'Reminders to be grateful': Using passwords to unlock happiness
Some people are hiding positive affirmations in the characters they type every day.
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Most of us know the standard advice on how to choose a password: Make it long, complicated, free of dictionary words, and not something ultra-dumb and hackable like “1111111” or “password,” which about half of us still do, according to a study by the security company Keeper.
But what if a password could go beyond protection, and actually do something positive for your life?
It worked for Catherine Di Cesare. The 35-year-old security employee from Toronto has a side gig with the multi-level marketing company Steeped Tea. She sells teas to family, friends and members of her social network.
The company offers incentives — like a trip to Jamaica — to top performers. Di Cesare decided she had to have it. So she changed her password to “something like JamaicaIn2016.”
“The idea was to remind me to do at least one small thing each day to help towards earning the trip, be it finding a new customer, talking to someone who was interested in the company or scheduling posts on my Facebook,” Di Cesare said in a message to Metro.
She got her trip, and she’s since repeated the technique to earn getaways to Maui and Rome.
Health promoter Steph Francis, 30, does something similar. She uses her passwords as a sort of daily affirmation.
One is actually a mnemonic. “Every time I type it in somewhere, I say the whole phrase to myself as a reminder to love myself and continue to do that,” she wrote. “It’s not so much goal-oriented, but in the stress of life they are good reminders to be grateful for what I do have.”
Experts such as Dr. Michael Mercer, author of Spontaneous Optimism: Proven Strategies for Health, Prosperity & Happiness, have praised this technique.
“People become the words and phrases they say the most. Since you use passwords a lot, you continually say positive, helpful, uplifting words to improve your life,” Mercer told the Daily Mail.
On the other hand, American psychologist Martin Seligman, a positive-thinking expert who has written numerous self-help books about happiness and optimism, was somewhat skeptical.
“I had not heard of it before. It’s cute. But without envisioning the specific actions to the goal, it’s likely woo woo,” Seligman said in an email to Metro. “In general, affirmations do not work unless the route to the goal (as well as the goal) is attended to.”
Designer Momo Estrella popularized the password-as-affirmation practice a few years ago in his essay How a Password Changed my Life on Medium.com.
In the midst of a messy divorce, Estrella changed his PC’s password to Forgive@h3r.
“I had to type this password several times a day. Each time my computer would lock. Each time my screensaver with her photo would appear. Each time I would come back from eating lunch alone,” he wrote. “In my mind, I was reminding myself to ‘Forgive her’. That simple action changed the way I looked at my ex-wife.”
Choosing safe passwords
• Regardless of whether it’s your pet’s name or a daily reminder to be a good person, a weak password — especially one you use for more than one service — can leave you vulnerable to hackers.
• Mathematics shows that long passwords made up of a few words strung together are harder for a bot to guess in a brute-force attack than six characters of nonsense.
• Many experts recommend using a password generator to create hard-to-guess, frequently changed passwords.
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