Question & Answer
The good news is though is this, in some ways, these techniques that we've just talked about are really powerful, because they don't take as much work for you guys to fully overcome your miswanting. Back in the day, it was just like post what's happening, and now, it's pictures and media and these Snapchat stories, you really curate this narrative about how awesome you are and stuff. And so, that means that yes, there's probably some difference between going to your grandmother's house and going on this other crazy vacation, but in practice, if you're savoring the things that are positive, if you're grateful about the things that you have, if you're kind of being mindful throughout it, sometimes you can make those experiences just as good or at the very least, since we're never kind of doing the absolute line by line comparison, your minds just won't notice.
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So, talking about this and telling me so I can ask in the dining hall, “Oh, how’s that strategy going?” means you’re much more likely to put the effort in, this intentional effort, than just kind of let it slide. And so, that’s what we’re going to do now. So, anybody who want to share some, of all these habits, what are you going to do? Freiser? Can I just ask a quick question? Yeah, totally. And questions here, I should say. Is the reason why you’re waiting till next week to talk about these things is because you’re interrupting our happiness? Is that what’s happening? Yeah, exactly. Well, two reasons, one is I’m kind of interrupting your happiness, I’m setting your expectation. Second thing is as will see in the final week, end points matter a lot, and so, if I end on those is they’ll stick with you best. The other reason though is that this stuff actually takes work, and you’re going to need a couple weeks to do these intentional practices more than you are going to need it to do the final thing. So, there’s lots, there’s a whole method to my madness about this stuff. The good news is though is this, in some ways, these techniques that we’ve just talked about are really powerful, because they don’t take as much work for you guys to fully overcome your miswanting. You can like now the job that gives you a huge salary, you can like trying to get good grades, you can like all the accolades that you think are going to make you happy. This is a way to take the stuff that you think is going to make you happy, and actually let it make you happy. So, in some ways, it’s more powerful than the things you’ve missed. But yeah, I’m stringing you guys along, it’s good. It’s more fun that way. All right, but who wants to commit? Yeah. Also another question, why do you suggest deleting social media instead of teaching us how to use it in a healthy way? Aren’t there like also positive, that you can express yourself, being connected with people, wouldn’t you be losing that part, too? Yeah. So, that’s actually a really good question, and I thought about that more as I was putting together the savoring part. Because one of the good parts of social media is that, it often is a tool for savoring, right? Like think about your Snapchat stories, oftentimes, you’re doing a story about something you really want to be thinking about and savoring. Often, we’re taking Instagram pictures of delicious food or stuff we want to share with others. And it lets us do that thing that was like kind of number one in the savoring, which is I’m going to share this with somebody else and I’ll let other people see it. So, on the one hand, it could be used for good, but I think there’s two features of it even when we’re using it for savoring that are bad. One is that thing that I mentioned when we were talking about whether pictures can enhance savoring, that I worry that sometimes you’re using the social media not to really be more mindful and see the experience through a new light, sometimes you’re like, “oh gosh, I got to take a picture of this,” or like, “Oh gosh, I got to like,” and you’re on your Facebook or you’re on doing the Snapchat thing and typing it, and fixing your typing, and you’ve like destroyed your mindfulness. So, I think it does that more than we think. The second thing is that, for better or for worse, sometimes our act of savoring can be negatively affecting other people because of the social comparison. So, for every time I take an awesome picture of my food, and I have this awesome delicious meal, it’s making the person who’s not eating a great meal feel kind of bad about themselves, and so, it’s hard to have the good parts with the bad parts. But I think if you’re committed to making social media good, and my guess is that most of you are not going to admit to me that you’re going to delete your Snapchat, so fair enough, I think it’s worth kind of finding ways to either make your feed a little bit more positive. As I said, you guys could all commit to like being more honest in your feeds to give a better, like to savor things that aren’t as crazy or don’t make people feel badly, right? You can also try to curate it a little bit better, so you cannot go into it kind of habitually, which is I think a lot of people use social media is like “I’m just bored, I’m online, like let me go see what’s happening,” or not have it be prompting you with information which is worse. You can kind of be active about your choice to go to it. And I think if you do it that way, then you’re much more likely to kind of be mindful enough to do those sorts of stop thinks, where if you’re choosing it actively, then all of a sudden people and stuff aren’t going to make you feel as bad because you’re like, “Okay, wait. This is what Snapchat does, this is sometimes I feel this way,” and you’ll notice it and that can kind of put the brakes on it. So, I think there are ways to use it positively. I think the problem is other people aren’t always, and it’s funny how I think the evolution of social media has moved more and more towards like an extreme social comparison. Back in the day, it was just like post what’s happening, and now, it’s pictures and media and these Snapchat stories, you really curate this narrative about