Ellen Langer is a brilliant researcher out of Harvard.
She focuses on what she calls “The Psychology of Possibility.”
While everyone else has been testing “what is” she’s been testing what’s POSSIBLE.
She makes the very important point that we simply don’t know what we’re capable of. And, she makes the equally powerful point that subtle little changes in our lives can lead to very significant results.
Here’s one of her most fascinating studies she describes in her book Counterclockwise.
Short story: In 1979, Langer recruited men in their 70s and 80s to participate in a study. She split them into two groups. Each group went on a little retreat with her. One of the groups was told to reminisce about life twenty years before in 1959. The other group was told to actually RELIVE the past AS IF they were twenty years younger.
The group that was pretending to be twenty years younger listened to music from 1959, watched movies from 1959 and all their conversations had to be in the present tense AS IF they were actually living in 1959.
(Imagine that for a moment…)
Well, here’s how she puts it: “On many of the measures, the participants got ‘younger.’ The experimental group showed greater improvement on joint flexibility, finger length (their arthritis diminished and they were able to straighten their fingers more), and manual dexterity. On intelligence tests, 63 percent of the experimental group improved their scores, compared to only 44 percent of the control group. There were also improvements in height, weight, gait and posture. Finally, we asked people unaware of the study’s purpose to compare photos taken of the participants at the end of the week to those submitted at the beginning of the study. These objective observers judged that all of the experimental participants looked noticeably younger at the end of the study.”
Think about that for a moment.
That sounds nuts, eh? Yet it’s true.
Subtle changes. Significant results.
The Psychology of Possibility tells us to question presumed limits. We need to start by thinking about what we really want in our lives. Then go for it.
So, what do you really want?
Go for it. 😃