New-ness and Brain : Fighting The Inertia And Comfort Zone

Ever dreaded a situation or a lifestyle for your future self so much, that it left you in "crippling anxiety" for days? May be it was about your life being stagnant or career in slumps or worrying over how your "friends" would react to something. We spend a lot of time worrying about different combinations of worst cases - we imagine many threads of fate for our future selves.

But what about the current situation? We are generally apathetic to our present selves, because we are familiar with the world already. We only dread the probably-bad-unknown, but not the definitely-worse-familiar, after all the present is our reality. It's our life, as we know it. We may pine over the glorious past and continue to live with our head buried in suffocating memories. Even then, for our delusional brain, the present is not that bad - it thinks "This is fine, everything's fine." like the dog surrounded by fire meme. It's delusion is painfully visible to others, but it's head is so wrapped around itself that it's blind to the reality. For all purposes, it's the Chernobyl Dyatlov and even the worst present is - "Not great, not terrible"; amidst the level 15K disaster of your life, it sees an average 3.6 units.

Basically, our brain chooses the path of least resistance and our present is the perfect least effort path. So, it resists any attempts to change the present. Any new learning is actually felt by brain as physical pain - no kidding, this has been proved. That's why we procrastinate, we avert ourselves from the uncomfortable new thing to pick up any familiar alternative. This leads to temporary dopamine spike and we reinforce our procrastination habit. But in long term, we know the damage it causes.

Sometimes, our brain may fall in love with a new shiny thing, till it gets complex. This is the beginner's enthusiasm, where we don't really know the complete picture of all the complexities involved in the new thing. When the need to use even little brain power comes up, the new shiny thing doesn't look shiny anymore. Beginner's enthusiasm is all emotion, but the abstract things we need to learn have no emotion associated to them. Our brain which learns by associating new things to the already learnt stuff, fails to find any known "hook" where it can attach the new no-emotion thing.

Inertia is the brain's nemesis. Even if we want to start working on our favorite hobby, brain still resists, because it wants to continue doing whatever comfortable thing it's doing already. It's the path of least resistance again.

Fighting the inertia
Fighting the inertia

So what do we do? We march on.
Apparently, the unease our brain experiences in learning new things, disappears once we start working on it. The key here is to start, despite how we feel. The best trick to do this is to tell your brain that you will work on something for just 2-5 minutes. Make it a habit - make it so damn easy, that even if you are sick, you will still be able to do it. Later on, once this becomes a habit, we can increase this to the pomodoro time slots.

Change is contagious. We don't have to change everything overnight. We just need to start with one thing. The changes in one thing, will always spill over to the other things of our life.

We need to change our self identity in our brains - this can only be done by proving this new identity to ourselves through small wins. If you want to be a photographer, you have to prove yourself by winning small consistently - learning a new trick, trying a new perspective, etc.

All we need to do is start.


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