time. Where we once saw the need for change, we now shrug off and move on. Our brain stops responding to things that don’t change.

In Look Again: The Power of Noticing What Was Always There, Tali Sharot and Cass Sunstein ask what if you could, to some extent, dishabituate? What if you could once again appreciate what you now take for granted? How do we rekindle the love we once had? How do we become passionate again about changing ourselves or situations we now accept as normal?

Habituation works for us and against us. We need to habituate some things, but not everything.

Habituation to the good drives you to move forward and progress. If you did not experience habituation, you would be satisfied with less.

A delicate balance must be struck here. Habituation can lead us to be unsatisfied, bored, restless, and greedy. But without habituation (and dare we say some boredom, restlessness, and greed), we might have remained cave dwellers.

You habituate to things—a fancy car, a large-screen TV—but you don’t habituate to the joy of learning because learning by definition is change. One cannot habituate to change.

Relationships need time together and common experiences to grow stronger, but they also need some independence to keep the spark. As the saying goes, too much familiarity breeds contempt. (For what it’s worth, Mark Twain added familiarity breeds contempt—and children.)

We need some stability and sameness—some predictability—in our lives, but without some change, there is less learning, less growth, and less meaning. But we tend to stick with the status quo—the old and familiar—when we should be mixing it up, “even when it is possible and better to try something different.” Variety will increase the perceived goodness of our lives and trigger creativity. To maximize happiness, we should “chop up the good but swallow the bad whole.”

Variety will increase the perceived goodness of our lives and trigger creativity. To maximize happiness, we should “chop up the good but swallow the bad whole.”

Studies have indicated that “on average, you will be happier if you alter a situation you are thinking of changing; the very fact that you are considering a change implies that your current state is not ideal.” That doesn’t always mean leaving the situation; sometimes, it means putting more effort into fixing it. In short, “people are not making as many changes as they should.”

When bad things happen to us, habituation has a part to play in our recovery—our resilience. Rumination hinders our ability to habituate when we need to. Processing a negative event and obsessing over it again and again does not serve us well. We need to turn our attention elsewhere.

Rumination is typical of individuals suffering from depression. Many psychologists believe it causes depression. That is, an inability to let go of intrusive thoughts about failure, heartache, or minor disappointments leads to depression.

When the COVID-19 pandemic began to slow down, surprisingly, many people did not feel joy but anxiety.

People who previously could not imagine spending so much time at home, in part because they had habituated to working in an office, now could barely imagine working in an office, in part because they had habituated to working at home.

Once we were habituated to being confined to our homes, “activities that seemed effortless before, such as getting up every morning and changing out of our comfy sweatpants into a dark blue suit, would now induce stress. We had spent months habituating to ‘pandemic living,’ as well as adapting our routines and expectations. Consequently, the prospect of changing once again filled people with dread. Change is hard because it makes us feel as if we are losing control. This is also true when changes are seemingly desirable.”

Change requires that we dishabituate to the status quo. It seems “that a failure to habituate many indeed be related to innovative thinking.” We can increase creative thought by inducing small changes to our routines and environments.

The authors probe the effect habituation has on our morality and values, our gullibility, social change, and risk-taking. We all experience this:

Risk habituation, is the tendency to perceive a behavior as less and less risky the more you engage in it, even though the actual threat remains the same. You find yourself taking greater and greater risks while feeling less and less scared.

Growth requires that we face the fear—the risk—habituate to the fear. We need to face the source of our fear again and again.

Without risk habituation, we might all be an anxious bunch paralyzed by terror. This is where habituation comes in handy. If you deliberately expose yourself to what scares you, your fear will slowly subside, and you will have the courage to expand your world.

Sometimes, there is value in underestimating our risk as entrepreneurs continually do to move boundaries and make progress—“so that, in the words of the great rock climber Alex Honnold, ‘objectives that seemed totally crazy eventually fall within the realm of the possible.’”

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 07:21 AM
| Comments (0) | This post is about Change



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