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Apurv Mehra

me.transforming('developer','researcher')

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After weeks of pondering over one question and the resultant has been delaying this post by more than a couple of months. Given the time it has taken me to materialize a blog because of one lingering question - ‘How to make a perfect start ?’, right now I can think of only one person who takes so much time to come up with vacuous answers (#WomenEmpowerment) to obvious questions.

I had become obsessed with the idea of a perfect start, to come up with a valid topic for post, do extensive research on it, perfect the English and control all the other variables which resulted in a ‘No Start’. So sometime back I decided the best start would be to figure out and write about the best start (recursion :P) and so I tried. I’m not going to build a story for a mindless anti-climax, I could not figure it out. So I did what any intelligent person would do, find a question that you can answer.

So here is the new question, why do we even wait for the perfect start? The context is given that you have decided to go ahead with some change in your life, it can be starting to work out, changing your job, starting work on your pet project or in fact taking up anything new, singing, dancing, coding, cleaning your room etc. blogging in my case. The assumption is that you have weighed in all the pros and cons and are firm with the decision, the problem is the execution. ( Big assumption I agree but then most of them are !!! )

The results are based on my understanding of some studies and the examples are mostly derived from real ones and therefore biased.

Change:

I believe many of us happily fall prey to our habits(interestingly sometimes developed subconsciously by others rather than consciously by us) and continue doing what we are doing even if things aren’t going smoothly. We get used to the routine and have shaped ourselves to fit in the mould created by someone else, quite possibly even if we know it’s not good fit. There has been research on why habits are hard to break and what goes on inside the brain[1]. Some possible reasons:-

  1. Supernormal Stimuli and/or Continuous Stimuli : This continuously interrupts the task at hand to distract us into doing work which may not be productive or at least relevant at the time. Examples: Continuous mails notifications from Chrome, Ad Sense showing your favorite product, N^m push notifications from the m Messages coming in on the cell from N applications installed on your smartphone, Fast Food Cravings etc. [2]
  2. Urgent vs Important : Improper time management and prioritization allows important activities to either become urgent or allows not important and not urgent activities to consume time from important activities.[3]
  3. Pseudo Road blocks : Based on my discussions people happily create a pseudo roadblock to avoid the activity. These are usually of the form I will do X only after I complete/get/find Y. Most of the times X and Y are non related or loosely coupled, at least Y does not lie in the path to X and can be safely circumnavigated. Examples, I will start jogging when I have a new pair of shoes. I will stop eating chicken after the new year party. I will start learning C# only after I have finished Scala. I will write a blog when I have a good topic.
  4. Fear of change/consequences : I think some of it is innate and some acquired. Lot of social and psychological factors play an important role here, difference arising from the fact how much were the initiatives encouraged at early age. How comfortable is the person with risks and experimentation.
  5. We avoid uncharted territory since maybe we are biologically hard-wired not to since the prehistoric times. I talk about the times when our ancestors still lived as wanderers and hunted for their food. It made sense since deviating from established and tested ways might have serious consequences, as fatal as death. There was constant fear of wild animals, diseases and survival was priority one. This situation does not leave much roam for experimentation. Just a hypothesis, still looking for references to support the my argument.

Why to change ? No reasons from my end. Change only if you want to. But would like to share a line from post‘I wish that I had let myself be happier: This is a surprisingly common one. Many did not realise until the end that happiness is a choice. They had stayed stuck in old patterns and habits. The so-called ‘comfort’ of familiarity overflowed into their emotions, as well as their physical lives’.

How to Beat or atleast cheat the system ;)

  1. Awareness: We need the extra push to convince the brain to logically overcome the fear or/and anxiety and look into the positives( long term gratification( Marshmellow experiment). Awareness about the what is actually going on outside as well in our brains helps. Getting rid of the stimuli or at least avoid the hooks. How different social network create hooks to increase the time you spend on them I’ll discuss in some other post. Things I do
    1. Do Not disturb chrome notification
    2. Deactivate facebook whenever I feel it has been inculcated into a habit.
    3. Whatsapp - all groups on mute. Start working reading messages when you want not when they arrive. Basically, transform from the push to pull principal.
    4. Quora - all mails go to Forum tab on mailbox, which I check at my leisure.
    5. Phone - profile changed to custom silent mode when doing important work.
  2. Time Management : Lots out there on internet.
  3. Pseudo Road Blocks : 1 applies here as well. You should become aware that the roadblocks are artificial. Discussing with someone to get fresh perspective(maybe point out the artificial roadblocks). Build up positive peer pressure . Ask a friend to accompany you to the gym, or ask a friend to point it out to you everytime he sees you indulge in X, try to stay in company where you get motivated to achieve your goals.
  4. Eliminate/Avoid the anxiety or fear or finds ways to ameliorate the fear. Worst Case Analysis helps me. For example, What’s the worst that can happen if I apply for graduate studies in US. I’ll get rejected. If you think

If you made it this far, you must have figured it out, this post is for me to overcome effect 3. It is as imperfect as me but I can happily sleep tonight since I know that they’ll improve iteratively, like me.

Let me try again - ‘How to make a perfect start ?’ You just did.

Thanks for reading and stay curious ;)

References

  1. http://psychcentral.com/blog/archives/2005/10/20/mit-explains-why-bad-habits-are-hard-to-break/
  2. http://www.sparringmind.com/supernormal-stimuli/
  3. http://www.mindtools.com/pages/article/newHTE_91.htm