“The first principle is that you must not fool yourself. And you are the easiest person to fool.” -Richard Feynman

In a controversial study, described by Dr. Robert Sapolsky in his book, Why Zebras Don’t get Ulcers, patients at a medical clinic were sent home with a drug that caused painful stomach aches. When these patients returned to the doctor a week later they were told they had ulcers and were asked whether they had been under any stress lately. Invariably they admitted that they had. In fact, the patients were able to describe the stressful events leading to their ulcer in detail even though the ulcers did not really exist.

Studies show that when we are primed to search for a certain type of evidence in our lives we are really good at finding it. For instance, criminals don’t generally think of themselves as bad people; they can easily find evidence in their lives to support the notion that they are really great human beings (like that one time they bought girl scout cookies).

Imagine that a leading expert on motivation ran a battery of tests on you and said, “believe it or not you are one of the most motivated people I have ever seen. Do you often persist at things longer than others?” Just like the criminals and the patients with fake ulcers, you would come up with many examples of times when this was, indeed, the case.

Why not try convincing yourself that you are a very humble and grateful person? You may find that you actually have more to be grateful for than you initially thought.


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