The worst kind of regret is not living up to your ‘ideal self’

Lifehacker published an interesting piece on How to avoid a life of regret:

According to psychologist Tom Gilovich, lead author on “The Ideal Road Not Taken,” published in the journal Emotion, our regrets that bother us the most involve failing to live up to our “ideal selves.” Basically, we’re not as bothered by the mistakes we’ve made or the things we ought to have done as we are bothered by never becoming the person we truly wanted to be. Gilovich explains:

“When we evaluate our lives, we think about whether we’re heading toward our ideal selves, becoming the person we’d like to be. Those are the regrets that are going to stick with you, because they are what you look at through the windshield of life. The ‘ought’ regrets are potholes on the road. Those were problems, but now they’re behind you.

The author delineates the actual self, ideal self, and the ought self in what’s called the self-discrepancy theory:

The actual self is what a person believes themselves to be now, based on current attributes and abilities. The ideal self is comprised of the attributes and abilities they’d like to possess one day—in essence, their goals, hopes, and aspirations. The ought self is who someone believes they should have been according to their obligations and responsibilities. In terms of regrets, the failure of the ought self is more “I could have done that better,” and the failure of the ideal self is more “I never became that person I wanted to become.”

So, chase your ideal self – not what you think you are, not what your peers want you to be, but what you aspire to be. You’re going to have to make the leap if you want to avoid the worst kind of regret: not trying at all.

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We are a plastic society

We have become a plastic society, with celebrities (not leaders) running the world stage and ‘geniuses‘ creating culture.

While social media gives everyone a microphone, it also permits mediocrity to rise up to the professional level. When these influencers take public responsibility, they can further colonize large parts of our mind. To echo Hannah Arendt on the rise of totalitarianism, evil spreads like a fungus.

But we have a choice: we can stem the tide or turn a blind eye and do nothing.

The history books always prompt its students to ask why no one ever did anything to stop such cruelty.

And now we know why.

Time keeps on slipping into the future

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Time is moving at warp speed.

But is it time or our habits that permit time to slip into the future?

Today’s perception is irreality. We spend more time looking into our devices than we do looking up at the world. What seems like 2 minutes pecking at the phone turns into 20 minutes of squandered time.

Meanwhile, the child just lives in the moment. They are driven by novelty instead of worrying about tomorrow.

Adults mull over the possibility of death and permit regret to poison their hopes. They also have the responsibility — for work, kids, their health etc. — that constricts their freedom of play in the present.

Time holds steady, adherent to each tick. It is humans who panic.

Persistent novelty

Novelty is what keeps us coming back for more. It is the sugar of our existence.

Updated iPhone models, fresh tweets, a new day — novelty keeps us interested.

Of course, novelty is designed to keep us hooked. We pull the lever at a casino or refresh Instagram because of the variable rewards. We watch March Madness because anything can happen.

Time and activity have cash value. Their restlessness keeps us coming back. Rolling the dice, we expecting the unexpected, drawn like a magnet to parts unknown.

Novelty wears off but it never decays. Boredom is temporary, newness is permanent.

Missing the details

Photo by Wells Baum

How fantastically great and rare it is to immerse ourselves in something (a job, a concert, our art) that removes the friction of anxiety and doubt?

The plethora of digital choice impedes the aura of experience and human connection.

With so much stimuli, it’s easy to miss the pleasures of a laughing flower, the beauty of a beat-making bird, or the random conversation with a stranger recapping a sports event the night before.

Even the smallest observation or ephemeral conversation can make us feel alive.

Sometimes it’s the goddamn screens and routines that get in the way.

It’s unhuman to be too distracted or sober.

The Truman Show Delusion

Some people believe that all reality is one big TV show and they’re the star. Others seem to think that the world is simulated and that their life has always been lived on a predetermined stage.

But are we that special?

Your fingerprints are uniquely yours. So is your Twitter microphone. But in the age of lying and edited selves, everything exists but the truth. Meanwhile, your google search history reveals all.

Whatever you believe, there’s no choice but to rub your face in the fact that reality of the world presented is what it is. We just have to do our best.

‘Negative visualisation generates a vastly more dependable calm’

51x5gzYMWAL._SY346_.jpg“Confronting the worst-case scenario saps it of much of its anxiety-inducing power. Happiness reached via positive thinking can be fleeting and brittle; negative visualisation generates a vastly more dependable calm.”

Oliver BurkemanThe Antidote: Happiness for People Who Can’t Stand Positive Thinking

Stress is contagious

Studies show that stress is transferable amongst partners and strangers. Our cortisol levels even rise when we watch TV.

We may not be able to control stress but we can do things to relieve it.

Start with some of the tips outlined below:

An Olympian’s guide to managing stress

How trees help you de-stress

Don’t Stress the Technique

Why silence is golden

Technology spreads unreality

The reason we’re so comfortable around friends is because we can strip away the plastic and can be ourselves, zits and all.

The problem with social media is that while it allows for the perfected self, it also undermines reality. Juxtaposing our screen lives and raw selves can make us feel fraudulent.

Technology spreads unreality.

The law of attraction says that we can achieve what we think, visualize, and collect. But what colonizes parts of our mind with fantasies and ideals also deceives us.

Technology may spread unreality, but there is no substitute for facts.

No matter how many times we pollute Instagram with the edited self, the squares decompose as quickly as they’re shared.

Life doesn’t recycle on the internet’s stage.

