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The Tinkered Mind
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January 6th, 2021
Almost nothing is achieved without regularity. This is the power of habits. Results compound either linearly or geometrically and fantastically large goals are slowly swallowed by a faith and patience with the machine of consistency. But what regularity can hide is a more powerful alternative of consistent effort.
The quintessential opposite is the bad habit. Switching it out for a “good” habit has benefits so obvious the point nearly need not be mentioned. The point here is to see habitual behavior on a gradient from worst to bad to good to better.
It’s one thing to have good habits, but what about better habits? This is a subtle curse of a regularity that has become an automaticity: Just as it’s difficult to forego a bad habit for a good habit, it’s strangely just as difficult to forego a good habit for an even better one. We are what we repeatedly do, and so are our preferences. With enough consistency we grow to automatically favor the good as opposed to the great.
This is where randomness and perhaps even a little chaos can be used as an excellent tool. By switching things up randomly, on purpose we can by chance find new behavior naturally expressing itself given a different sort of circumstance. As Robert Sapolsky has wisely added to the ancient greek aphorism: “Know thyself, especially in different circumstances.”
We become slightly different people depending on circumstance because circumstance calls upon different aspects of who we are. Just as perspective is a filter of reality, our behavior is a filter of our possible and potential action, most often evoked by circumstance.
It goes to follow that changing our circumstance, especially at random can unearth surprising capabilities hidden within who we are. And once discovered, the new consistent circumstance can be mindfully designed to continually evoke this better and more powerful behavior.
As is often said: moderation in everything. And if this is to be believed, then it also applies recursively, meaning sometimes we need to moderate our moderation and open the door for something extreme, something chaotic, intense and unexpected. More often than not this urge just results in a terrible hangover and a lost day regretting half remembered decisions. But with a little thoughtfulness, an extremely different circumstance can yield a version of ourselves that we currently only admire in vague imaginings.