Saturday, March 14, 2009

Be Better Automatically

Consciousness is biologically expensive. It takes a lot of energy for our brains to think about doing something. It's much easier for your brain to bypass the middle man and automate it.

I don't think much about my heartbeat. It's controlled by the brain on a level below having to think about it. Breathing is automatic as well, but we can override it if we want to, and if we think about it. Touch typing, stick shift, jump shot, and hockey stop, all become automatic with practice.

The same thing goes for our daily routines. They don't require thought energy, they just happen every day, because they are rehearsed every day. This assimilation of routines into our lives happens unconsciously. The brain figures out the routine and takes the high level consciousness out of it. Wake. Shower. Shave. Get dressed. Eat breakfast. Go to work. Every day is exactly the same. It's easier mentally.

Like breathing, you can override it if you want to, and if you think about it. But it's easier not to. Your routines determine what you spend most of your time doing.

This isn't a call to be conscious of everything. Don't concentrate on left foot, right foot as you walk around. Just walk. You've automated the walking, and that makes it easy. What else can you automate?

Automatic routines have an impact on the world every time they happen. If you throw recyclables in the garbage, the will to switch can make recycling the automatic activity.

Noticing where the routines could be better is tricky. Their routine nature makes them almost invisible to you. Pay attention. You can change your life by changing what's on automatic.

What things in your life would you like to improve? Healthier diet? More active lifestyle? Study habits? Lowering your impact on the environment? Automatically saving your money?

Take a mental sweep of your routines. They are automatic and they define you. With a little nudge, your routines could be something else. They would be just as easy, just as automatic. You would be that much better.

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