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The Tinkered Mind
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January 15th, 2022
Walk past a small garbage can and throw a balled-up piece of paper in it’s direction. Perhaps it’s a coin toss whether it goes in or not. Regardless, there’s very little riding on the result. It’s a casual effort, which might save a drop of time otherwise dedicated to walking over to the can to drop it in with certainty.
Walk past our small garbage can every day and throw the balled-up paper, and it’ll start going in more and more, until failure is a rare and curious event.
This sort of casual target is exactly how many serious things in life should be approached. But instead we do much the opposite: we infuse our effort with high stakes and combine it -usually- with a one-off attempt, as opposed to the consistency of daily taking a shot at the trash can. The disappointment is nearly certain when a single effort fails to meet those high stakes.
Raising a child, starting a business, maintaining an important habit - these are not single heroic acts, they are all an aggregate of many small efforts, compounded and weighed against the rest. With enough consistency, some failure mixed in simply comes out in the wash, else it merely adds spice to our memory of the endeavor.
The mere act of living life itself is perhaps the best target to casually aim for. So many people string together weeks and months and decades of frustrated and stressed moments only to end up at the end of a life without ever having hit the target at all, having each time, taken the task so seriously that the aim ceases to be visible.
It’s an irony of life that almost all circumstances that cause stress and frustration can be met with a smile, a chuckle and a sincere sense of joy, and that reaction is equally valid. But of course, such a reaction is far more valuable, practically speaking.
Stress cramps the mind, and it’s a fact of neuroendocrinology that chronic stress cripples the mind. The less casual we take our targets in life, the more difficult they become to hit. We stand in our own way, not due to a lack of ability, but because of a perspective that inhibits that ability.