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.

What your sore muscles say about your behaviour

Runner by Nakashi

Running long distances has made my legs strong in the directions that count for running. That is, they’re great at moving forward and back, up and down.

However, if I try to flex or stretch my legs laterally, there is little give – and what movement there is, hurts. A lot.

Ask me to sit crossed legged and I’ll wince like you sat me on a hot grill.

Everything has a cost

This is the price of choosing running. The slow accretion of bruising and scar tissue from hours upon hours of relentless hammering on the pavements of London.

It’s a physical version of the social damage I might have done if I were a model train enthusiast.

I’ve trained my legs to endure punishment in a particular way and they’ve grown strong in that direction. But the cost of that is that they are now stiff and inflexible when used in any other way.

It’s not just physical

What’s true for our body is also true for our behaviour.

Our behaviour is often as singular as my running. We’re consistent in how we act. We’re relentless in our commitment to our habits. We build strength in ourselves, but it’s in a single direction.

Making my legs strong in one direction has made them weak in others. Similarly, by behaving consistently one way, it’s harder for us to flex in other situations. Our muscles are tight, and stretching them in new ways feels unnatural and painful.

We’re not the ones who notice

We’re aware of this inflexibility in the physical realm of our own bodies, but it’s other people who are aware of it when it comes to our behaviour.

It’s those around us who notice our pride, our desire for control, our meanness with resource.

It’s others who can see where our training has made us strong, and where is has made us painful and inflexible.

Unsurprisingly, it’s others who can start to free us from this inflexibility. It’s they who can point out where our behavioural muscles are stiff and painful when we’re too daft to notice.

We still have to dedicate the time and an attention to stretching our tight muscles out, but just being aware of them is a good start.

You get what you get and you don’t get upset

Handful by Windell Oskay

As a parent, there are little sayings which you end up reeling off to your kids to try to drill home some of life’s most important lessons – it turns out, many of them also rhyme.

“sharing is caring”

“gentle, not mental”

“champagne for my real friends, real pain for my sham friends”

My personal favourite is from the nursery where my kids used to go:

“You get what you get and you don’t get upset”.

It’s a great little reminder that life isn’t always fair and there is little point in going bananas when it doesn’t meet our expectations.

After all, the world you live in is a complex system of interdependencies which have developed over the last 13.7 billion years. Your expectations? You made them up.

Expectations are an argument with an indifferent reality and the source of a lot of our suffering.

The sooner we can learn to let both expectations and social comparison go, and roll with the actual nature of the world, the happier we will all be.