Nothing is so fatiguing as the eternal hanging on of an uncompleted task. ~William James

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Brain Basics: A User's Cheat Sheet

In the category of resurrected wisdom . . .

Some months ago, I bookmarked an article I came across that was originally published in August of 2009, more than a year before I started writing Put it to Bed.  I have a whole store of such resources, kind of a personal tidbit library.  I periodically visit this cluttered virtual chamber, in search of "writing juice," something that will trigger the process of thought and invention that gives me something to say.

This particular piece caught my eye at the time, and again this morning, because its title resonated with the self-help fatigue that intermittently overcomes those of us who tend to read our way through problems.  "Why do so many self-help books sound the same?" was written by neuroscientist Dr. David Rock for his Psychology Today blog Your Brain at Work:  Using Neuroscience to Improve Daily Life.

In it he says 
It's not that authors are plagiarists, it's that there are a small set of quirks about the brain that require a lot of attention, if you want to succeed in the modern world. The reason these quirks require attention is that they are not insights we might learn automatically, like how to breathe: they require learning, like a language. And these quirks are often hard to remember because in many cases they go against what seems logical.
He identifies the following as five of the bigger quirks:
So this is why I struggle with procrastination, and why I spend so much time reading about procrastination.  Because, although I am not encountering so much that's cutting edge, uncharted, or unique, still I need to hear what I already know, at some level, again.  And again.  And yet again.  In picking up one more "handbook," "guide" or "program," I am setting my intention; giving my tiny conscious processing capacity another shot at the material; becoming more familiar with the unknown and uncertain; and learning more about what will make me happy.  

Sometimes I wonder why we ever left the cave.  We are apparently so ill-equipped for the world we inhabit.  We inherit this life-long project of training our outgrown brains for the way we want to live.  And it's a lot of work . . .

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