Education

Calling your own bluff

Focus on quantity, quality will improve

We humans live life in the shadow of two imperatives — under pressure to ‘catch up’ and in the imperative to ‘slow down’.

Catch up with exercise.

Slow down on food.

Catch up on reading.

Slow down on work.

Catch up with friends, relationships.

Slow down on screen time.

Catch up on action.

Slow down on indolence.

Some of these modes are so predictable that I wonder why we do not simply reverse the tide of our actions and preoccupations, and turn life around.

The fundamental nature of the ‘catch-up’ pressures is that they demand time and perseverance. Performing consistently in academics, as a student of any discipline, requires hard work, rigour, persistence, and meticulous planning. If you look at these requisites, they are time-consuming riders to get to where we want. Yet, despite due diligence, we are routinely straddled with delayed results and uncertainty at the other end. For every outcome hinged on rigour and discipline, gratification is delayed.

The ‘slow-down’ imperatives, on the other hand, are on a reverse gear. For instance, the need to slow down on food is made difficult by the easy access to food. In the early years of life, our moms prepare the food and we are well looked after. As we move away and set out on our own, we have a multitude of options — a cook to cook our meals, access to food courts and the entire universe of home delivery options to get everything at our doorstep. Hence, for the majority of our life span, the challenge to slow down intake and food impulses is overridden by accessibility. The promise of instant gratification gets ingrained. Consumerism thrives on such impulses.

A shift in dynamics

We can assume that our forefathers had a different story in consumption when the cycle of food-accessibility from farm to table was long and labour-intensive and multiple intermediation was needed to covert food from raw to ingestible. This nipped over-consumption at its core. If we go further back into the life of prehistoric man, he was braving a reverse dynamic to stay alive — having to hunt for food daily before even imagining a single meal in a day. For him, food was a do or die priority and squarely a ‘catch-up’ imperative!

There is another way to view these two modes in the context of modern life. We are always behind time on good habits and seem to find plentiful time for unproductive habits. Despite this awareness, we find it beyond our capacity to reverse the flow. In this mix of time and accessibility, our environment demonstrably shapes our desires. A smartphone in hand is a death knell for any intention to read a book. Try as you might, you can never go hungry living in a location where home delivery is advertised in every corner.

Clearly, bad habits come easy. Within this premise, how can you make access inconvenient and tedious? Importantly, you will first need to isolate the areas you want to slow down on. Which are the habits you want to voluntarily disable? Once identified, it is time to manoeuvre and increase the gap. For instance, if you want to impact excessive habits of food ordering or online addiction, you can erase and disable the applications and contact numbers from your phone. So, next time you reach out in impulse, inaccessibility and time lag will dim and diffuse the impulse until, over repeated instances, you feel in control.

Which are the new habits you want to embrace and internalise?

The answer to this will shape your future choices. As corresponding action, you will sync the time that got freed up with activities that you’ve missed catching up on. Building a habit is about repetition — repeat, regulate, and repeat again.

Focus on quantity; quality will improve. Aligning with people and locations that are supportive would make it easier, enjoyable. Whatever you do acknowledge your action at the end of each day. Each day you are replacing your impulses with stronger, considered and rewarding choices. You are back in control of your life as productive habits replace default impulses.

The writer is a life coach, blogger and writer who simplifies the patterns and archetypes she encounters at work and in life. nivedita@lifealigncoaching.com

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Printable version | Apr 7, 2020 4:20:16 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/education/calling-your-own-bluff/article28224704.ece

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