Check you intuition

intuition-by-lovelorn-poets

We base a lot of our decisions on intuition rather than evidence.

It’s a sensible strategy most of the time. It’s faster, less effortful and it allows us to focus on more pressing concerns.

But the environment in which we make decisions can change quickly and our intuitions don’t auto-update.

Take 30 seconds to check your intuitions.

What are they based on?

Are they still accurate?

Are they still helpful?

A quick examination of our own thought processes can often help us to avoid sleepwalking into trouble based on bad intuitions.

Turning the right wheel

dashboard-by-frank-dibona

When we’re grasping at the past or pining after the future, we’re essentially yanking on a steering wheel that’s not connected to what we’re trying to influence.

We turn it this way and that, hoping to have some impact, but it only takes a small dose of perspective to realise how futile (and ridiculous) this is.

The wheel is however, connected to the present moment and every turn we make has an impact right now. Being deliberate and attentive to what’s happening right here and now is the only way to both steer our ship in the present moment and to have any influence over our future.

How to quit properly

banksy-in-boston-by-chris-devers

We’ve got a problem with quitting. In fact, we’ve got a few.

Unfortunately they’re not just in one neat bucket either – they’re cultural, psychological, social and personal.

We see quitting as weakness. We see quitting as failure. We see quitting as a dirty shameful secret that needs to be covered up.

But in a world where the only constant is change, quitting is a necessary strategy for skilfully redeploying our precious resources.

We need to be able to change position. We need to be able to stop doing things which we’ve started and may not have finished.

A person who never quits is a person who is unable to adapt at the speed at which nature occasionally dictates.

BUT

Quitting doesn’t mean leaving something to wither on the vine. It doesn’t mean ignoring a project or neglecting a relationship. Quitting means taking a conscious decision to stop something for a specific reason and taking the appropriate measures to wind it up.

It means giving it an end, a death, a little closure. Neglected projects still rattle around in our brains in a messy, noisy way. Something properly quit is done, closed, finished, dead – even if it was never completed.

Unless we want to lock ourselves alone in a shack on a hill, we’re part of a world which will occasionally require us to quit. But like most things in the world, you can quit in a half-assed and lazy way. And therein lies the problem.

We need to decouple conscious, deliberate quitting from just letting things slide.

If the situation demands it, then don’t be afraid to quit. But don’t do it meekly. Chances are, the project or idea you need to quit was once (or maybe still is) precious to you. So if you have to kill it, at least give it the death it deserves.

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You should also listen to the excellent Freakonomics podcast on The Upside of Quitting.

Play the long game

the-long-road-home-by-amanda-tipton

We’re wired to make short term decisions, by default.

The oldest part of our brain wants us to think selfishly on a short time horizon.

But the impact of our decisions always outlive the immediate situation. There are ALWAYS long term consequences.

The selfish path is faster now, but slower overall.

Even if you’re sprinting today, it’s important to remember that we’re all, always, running a marathon.

The counter intuitive move is to think about how our decisions today will impact tomorrow, next year, the next decade. There is always a larger context to consider, and we will be living in that context one day.

Short term thinking satisfies cravings, but long term thinking satisfies needs.

Taking the time to think long term might not change your short term decision, but it puts that decision within a larger context of cost and benefit.

It allows us to see the impact tomorrow of the choices we make today.

It allows us to play the long game.

The best use of your time

time-by-stefanos-papachristou

Simon and Garfunkel said it best (although I prefer The Bangles’ version):

Time time time, see what’s become of me.

We are a product of what we choose to do with our time.

It’s our most precious resource, but we don’t often respect it as such.

We fritter it away as if it’s worth nothing – seemingly unaware of it’s power and value.

There are so many activities and distractions which appear free, but for the time they require.

What we don’t realise, is that time is the primary investment we’re making, in anything. Money comes and goes, but time only goes. There is no way of getting more when we’re running low.

Perhaps this is what makes it difficult. We can never really know how much time we have, so we’re unable to properly value it.

According to the Death Clock, I have about 18 000 days left to run, but even if that’s true, it’s not an easy number to work with. It’s hard to know how to use that information to make better decisions.

We always have trouble valuing things we can’t see, or touch, or roll around in our hands. I’m sure God (if she exists) would agree.

And I’m not saying that we should hoard our time, or be miserly with it when it comes to others, but we should spent it deliberately and wisely.

We should guard against the mass of minutes we give away mindlessly to the activities and pursuits which make life better for nobody. Not ourselves, not our friends, not the strangers around us.

Now that you’ve read this – great. But what’s the next, best use or your precious time?

I’d like to say it’s reading another one of my posts, but that’s complete bullshit. There’s undoubtably someone important to you who doesn’t know how much you care about them.

Why not make telling them, a conscious, deliberate, use of your precious time?