“I don’t like olives.”
Correction: you don’t like olives… TODAY.
We’re often quick to align ourselves with particular labels or -isms. I’m guilty of it myself. I used to say things like, “I don’t like arena concerts” or “I hate going to the dentist.” When someone cut me off on the highway without using their blinker, I’d say, “I hate people who do that.” My dad would correct me, saying, “No, you hate when people do that. You don’t actually hate the person.”
I wanted to be annoyed, but I knew he was right – which annoyed me even more.
We’re creatures of language, and our thoughts and words create the environment in which we live. By constantly saying you dread cold weather or you can’t stand the person who sits next to you at work, you’re creating an environment in which you will always be unhappy in those situations.
I’m using personal examples, but think back to how much your attitudes, perceptions, and tastes have changed over the years.
I used to hate pickles. Then one day in college, I accidentally ate a sandwich that had pickles on it and thought it was delicious. I had gone nineteen straight years of my life believing I was a person who absolutely detested any and all pickled cucumbers. I wouldn’t touch them. I was proud of my protestation of The Pickledom and my unwillingness to relent.
Then, in one second, I switched from someone who hated pickles to someone who asks if I can eat the pickle off their plate. So now, when I say “I don’t like oysters,” instead I say “I don’t particularly feel like eating oysters today.”
It’s being open to the idea that our inclinations will evolve. Sometimes, it’s easier to pick a default set of beliefs than to constantly reinvent ourselves. Admit that whatever you are thinking or experiencing is “now” and that your preference is “now.”
Paul Graham, of Y Combinator fame, has this idea of keeping your identity small. He explains that the more labels you have for yourself (democrat, vegan, atheist, etc.), the dumber they make you. If you can’t think clearly about something that’s become part of your identity (i.e., “Religion is stupid”), then all other things being equal, the best plan is to let as few things into your identity as possible. It’s leaving open the possibility that you might change your mind tomorrow.
In essence, it’s about being open to the idea that you are not fixed in your beliefs, preferences, and attitudes. It’s okay to admit that you don’t know everything and that you may have room to learn and grow. By keeping your identity small and leaving room for change, you’re allowing yourself the opportunity to have new experiences and perspectives. So next time you catch yourself saying, “I hate this” or “I love that,” try reframing it as “I don’t particularly enjoy this” or “I have a preference for that at the moment.” It may seem small, but it can make a big difference in how you approach and experience the world around you.