I wrote recently about Daniel Kahneman’s delineation of System One (automatic) and System Two (deliberative) thinking. Here’s another way to conceptualize that:
We like to think – perhaps we even assume – that we think rationally and deductively. We imagine that, because we can often give good reasons for thinking and believing the things we do, that we arrived at our conclusions based on our reasons.
In fact, our brain works in exactly the opposite way. We form conclusions very quickly – almost instantly in some cases. With our conclusion set, we scan for evidence, taking in that which supports our conclusion and filtering out that which does not. Our conclusions shape our personal life experiences, not the other way around.
Once a thought is established, it is almost impossible to change it. This is because the brain does not process a negative thought, or un-thought. (Which is why, if someone says “Don’t think of an elephant”, we immediately think of an elephant – the brain doesn’t understand the “don’t” part.)
Changing our thinking does not happen by changing our thoughts. It happens by focusing on different conclusions. The brain then does what it does naturally – scanning and selecting evidence that supports the new conclusion.
If you want to change your thinking, start by focusing on more interesting conclusions.
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