Imagine after all your research, you’ve finally decided on your brand new car and are now heading to the dealership to make your purchase. You’re incredibly happy with your decision and feel confident that it will stand out. You’ve picked a uncommon color and it far away from a Honda Odyssey. No offense against the model, but it is the one I assume of for every family van I see. On your way to the dealership, you suddenly see an identical copy of the car you’re about to purchase, then another, and another. It is as if your decision single-handedly started a trend of dusty blue Jeep Cherokees.
Hiding in Plain Sight
It’s to safe to say you didn’t and the truth is, they were always there. Speeding past you on your way to the local grocer but were unnoticeable yet today, after your decision, there’s a brigade of them. It’s a phenomenon called frequency illusion, or recency bias. Our brains constantly filters information and decides is this worth storing in our conscious? If it is not of value to us, we don’t process it. It passes our vision but doesn’t register. Much like the model or color of the cars we pass every day. Frequency illusion occurs when we learn of something new, we miraculously observe it more often. Your research likely ended in Cherokees and therefore now more likely to notice them on the road.
Seeking the Positive Vibes
At work, frequency illusion can be used to our advantage. The same effects of physical research for a vehicle can translate over to emotional research. If we sit in the parking lot of our office and tense our body for a full day of misery and lambasting everything that is wrong, that’s all we’ll ever find. Conversely, if we sit with excitement, mindfulness, and joy, we’re more likely to notice those throughout the day. Simply telling ourselves “I’m looking for the happy today” ups the chances. What is last on our mind before we embark into the day is what is given priority in our brain and even though that is a subconscious effect of recency bias, we can make the active and crucial choice of what that will be.
Happiness is a temporary emotion. It is fulfilling yet fleeting. Contrary to this, lives Joy. An effervescent feeling that is powerful and enduring. Joy runs as the undercurrent of life that pushes up other emotions to the surface increasing their intensity. Excitement turns to exhilaration. Giggles give way to belly laughs. Appreciation evolves to gratitude.
The catalyst for joy is doing what you love. When you’re there, there is an effortlessness to it. A singular thought of “This feels great, for me, right now” but that is only the ignition. Life can pull us away, dousing our joy. In order to maintain it, we need to increase the frequency of doing the things we love. Do it more often and you’ll find the feeling persists long after the physical act. We overflow with serotonin, the happy chemical, and it spills into the not-so-loving parts of life. The joy that we sit in day in and day out, relives us of the pressures of “doing more” and allows us a small reprieve of contentment.
On the daily, we’re inundated with information. Casual conversations, TV, social media are all sources of information but some are cast in darker shadows. In these “I’ve got bad news for you” moments our body braces, senses heighten. Hearing less than good news or living through unforeseen circumstances can be overwhelming but I believe in every bit of bad news, there is something to be gained.
The Value of Finding Meaning
Once we’ve moved through the initial reaction, we have to decide how to handle the rest. How well you do that is dependent on how well you find meaning. Bad news shouldn’t be taken at face value. Over time, we can make peace with what’s happened by understanding the lesson, the positive subsequent events, and the resulting resilience you’ve earned from it.
I’m not a dweller and can move through my emotions relatively quick which I’m grateful for. One of the ways that helps me is imagining the different person I’ll be after going through an event. How would the ideal me react? What will I learn from it? If I can visualize it, I know it can be true and move towards that reality. You may think this is only when the news affects you and your life but you’d be wrong. When someone tells you rough news about them, you become a supporter. Asking these same questions of them can help you navigate the course together. What could they learn? How will they look on the other end? How can I help them see that?
I hope you don’t but if you run into unfortunate events or hear of someone that has, look inwards to find meaning. I don’t believe everything happens for a reason but I do believe everything is meaningful. Life doesn’t play favorites. Time gives us acceptance but discovering the meaning in whatever form presents itself gives us transformation.
These posts are going to be quick reads aimed towards equipping all of us to own the upcoming week. Consider them a challenge. This blog and my daily mantra centers around “Showing Up” and the “We” in the site name is no coincidence. It is neither “I can” nor “You can” but WE Can Show Up as leaders, co-workers, spouses, friends, parents – together, with combined experiences and through emotional transparency. That said…
Show Up Sunday – Positive Intent
Assume positive intent. These three words can be an enormous mind shift. I alluded to this in a prior post about anger being such a powerful emotion without calling out specifically. In any situation, if you truly believe positive intent, it’s almost impossible to have negative thoughts. Beyond that, it gives opportunities to build deeper connections through trust. How’d you feel if you were on the receiving end of this after you’ve made a mistake?
“I know this looks bad but I know you didn’t mean it. I’d like to understand how you approached this and see where we differed.“
Assuming positive intent shifts us from blame to understanding.
How often can you assume positive intent this week?