Humans at their Best

Joaquin Phoenix
Image: Harald Krichel, Wikimedia

Joaquin Phoenix won the Oscar 2020 for the Actor in the Leading Role for his performance as Arthur Fleck in the Hollywood movie, JOKER! But, what I liked was this insight into the current world scenario:

I think at times we feel, or were made to feel, that we champion different causes, but for me, I see commonality. I think, whether we’re talking about gender inequality or racism or queer rights or indigenous rights or animal rights, we’re talking about the fight against injustice. We’re talking about the fight against the belief that one nation, one people, one race, one gender or one species has the right to dominate, control and use and exploit another with impunity.

But human beings, at our best, are so inventive and creative and ingenious, and I think that when we use love and compassion as our guiding principles, we can create, develop and implement systems of change that are beneficial to all sentient beings and to the environment.

Listen to his whole speech on the Oscars website.

Tiny Habits

Brett McKay talks to Dr B J Fogg for Episode 581 of the Art of Manliness podcast. Below are my show notes for the episode. The episode discusses Tiny Habits (Amazon Affiliates link), a book that Fogg has written.

Tiny Habits

Fogg proposes the Tiny Habits method of behavior change. He talks of habits not in terms of breaking them but in terms of untangling them. Think of behavior change the way you would untangle the mess of wires to straighten out your headphones. Changing habits is a process where you move from the easiest to the most difficult.

Fogg suggests that long lasting behavior change happens by changing really small habits as part of a routine. Imagine you want to make a tiny change. Fogg suggests identifying a routine attached to the change that you require. Inserting the habit as part of the routine and then slowly increasing the number of repetitions.

As an example, if you want to inculcate the habit of flossing your teeth, he suggests flossing just one tooth after brushing your teeth (routine). He suggests that we stay with one tooth as long as we want. He also gives us the freedom to do more when we want to. The number can go up. You can floss three teeth or just one. The over-achievement on the day you flossed three teeth acts as motivation for you to do just a little more. This turns this into a behavior change of flossing the teeth after you brush it.

The Three Elements – Motivation, Ability and Prompt

Behavior change here involves three elements – motivation, ability and prompt. Fogg defines motivation as the driving force which energizes you to certain behavior. He suggests that there is a compensatory relationship between motivation and ability. Ability here stands for you knowing how to do a certain task. He says that when it is harder to do something, the motivation needed is more. When it is easier to do something, you don’t need too much motivation. He recognized this compensatory relationship over an eight year period of study! He warns us that we over-estimate our future motivation to do certain things. Hence he warns us from depending on motivation as a way to change habits.

He also warns us from thinking of our aims in abstract terms. Losing weight, reducing stress etc are outcomes. He suggests that tweaking systems and processes will lead to these desired outputs. He believes that the habits should involve less time, less effort and little cost to implement to be successful.

Here, he brings the concept of prompts. He thinks that there are three types of prompts – personal prompt, context prompt and action prompt. He says that personal prompt involves you or someone else reminding you that you need to do a habit. Context prompt is a notification that alerts you to do a habit. An action prompt involves using a routine as a prompt. In our example above, brushing your teeth is a prompt for flossing them. He says personal and context prompts are not effective. He thinks that action prompts are the most effective way to initiate long lasting habit change.

In My Opinion…

Listening to this podcast, this seemed like a more scientific version of Leo Babauta’s Zen Habits. It also seemed similar to James Clear’s Atomic Habits but with different terminology. Saurabh also spoke in his blog about changing habits for the new year and hence I thought this might be worth sharing. I would personally, rather follow James Clear method.

I loved what he says about celebration, though. This is his value addition to the habit change journey, in my opinion. He suggests that celebrating these small habit changes with a celebration make you feel successful. He says that these emotions get attached to the habits and re-wires your brain that converts these habits into part of your life. He suggests teaching children to celebrate after their every small habit change.

The Phone in our Pockets

My wife has accused me of being addicted to the mobile phone. She, therefore, ensures that our daughter watches YouTube videos via Chromecast on the television. She is determined to make sure she doesn’t get hooked to mobile phones early on in life. It’s inevitable I say, but she’s fighting to keep this menace away from her daughter as long as she can.

Photo by Magnus Mueller on Pexels.com

My search to quit this addiction, online has led me to various resources. There was writing by Seth Godin, Cal Newport, Brett McKay and Ryan Holiday that contributed to ideas. There is also a r/nosurf sub-Reddit that addresses this issue.

I tried deleting the applications from my phone – Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. I didn’t stay off these for long, ending up installing them again almost instantaneously.

Before, I share my reading about this topic, let me share my current status. I have switched off all notifications except for phone and SMS. I have removed Facebook, LinkedIn and Instagram from my phone. I access them only on my laptop at home. I was able to hold this for about a week now.

I was listening to Peter Attia’s podcast, The Drive with Ryan Holiday today. Holiday, answering a question on how the connected life has affected our life, says that we reached a right about place in 2010 and then went overboard. He says that there was a time when we used social media just enough and then went over. Attia likens it to a tuning issue that went to the max setting after passing the optimum level. The max setting makes sense for some people but not for all the people in the world.

Further along the podcast, he talks about he keeps his smart phone in the other room and does not pick it up until almost after lunch. It makes for productive mornings and he lets people know that phone, SMS and email are the best way to reach him. Just earlier, he has read a comprehensive blog post about spending less time on the phone. Following one of the suggestions there, I am planning to move both of our smart phones out of our bedroom tonight.

Seth Godin also wrote a blog post today about that thing in your pocket that has an infinite options that are much better than what you’re doing right now. The idea is to prioritize what you have to do right now.

I have written earlier on the blog here about Cal Newport’s work on how social media has been designed to be addictive here. Brett McKay had called to build a Social Internet instead of being addicted to Social Media. Om Malik called for a decade of self-control. So, I’ve started on my own little journey. What about you?

Caring for Yourselves

Perhaps the greatest delusion of my life has been the belief that the world in which I was a child may have been the dark ages, but the world in which I have grown up to be an adult has to be far more enlightened and equitable than before.

Social norms and attitudes that perpetuate injustice have remained tenacious. The news remains the same. Questions that had remained unanswered when I was a child still demand answers. If I do not want my daughters to internalize that violence is the inevitable fate of women in our society, I have to find a new language to speak to them.

‘Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare,’ Audre Lorde wrote in her book of essays, A Burst Of Light. The first time I had read this sentence, it cut through my cultural conditioning like a sheath of light. It demolished the notion that putting everyone else’s needs before one’s own is a virtue to be extolled.

Natasha Badhwar, Children must triumph over their parents, Immortal for a Moment (2018,Amazon Affiliate Link)