Easy is not the Answer
Leaving the GPS behind
Habits and routines link us to time and place. They can also, unless we’re careful, bind us to it. When packing for the journey, we need to be aware of it.
The thought struck me this morning as my smartwatch invited me to “smash my goals for the day”. I like the capabilities of my watch, but this alert brought to mind how easy it is for our devices to turn us into something like B.F. Skinners pigeons - reacting mindlessly to stimulus in pursuit of short-term goals.
It prompted me to spend an hour reviewing all those little, automated habits - from how often email appears, to the alerts enabled on my phone, to the apps I use. I have disabled all the ones I do not find essential and will only reactive them if I miss them.
We have a huge industry in products and services to make our lives easier, from fast food to self-driving cars, so that we can concentrate on “performing” and its opposite, consuming and leisure. I wonder what that does to our ability to create.
Wilfred Bion had an interesting theory of mind. He believed that we have to think because we have thoughts, and the more the friction between the idea and our current reality, the more creative the thought process. It may or may not be true, but I think it is an important provocation.
There was a piece on the news this morning about the Maiden boat race, with all female crews circumnavigating the world using traditional tools - sextant, compass and tide tables; no GPS. I think that’s worth doing. When we rely on the easy way, we become dependent and lose the skills we might yet need.
On my journey to becoming a writer, I do not just want to process others’ observations and ideas; I want to generate and articulate my own. That means respecting and recognising others’ “solutions” and highly processed material, leaving it behind in storage, and being prepared to do the hard, frustrating, inefficient work of creating something original that carries my signature.
It’s about making my own path by walking.