Understand Your Operating SystemPosted by jwc10011 on Nov 17, 2011 in Uncategorized | Comments Off
Forty thousand years ago our distant ancestors became, as best we can tell, human. At that time our operating systems were hard wired for survival. For those early humans life was lived day by day. Their actions were a response to the world around them. Things happened, they responded, and they either lived or died. In a way life was relatively simple. They kept their eyes open and were constantly aware of their surroundings. They made choices quickly. If they made the right choices, they lived. If not, they died – drastic, but simple.
If something larger than them came out of the bushes they ran away to avoid being a meal. If they saw something smaller than them they ran toward it in the hopes of a meal. I can imagine one of our ancestors having a conversation that went something like this:
“Oh, something is moving at the edge of this field. Perhaps it is a lion. I should run because it could be hungry and want to eat me. But wait, if it is a rabbit I could go to my village with dinner. Everybody would like me then. It does not look too big. My family is hungry. Should I wait and see if it is a lion? Think of what my tribe will think if I bring home a rabbit though. They will like me. I will wait and watch and perhaps bring dinner to my village. But I will also be ready to run…”
Their life was a constant state of fight or flight. In the 40,000 years since, the world has changed drastically. We now have homes with heating and glass windows. We have mugs with handles. We have hot water and markets. But the operating systems we rely on still work the same way they did 40,000 years ago. And therein lays the problem.
You no longer have hungry beasts lurking in the bushes. You no longer face life or death situations every day. The consequences of your actions are no longer instantaneous, but can take years and even decades to appear. Yet your brain and wiring don’t work that way. Your brain and your wiring still look at the world around you and make split-second decisions as if your life depended on it. They don’t allow you to take time to think about your actions. That means that the decisions you make are not always in your best interest, especially over the long-term.
How many times have you had a conversation in your own head that sounds something like this?
“Oh look, a sign for a fifty percent sale. I should go in and buy something. I don’t really need anything, but whatever they have is half off. It may make me late for my date, but if I show up with a new pair of shoes – now that would impress him. Besides he’ll understand; and it is 50% off! Let me at least take a look. There’s no harm in looking. Besides, I’ll keep an eye on my watch…”
I think we can all agree that this is not a life or death situation. But our brains still treat it as if it was. We get caught up in the moment and focus on the issue in front of us. We put ourselves into a virtual tunnel where everything else fades away. Our focus narrows to the immediate issue, in this case, a 50% off sale. We then jump to a decision the same way that our ancestors did when they saw the leaves rustling at the far end of a field. We fail to think about the consequences of our actions.
Even though you say you will watch the time. Once you are in your bubble, hours can pass without notice. And that date you had? He may not understand why you showed up an hour late with shopping bags in hand. He may even be upset that he is so low on your list of priorities that you would make him wait without so much as a second thought. So not only are you buying things that you don’t really need. You’re making the rest of your evening and life worse because of a single bad choice. Once again, your short term response won out, to the detriment of the long-term.
It’s not just women that do this. Men are just as guilty. Consider a conversation with yourself that sounded like this?
“Oh look, a sign for a sale on big screen television sets. I don’t really have the money, and I already have a smaller set, but man, wouldn’t the guys be impressed. Besides, I can put it on credit. I’m not really sure how that all works, but if I don’t have to pay for ninety days, then I don’t have to worry for three months. I am sure I can figure out how to pay for it by then. My wife may shout about college and all, but she’ll understand; and it is 50% off! Let me at least take a look. There’s no harm in looking…”
Meanwhile your wife or girlfriend may be trying to figure out why she is waiting home alone on such a beautiful day when you made plans to go for a long hike together.
My point here is not to say “don’t buy shoes on sale.” It is not to say “don’t buy a new television.” It is to say your old programming puts you into a position where we you up making flash decisions as if your lives depends on them, and they simply don’t.
Your body and brain don’t know you now live in a concrete jungle with a whole new set of concerns. They don’t realize there are no wild animals lurking in the bush. They also don’t know that just because you survive an encounter with a sale sign today, doesn’t mean the consequences of your purchase can have an impact on your credit for years to come.
If you can slow down our decision making process, if you can hit the pause button in your programming so that we can consider their long-term impact, then you can gain control of your life. This is exactly why you need to bring your programming up to date and evolve the way you think and make decisions.
What may seem like a simple choice now has ripples that will continue to affect your life for years to come. Learning how to be mindful of your actions is one part of achieving this. It does not mean you have to have a long, inner dialogue every time you want to do something or buy something. But it does require you to be aware, so that you can act in a way that is in your best interest, not in the interest of your old programming, or of the outside world.