How often do we do things without really thinking about it? What parts of our day are we truly engaged with? Think of your normal day and the myriad of tasks that you complete. From switching off the alarm at the start of the day, to switching it back on, at the end of the same day. The list is quite astounding when you give it some thought. Before you get to your office in the morning, the number of tasks you have already performed is hefty. Yet we don’t give it much credence. How much praise can we afford ourselves, for brushing our teeth, making a coffee or putting on our clothes?
When do we switch off?
Truthfully, our brains are lazy. That doesn’t mean we are lazy. But our brains love a short-cut. The two areas of our brain that I want to bring to your attention are, the conscious and the unconscious mind. The bizarre thing is that we always consider ourselves ‘in charge’ of our thoughts and processes. We spend all day making our choices or making our decisions about what or when or how. After considering all the options and thinking through all the facts, we then make a conscious decision.
Or do we?
Well, that is not always, strictly true. Our brain loves a short cut. Take tying your shoelaces as an example. At some point, as a child, we learned the process of taking two long things and transforming them into a bow. A tricky process that helped to keep our shoes on our feet. But at what point did we become able to do it, without thinking? Unconsciously. If you think how quickly you can tie your laces today, it is physically quicker than having to explain ‘how to’. You don’t think about it, you just do it.
How much of our day?
Current studies intimate that the percentile split for the conscious and unconscious parts of our brain and their workload during the day is 90/10. The real shocker is that the 90 percent, relates to our unconscious, not our conscious mind! Yes, that means you are only 10 percent driving the bus! Not quite what you may have thought. But our unconscious is working in the background all the time. While you are reading this, your unconscious is looking after your temperature, heart rate, cell reparation, hair growth, food processing et al. Suddenly the idea of 90 percent unconcious, is not such a stretch.
So, what can we do about this?
Becoming more aware of our unconscious choices is possible. They can be hiding in plain sight. If something is familiar, comfortable, dare I say the word, ‘normal’. Then there is a good chance we are doing it unconsciously. Firstly, taking the time to check in on ourselves and ask, “Am I doing this action habitually?” Do I repeat this over and over? Anything repeated enough will get ‘handed off’ to the unconscious. Second, small changes in our behaviour will make our brain notice the difference. Try something simple, see which sock you normally put on first and try putting it on the other foot instead. The result may really surprise you! We like our routine and any change to it will get our brains attention.
Why would we change things?
In conclusion, I would say that we can all get caught in a loop. For me, it is the size of the loop that is worth paying attention to. If it is just getting dressed or getting to work that becomes routine, then maybe it is not such a bad thing. Yet if it becomes our every week or every month or every year, then surely, we need to make some changes. If only to prevent the mundane becoming routine. To stop the possibility of suddenly looking up and years have shot by us while we were stuck in a loop.
Maybe, all we need to do, is to learn a little something new, every so often?
Give your brain a little stimulus and help get it out of the loop.
P.S. While it may have not worked out so well for the cat, it has bought humanity from the cave to the stars. Be curious!