How Japan uses blue LED light panels on station platforms to prevent suicides

Tokyo runs 13 billion passenger trips each year, making its train stations some of the busiest in the world.

Using sound design and various other psychological nudges, rail stations are able to bring some order to the chaos. One of the most effective tactics has been its use of blue LED mood lighting to prevent suicide attempts.

Photo by Allan Richarz/City Lab

Writes Tokyo resident Allan Richarz for Citylab:

According to a study by researchers at the University of Tokyo published in the Journal of Affective Disorders in 2013, data analyzed over a 10-year period shows an 84 percent decline in the number of suicide attempts at stations where blue lights are installed.

Operating on the theory that exposure to blue light has a calming effect on one’s mood, rail stations in Japan began installing these LED panels as a suicide-prevention measure in 2009. They are strategically located at the ends of each platform—typically the most-isolated and least-trafficked area, and accordingly, the point from which most platform jumps occur. Some stations, such as Shin-Koiwa Station in Tokyo, bolster their LED regime with colored roof panels, allowing blue-tinted sunlight to filter down on to platforms.

Whether it comes to the iPhone or infrastructure, Richarz’s piece is yet another reminder how everyday design can impact our lives.

Dear Sheeple, are you part of the herd?

Each individual reduces danger to itself by moving to the center of the group. The herd appears as a unit, but its function emerges from the uncoordinated behavior of self-serving individuals.

We copy others out of safety, thinking that it’s better to conform rather than be ostracized. So like lemmings, we do whatever else is doing, including following the same people like everyone else.

But the center of normality, the standard, is flattening. There’s no longer one size fits all. The internet leveled the playing field for all niche creators and interests while perpetuating the mass.

So while Beyonce trends across the world after dropping a new track, the bedroom musician who makes ambient music strikes a chord for his or her 1,000 devoted fans.

A purple cow is too interesting to ignore. So were Darwin’s finches which thrived on their own uniqueness.

The rest of us can continue to jump through hoops. But then who’s in charge?

Michael Pollan goes tripping on psychedelics for his new book

“Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.”

That’s the short and sweet dietary advice offered by journalist
Michael Pollan. But after writing Cooked, now he’s back with a new challenge: psychedelics.

Pollan’s autobiography on his first-hand experience with LSD and mushrooms are sure to interest people once more. He tells the Financial Times:

“There is a reason this book came into my life at this time,” he says. The author was turning 60, and felt the need to break mental habits, to “shake up the snow globe”: “taking the drugs and writing the book came from the same impulse: to try something new”.

Despite one bad experience smoking venom of the Sonoran Desert Frog, most of his trips were like enhanced meditations.

The highlight was going through “ego-dissolution”. Ego is, in many ways, the villain of Pollan’s book — a vigilant, tyrannical force that gets things done and looks after one’s interests, but is fearful and prevents “a fusion of the personal self into a larger whole”. As he writes in How to Change Your Mind, on mushrooms Pollan felt “a merging with other people, with nature . . . I realised that the ground of your ego is not the only ground on which you can stand. And that was a mind-blowing idea.” Channelling Aldous Huxley, he felt that “a door . . . opened for me on to a realm of human experience that for 60 years had been closed”.

In addition to seeking his own personal ‘reboot,’ Pollan’s other ambition was to shake up the stigma around psychedelic therapy and microdosing popularized in Silicon Valley. Keep in mind that Steve Jobs said that taking LSD was one of the “two or three most important things” he did in life.

While Pollan is not advocating for the legalization of LDS and other potent drugs, his experience suggests that their mental benefits are worthy of more research.

Melding minds with machines

“You could just think your query and download the relevant knowledge directly in your mind.”

Forget Ritalin. Forget Google and Evernote acting as our second brains holding all the information we can’t. And instead, prepare for brain implants where mind melds with machines. We don’t even have to type, click, or touch anything. We just think and imagine commands.

As part of a clinical trial called “Brain Gate,” 13 applicants at Brown University have had a sensor placed into their motor cortex and so far have been able to control cursor movement on a screen. Says doctor John Simerall at Brown University building the neurotechnology device:

“Simply by imagining intuitive movements participants can immediately control a robotic device.”

Here come the cyborgs.

When sharing is forgetting

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We are not only taking too many photographs and spending little time looking at them, but we’re also inhibiting in our memory in the act.

In a recent study done by the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, those who document and Instagram their images are consistently less likely to remember their experience compared to the camera-less participants.

Across three studies, participants without media consistently remembered their experience more precisely than participants who used media. There is no conclusive evidence that media use impacted subjective measures of experience. Together, these findings suggest that using media may prevent people from remembering the very events they are attempting to preserve.

Just as we outsource our memory to Google — knowing it’s all too accessible with just a click — so to do we our experiential minds.

While we know our digital images will be archived in iPhoto or Google Photo libraries for eternity, we’ll be unlikely to recall vivid details of the event when we return to look at them.

Writes Susan Sontag in On Photography:

“A way of certifying experience, taking photographs is also a way of refusing it—by limiting experience to a search for the photogenic, by converting experience into an image, a souvenir. Travel becomes a strategy for accumulating photographs.”

Externalizing events is not just limited to the camera. We can impair our memories with a notebook in hand.  Similarly, if we take down every note the teacher repeated in class we are less likely to remember the most important takeaways. If we want to better remember the things we experience, we have to remember to look up every once in a while.

We must compel ourselves our see in order to notice the interesting things in the world around us. Perhaps our inner eye cameras are all we need to remember what we want.