Thinking you are thinking is what happens when we are on autopilot,
and trying to maintain a steady state, conserving energy, running off of heuristics and seeking to validate what we have already decided is so. That’s us, most of the time.
Behavioral Economics is a new discipline that is making its mark (and is now a huge “growth industry” in consultancy) by figuring out how to use people’s heuristics and a few other features of human behavior we’ll speak about soon, to sell us more stuff, to get us to change this public behavior or that, or to change our opinions.
It’s safe to say, they are in love with the fact that we think we are thinking. They still seem hooked on the notion that there is some relationship between “rationality” (whatever that may be) and humans, but they will catch up eventually.
In several other contexts, the challenge of “thinking we are thinking” has arisen in different forms but all of them work towards restoring the ability to “shake it off” and really use our senses and our minds to improve our experiences and also our results.
The challenge of learning is that without further consideration of the ends being sought, too may ends may be called ‘learning’ that should properly be given a different name.
For example, much of the school experience is concerned not with learning how to think, being exposed to many domains of life, and learning how to make one’s way in the world.
More time is actually spent in compliance activities, and rote learning processes (coming up with the same answer as the teacher, text book, etc.).
One purportedly learns “about” things, and hence for many people learning equals getting the answer for something (the pre-determined, pre-assigned answer) rather than learning being about how to enquire and how to discover or generate answers.
Is it any wonder so many people think they can “know” by reading? Without the proper transformational analytics, well practiced and consistently applied… what is the point of filling one’s head with words?
Is it any wonder so many people think they “know” things by looking at the internet? Is it any wonder so many have confused skill and mastery with “having heard” something.
The Zen Buddhists of old believed they saw into the nature of this problem (pseudo-minds, run on autopilot). For them, one of the goals of their practice was to restore what they called “the beginner’s mind” where there were many possibilities rather than the expert’s single possibility.
We’re talking about something similar here (and, for the record, this is NOT Zen Buddhism) – that urge to closure on things, the need to move on quickly, the desire for the next “shiny thing”, etc. are all signs of the robot mind seeking to kill novelty and real possibility by “getting it” as quickly as possible and then moving on.
Why not? It’s how you became successful in school. It’s what you were rewarded for.
F.M. Alexander, founder of the Alexander Technique, had a central concept he called “end gaining”, which is the tendency of the habit body to throw large amounts of tension at habituated tasks, in order to get to the desired end.
There’s more to it than this (it is intimately tied with “half-arsed” doing, and any kind of goal seeking) but this will do for now.
It’s this… premature (pre-mature) rushing for the end, to get the goods, to close off this present thing and move on, to “know” by having words without referent experiences, etc. that we’re talking about.
The beginner’s mind is the opposite of all of this in its curiosity to experience, intense play with ideas, concepts and activities but most of all its lack of closure, of tying off, of shutting down and moving on.
In a phrase, forgoing the pleasure of immediate closure, for developing greater and greater levels of enjoyment of the process.
It’s when you are aware, relaxed and using the minimum amount of tension and effort that you can choose without fear, experiment easily, stop doing one habituated thing and start doing something new – all with ease and enjoyment.
The urge to shut down novelty or close before you’ve opened or wave away possibility “because…” are the robot’s tools to maintain its status quo.
When you have identified with the robot and as the robot; then the future is fixed.
When you inhibit the urge to closure, inhibit the autopilot reaction and “get back in your trousers” you become more free and more ready to play.
- Choose a behavior sequence or pattern that has both duration and is interruptible (e.g. “cleaning the kitchen” vs. “crossing the street” – you’re safe in the first one but not the second).
- Play the “catch yourself” game by every once in awhile pausing just before you’re going to do something (“pick up a cloth”, in the cleaning example). Stop yourself in the middle of beginning… and notice how much force and effort you are using, how much tension there is in your arm and body. REVERSE THE ACTION YOU STARTED TO MAKE (this is important), as you relax and remove any tensions or stresses in excess of the requirements of the action.
- Return to the starting position (“cloth on the counter top”) and start again, this time slower, with less tension, more relaxation and no “end gaining”. Repeat this 3-5 times until there is no excess tension and force, or desire to jump to the end of the process. Just enjoying this streamlining of behavior. Then carry on (in this example, cleaning the kitchen)
- After a period, repeat step 2 & 3 with another behavior (say, removing the mop from its cupboard)
A curious thing will happen over a short period of time and number of repetitions. After n number of examples, you will find yourself becoming more conscious of your body-mind usage, the tensions in your body, and the requirements of the tasks you work on.
You will start to spontaneously optimize your physical usage. The robot starts working for you than against you.
It’s a kind of effortless doing. Come out of the robot; restore conscious intention; habituate to optimizing use of self; … it’s called real learning, meta-learning, and it also positions you perfectly for success with the Prosperity System.