A recent article in the New York Times
reviewed some interesting research involving changing your mind. For example, in one research project:
[L]ife coaches ask clients to identify their goals, then to write about why they haven’t achieved those goals. Once the clients have written their old stories, they are asked to reflect on them and edit the narratives to come up with a new, more honest assessment.
The more honest assessment prompted them to change how they pursued the goals, making them more successful.
[College freshmen] were given information showing that it is common for students to struggle in their freshman year. They watched videos of junior and senior college students who talked about how their own grades had improved as they adjusted to college.The goal was to prompt these students to edit their own narratives about college. Rather than thinking they weren’t cut out for college, they were encouraged to think that they just needed more time to adjust.
Learning that it is normal for the first year to be difficult helped them put their own difficulties in perspective. The students earned higher grades than a control group.
What makes the difference? I believe the key is objectivity about your own mental contents.
Writing doesn’t change anything by itself. However, if you write out your reasons for not exercising, and then re-read what you wrote, any rationalizations will jump out at you. It is much easier to catch rationalizations when they are written on the page, than when they flit through your head. Re-reading helps you be more objective, because you naturally take a third-person perspective on what you read.
Similarly, if you have doubts about your ability to handle college, it takes a special process of introspection to identify those feelings and problem-solve around them. But when you learn about other people who overcame similar problems, their easily-understood situation helps you make sense of your own situation. Again, the third-person perspective gives you objectivity about what is going on in your own mind.
The moral of the story is: Becoming objective about what’s in your mind helps you change your mind.
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