Let me share with you one of my secrets to hope and delight. It starts with a story. A story of Pinterest.
Years ago, when Pinterest was still up and coming online, I got an invitation from my roommate to join. (This was back when Pinterest was invite-only.) Very few people were on the platform at the time, and what was there was only the cream of the crop. I selected the “interest” categories of travel, fashion, and cooking when I signed up for my account, and instantly my feed was flooded with luminous, colorful, exotic images, all of which linked to fabulous sites—many I’d never seen or heard of before.
Now back then, I often lived paycheck to paycheck. Meals out were rare, and the idea of travel anywhere further than an hour’s drive was pretty much laughable. But oh, Pinterest brought the world to me. I was on the platform daily, clicking links to blogs and galleries and boutiques. It was almost as good as being transported to all the places I dreamed of going, to the life I hoped I’d one day have.
All that inspiration motivated me. How could it not? I started seeing a glimpse into a life that I deeply wanted and hadn’t known was possible before. Being connected to all kinds of people all over the world through gorgeous images—seeing them make amazing things happen in their own lives—motivated me to try learning a new language (Italian), to start new hobbies (cooking, sometimes with foods I’d never tried before), and to take classes and develop skills (like photography and web design). It gave me a place to collect my ideas for the coffee shop I wanted to one day open, a way to lay out the kinds of clothes I liked and hone in on “my style.” I can safely say that a lot of where I am today is thanks to Pinterest. Looking at where I was five or six years ago, and where I am now—almost none of the change could have happened without Pinterest to show me what was possible.
But a couple years into being on Pinterest, I noticed changes starting to happen. First off: Once Pinterest ceased to be invite-only, I started getting a lot of followers who were people from my real life. Now, unlike, say, Facebook, Pinterest wasn’t designed for folks who just wanted another way to connect with people they already knew from day-to-day living. Wasn’t that obvious to everyone? I thought. This is a place to meet new people, to get inspired!
Of course I politely followed these people back. They started recommending pins for me—often short videos, GIFs, or memes. They were the funny, off-color sorts of things I might expect to see on Facebook, or sent to me in a chain email (back when those were still a thing). But they weren’t what I logged on to Pinterest for.
And Pinterest began to predict my behavior—which, in this case, wasn’t a great thing. As I “hearted” images sent to me, just to acknowledge them—“Thanks, haha”—my feed of bouquets and backyard barbecues and the Eiffel Tower and tiramisu and Grecian waters were replaced with images of Daniel Radcliffe as first-year Harry Potter, rolling his eyes above some random caption; long strings of snapshots teachers had taken on their smartphones of the strange things students wrote in school papers; GIFs of animals toppling over, pulled from AFV. I wasn’t getting the buzz I used to, being on the platform.
For a brief period, I tried to trick the algorithm. I made sure I unfollowed any users who were posting what I assessed to be spam. I un-hearted posts that I thought might have persuaded Pinterest to recommend certain boards to me. I reposted some pins from way back in the day—but was quickly cut off with that little error window, “Oops! You already pinned this.” It became apparent that the effort wasn’t worth it.
Finally came sponsored and recommended pins. These overtook my feed to the point that I couldn’t even find the images pinned by the users I had built my profile following. I had once been able to tell which users had shared what, and that made me feel connected to a community bigger than my neighborhood or my region in the world.
So I stopped logging on to Pinterest.
How does this connect to hope and delight?
Well, it occurred to me later that I don’t think most people would give up a social platform consciously just because it changed. Especially when a habit starts out as something good, it can be hard to notice when it stops being good. The muscle memory is already there. Habits are hard to break. But I did break this one. Why?
Because I knew exactly how I wanted to feel, and Pinterest no longer made me feel that way. It had become the a place that made my brain feel the way my body does when I binge on junk food. So I started looking for a new place that made me feel motivated, inspired, and refreshed.
Today, for me, I find that in lots of places. One place is Instagram. I haven’t repeated the mistake of simply following back every user I know in real life who finds and follows me. I want only the images in front of me that encourage me to grow as an entrepreneur, a photographer, a cook, an adventurer, a positive thinker, and a thought leader. I don’t follow the marketers who post info graphics, and I don’t follow fan accounts, and I don’t follow the people I know in real life who post only smartphone shots of margaritas and sunsets. I might be interested in some of those things in other contexts, but so much of where I am today came from intentionally choosing to put beauty before me and then reach for it.
That’s my key takeaway today: Put in front of your eyes every day the beauty you want for your life. It will start to shape your reality. Engage daily with what you put into your mind, and change it when it’s not good for you anymore. Your momentum and your faith in yourself depend on this. Keep your eyes on the prize you want for your life, and if the way to get there changes, don’t keep going the way you were on. Adapt. Grow. Develop. Persevere.
You are in charge of the way you live your life, of what you put before your eyes and into your mind, of how you use your time, and the habits you develop and break. Engage. You will be amazed what change you can make to your life with just a few simple tweaks.
What do you think? Leave a comment over on Instagram @alexisthegreek! As always, if this information was helpful, share it with a fellow business person and stop by my tip jar to let me know you appreciated it. And if there's a topic you'd like me to cover in a future blog post, let me know by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.