December 7, 2010

What would you like to learn to like?

Have you always liked everything you like now? Did you always appreciate every type of music you appreciate now? Have you always enjoyed doing everything you enjoy doing now? I think you will answer these questions with 'no'. Apparently, what we appreciate is not fixed, it can and will develop over time. I remember, it must be more than 20 years ago, how I put down a book which I disliked because I found it extremely boring and abstract. I was very surprised when, a few years later, I found myself reading in the book thinking how marvelous it was and what a great resource it was. It struck me how much my frame of reference must have changed and how different my sense of what was interesting apparently had become.

Trying to understand what had happened, I thought a bit more about this. Until then, I had always, more or less thought about the interestingness of things as relatively stable characteristics of those things. That is apparently false. What had made the book which I had found so boring first interesting for me now? In the meantime I had read and thought a lot on the subject and I had become more knowledgeable. Before, I had done that, the gap between my knowledge and the content of the book was so large that it discouraged me and turned me off. After a few years, the situation had become much different. The book now provided some interesting answers to questions I had formed about the topic.

I noticed how big a difference it was to have to read it while I found it uninteresting and wanting to read the book because I found it interesting. The first experience was demotivating and hard, the latter was motivating and fun. I decided try to utilize this insight. I decided to focus on reading things that really interested me and when something would not interest me I would put it aside and sometimes I would think: "Maybe I am not ready for this; maybe I will appreciated that later, or not." By following this simple rule, reading itself became much more fun. I noticed that I had actually learned myself to like reading more.

Now, if what we find interesting is not fixed and if it is open to development, one might ask: to what extent can we choose what we would learn to like? And how would we make such a choice? One criterion for choosing what we would learn to like is by following people we admire. If someone you admire, an authority person, loves the composer Shostakovitch you may decide to listen to this composer a lot, too, so that you may learn to like him, too. You may, after some time, really start to like the composer. But you may also find that this does not happen. Then, you have choice. Do you declare you don't like the composer or do you more or less fake liking the composer so that you seem a bit similar to your authority person? Or do you think that perhaps you are not ready to understand Shostakovitch and say to yourself that you may appreciate him later (or not).

Anyway, back to my two questions: 1) to what extent can we choose what we would learn to like?, and 2) if we can, how should we choose what to learn to like?

My question to you is: what would you like to learn to like?


  1. Hi Coert! Excellent post. I would like to learn to "like" some people and exercise (fitness). Regards. Fred

  2. Hi Fred, I remember once reading about some actor who was asked how he could play romantic scenes with actresses he did not really like. he said something like: "I focus on what I do like about the person. There is always something nice or pretty about the person."

  3. I'm very unstable and I discovered that I ended up liking way too many things. Now I realized the it is too much and I don't know how to stop. My intuition tells me that it is a matter of loneliness, of not meeting the people who LOVE what I like.

    Now for some more direct answers:
    1. As long as something is reinterpreted to be more connected with something we love, it becomes more attractive, we like it more. i.e. I disliked economy, business in general but after an interaction with a social entrepreneurship group, my view started to change. Reading "The Rational Optimist" finalized the change. Now I find these fields very interesting.
    2. Here I believe that people have psychological predisposition towards certain types of information metabolism and certain types of specializations are better suited to these predispositions. :)

  4. thx Peter,
    I'm not sure I understand the first part (sorry, slow thinker). I like the idea that once we discover that something is connected w/ something we luv, we start to like it more. I believe that is true.


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