How do you think it’s going to turn out?

Imagine that any time a meteorologist forecasted the weather, the prediction changed how the weather would be that day. So for example, if they predicted it would be sunny, then it was more likely to be sunnier that day. If they predicted it would be rainy, then it would be more likely to be rainy.

While the weather obviously isn’t like that, philosopher and cognitive scientist Andy Clark puts forward the theory that’s how our brains experience the world. He writes in The Experience Machine, “When the brain strongly predicts a certain sight, a sound, or a feeling, that prediction plays a role in shaping what we seem to see, hear, or feel.” 

When you alter these predictions—for example, by reframing a situation with different words or meanings—then you change the experience itself. For example, when Andy was about to go on stage, he felt a rush of adrenaline and made a decision to reframe it not as a sign he was about to fail his speech, but his body was ready to deliver a good performance. 

The takeaway is to actively shape what you predict and what an experience means to you. For example, when you’re dealing with a setback, you can cope by choosing to frame it as a challenge and make a simple plan to overcome it, or notice a silver lining

Neuroscientist Tali Sharot writes in The Optimism Bias, “Ironically, perceiving setbacks as opportunities may just make them so. This is because predictions not only alter perception but also modify action, thereby changing objective reality.” She quotes neuroscientist Karl Friston, who writes, “In other words, we will actively sample sensory data so that it conforms to our expectations; we will constantly alter our relationship with our environment so that our expectations become self-fulfilling prophecies.”

When you shift your mind away from the problem and assess your options and potential solutions, you will also start to notice more possibilities. You’ll get the energy you need to move forward.

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