Posted from Schiphol, Amsterdam.
Moving on from our recent blogs, and our various comments on spiritual intelligence, destructive emotions and Japanese culture, one would hardly have thought that the International Herald Tribune, available free in many good hotels and airplanes, would be a source of inspiration. Not so. Today’s edition carries two interesting articles on its “Views” page.
Kumiko Makihara wrote this column, which is headlined, “Running With Perseverance”.
I got a lot of kudos recently for finishing the Tokyo marathon. But I feel a bit guilty receiving any praise. For me, the run was a self-centred goal to keep motivated to stay fit. What an added luxury to be able to run amid the cheers of friends and millions of well-wishers.
Hopefully my parents have forgiven me for such egotism. The Tokyo marathon has all the fanfare of any major urban race . . . but the Japanese values of hardship and humility can’t be missed. The most common hand-held signs and cheers called out, “Gambare” or “Keep Working Hard,” and I also saw one-letter placards with the Chinese character for perseverance.
No-one could embody that national spirit of doggedness better than Yuki Kawauchi . . . an ordinary guy who toils away at the office during the week and gives his all at races.
A far less serious display of perseverance appeared in the most talked about get-up of the day in which a man with long black hair and a beard wore what looked like a white loincloth and had affixed on his back a cross larger than his body. In this areligious nation, the delighted crowds shouted, “Gambare Christ” as he ran hunched over under his cross.
Less serious????? Running a marathon with a massive cross strapped to your back?
Two runners had written on their shirts apologies for being slow and urging others to overtake them.
The last man in, wearing a shirt with “Break A Sweat, Race Through” written in bold calligraphy, was greeted by the Mayor of Tokyo.
“It’s more moving to see the runners who barely make it in at the last minute than the ones who come in at the top,” he said. And as if we hadn’t seen enough grit, “Japanese these days lack perseverance. The more marathoners we have, the better I would feel.”
Very Zen, Mr Mayor, Shintaro Ishihara.
“Keep Working Hard, Christ” indeed.
As for the ‘areligious’ Japanese – it’s an interesting concept. Is it the same as atheist?Agnostic? So what’s a gnostic?
Instinctual Intelligence and “Our Inner Machiavelli”
There is currently very little literature on the subject of what 3Di, uniquely it seems to us, calls Instinctual Intelligence. This is the diametric opposite of intellect, and a key intelligence for staying alive and responding to threats and unexpected happenings generally.
David Brooks wrote the following article under the headline, “Our Inner Machiavelli”. 3Di’s take on it is that we need to do a lot more thinking about the key differences between behaviour which is the result of pure instinct (i.e. that which is “hard-wired’) and behaviour which is ‘automatic’ insofar as it’s been learned, internalised, and manifests itself without conscious thought or effort, and therefore can be considered a type of instinctual behaviour.
Automatic/instinctual behaviour, however, is susceptible to reprogramming through conscious effort, whereas pure instinctual behaviour (such as instances of inappropriate ‘fight, flight or freeze’) can only be controlled, so to speak, through the application of awareness, containment strategies, and ongoing vigilance.
In the nineteenth century, there was a hydraulic model of how to be a good person. [According to the model] there are all these torrents of passion flowing through you. Your job, as captain of your soul, is to erect dams to keep thesee passions in check. Your job is to just say no to sloth, lust, greed, drug use and the other sins.
Sermons could really help. They could help you identify sin. Preachers could exhort you to exercise the will-power you need to ward off temptation.
These days that model is out of fashion. You usually can’t change your behaviour by simply resolving to do something. If that were true, New Year’s Resolutions would actually work. Knowing what to do is not the same as being able to do it. If that were true, people would find it easier to lose weight.
Your willpower is not like a dam that can block the torrent of self-indulgence. It’s more like a muscle which tires easily. Moreover, you’re a social being. If everyone around you is overeating, you’ll probably do so too.
The 19th century character model was based on a expansive understanding of free will. Today, we know that free will is bounded. People can change their lives, but ordering change is not simple because many things, even within ourselves, are beyond our direct control.
Much of our behaviour, for examples, is guided by unconscious habits. There’s been a lot of research over the past several years about how our habits shape us, and this work is beautifully described in the book, ” The Power of Habit” by Charles Duhigg, a reporter at the New York Times.
Researchers at Duke University calculated that more than 40 percent of the actions we take are governed by habit, not actual decisions. These can range from what products you buy in the grocery store to when you want sex.
Habits are ingrained so deep in the brain that a patient with brain damage sitting in his living room can’t tell you where the kitchen is, but if he is hungry, he can get a jar of peanut butter out of the pantry.
Researchers have come to understand the structures of habits – cue routine, reward. Duhigg’s book is about people who have learned to instil habits in other people or replace bad habits with good habits.
You can change the habits of employees. The football coach Tony Dungy instituted a series of practice drills so that, during a play, each player would look for a specific cue and then react automatically by rote. This way he didn’t have to pause and think. Starbuck’s instils a series of routines that baristas can use in moments of stress – say if a customer starts screaming at them.
You can change your own personal habits. Every time, [for instance], you feel the cue for a snack, insert another routine. Take a walk.
This research implies a different character model. If the 19th century model implied a moralistic captain steering the ship of the soul, the new character model implies a crafy Machiavellian, deftly manipulating the neural networks inside.
To be an effective person, you are supposed to coolly appraise your own unconscious habits, and the habits of those under your care. You are supposed to devise oblique strategies to alter the triggers and routines. Every relationship becomes slightly manipulative, including your relationship with yourself. You’re marketing yourself, trying to arouse certain responses by implanting certain cues.
The important habitual neural networks are not formed by mere routine, not can they be reversed by clever triggers. They are burned in by emotion and fortified by strong yearnings, like the yearning for admiration and righteousness.
If you think you can change your life in a prudential way, you’re probably wrong.
As the Victorians understood (and the folks at Alcoholics Anonymous understand) if you want to change your life, don’t just look for a clever trigger. Commit to some larger global belief.
So there we have it. Wanting to change your life and your habits will only get you so far. Unless you have a deep and sustainable set of reasons for change, then at some point you’re likely to lose motivation and lose the will to go on doing whatever it was you decided you needed to do.
In other words, you need to dig down to the real fundamentals to find a philosophy that is enduring and worthwhile before you embark on changing behaviours which are quite superficial, in the bigger scheme of things. Sort out the deep and the meaningful first, before you try to sort out the relatively simple, straightforward, and short-term stuff – that’s if you want to save energy and get right to the heart of things at the very outset.