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Why (Some) Substitutes Don’t Satisfy Us

The more similar they are, the greater disappointment they evoke.

Have you ever craved a full-fat chocolate milkshake but opted for a diet frozen yogurt because you wanted to “be good”? But chances are that scarfing down the yogurt wasn’t just less pleasurable; it may actually have increased your craving, amplified your dissatisfaction, and set you up for a binge.

According to a new study led by Rochester University’s Melissa Sturge-Apple, this happens because the substitute food you chose too closely resembled what you actually wanted. As a result, you spent every bite registering just how far it fell short from what you truly craved.

Sturge-Apple’s team whetted hundreds of adults’ and undergraduates’ appetites for a particular brand of gourmet chocolate by having them taste test tiny pieces of it. Over the course of several experiments, the team repeatedly split participants into two groups—those who were invited to snack on similar but inferior quality substitutes for the high-end chocolate (i.e., knock-off versions of the chocolate or chocolate-covered peanuts) and those who were invited to snack on categorically different snacks (i.e., honey granola bars). The goal was to test which substitute food item did a better job of satisfying participants’ lab-induced hankering.

What the researchers found was that the similar but not quite up-to-snuff swaps left participants dissatisfied and still wanting the gourmet treat just as much (if not more), while the dissimilar option successfully quashed their pre-primed cravings.

In a follow-up study, participants who’d snacked on subpar substitutes or dissimilar swaps were surprised with a bowl full of the gourmet chocolate they’d initially been induced to crave. Upon being told to “eat as much as you like,” those who’d recently settled for similar but not quite as awesome alternatives ate far more of the chocolate than those who’d been sated with a non-chocolate distraction.

Sturge-Apple’s team believes that the reason too-similar substitutes fail to curb most peoples’ cravings—and eventually even make us eat way more than we otherwise would have—is because we can’t help comparing the replacement to the original. Because a knock-off chocolate brand (or, in other cases, a “diet” or “low-cal” treat) resembles what we actually want, we expect it to sate us just as well. But that substitute’s unlikeness in flavor dashes our expectations and compels us to seek the satisfaction we really yearn for elsewhere—if not through quality, then through quantity. (Cue the binge.)

acceptance

Despite our assumptions that we’ll be content with an item similar to the item we truly desire, Sturge-Apple et al.’s findings suggest we’re much better off seeking a novel treat if we can’t—or won’t allow ourselves to—secure what we really want.

“Contrary to participants’ belief that within-category substitutes are more satisfying,” Sturge-Apple and her team reported in the journal Psychological Science, “a cross-category substitute more effectively reduced cravings for a desired stimulus than did a within-category substitute…Indeed, consuming the cross-category substitute was as effective at reducing cravings for the desired stimulus as consuming the desired stimulus itself.”

She reasons that the lack of satisfaction received from so-called “cross-category substitutes” originates from their lower likelihood of “evoking a negative comparison to the desired stimulus.” (Dissimilar foods, in other words, aren’t likely to increase our hopes of feeling satisfied. Rather, a novel item may inspire a new hankering, so that all we have to do to feel satisfied is eat what’s newly in front of us.)

Sturge-Apple’s team believes that the effects of reaching for similarity or novelty in our ongoing hunt for satisfaction extend well beyond the realm of food. They point toward “consequential domains, such as jobs, benefits, and consumer goods” as offering equal fluctuations of satisfaction, depending on how we strategize when we can’t get precisely what we want. For example, if you repeatedly can’t land the dream position in the company you work for, you may be better off—happier—applying to work at a different company altogether. Or if you can’t seem to find joy in new romantic relationships because you’re comparing each partner to your idealized ex, then maybe it’s time to seek out a different “type.”

“Of course, cross-category substitutes have to meet the same needs or serve the same function as the desired stimulus,” Sturge-Apple et al point out, lest you veer too far from what you’re looking for and just end up getting lost. “For example,” the researchers offer, “we assume that people who want a 60-inch television will be more satisfied if they choose a 42-inch television as its substitute rather than an expensive coffeemaker.”

Ditto for jobs and dating: It’s probably not a helpful solution to take a new gig doing something you’re not even sure you like as a response to not getting promoted doing what you love. It will be equally unsatisfying to go on a rampage of one-night stands if you’re truly looking for a meaningful romantic connection. (Though some studies suggest that rebounds can help us get over breakups.)

Whether it’s food, love, work, or any other existential arena that forces you to accept that you can’t always get exactly what you want, Sturge-Apple’s findings suggest that the key to keeping your level of contentment high—and possibly avoiding binges, bad romances, and dead-end jobs—is to seek alternate ways to fulfill your needs and desires, even if you might not immediately consider these to be perfect solutions.

However, the larger takeaway is that comparisons breed disappointment: Whether you’re measuring a substitute food against an idealized but unattainable one, a new partner against a romanticized ex, or the reality of a career against the imagined trajectory you thought it would take.

But in cases when obtaining a novel means of satisfaction isn’t possible, you might benefit even more from the radical act of acceptance. If what (or who) you end up with falls short of your expectations, you’re better poised to experience that thing or person’s joys, qualities, and potentials for satisfaction. Crosby Stills and Nash may have said it best: “If you can’t be with the one you love, love the one you’re with.” Or just eat what’s in front of you and get over the impulse to compare it to something else.

Katherine Schreiber and Heather Hausenblas Ph.D.    Posted Jun 14, 2016
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5 Truths About Creating The Life You Really Want

It’s interesting how often we’re asked the question, “What do you want?” Sometimes we’re able to meet this with an emphatically clear, “This AND this, please!” And sometimes we’re not.

