January 1st, 2019, I feel some pressure to drop an article expressing my new year wishes and resolutions, after all, I’m an executive at the millennial era. Here I’m then writing my new year thoughts from a wonderful environment: a paradisiac Dutch island of Caribbean sea that I highly suggest for exploration enthusiasts. A year ago, I came across remarkable discussions and a life changing knowledge that I owe to curiosity and some enlightened persons that I’ve the chance to know. I can summarize this journey to this: a quest to understand the most fascinating machine in the universe: our mind. A part of my scientific curiosity, a more selfish goal was to understand how to use this beautiful machine to achieve concrete objectives: being and feeling better.
After many hours of great discussing, several travels around the world where I had the chance to perceive and experience different cultures and perspective of life, here’s three important modules of the mind framework:
The Why questions are useless
Without context and explanation, the claim may looks like a science skeptic declaration. Let me correct it; science is about understanding the what not the Why. I borrowed from some brilliant Feynmanist mind where questioning the why of things could be seen as nice road, paved with good arguments but will take you to the confusion hell (Here an interesting interview about the question). Why this happens? Why you did that? Why you didn’t? why this person? etc. It will never take you anywhere. You can infer it to relationship context; you can spend days and weeks arguing the Why of an already happened facts, it could give you an artificial sense of victory, where you are the master of a situation that you understand. Does it solve your problems? I don’t think so. Focus on how and what. Understanding what really happens and how it happens is the right questioning that you need for a problem solving approach. You can spend year sitting front of an airport arguing why plane flights or you can study what makes a many tons engine flights in the air and how you could build one.
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Past only exists in your memory and the future is just your imagination
Take a moment and try to enumerate how many hours and days your memory and your imagination have stolen from your present joy. How much energy we can waste because of an already happened event anger or because of a nightmarish scenario that our imagination build about the future. If you put apart all the artificial complexity that our mind build, you should realize that teaching ourselves to live in the present and to stick to it, is the most logical way to experience life. I’ll be honest, presented like this, it looks simplistic. The challenge is to learn how to follow this claim. Some technology could help like Yoga (without all the commercial, non sense that corrupt its real meaning). What’s inspiring with some Yogic ’thinking’ is this: To learn anything, you need simply to experience it in your own way and in your own context. I wasn’t able to « stop » my mind to think about a painful past and regrets or future scary scenarios that makes me anxious, but I’m learning the first step: being conscious that all of this is an artificial trap made from memory and by your imagination.
Distinguish compulsiveness from consciousness
I will not be credible if I claim that I’ll teach you how to not be compulsive. the objective here is to learn how to drive our decisions by consciousness and not letting our emotions take over the show. It’s a very thought mission for living beings naturally equipped with a jam of emotions that should facilitate our social capabilities and a strange reasoning faculty that make us able to abstract knowledge. Solving the puzzle of the emotions / reasoning is harder for the people that experience daily incertitudes like entrepreneurs, executives, students, etc. Like Sadghuru said in his great book; We cannot shut down our mind or emotions, the only way to do that, is to die. So, how to be better? A first essential step is to learn to distinguish what decision was (or currently is) driven consciously and what was driven by our compulsive and primitive nature. Here’s an example related to conflict management. You disapprove a situation and you have the intention to take a decision in consequence. A simple compulsiveness detection algorithm could be: How the decision D will contribute to the intended result R? Do you have an intended result R after all? If the Delta between D and R is high, there’s a big chance that your decision is just a compulsive reaction without any real objective.
My 2018 was positively impacted by those three realizations. This thinking could be controversial coming from a Tech-executive and a full time scientist, so you could normalize it using a more modern wording and call it a Life Hack or any label frequently used in some business articles. My 2018 realizations are not a complete answer to the question I mentioned in the beginning, it’s more a catalyzer to help you to question it yourself and to experiment during this new year!
Happy new year 2019.
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