a quick thought about choices and stress...
Humans have a dizzying tolerance for exerting effort and stress toward things that are really quite unimportant. I am totally guilty of this, so this is as much a reminder to me as it is a observation to share with the general public. I can often be found paralyzed by the decision of what to eat, what task to do in the 27 free minutes I have from time to time during the day, which kind of exercise to do, and don’t even get me started on dressing ‘nice’ when I can’t wear my workout clothes. I totally get why some people wear the exact same clothes every day - I think Steve Jobs was onto something with his black t-shirts.
But getting back on track- - - Why do we do this to ourselves? Why do we spend so much time on tasks and efforts that distract us from what might truly be important to our well being and vital to us being our best selves? This post is one of many that’s been sitting unfinished in my blog folder for weeks, and today I gave myself 30 minutes to just FINISH IT. My motivation came partially from a snippet of the latest Full Borg podcast, in which they discussed how if you have months to do a task, you never do it, but if you have a hard stop, you GET IT DONE. A very valid truth, and I had forgotten it, so I appreciated the reminder. I scrapped old versions and i’m simplifying the post i’d previously composed - I have read so many reminders lately of the requirement of the creative process to just PRODUCE, so I am putting this out there. Just to do it, see it written, and then move on from it. Fermenting that thought is also key to the point i’m trying to make.
We need to shake ourselves loose of the sticky situations that arise when we misdirect our priorities. I don’t solely mean something as simple as laboring over getting 3 silly Starbucks every day, because I am trying to get at the behavior that underpins our valuing the Starbucks run as truly critical to our day. People get stuck in ruts of these little decisions dominating their lives, and I think it makes it easy for that to push the big picture goals to the side and out of our minds. Maybe humans, like all animals, are wired for survival first and satisfaction second, but we have adapted and evolved so far past worrying about survival and shelter as daily concerns, that we have to fill our brains with other troubles. I don’t think we’ve quite figured out how to remodel and renovate our brain space to make up for the fact that we have days full of fairly insignificant short-term choices and we need to be aware that these have very significant long-term effects. The disposable fork you use today might make the next 6 minutes easier, but multiply choices like that by the billions, and we have massive long-term consequences. However, our brains aren't yet able to feel the underlying big picture \ of our little actions that satisfy what our brain tells us solves a problem NOW. It feels like that because our lives of relative ease lack the critical thinking needed to sort a safe place to sleep or the best way to gather food, we’ve filled that space with debates over which show to binge watch or which outfit to wear, and we assign it the importance we are craving in our choices. The question I would love to answer, then, is how to rewire ourselves to place little decisions like coffee orders or picking the right shoes to impress the neighbors in a second level of priority below issues like ‘is this the career that will help me feel satisfied?’ or ‘do I want to spend my evenings pretending the day didn't happen or do I want to spend the evenings figuring out how to make the days less stressful.’ I know some people do have a good grasp on the big picture, but when I look around I feel burdened by the sheer volume of little things that are holding society back from real meaningful change.
Personally, i’ve found one way to take a break from constant stress of a million little decisions, and that is distance walking. I love to run or bike or exercise in general, but distance walking is different because it both creates mental space and eliminates choice. There is not a lot to choose from for food, outfits, digital temptation, even idle time wasting. You just do what you have to do to get from point A to point B, and along the way you can indulge your brain in whatever metaphorical house cleaning you can’t do when you’ve got a million tasks laid out for the day. It’s also a good way to reconnect with why we should think about how our little indulgences affect the planet, but that’s a post for another day. For now, I just want to find a way to clear aside the static of the little choices in life in order to make room to champion the big picture.