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"Set & Setting": On Borrowing A Concept From Psychedelic Drugs to Live Better

by Live Better

I want you to think about the three most important places in the world to you, right now. As you do, here are a few questions to prompt your answer:

  • Do they make you feel safe?

  • Do they make you feel happy?

  • Do they make you feel inspired?

  • Do they make you feel motivated?

Why are these places important to you? Likely, they invoke a certain emotion (like “comfortable” or “safe”), which you attach to an experience. From this experience, we gain a memory, and from that memory we can begin to rely on it (both for good if we want to return or for bad if we wish to avoid it).

It’s important to consider the way certain environments make you feel, and conversely, the way your mindset influences the way you feel in a certain space. Sometimes, we need to be in a “mood” to receive a specific message (everyone everywhere in a relationship knows what I mean). There is a time and place to have certain conversations; when those do not align, the message is not well received.

…asking someone for a favor when they’re in a bad mood never works, does it?

Ever find that a messy or busy bedroom makes it hard to fall asleep?
Ever find that “safe” social environments build trust really quickly?

Today, we’re going to borrow a concept from the world of psychedelics, specifically the way psychedelic drugs interact with the user. It is called “Set and Setting.”

“The concept, which was first proposed by Timothy Leary and his group at Harvard, claimed that the character of a psychedelic experience is determined first and foremost by the user’s character, expectations and intentions (Set), as well as by the social and physical surrounding in which the drug experience takes place (Setting).”
- http://www.maps.org/news-letters/v23n1/v23n1_p6-9.pdf

Let’s suppose for a minute that in this hypothesis we swap “psychedelic experience/drugs” for “life” - it would read like this:

“The character of [life] is determined first and foremost by the user’s character, expectations and intentions (Set), as well as by the social and physical surrounding in which [life] takes place (Setting).”

This would mean that YOUR life is determined by your actions, your expectations about how you want to be treated and how you want to live it, and by the intention (effort and focus) you put behind it. It also means that YOUR life is influenced by your social surroundings (“you are the average of the 5 people you spend the most time with”), who you choose to spend time with, who you choose to trust and build a life with, and by the physical location in which you choose to live (city, mountains, beach, small town, big town, etc).

Guess what? You have the ability to control all of that. You have the ability to put yourself in positive environments to allow your mindset to flourish. You also have the ability to develop a stronger mindset so that when it does not match the environment you’re in you have the capability to either handle it...or leave.

Your “headspace” is also what you make it. Are you choosing to fill it with positive influences, expectations, and intentions?

“Home” is what you make it. Are you choosing to create positive social and physical surroundings?

This is how we cultivate a better “character” of life (better read as “being happy”, finding fulfillment, following your purpose, doing good, etc.).

We’ll never tell you how to live your life, but here are a few strategies that helped us improve ours:

1) Travel with intention.
Vacation should be used as a positive “Setting”, free of stress and busyness, and a place to find clarity so that when we return home we can be more productive. Rarely does this happen, and we should consider why that is. This is why we started our Live Better Retreats; you return home healthier, happier, motivated, productive, and positive. If you want to feel more relaxed, travel to relaxing destinations (think somewhere with sunshine, moving water, or open space). If you want to feel charged, try New York City.

2) Dedicated space in your life for specific use.
Don’t do work on your laptop in your bed before sleep - you’re confusing your brain on what it’s supposed to be doing. Don’t bring your Instagram with you to the gym - you can check your DMs later. We suggest setting up somewhere to sleep, to relax, to be productive, and to be creative. For example, the bed is for sleep, the couch is for relaxing, the desk is for being productive, and near the window looking out is for being creative. Your brain will rely on that memory in each space (Setting) to produce a certain feeling (Set).

3) You can always control your “Set.”
No matter where you are in your day (or life), you can always control your headspace. It is within your power to respond to life how you wish. You can choose to be negative, and complain or play victim, or you can choose to be positive and make the best of it. Everyone has someone in their life that does this extremely well; seek them out. Those are the people you want to travel with, work with, etc. We do our best to cultivate the people, work, and environments that make us thrive, but sometimes it just doesn’t work the way we want. The most important conversation you have all day is the one you have with yourself.

Last question, what tends to be the more powerful force for you (Set or Setting)?

The “best day ever mindset” we talk about on a weekly basis has certainly influenced the way we think about responding to the world around us. Even in bad situations, cultivating and practicing positivity (and having strategies to course correct when it goes wrong) has extremely powerful effects. But sometimes we just need out of our own head and need to hit the mountains or the beach; nature is a powerful force. Sometimes we just need to be around loved ones to make us feel…loved.

At the end of the day, your headspace is either for you or against you. Understand the way certain people and places make you feel, then surround yourself with the ones that make you grow.

Choose to have the best day ever (no matter what you feel like or where you are).

Jason LoebigComment