habit-breaking habit

In Defense of the Meek, the Timid, and the Quiet

There is a difference between self-confidence and exhibited confidence. One appears inwardly, only seen by the actor. The other appears outwardly, observed and interpreted by those around the actor. Do not confuse someone’s exhibited confidence for their self-confidence. The exhibited confidence is a function of many factors, including other’s interpretation of such confidence. The self-confidence is usually harder to observe, but it is more meaningful and better representative of someone’s beliefs and actions.

When people say that you should be more confident, they usually mean that they want you to appear more confident. This is like saying to someone who looks like they weigh 250 pounds, “I want you to look like you weigh 150 pounds”. There is a lifestyle behind that 250 pounds. You cannot just expect someone to immediately change the surface-level observation of their final weight. You would expect there to be some period of time with deep internal change, like a change in diet, increased physical activity, or name your other weight-loss activity.

“I want you to be more confident.” There is a reason someone exhibits such outward confidence (which may or may not be an indicator of their self-confidence). We shouldn’t just shoehorn everybody into Type A personalities. It’s everyone’s accountability – everyone’s responsibility – to see people for who they are, and learn how to better understand and communicate with them. In doing so, we would be better able to gauge each individual’s self-confidence about their beliefs and actions.

It might be easier to treat everyone as the same foundational being, with their actions interpretable with the same lens across the entire human species. It’s easier, but it’s just wrong.

When our workplaces or other communities say they are seeking Diversity and Inclusion, are they asking for everyone to speak up? Or are they asking everyone to listen carefully to each member? Do we expect everyone else to communicate the same way that we communicate? Or do we start from ourselves, as Single Players, to become better listeners?

Judging and ranking people’s ideas by their voice’s decibel level seems like a silly idea; isn’t it just as silly to treat people who are assertive, charismatic, and loud as being more important than people who are meek, timid, and quiet? What are some examples of less-silly ways of comparing the beliefs and actions of Person Type-A and Person Type-B?

Inner Critic as Multiple Personae

I talked yesterday about a habit-breaking habit of practicing inner-criticism when no one else is around. Asking yourself questions like “Why do I believe what I believe” can help clarify your thought processes and enable a more tangible visualization. As I use this approach for different situations, I tend to develop different perspectives.

One way I model the different aspects of myself is to establish different characters for different lines of thought. It is not just 1 inner critic entity, but multiple personae with different habits and mindsets. I find this approach useful (and fun) for a variety of purposes.

Consider 3 different mindsets (optimist, apathist, pessimist) over 3 different time-frames (past, present, future), where each mindset is combined with each time-frame. Each combination represents a different persona with a general mindset and expectations as shown in the following table:

(Mindset) \ (Time-frame)

Past

Present

Future

Optimist

“Things were good”

“Things are good”

“Things will be better”

Apathist

“Things were okay”

“Things are okay”

“Things will be okay”

Pessimist

“Things were bad”

“Things are bad”

“Things will be worse”

For example, let’s say that I am thinking about my physical health. I may think that I was pretty healthy when I was younger, being able to pick up any sport and able to run long distances with relative ease. Currently I may think that I am not as healthy as before, but I am not necessarily unhealthy. I may not be doing much physical exercise now, but I feel like I could if I really wanted to or needed to. I may think that things will be better in the future once I put more effort back towards improving my physical health. In this example, I would characterize this thinking as a Past Optimist, Present Apathist, Future Optimist.

Once I have settled on my thoughts, I remind myself that my actions should be aligned with my thoughts. This discussion between multiple personae is witnessed by an outside observer, a Final Actor, who has to pick and decide what action to take. An aligned action for this example would be to start jogging in the morning, or start eating more vegetables and less candy. In order for things to be better (Future Optimist), I can contribute certain things toward that goal (Final Actor).

However, sometimes the Final Actor takes actions which are not aligned with the personae. I may think I will become more physically healthy, but I might end up doing nothing to help accomplish that, or even choosing to be even less physically active or eat more unbalanced meals. What, then, is the reason for my Future Optimist winning out? Is that justified? Maybe I need to reconsider why I am that optimistic? Or maybe, I need to reconsider why my Final Actor is doing what it is doing? Should I change my thoughts? Should I change my actions? Or how can I explain and accept the inconsistency?

As a single player, I rely first on myself to enact the change I want to occur. I focus on what I am doing that is helping me to win the way I expect to win for a given situation. Each situation is different, and at a given time I may see different win conditions. My expectations of the situation may sometimes be misaligned with my actions, and in cases like that, I either should change my action, revisit my expectations, or accept that I will not win the way I expected to win.

Habit-Breaking Habits

It is important to recognize what habits you are forming. Habits shape your thought processes and actions in subtle ways without directed behavior. Sometimes your habits align with what you would want to do given serious consideration; sometimes they do not.

There are habits which tend to form when you are commonly part of a group. These can arise from adapting to social pressures and trying to fit in. These should also be questioned, but for now, let’s focus on what habits you form as a single player, when you are on your own.

As a single player, no one else is around to observe what you are doing. No one else will provide feedback or criticize your actions. You also cannot look at how your actions/thoughts compare to others. It’s when you are alone that only you can look at and criticize yourself. In situations like this I think it is important to deliberately ask yourself “Why do I believe what I believe?”, or “Why do I do what I do?”, and actually trying to answer. If you find a thought pattern or habitual behavior which does not seem related nor consistent with other things you want yourself to be believing/doing, then maybe that’s a sign of a habit you should work on changing. In a sense, this inner-criticism can become a habit-breaking habit, one you cognitively accept and use to shape what you believe and do.

In order to better understand and criticize my thoughts, I find it useful to visualize my thought process with some form of tangible structure. One visualization I use is considering concepts as building blocks, with some blocks at the foundation and some layered on top of one or more of the foundation blocks. If a block does not seem to be built on top of another block, then it must have some very good reason that it can stand on its own. If not, then that’s usually a sign that I need to reconsider where that block should be, or if it should be discarded. Whatever the visualization, I tend to see concepts as related to each other, some forming in the presence of combinations of others.

I have identified this general thought process as one of my habit-breaking habits, one that I cognitively accept and use to shape what I believe and do.

What other habit-breaking habits do you use and recommend?