Hero or villain? It’s all in the edit

The amazing Spider-man overpowered by the rampaging Rhino by Levi Espino

You could have really made a good 2-3 minute trailer of me looking like an absolute arsehole yesterday.

As I tried to get 3 kids ready, around a museum, home, fed, clean and to bed – I snapped, cajoled, threatened, bribed, carried and ignored.

If you just saw those moments, then I would have looked like one of the most unsuccessful and unlikeable fathers in Christendom.

On balance however, the day was really good. For each shitty moment of parental-desperation-versus-child-set-to-weapons-grade-misbehaviour, there were lots of good times and a couple of absolute gems.

You could have probably also made a trailer of these highlights – although I suspect the audience for them would be pretty damn small.

And yesterday wasn’t a stand-out day because of these highs and lows – it was par for the course. Every day is filled both with moments we’d rather nobody saw and others we’d wish that nobody missed.

And this is precisely what we see of other people’s lives. We see moments. We see an edit. That’s all we get.

Sometimes we get the highs, sometimes we get the lows and sometimes we see a more balanced mix – but it’s important to remember that we’re only ever seeing a trailer. No matter how good or bad someone looks in that trailer, the full story is undoubtedly more nuanced (and mundane).

Similarly, it’s worth keeping in mind that other people are only seeing a small edit of our days.

Yesterday was a good day – but there are about 25 people floating around London that probably saw an edit of me yesterday which was probably worthy of a scathing mumsnet post.

It’s worth us remembering that other people’s stories began before we were paying attention and will continue long after we’ve drifted away.

The only reason that some end with “happily ever after” is that someone yelled “CUT!” before everyone in the story got explosive diarrhoea*.

* Thanks to Justin Hamilton for this wonderful idea.

Remember to skin your cats!

cat_by_Mohamed_Aymen_Bettaieb

We each have millions of cats in our lives and a similar number of ways to skin them.

When do you wake up? That’s a cat.

Do you eat meat? That’s a cat.

Do you have a fourth beer on a Thursday night? That’s a cat.

It’s easy for us to forget that each of these cats is a choice we get to make.

The reason it’s easy to overlook is that we’ve long since outsourced most routine choices to established patterns of behaviour.

In order to avoid choice overload every moment, we rely on habits, patterns and behaviours that we’ve formed in the past to ease the cognitive load as we go about our day.

Unfortunately for us, we form habits in the same way that evolution picks survivors – it doesn’t optimise for what is the best, it settles for what is the least shitty option that’s come so far.

We figure out what works just enough to survive and we run with that.

It’s a great system in one way: it allows us to function across a broad spectrum of activities without getting lost in the detail. But it also means that we can be stuck with mediocre or even bad choices for a long time if we don’t remember to review our automatic behaviours and check that they still work for us.

I’m not saying we don’t want or need habits – they’re vital to our productivity – I’m just saying that we should be aware of them, check them and update them if necessary.

There are cats we’re still flaying by hand, despite the fact that we’re now the proud owners of the Skin-o-matic 6000TM

The trick is recognising the choices we’ve long since forgotten to make. They can be well camouflaged, and many will be rusted into a single position, taking time and attention to unjam.

You might not want to change what you eat, why you respond to stress or how you skin a cat, but if you do – you’ll need to keep your eyes open.

Changing our choices and behaviours isn’t the work of a moment, but can be one of the most rewarding projects there is.

*No cats were harmed in the writing of this post (but I’m obviously a dog person)

Getting unstuck from the everyday

Packed_Lunch_by_Mark_Robinson

It’s super easy to get caught up in the sticky web of distraction with two major consequences:

  1. We get diverted from our most important work – where we can have the most impact
  2. We close down and start to behave in a reactionary, automatic way without the full toolbox of choices available to us

While it’s hard to catch yourself in the moment, we can set a few alarms to go off throughout the day to trigger the following 2 questions:

  1. Am I doing my most important work right now? If not, how can I get to it asap?
  2. Am I behaving in a way which I would be happy for those I most love and admire to see?

These questions – or variations of them – can be helpful tools to course correct us. They can help to steer us back towards the kinds action and behaviour which will truly serve us in the long term.

Why facts don’t convince us

Stories_by_Victor_Cristian_Mitroi

We like to think that we’re moral, rational creatures who live sensibly based on the information we receive.

The truth, as always, is a lot messier than we would like.

We can see this when we’re confronted with information that doesn’t match our world view. When we see facts we don’t “like”.

We dismiss, rather than verify.

If we do look into the issue in question, our first instinct is to simply seek out information which confirms our existing point of view. Confirmation bias.

We’re just not creatures of fact, we’re creatures of narrative. Of stories.

We each have a personal story we tell ourselves. In our personal story, we’re a lone, rational protagonist struggling against an irrational and unjust world.

And we all have the same story.

Not only do we act in accordance with our story, but our beliefs and story perpetuate each other.

Rarely if ever, will our story changed with purely by facts. Raw data we don’t like just becomes woven into the “irrationality of the world” in our story.

Facts can’t dent the cliffs of our personal story, but a counter narrative has the power to reshape and reform our story’s landscape.

The next time you’re planning to try to convince someone to change their mind, think about the narrative.

Think about their story, think about your story.

Don’t disregard your facts, but don’t fire them out like bullets. Weave them into the fabric of a compelling story and you’ll be more likely to win both hearts and minds.

Why we find change so damn hard

LongDarkAlley-GuillaumeDelebarre

It’s amazing how resistant to change we are – even when we’re trying to embrace it.

Over the last few weeks it’s gone back to being dark again when I wake up – and I’ve been resisting it. Willing it were otherwise.

Even though a dark morning is the herald of some of my favourite things (frosty runs, long coats, big boots) it still felt I was losing something. And I fought that loss.

Half the battle is knowing we’re wired this way. We see change as risk. We’re loss averse.

The other half of the battle is the reprogramming. Seeing the opportunity as well as the risk. Seeing the gain as well as the loss.

And then, acting accordingly.