Whether limiting beliefs get in the way, or you have too many possibilities to choose from, all of a sudden that carefree gut feeling that knew exactly what you wanted turns into a feeble, uninspired, “Well, I know what I don’t want …”

Knowing what you don’t want is certainly one way of reaching what you DO want, but I invite you to dive into the infinite barrel of possibility for a moment and think about the following five truths to creating the life you really want:

1. Knowing how you want to FEEL is the most potent form of clarity you can have.

When you first find the essence of how you want to feel, and then infuse those feelings into what you want to have, be and do, you become a powerful creator of your own life.

Tip: Get clear on how you want to FEEL within yourself before you design any more to-do’s, goals, or bucket lists.

2. Your desire to begin a new way of life needs to be stronger than your desire to keep doing things the same way.

Ask yourself if your current habits are serving a purpose or solving a problem? This may seem obvious, but if you really want something, you need the desire to have it. It’s not enough for your head to say, “This is a great idea.” Your soul needs to feel it AND it needs to feel safe to you — all parts of you, even the ones you thought you’d let go of when you were 10 years old.

goals

3. You must have the belief that what you want IS possible.

Belief is more powerful than words or mere thoughts. Your belief is what sustains you while you align your mind and your life to achieve what you want.

Here’s a tip for when you begin doubting yourself: Start a “Success Journal,” a notebook in which you keep all of your little successes. Write down all of the times you wanted to do, be or have something and you made it happen. Then continue to write down your achievements going forward. This will become an excellent reference tool for you in those moments when you’re struggling with confidence and about to hit that downward spiral where you inevitably end up thinking yourself a loser who’s never achieved anything. When take out that journal you’ll realize it simply isn’t true!

4. You don’t get what you want, but what you vibrate.

We are all vibrational beings broadcasting our own signals. Think of it as having your very own “Bat Signal,” one that transmits ALL of the time and draws to it things of the same vibrational match.

Remember a time when you woke up, the sun was shining, you were in a fantastic mood and the day just kept getting better and better. Life felt blissful and you probably witnessed a beautiful synchronicity or two, like the right person or opportunity showing up just when you needed it to.

Now think of a time when you woke up feeling not so great, and one thing after another just kept going wrong and before you knew it the day ended up being one of those you’d rather forget.

Ask yourself what vibe your Bat Signal is giving off and how can you change it so it’s in alignment with drawing to you the life you really want.

5. Life is a continuum.

You don’t live only once; you live constantly. Each and every day should be about doing more of the things that light you up and keep you living in integrity with the person you came here to be. That goes doubly for the hard days.

Forget the idea of only going all out for it when circumstances provoke you. Rather, decide on what little but meaningful and consistent daily habits you can cultivate that will have you closer to living the life you’ve been dreaming about, now.

For example, if you want to lose 10-plus pounds, are you letting go of all the garbage, both emotional and physical, that’s keeping you stuck at your current weight? If you want to cultivate a heavenly relationship, are you sabotaging it each time when the going gets tough, with the thought “Forget it — you only live once ! and consequences be damned?”


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5 Steps To Harness The Power Of Intention

BY DEEPAK CHOPRA    MAY 20, 2013

Intention is the starting point of every dream. It is the creative power that fulfills all of our needs, whether for money, relationships, spiritual awakening, or love.

Everything that happens in the universe begins with intention. When I decide to buy a birthday present, wiggle my toes, or call a friend, it all starts with intention.

The sages of India observed thousands of years ago that our destiny is ultimately shaped by our deepest intentions and desires. The classic Vedic text known as the Upanishads declares, “You are what your deepest desire is. As your desire is, so is your intention. As your intention is, so is your will. As your will is, so is your deed. As your deed is, so is your destiny.”

An intention is a directed impulse of consciousness that contains the seed form of that which you aim to create. Like real seeds, intentions can’t grow if you hold on to them. Only when you release your intentions into the fertile depths of your consciousness can they grow and flourish. In my book The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success, the Law of Intention and Desire lays out the five steps for harnessing the power of intention to create anything you desire.

1. Slip into the gap.

Most of the time our mind is caught up in thoughts, emotions, and memories. Beyond this noisy internal dialogue is a state of pure awareness that is sometimes referred to as “the gap.” One of the most effective tools we have for entering the gap is meditation. Meditation takes you beyond the ego-mind into the silence and stillness of pure consciousness. This is the ideal state in which to plant your seeds of intention

2. Release your intentions and desires


Once you’re established in a state of restful awareness, release your intentions and desires. The best time to plant your intentions is during the period after meditation, while your awareness remains centered in the quiet field of all possibilities. After you set an intention, let it go — simply stop thinking about it. Continue this process for a few minutes after your meditation period each day.

3. Remain centered in a state of restful awareness
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Intention is much more powerful when it comes from a place of contentment than if it arises from a sense of lack or need. Stay centered and refuse to be influenced by other people’s doubts or criticisms. Your higher self knows that everything is all right and will be all right, even without knowing the timing or the details of what will happen.

4. Detach from the outcome
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Relinquish your rigid attachment to a specific result and live in the wisdom of uncertainty. Attachment is based on fear and insecurity, while detachment is based on the unquestioning belief in the power of your true Self. Intend for everything to work out as it should, then let go and allow opportunities and openings to come your way.

5. Let the universe handle the details
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Your focused intentions set the infinite organizing power of the universe in motion. Trust that infinite organizing power to orchestrate the complete fulfillment of your desires. Don’t listen to the voice that says that you have to be in charge, that obsessive vigilance is the only way to get anything done. The outcome that you try so hard to force may not be as good for you as the one that comes naturally. You have released your intentions into the fertile ground of pure potentiality, and they will bloom when the season is right.