In order to save mental and emotional energy, we all have automatic responses that we rely on throughout the day.
A good example is when we walk past someone on the street and they ask us for money, most of us automatically say "sorry" without thinking about it.
It would be too taxing, mentally and emotionally, to evaluate each request on its merits every time it happens - so our mind saves us the full decision-making process with a conditioned automatic response.
The cool thing is: We can choose to recondition our automatic responses to align more with our values and the way we'd like to lead our lives.
Over the past year, I have reconditioned my automatic response to people who are standing on street corners at intersections holding a sign asking for money. I used to ignore those people, and not even look at them. It was my conditioned automatic response - because I knew if I even looked them, I would have all these feelings that I just didn't want to deal with.
I have now almost fully reconditioned my automatic response, so that if I see someone on a corner while I am driving, I give them $1, no matter what. I keep a stash of $1 bills in my car for this express purpose.
When I started working on reconditioning my automatic response, it was difficult. My old automatic response overpowered me a lot, and I didn't give $1 many times.
With deliberate practice however, my success rate went up. Now, I am at the point where I don't even think about it, because I have been completely reconditioned. When I am approaching someone on the street corner with a sign, I feel myself grabbing for a dollar without even thinking about it.
Reconditioning my automatic response in this case also had the added bonus of doing away with any biases or judgments I may have.
For example, I used to give money only to people who seemed friendly or who didn't seem like they would spend it on drugs. But those are all just ridiculous snap judgments, for which I really have no basis.
Automatically conditioning myself to give $1 to everyone with a sign, no matter what, prevents me from entertaining any conscious or subconscious biases I may have.
The point of this post is not to say "look at me I'm such a great person." I'm not. I'm just a normal human who tries to do my best, which I think describes most people.
The point is to show you that it is possible to take advantage of your own psychological wiring to make behavioral change easier. You can exploit the loopholes in your mind.
As you go through your day, try to recognize actions and decisions you are making more or less automatically. (Remember - inaction is an action! No decision is a decision!)
Do your automatic responses align with the type of life you want to lead? If not, maybe it's time to do some reconditioning.
Just start with one.
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