When the experts want to change the way people think, they use slogans. Why?
Because it works.
Since early in this century, observers have pointed out that political propaganda campaigns have the tendency to use short, easy-to-remember phrases that encapsulate and symbolize their message. These brief phrases are then repeated over and over again until their meaning becomes part of the thinking habits of the population.
Advertisers do the same thing — It’s the real thing, Just do it, Your true voice, I like what you do for me, Like a rock — short, pithy, memorable phrases take advantage of the way the human mind works naturally. It’s practical. The short phrases focus the mind, simplify the issue and stimulate action.
Our minds don’t handle complicated formulas or doctrines very well unless we concentrate our attention. That’s fine when we’re reading or listening to a lecture. But when it comes down to our daily experiences — when we’re late for work, the kids are crying, and we’re trying to remember where we left the car keys — we find it distinctly difficult to concentrate our minds on any complicated concept, no matter how beautiful or perfect the philosophy seemed to be when we read it. In the heat of everyday life, we need to focus on what’s happening. We don’t have extra attention to spend philosophizing about it. That’s true for everyone: rich or poor, genius or average, in free countries and in communist countries. That’s just how the human brain works.
When a ruthless dictator uses short phrases to focus ideas and make them easier to act on, it may be bad for the people. But you can use the same tool to produce some good for yourself. You, too, can take advantage of the way your mind works.
When there’s something you want to change about yourself — some habit, some way you deal with others — think it through and then encapsulate your conclusions into a short, easy-to-remember phrase. Say that phrase to yourself often. Use it to focus your mind. Use it to direct your thoughts. Use it to channel your actions in the direction you want.
The source of most of the habits you want to change are habits of thought. Change the thought habits and your behavioral habits change too.
For example, when I feel out of my element or I’m dealing with a task that feels too big for me, I often use the principle from the chapter Adrift. I tell myself: “I can handle it.” With those four words, I remind myself that others have been through worse and it immediately puts my situation in perspective.
Slogans can really help at times like that — times when you’re too busy or too emotional or too overwhelmed to do much thinking about it. Say the slogan to yourself and get right back on track in a good frame of mind without skipping a beat. Make your own propaganda campaign in your head. Use some of the principles of this book, or encapsulate a change you want or an insight you’ve had into a short phrase and repeat it often. Encapsulate and repeat. Encapsulate and repeat. It’s a practical technique for improving your life.
Adam Khan is the author of Principles For Personal Growth, Direct Your Mind, and co-author with Klassy Evans of How to Change the Way You Look at Things (in Plain English). Follow his podcast, The Adam Bomb.