Brains are Obsessed with Change — 7 Takeaways No. 62


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1. "Brains are obsessed with change"

The Science of Storytelling – Will Storr – (TEDx)

Storr presents his six components of good story telling (Change, Cause & Effect, Moral Outrage, Something Has to Happen, Eudaemonic, The God Moment).

I’m focused here on the first one: change. Not only is it something I personally acknowledge and even mostly embrace, it’s something my Ask Leo! readers struggle with constantly.

Storr characterizes the human brain as a "change detecting machine", which is something I’ve heard repeatedly in various venues. Almost everything we do is somehow related to change, from the smallest movement out of the corner of our eye, to the feeling of discomfort when visiting your birthplace many years later.

Do this: pay attention to how much of your daily activity is change-related.

2. "Where you sit determines what you see"

Red Light Green Light – James Sevedge – (blog, via Trevor McKendrick’s newsletter)

This is a short read. A simple story with a — dare I say it? — perspective changing twist. I won’t spoil it here, other than to say it’s an important life lesson, and I found it quite the "a ha!" moment.

Do this: Read the story, then think about where you’re sitting.

3. "Happiness doesn’t help propagate the species"

How To Want Less – Arthur C. Brooks – (The Atlantic)

The title kinda gives away the conclusion, but the essay walks through exactly why we’re programmed, in a very real sense, to never be happy or satisfied.

The brain evolved to reward us for the behaviors that kept us alive and made us more likely to pass on our DNA.

You get more, you want more. It’s a vicious cycle resulting in a never ending quest to "keep up with the Joneses" resulting in an almost perpetual state of dissatisfaction.

Do this: thank about what you really need to be happy. It’s much less than you think, and probably not what you’re reaching for today.

4. "Nobody gives a shit what you do"

Who Cares? – Rob Walker – (The Art of Noticing newsletter)

Nobody cares, and that’s freeing.

We spend a lot of time worrying about what people think of us. Creators spend even more time worrying about what people think of their creations.

I think we’ve all heard by now that people don’t think about you nearly as much as you think they do. The same is true for your creations, with rare exceptions of course.

My interpretation of Walker’s essay is simply this: rather than being depressed by thinking no one cares, embrace it. Live like no one’s watching. No one’s really paying attention, so why not create what you want? Why not? And then care about it — deeply — yourself.

Do this: Create like no one’s watching.

5. "The only thing that breaks reckless hate is reckless love."

That Hurt. And it was Intentional. – Julia E. Hubbel – (Medium)

Western society treats the aged like crap. I’ve seen it myself. I don’t see myself as "old", yet in venues typically popular with individuals younger than myself (lookin’ at you, YouTube), it’s not at all to get disparaging comments relating to my age. In the mind of a teenager I suspect I qualify as ancient.

It’s more than teenagers in social media. Hubbel reflects on an insightful comment she received on on an earlier article, noting that it’s a societal issue, and that the pandemic has made it worse.

The world can indeed be cruel, and in some ways it’s gotten a great deal meaner. But that doesn’t mean leave it. It does mean to find ways to lean into kindness, not only to ourselves but from those we love.

Do this: lean in.

6. "3-a.m. awakenings aren’t an unnatural disorder, but an ancestral echo"

Can Medieval Sleeping Habits Fix America’s Insomnia? – Derek Thompson – (The Atlantic)

The article title is a little misleading. "America’s Insomnia" implies that there’s a problem with insomnia in America. The article doesn’t actually discuss, support, or refute that. It’s more about the "biphasic" sleeping habit — getting up for a while in the middle of the night — that was apparently popular in the past.

The romanticization of preindustrial sleep fascinated me. It also snapped into a popular template of contemporary internet analysis: If you experience a moment’s unpleasantness, first blame modern capitalism.

It’s unclear whether it really is something that resulted from the industrial age, or something that some cultures do and some don’t. Certainly our modern age seems to discourage it.

As someone who often wakes up in the middle of the night, it’s nice to know that it’s not at all abnormal, and perhaps even something to be leveraged.

Do this: get a good night’s sleep in whatever way works for you.

7. "The pandemic has accelerated the aging process"

Too Young to Feel So Old – Steven Kurutz – (The New York Times)

I think I’ve commented on the effects of the pandemic here more than once. The word "languishing" comes to mind. Coincidentally that term is mentioned here, but in a more specific context. For a variety of reasons it does feel like we’ve aged more than that calendar would indicate for the last two years.

I was 43 when the pandemic began. I am now 60.

There are a number of factors, depression being perhaps the most common. The good news is that there’s light at the end o the tunnel.

There are plenty of people in their 60s, 70s and 80s who lead active lives, he told me, and they haven’t allowed the pandemic to dampen their spirits or keep them from exercising.

Perhaps the biggest takeaway here is simply that if you’re feeling "pandemic burnout", you’re most certainly not alone.

Do this: Hang in there.

What I’m Reading

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