Protecting your mental RAM

West McGowan

It’s not a perfect metaphor, but sometimes it’s helpful to think of our brains as computers.

The things we’ve learned are written to disk. They sit on our hard drive, but we can really only made use of them if we load them into RAM.

There are heaps of things we’ve learned which are relevant to any given situation, but unless we consciously drag them to the surface and load them into RAM, they don’t really influence our thinking or actions.

But we can’t just load everything into RAM. It’s a precious resource, it’s what we need to do our work, and it’s really easy to fill up with shit.

That 5 minute check of your facebook feed? That’s all sitting in your RAM. That fact about whale testicles spouted at volume by the loud guy in the office? That’s sitting in your RAM.

When you sleep, your RAM gets (mostly) purged – so if you want to retain something, you have to make the effort to write it to disk (or write it down).

When we wake up, our RAM is pretty fresh but we should be discerning with what we load into it. If we fill it with shit first thing in the morning, we’ll have it rattling around all day.

One of the most important things I’ve learned comes from this quote by Victor Frankl:

“Between stimulus and response, there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.”

It’s the reminder to pause. To create enough space to ensure that a response is a deliberate choice and not just the product of habit, fear or bullshit. It’s the reminder that, irrespective of circumstance, we get to choose our response and that’s the cornerstone of our freedom.

When we react without making that choice, we have no freedom. We’re just a slave to the unfathomable algorithms of our experience.

It’s a great lesson, but I almost never heeded it, because I never made the conscious effort to load it into RAM. It wasn’t there when I needed it.

Now I’ve changed how I think about my RAM. I’m protective of what goes into it and I’m careful of the boot sequence. Frankl’s quote is in the boot sequence, but Facebook and facts about whale balls didn’t make the cut (although they’re in your RAM now).

Keep your RAM tidy and make deliberate choices about what you load into it. And if you are going to add something into your boot sequence, you could do a lot worse than some Victor Frankl.