Friday, January 2, 2009

Be The Change You Want To Be

Weirdly, it turns out that one of the best strategies for changing your behavior is to pretend, or act as if, or believe, that you are already the person you want to be.

You might have missed this news since it was buried in two different stories in The New York Times over the past couple of months—in one depressing story about how no one ever manages to quit doing anything they want to quit doing, and in another weird story about how virtual reality makes people feel they are inhabiting a completely different body.

The first story explains that although it's almost impossible to change your behavior, one proven strategy for increasing your odds is to "act like the kind of person you are trying to become." The Times explains that "even if you hit the jogging trail with 30 pounds of flab," you should "think of yourself as the jock you want to be." You'll be more likely to stick with it.

Are you finding it hard to think of yourself as the jock you want to be? I know I am. Maybe you need a high-tech intervention with a psychotherapist.

The second story explains that with virtual reality technology, you can inhabit the body of someone else.

Helpfully, they point out that if you have serious mood disorders this treatment might not be for you. But if you're reasonably, you know, together emotionally, you and a friend can don a pair of helmets, shake hands crosswise, and suddenly get the feeling of being in another body.

The relevant item here is that doing this can change not only your outlook but also your behavior. The Times says that not only does inhabiting a more attractive body make you more socially forward and adept, but in addition,
"people agree to contribute more to retirement accounts when they are virtually “age-morphed” to look older; and . . . they will exercise more after inhabiting an avatar that works out and loses weight."
I can see a lot—I mean a lot—of potentially useful avenues for this research.

One I don't really see, though, is the use to which people are actually putting it. Turns out they're hoping that married couples in trouble and adolescents can use the technology to experience another person's point of view, and stop being so *^%#ing self-absorbed.

Seems to me they're taking "point of view" a little literally, here. I mean, understanding another person requires more than just momentarily having their skinny fingers or their aching knees.

"Oh, mom, now I see why you're always bugging me to come home on time! Now that I inhabit your middle-aged woman's body and seeing me for the teenager I am! Now I get it!"

I don't think so.

But for feeling like the jock I want to be, could well work.

I figure, it's not so much "be the change you want to see," as "be the change you want to be." It would be a great advertising slogan, if ever this gets going in a big way.

Y'all can thank me later.

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