HONESTY CIRCLES - THE HEART + SCIENCE OF HABITS
There were six of us seated around a conference table evaluating employees and discussing how to create an employee buy-out program. We were fifteen minutes into the discussion when one of the managers said, "I have to say something". My first impulse was 'oh boy'. In the past when these kinds of statements came up it was something like 'I quit' or 'We gotta fire Joe' or 'Someone's stealing the coffee money'. But that wasn't the case this time.
"My best friend stopped by to see me last night," said the manager, "we went to grammar school together. The good news was that his company went IPO last year and he took home five and half million dollars. That was the good news. That same day he got the good news from his accountant he also got a call from his doctor. He had cancer; it had metastasized and was non-treatable. He had 6-8 months to live."
There was a silence around the table. After a pause I made some comment about how sorry we all were and went back to our agenda.
This is the story of my life.
Life gives us such opportunities to learn - It reminds us to slow down, to eat better, to start exercising, to spend more time with family, to start saving and investing… but then we get consumed by our agendas, ambitions, pursuits, and desires that we fail to act on these lessons. We are moved for a second or two and then we go back to the same old routine. Quite often, we will even tell ourselves, "I need to change" or "This is not what I want my life to be", but again, we succumb to our subtle habit patterns.
After trying various productivity and behavior hacks, I've discovered that they were merely artificial triggers and rewards which act as external crutches - they don't resolve what is at the root. In "The myth of willpower", the new sciences of self-control are telling us that people who appear to have more willpower, actually just experience fewer temptations. We don't seem to realize that there are actually deeper addictions underlying our habit patterns.
When we talk of addition, it is not merely to alcohol, or to drugs, or to shopping, or to youtube. It is an addiction to passion, to novelty, to anger, to fear, or to ego - all these similarly are addictions. At the intellectual level we understand it very well, "This craving is not good for me. It is dangerous. It is so harmful." Yet we are addicted to the craving, and when it is over, we repeat "Oh! I should not have given in, but that felt so good! And then we start craving again. Even if we are aware, too often, we go into denial and tell ourselves, “Just this time”, believing we’ll act differently next time. More often than not, we don’t.
We don't come out of it, because we have not worked at the depth of the behavior of the pattern of our mind. This craving starts because of a particular chemical that has started flowing in our body, and continues to multiply, while we are not even conscious of it.
Whether we are addicted to craving, or aversion, or hatred, or passion, or fear, the addiction is to a particular sensation that has arisen because of a bio-chemical flow. When we are addicted, we are actually addicted to the sensation, and not the act itself. Knowing this and making our decisions more mindfully, we can be more aware of our sensations, how they affect our choices in life, and start working at a deeper level of the patterns of our minds.
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