I Know It (vs)… I Like It (vs)… It is Good

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Its very easy to confuse the three of these.  The dopamine reward system makes it entoxicatingly pleasurable to treat them all as the same thing.  Dopamine release is a key mechanism behind drug addiction and, in the same way, it is a key mechanism behind our addiction to the familiar.

Essentially, we experience a great amount of pleasure when our expectations are met.  We love it when we can anticipate something and are accurate in doing so.  There’s nothing like familiar territory… at least at first.  The familiar feels good right away.

Take music for instance.  When we hear a new song we immediately begin to evaluate it in comparison to our existing expectations for music.  If it fits our expectations then we are happy and all is well with the world.  Your subconscious mind thinks, “yes, this is the kind of music I like.  This is good music”.  If the new song does not have familiar elements then we are not rewarded.  Your subconscious mind thinks, “This music is not what I like.  This music is no good”.  This phenomenon is the reason why most popular music is so banal.  Familiarity is the key to the top of the charts.  It feels good when it counts… in those few seconds when we’re flipping through the stations or picking a song that fits the moment.  The legendary stuff, however, is almost always rejected at first.  It takes some work to listen to it and really hear it.  You may not get it at first.

It’s a good idea to be aware of this bias we have for the familiar.

If we can get over the discomfort of the unfamiliar, a whole new world is waiting for us.  It opens up to us once we realize that familiarity and comfort have been making all our decisions for us and we decide we want to go in search of something better.

All the good stuff was incredibly uncomfortable when it first invaded the world (the Renaissance, government of/by/for the people, emancipation, etc.).  If you’re fine with what you’ve got and what you already know, then fine, you can continue along your path, but if you’re looking for something better, you’re going to have to navigate some discomfort to get to it.

With this in mind you will be able to objectively ask, “is it good?” and perhaps come to a reliable answer.