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can’t outsmart yourself

September 29, 2023

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i want to share a valuable insight that might just change how you handle your internal problems.

it’s about understanding how your brain works and how we often try to outsmart ourselves, which, as it turns out, isn’t quite as effective as we’d hope.

pink elephant phenomenon

let’s use anxiety as an example.

when anxiety creeps in, our natural instinct is to distract ourselves, to think about something (anything!) other than the anxiety itself.

but here’s the thing—our brains don’t work that way.

it’s a bit like asking someone not to think about pink elephants.

what happens? pink elephants flood the mind.

so we try to think about something else, like purple hippos, and we end up bringing pink elephants along for the ride.

soon we’ve got a whole zoo of colorful animals inside our head to contend with…

a subtle but powerful shift

instead of trying not to think about anxiety, aim to think about something else in the service of self-care.

for instance, instead of saying, “i won’t think about anxiety,” you might say, “i’m going to go for walk in the service of self-care.”

it doesn’t really matter what you choose to do or to focus on, as long as it aligns with self-care or another positive narrative. so its about your WHY – what really matters to you.

if your why is to manage anxiety by walking, you’re likely to have an anxious walk.

if your why is to improve your health by walking, overtime your health will improve and your anxiety will lessen.

in other words, IT’S ABOUT REDIRECTION NOT AVOIDANCE.

that to which you give your attention grows

first, embrace the idea that you can’t outsmart yourself by avoiding what you don’t like.

then, when some uncomfortable internal experience arises, remember to redirect your focus toward self-care or what matters most to you.

giving your attention to something that serves your well-being will eventually lessen the edge of your suffering, and you’ll also gain the bonus of taking better care of yourself.

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