I grew up with a zero-sum mindset. This is the saddest thing about our education system. It teaches that if someone wants to be successful, they need to make others unsuccessful. This always kept me on the lookout for others trying to bring me down.
Three years back, I read The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho which flipped my mindset. Its central theme is pronoia, the opposite of paranoia. Instead of feeling that everyone is out to get you, pronoia is a feeling that the Universe is conspiring to help you. The protagonist is a young boy, who is told by an older man to pursue his dreams. He tells the boy, “When you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it.” The book also deals with omens, signs that the universe wants the boy to follow a specific path, which eventually leads to his goal of fulfilling a dream.
This thought of the universe conspiring in my favor is oddly comforting to me. I now firmly believe others are there to help me. This change towards a positive mindset is also self-fulfilling, i.e. the more you expect that, the more it actually works out. Instead of believing that someone is out to get you, why not think that other people are plotting to make you happy?
Think about it. Do other people actually look at you so much? Are they really watching you around the clock and lying in wait for the perfect moment to attack? It seems rather unlikely and yet, many of us feel that the spotlight is on us. A young friend of mine, when he was a teenager, used to spend a lot of time in front of the mirror arranging his hair. And once, when he was doing that, his grandmother said, “Everyone is too busy worrying about themselves to pay attention to how you look.” He says that it got a bit easier for him to deal with life after that.
No one is out to get you.
If you’re willing to put in the work to become the best version of yourself, you might as well pick pronoia over paranoia. There’s really no good reason to assume otherwise. Assume good intent and it will start manifesting itself.
This reframing is infinitely powerful. Now when I cold reachout to someone, I do it with the mindset that they want to help me. If I don’t get a reply, I think that maybe they haven’t seen the message yet (in which case I need to stand out) or they feel that I can figure it out myself (which is quite empowering).
Pronoia is a way of life. It is a reminder that we get to choose how we view the world around us. We get to choose the thoughts, beliefs, and attitudes that serve us or do not serve us. Don’t let others dictate your feelings and opinions. You can very well choose to sit in the driver’s seat of your life. You are the hero of your story. And there is no villain. Always remember that.
I have pronoia. Do you?