I recently came across the concept of Common Sense vs Common Practice by the brilliant Andy Cope & Andy Whittaker (Be Brilliant Everyday) in the context of pursuit of happiness. Often most of us are clued on enough to know what will make us happy in the long run; eating healthy; exercising regularly; give up smoking; give up drinking excessively; spending money within our budget; spending time with our loved ones etc. This list can go on forever, but essentially most of what we need to do is common sense, but why do many of us struggle to put it into practice?! Sometimes the simplest things are the hardest things to do.
Even from a law of attraction point of view, we know that we must be in happy place in order to attract more of the things we want and less likely to think and feel all the negative things we don’t want. So question is if lot of things we need to do are essentially common sense, why are they not common practice? It seems for most of us, even for the seasoned self-help junkie like me, knowing is not the same as doing!
Let’s look at this biologically; our emotional centres in the brain are one of the oldest parts of the brain in evolutionary terms and emotions hard wired within us and therefore thinking differently does not necessarily mean that we will behave differently, especially if those behaviours are emotionally driven. Let’s take exercising as an example. I know I want to exercise more often that I am doing right now which is currently closer to zero times in a week! I know exercising will add to my happiness not just by improving my health, but also will improve my flagging self-esteem especially when I find my clothes are becoming a tad bit tighter than usual. I know exactly what needs to be done, but at the given times when I could exercise, I rather sit and watch TV and go for a run. I know at this point my emotions are driving me; my feeling of inertia is far more powerful than my thoughts around the benefits of exercise.
Psychologist may describe this as a ‘cognitive bias’; a term that describes many of the human irrationality in making judgement or decisions. Although most of us will think of ourselves as rational and logical creatures, there is a part of us that are influenced by wide variety of biases, including emotionally driven biases leading to errors in judgement. In the example above, I have a ‘current moment’ bias; i.e. I am choosing to experience pleasure in the current moment, while leaving the pain for later.
So are we always destined to make irrational choices to the detriment to our long term happiness? Perhaps the only way for common sense to prevail is to make changes to our habits. Habits are things we do often and changes to our habits over time can have a big impact on our happiness. The key is perhaps making small positive changes starting now and putting those changes into practice more often. So for me in the example above I should start with walking up the stairs or walk to the shops and do this as often as possible rather than embarking on a gruelling exercise regime in my first attempt. Chances are small changes are likely to lead to habit formation than big changes which are often more difficult to maintain in the long run.
We may struggle to overcome our irrational judgements all of the time, but building positive habits will increase the sense of ‘doing the right thing most of the time’ we can reach a happiness-medium and being in a ‘happiness-medium’ place is a great place to start when you want to use the law of attraction to attract the life you want.
“Happiness is a habit – cultivate it” – Elbert Hubbard