"Why," a friend asked me the other day, "can't life be like TiVo?" She wanted to know why we can't just program ourselves to scan reality for experiences we're going to love and avoid things we'll hate. Why can't we replay situations we want to relive or that we missed the first time through?

I paused SpongeBob SquarePants for a fleeting moment of actual thought. My own response surprised me. You see, I believe life does work like TiVo. You may not realize that capabilities such as automatic search, record, replay, and fast-forward come standard with your brain. Learning how to use them can improve your experience of life as much as my handy new device has increased my enjoyment of television (I can operate about three functions on my actual TiVo, but they bring me a happiness I once thought could come only from, say, finding true love or becoming a good person). So let's consider the perceptual technology you've had between your ears since the moment you were born.

Check Setup

As you know, if you've got TiVo or any digital video recorder (DVR), the machine tracks your viewing preferences, scans the airwaves to find programs you might like, and records them—all by its little lonesome.

Unbeknownst to you, your brain is always doing exactly the same thing, surveying events and choosing the bits of reality that make it into your consciousness. With just a little instruction, we could use our TiVo-like perceptual faculties to create a much happier viewing experience.

To see how your search-and-record function is already set up, think of an important issue in your life. Then quickly write down a proverb or saying about that topic. The first statement that comes to mind is a good indication of the way you're programmed to see the world.

For example, if the topic is money, you may instantly think, "Money can't buy me love" or "Money doesn't grow on trees." The first belief reminds us that there are sources of abundance beyond mere cash; the second emphasizes scarcity. Each one filters for any evidence that supports it. Try these topics: happiness, love, death, work, and health.


Next Story