Why we have thermostats
We get used to a certain temperature, and have invented a device to make sure that our living spaces stay with a certain range that we find comfortable.
Not just a device, but a model for how people behave
What if people have metaphorical thermostats that regulate the “temperature” of every major area of our lives? Think about the questions below:
- How emotionally am you with my friends, significant other, or co-workers?
- How much stress do you experience regularly when working on a challenging project?
- How much money pressure do you experience each week or month?
- Are you wanting to meet new people, but not connecting?
Passive comfort zone, or active control of temperature?
Sometimes the answers to these questions are described as habits or comfort zones, but I think thermostat is more fitting. A habit or comfort zone implies passivity and a tendency of something to remain constant, but a thermostat is a device that actively sets in motion, events to bring the temperature to a specific level. It is as if when you set out to make changes to some area of your life, there is something actively trying to return you to your previous setting.
If you are in a room and are cold, you can easily get more comfortable by putting on a sweater, but you are not changing the temperature of the room. What if the room is very hot, and you are already naked? How will you get comfortable now? In that case, the only solution is to change the temperature of the room.
Two examples that everyone should recognize
Let’s say that you decide to reduce the amount of stress you feel about finances, by having more money left over after you pay your bills. To spend less money, you make a plan to pack your lunch instead of going out. Your normal lunch buddies tease you a bit and try to coax you out to lunch with them. Its a small thing, but the teasing by your coworkers is an influence that seeks to prevent you from changing your “financial temperature”.
Now, what if you are wanting to meet new people, but like many people, you are not very confident approaching them. What happens when you see an interesting person you would like to approach? Does your inner voice immediately start telling you that she does not want to talk to people? Do you stop before you start, thinking that you cannot think of something to say? How do you know she does not want to meet you? If she has closed off body language and is wearing headphones, you might be right to hesitate, but if her body language is neutral, it is really a coin toss as to whether or not she would want to talk to you. The only way to solve a coin-toss is to flip the coin, so you need to act!
What to do!
If you get paralyzed when you see someone interesting, and are analyzing yourself and telling yourself that the new person will not be interested in you, your own thoughts are the thermostat that is controlling you. Shut down those thoughts and tell yourself things that are helpful…perhaps something like, “she is just a person in the same room as me…I will smile, say hello and introduce myself”. Then do those things. Smile, say hello and introduce yourself.
It really is OK
While it feels awkward to many people today, consider this: Until people moved to big cities in the past 10 years or so, the self-introduction to new people was polite and expected behavior! It is normal and human! Count how many people you can do this with in one evening so that it is no longer a big deal, and so you do not care about the outcome of any single attempt. I bet nothing really bad happens, and you might find that some of those people will try to keep talking to you, because they want to meet people too but were not sure how to start.
I believe we can beat all of your thermostats and make whatever changes we decide to make. First, you have to identify your own thermostats that are regulating the areas of your life. Then you can think of some actions you can take every day which will alter your default settings and behaviors in those areas. This can make your life more the way you want it to be. If you take steps each day toward the change, persistence wins. In time, you will recognize your own personal thermostats, and be able to change those by taking action each day to make the temperature right for you!