The rebellious mind

A student once asked his master to teach him how to meditate. His master gave him a simple task – to sit under a tree nearby and not think of monkeys. Needless to say, the minute the student closed his eyes, all that he could think of were monkeys of all forms and shapes.

This parable illustrates how the mind is a rebel. The mind does not like being told what to do – it promptly does the opposite. Quite fittingly, it is often referred to as the monkey mind.

The rebellious mind often gets in our way. When we rely on will-power, it causes us to procrastinate. Diversity and inclusiveness training does not work because merely asking people to be inclusive does not change their behaviour. Reverse psychology works because our minds do the opposite of what we them to. The psychologist Viktor Frankl would suggest to patients suffering from insomnia, that in order to fall asleep, they should try their best to stay wide awake.

The most effective way to get people to behave is not to lecture or sermonize them, but to institute systems and redesign their environment. The goal is to make the intended behaviour easy. Or better yet, to make the unintended behaviour impossible.

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