When I first tried it, I did not like kale. Now, our garden is full of the green leaves and we put it in practically everything.
At first, I was very unhappy with giving up on my bookstore visits. I felt like I was losing something that was part of who I was and I missed it terribly at first. Now, I look at bookstore visits as a special treat.
In each case, a big part of my success in finding a better path was simply telling myself over and over again that I liked the new thing.
Whenever I’d eat kale, I’d consciously think to myself that I liked this stuff. I’d pair it with other foods that I liked at first so that it would have a leg up, and then I’d make an effort to reflect positively on the food after eating it.
Over time, I moved from hating kale to disliking it to being indifferent toward it to, now, liking it in most things.
For the bookstore visits, I started going to the library a lot. At first, I didn’t like going to the library, at least in comparison to the bookstore. Over time, though, I started reflecting on all of the things I liked about it. I could always pick up any book I found and walk out with it for free. I could reserve basically any book I could imagine.
Over time, I moved from disliking the library to quite liking it (though, I admit, I’m not a fan of the ongoing construction project).
I simply wouldn’t have believed that this could work a few years ago, but it does. If you repeatedly tell yourself that you like something and you focus intensely on the positive attributes of that thing, you’ll grow to like it more and more.
Here are a few tips I’ve noticed along the way.
It’s much harder – at least for me – to start disliking something I like. I can go from disliking something to liking it, but I find it harder to go from liking something to disliking it. I tend to be swayed much more by positive attributes than by negative ones.
Replacing something I like works much better if I focus on the positives of the replacement. This is basically a logical follow-up to the previous idea. Rather than making myself dislike something I love (like bookstores), I work on making my appreciation of a replacement grow (like libraries).
Pairing the new thing with something I know I like tends to work really well. I’ll put a food I don’t like in a dish with lots of things that I do like, which makes it easier to appreciate the new food. When I started going to the library instead of the bookstore, I made sure to start with books that I’d been eager to read but hadn’t quite talked myself into buying so I could get that “pleasure rush” of a good new book. Associating other positive feelings with the thing you’re trying to like makes the whole process easier.
This tactic has varying degrees of success, but when it works, it’s tremendously helpful. I find it works best when it’s addressing something that I have limited contact with – like a specific food – or when I can find lots of positives with the replacement – like the library. When I’m trying to tackle a change that requires a lot of effort – like exercise – or when I’m looking at a replacement where I can’t find positive attributes, I struggle.
For the most part, liking and disliking things is a conscious choice, one we can control if we put our minds to it. If we work towards liking things that save us money, then we’ve improved our finances without taking away life’s enjoyment.