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Don’t Think About Elephants

Don’t Think About Elephants
Image: Photo by James Keith / Getty

The 2010 movie Inception is a James Bond-like thriller in which a group of people enter another person’s dream (and dreams within dreams) to plant an idea in his mind. But in an early scene from the movie, one character (Arthur) explains to another (Saito) that it actually isn’t difficult to plant ideas in other people’s minds:

Saito: “If you can steal an idea from someone’s mind, why can’t you plant one there instead?”

Arthur: “Okay, here’s me planting an idea in your head. I say to you, ‘Don’t think about elephants.’ What are you thinking about?”

Saito: “Elephants.”

This simple concept helps explain why many rigorous self-improvement strategies struggle to yield lasting results. Diets constantly remind dieters what they’re missing out on. Every time a former smoker puts a nicotine patch on their arm, they’re reminded of what could be in their hands instead. These things can be great aids to cutting out unhealthy things, but alone, they’re frustrating reminders of the thing being cut out.

Kyle Rohane, Editor CT Pastors, “Don’t Think about Elephants,” CT Pastors (March, 26, 2019)

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