Some years ago, I attended a seminar on “The Art of Introspection.” The speaker (Psychologist Edwin Locke) encouraged the audience to consciously pick favorites. Wherever you are–in a hotel lobby, at work, watching a movie, reading an article–pick your favorite aspect. By taking the time to identify your preferences, you strengthen your own values and get extra enjoyment from them.
For example, I pick favorites when I go to museums. After I’ve looked around a room, I stop to choose my favorite painting. After I’ve been through all the rooms in a section, I choose my top favorite for that section.
This makes my museum trip more enjoyable and helps me identify my artistic preferences. In addition, picking favorites has two cognitive payoffs.
First, it counters museumitis–that glassy-eyed, mentally numb state which comes from looking at each item with equal intensity. The same strain happens when you try to proofread a table of numbers by simply checking one after another. It is difficult to concentrate afresh on each and every item when there are dozens. Trying to do so creates a mental strain that interferes with any degree of concentration. In no time you become bug-eyed and bored.
The solution is to add variety to the process. In proof-reading, you might get a partner switch off tasks, proofread backwards, proof only 20 numbers at a time, etc.
At the museum, picking favorites breaks up the monotony. You look more purposefully at the candidates for favorite (and pay less attention to the others), plus you get a little break for reflection when you come to the end of each room.
Second, picking favorites aids memory. When you identify something as a positive value and spend a little time thinking about it, you are more likely to remember it. My museum trips no longer blur together, thanks to this technique.
Like many of my tips, this is a small action with big payoffs. Next time you feel bored or you are just “hanging around,” make a point to pick favorites in the scene (or perhaps in some area of your life that warrants a few minutes of reflection). Thinking about what you like will perk you up and put your mind in a higher gear.