how awesome you are and stuff. So, I worry that three years from now, there’s going to be even more socially comparative kinds of social media out there. So, there are positive ways you can do it, but those are going to be very active seeming, they’re going to take your intentional effort to make them more positive. Other questions? In the first lecture, you talked about the misconceptions of happiness, and you mentioned that having a good job or earning a lot of money was not what makes us happy. But what if that good job and earning a lot of money, you do that because you want to afford all of these new experiences, and how is that related, what do you think about this? Yes. So, what I would like you to take from this lecture is that, those things that you thought were going to make you happy, can make you happy if you’re the kind of person that puts those intentional habits into place. So, imagine you, again, let’s not even take a good job, which I think some of you guys think in this fantasy world of “someday I’ll have a good job.” Take this thing, the high school you would think was like the fantasy thing right now. You are Yale students, and legit you could wake up every day and be like, “Holy cow, I’m at the school like I really really wanted to go to.” Simulate 14-year-old you, and be like, “This is the bestest.” And if you don’t feel that way, really do this thing, like sit down and write in two weeks you’re going to graduate. Like think about your friends, think about the things about your life that were cool here, think about what’s facing you on the other side, and how you’re going to spend your time and how that’s different. Literally spend 15 minutes writing that, and I bet, even if you’re the kind of person who like snickered at my, “This is the bestest,” because you didn’t feel like this was the bestest anymore, if you do that 15-minute exercise, there will be things about this place that you will be like, “That’s actually pretty good.” That can turn it on. And so, so this is the idea is that you can enjoy a good job, you can enjoy a marriage, you can enjoy being at Yale, if you put these practices into place. If you don’t, your reference points will get all out of whack. Those ones that are out there in the world, you don’t have a good filter, they’re going to come in and make you feel bad. Your hedonic adaptation, some of you have been here for years, your liking of this place is going to be down at the floor, but you have the power to pop that up. So, those goals can be great goals. And I think what you said, having a big income so you can have good experiences and so on, that’s also good. But remember the caveat that like up to 75 grand even with intentional practices, you don’t get much happier than that. So, yes have a good income, but it doesn’t need to be super good. Appreciating mediocre experiences is just as good as appreciating these crazy millionaire experiences. Yeah. Other questions? When you talked in the beginning of this lecture about experiences, I just wondered, I know in the studies, they probably didn’t differentiate between different kinds of experiences, but I imagine that there would be very different reactions to experiences from, say going to the island that you had in the picture to going to grandma’s house. I was just wondering if you could speak to the differences between different kinds of experiences and maybe we’ll get to that next week and what we should be valuing. Yeah. So, the amazing thing is that, again, because our mind is bad at absolutes, when we’re on the crazy French Polynesia like $10,000 vacation versus you pop on the Metro North and go to New York with your friends for 30 bucks kind of vacation, we’re not comparing it against that. We don’t have this obvious comparison point, unless you insert it and that would be bad. When you’re in New York with your friends, you’re not constant like, “Well, this would be much better if I was on a $10,000 vacation.” Minds just don’t do that unless you give somebody that reference point. And what that means is that, for most experiences where you’re having positive effect, it’s just that it’s above baseline. There is a change from your normal daily life here, and it doesn’t have to be a big change. And so, this is kind of the crazy thing about positive and negatives, and one of the things that comes from not recognizing absolutes is that, what our mind notices is change, like our mind notices there’s change from time one to time two. It doesn’t often notice the duration of that change, like how long your experience is, and it also often doesn’t notice as much as we think the magnitude of that change. It’s just like, “Oh, this is better than before.” And so, the key is you don’t actually need it to be that much better for it to count for your mind, it’s kind of like a ceiling effect when it’s just better, minds notice that. And so, that means that yes, there’s probably some difference between going to your grandmother’s house and going on this other crazy vacation, but in practice, if you’re savoring the things that are positive, if you’re grateful about the things that you have, if you’re kind of being mindful throughout it, sometimes you can make those experiences just as good or at the very least, since we’re never kind of doing the absolute line by line comparison, your minds just won’t notice. One of the worst thing is that you can do is always compare whatever you’re doing against the crazy $10,000 awesome vacation. Yes, as we saw that’s a like savoring killer, where it’s like, “Oh, it’s not as good as this other thing,” or, “It’s not as good as I thought it would be.” That’s just bad. But in general, they’re positive. So in these experiments, they often are positive experiences, and they usually equate across with the material goods at a monetary level. So, they’ll say, an experience that cost $100, or it’s a series that cost that much and they’ll match it with the material thing. But it’s hard to match in not monetary cost but like in “awesomeness” because again, we just don’t have any absolute way to rate that, even though we think we might.
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