Its been a while since I wrote my last blog... It used to be a habit or some sort of determination to write a blog every week no matter what the priorities were in front of me.. Truth be told,my last blog was in Oct 2011. Its almost an year gone without a single blog. When I sat back in my armchair to think about what did I do to give up this wonderful habit to blog, I was left clueless..The usual excuses( Suspects) were
- Have no time
- Busy with some other worth
- Work Pressure
- running out of topics
This applies to all of us. For me it was about blogging and for some of you it might about your Food diet or Physical exercise. There is one thing that is subliminally common to all these pursuits.All of these require some will power or self control to do these on a continually basis. Will Power or Self Control are functions of System 2 of the brain. As Daniel Kahneman highlights in his book " Thinking Fast Slow", System 2 of the brain is responsible for reasoning, analytical abilities and self control.
What does this got to do with my delay in writing a blog? When I started to think about it, I figured out a few clues..
Before I get to some possible answers here are some theories. Quoting from Daniel Kahneman's book Thinking Fast and Slow
- System 1 and System are hypothetical separation mega structure of the brain
- System 1 of the brain is an auto responder. It is automatic and Intuitive
- System 2 functions including reasoning, self control, analysis
- Most often we believe that our System 2 is dominant. That is to say we analyze and then respond
- Unfortunately, this is not true. We respond and the rationalize
- System 1 responds and then we attempt to rationalize. Classic example include familiar products are perceived to good.. No wonder advertisers are out to get our eyeball attention
- System 1 can never be switched off. You can't stop it from doing its thing. System 2, on the other hand, is lazy and only becomes active when necessary. Slow, deliberate thinking is hard work. It consumes chemical resources in the brain, and people usually don't like that...
Now back to our problem.. What stopped me from pursuing my interests.. It turns out to be that my active memory ( RAM) was occupied with a lot of day-day issues which inturn increases fear.Eventually most of the energy was spent on automatic response to handle these fears.This is called a Amygdala Hijack a term coined by Daniel Goleman to describe emotional responses from people which are immediate and overwhelming, and out of measure with the actual stimulus because it has triggered a much more significant emotional threat.!!! During these times, the energy required for fulfilling an intellectual task is depleted. Dan Ariely calls this as Ego depletion. Will power is a limited resource and in the absence of energy,brain uses it auto response mechanism. In my case it turns out to be that the brain decided to give me a break from pursuing my interest. During these times, i was passively engaged in activities which does not require much of intellectual power.
Map it your pursuits, the same logic applies. What makes it worse is when you are on a guilt trip for not pursuing your interests. As Kelly McGongial states in her a book " Will Power Instinct", If you are hard on yourself for not having willpower the more you are likely to make mistakes again. This probably explains the reason for my procrastination. In some cases, due to ego depletion, people tend to succumb to their temptations like calorie rich food or anything that was programmed as forbidden in System 2.
What is the way out?
Pre commitments: This is a wonderful concept was suggested by Dan Ariely. Pre-commitments or Preemptive actions are some of check that we can keep on ourselves. If I want to continue writing my blog, what if I make a pre-commitment to one of my mentors every week on the topic that I am going write.Good possibility that I will strive to keep up my word,atleast with my mentors :-)
This is certainly a short term solution. If we have to see a change then it needs to happen from within.
Meditation: If the active memory is not constantly battling the day-day fears, then good portion of the energy can be well spent on making the System 2 work. One of the ways to alleviate such fears is to live in the present. To live in the present one needs to widen the awareness to access a situation. Daniel Goleman presents a theory on how meditation increases awareness. Amygdala ( part of the brain) makes rapid judgments about a situation and has a powerful effect on our emotions and behaviour, linked to survival needs. With meditation, the prefrontal cortex, responsible for introspection and planning, has a better control over the signals that it receives from amydala. Individual who meditates regularly has better control on his/her response to a stimuli..
With a solid purpose in life and enough energy available in the brain to activate System 2, our pursuits on things that we are passionate about or that which is important for life is no longer a difficult pursuit..