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New Idea: Start Liking What You Hate

June 30, 2019

Not long ago, a client of mine had a frustrating realization: He had just finished painting a room in his home, and it turned out to be the wrong color.

He and his wife had agonized over choosing the right shade of green while at the hardware store. But, after the paint finished drying, it didn't look anything like the green color shown on the samples.

It was ugly. And he was frustrated.

It had taken him all weekend to paint the room, and now it looked like he had to go back to the store, take a chance on another color, and do it all over again next weekend.

What a nightmare...except...

He and I had been working together for weeks practicing a crazy idea:

Make yourself like something you hate.

Here's how this works:

What's your favorite flavor of ice cream? (Mine is pistachio.)

Why? (For me, my father and grandfather loved it. When I was a kid, they would tell me to try it because it was their favorite. Pretty soon, it became my favorite.)

It turns out our preferences are largely arbitrary, coming from emotional moments in childhood or cultural conditioning like tv commercials.

I liked pistachio ice cream because my father and grandfather liked it. If they had liked mint chocolate chip, I probably would've grown up wanting that. Looking back with clear thinking, I can see that I just as easily could've fallen in love with any flavor.

Back to my client's ugly green walls: Since my ice cream story was top of mind, he realized he could do the same thing with the color of the walls. Instead of going through all the trouble of taking a chance with a new color the next weekend, he just decided to start liking his green walls.

Sounds ridiculous, doesn't it?

Consider this: It's not so easy toforceyourself to like something. If you hate to work out, then deciding that you love getting exercise may not be enough to actually make you want to work out every day of the week.

Instead, the secret is to have a realization about where your likes and dislikes come from.

Spend a moment thinking about this. Where do your preferences come from in life?

Are they from carefully crafted decisions? Or just based on random experiences?

My guess is that it's largely random. If you recognize this as true, you now have some power to start changing what you "like." This idea must be your own personal insight, though. If not, your mileage may vary.

For me, my recent practice of regular writing has been a challenge. I've done a fair amount of procrastinating. When I consider all the years I struggled to write essays in school, it makes sense to me that I'm not so excited about it now.

But, I've been able to recognize that my experiences were largely random. If I had different teachers, or stumbled into a topic I loved writing about, I'd probably have a very different feeling today.

Therefore, I decided to start liking writing, and it has already become much easier for me.

Once my client decided to enjoy the ugly shade of green he ended up with, he started to find reasons to appreciate it. And he saved himself all the time and effort of redoing it.

One of my core beliefs is that the solutions to many of life's problems are hiding in plain sight, right in front of us. So, here is the question of the week:

What frustrating thing in your life might you be able to turn around, if you just decided to start enjoying it?

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