The iPhone Effect

This post is not about the iPhone. It’s about human nature, dissonance, paradigm, and the stories we tell ourselves. But the iPhone was the first example that made it clear to us, and the name stuck.

Imagine a guy named Joe. Joe was one of the early adopters of the iPhone. He paid $500 for it — quite a lot of money. It’s really slick, and does a lot of cool and useful things. There may be some problems, and it may not be all he expected, but overall he’s pretty happy with it. But maybe he’s not quite $500-plus-service-contract-fees worth of happy. He feels some dissonance about having paid such a large amount of money for what amounts to a cool toy.

What story is Joe going to tell his friends?

Is he going to tell a story of ambivalence, a story about how he may have overpaid for a nifty gadget? No. That story would make him look like a sucker, and would make him feel like a chump.

He’s going to tell a story about the iPhone being the best thing ever. He’s going to tell a story about how great it is, and how it was worth every penny. That’s the story he’ll tell, because that’s the story that relieves his dissonance.

Dissonance is uncomfortable. Dissonance makes us shift restlessly in our chairs. Dissonance makes us avoid eye contact. Dissonance itches at us like cracker crumbs in our bedsheets.

Dissonance drives us to seek relief.

Sometimes, dissonance drives us to action. We release our dissonance by changing our situation. But more often, we release our dissonance by changing the stories we tell. That’s the main point of what I’m trying to say, so let me say it again:

We relieve our dissonance by changing the stories we tell.

Sally is in an unhealthy relationship, and both her and her partner do things they aren’t proud of. Sally feels dissonance between her concept of herself (a good person) and her actions (not so good). To relieve her dissonance, she tells a story of herself being a helpless victim and her partner being an evil villain.

Matthew works a 9-to-5 job, and feels bored and unfulfilled. He feels dissonance between his dreams and his current situation. To relieve his dissonance, he tells a story in which there are no other options. He tells a story where he is a hero: he’s a hard worker providing for his family. He’s a savvy realist, wise to the ways of the world, and he’s avoiding any unnecessary risks.

Jessica, due to a combination of nature and nurture, has not yet developed good communication skills. Others often misunderstand her, and she feels isolated and alone. She feels dissonance between her self-concept of being a good communicator and her many experiences of being misunderstood by others. To relieve her dissonance, she tells a story of being a maverick, a lone wolf, the only sane person in a crazy world. She tells a story where she’s right and everyone else is wrong.

Pace recently gave notice at her high-paying job so she can focus 100% on doing what she loves. She feels dissonance between her passion for her dreams and her fear of failing, running out of money, and putting her wife and son into a bad financial situation. To relieve her dissonance, she tells a story of positivity, of visualization and manifestation, and of wild success.

The stories we tell become the realities we live in.

So be careful what stories you tell. It’s only natural for you to seek a release from dissonance. It’s a very uncomfortable place to be. But choose your story carefully, because it will become your reality. Examine your life authentically. Look at your situation honestly and genuinely before choosing to change it with a new story. Choose your story on purpose instead of by accident.

Note: This post was inspired by another blog post I read a couple of months ago, but I can no longer find it. I thought it was Seth, but he doesn’t remember having written it. If you wrote it or know who did, please give me a link so I can provide credit.

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