philosophy

Is Knowledge Power?

Knowledge is power. Or so the saying goes.

This is misleading. By itself, knowledge isn't useful. More knowledge isn't always better.

What really generates the power of 'knowledge' is acting on that knowledge.

Does it feel like you don't know enough or have enough information to get started?

You can get some perspective on your own knowledge by asking yourself this question: how do I know what I know?

If you 'know' something to be true, find out why you 'know' that.

Maybe you know that 'carbs are bad' because your Dad said so when you were a child. Have you enquired any further than that? How did he know 'carbs are bad'? Suddenly something you 'know' might seem less true.

Time to create some knew knowledge!


How do you create knowledge?

Sometimes it feels like your knowledge is just there. But it's not.

You construct knowledge. You're constantly assembling the puzzle from the things you perceive to create knowledge.

So, as you make your way through the world, constructing your knowledge of it; keep these questions in mind:

  • So what? What’s important, useful, and/or valuable about this information I’m getting?
  • How can I use this information to help right now?
  • Which information is actually helpful, and which is not? If you don't know, ask yourself how would you be able to tell the difference between helpful and unhelpful information?

“Be Yourself” is Bad Advice

“Be yourself!”

You hear this advice a lot.

There are some things about your personality that might be so deep they're practically impossible to change.

Get to know yourself! Embrace the person you find!

Okay.

If you think about it a little more, there are aspects of your personality that you think are ingrained but can be changed.

Invisible scripts you follow because “that's how I do things”. Patterns of thinking that seem like they can’t be changed.

“Be yourself” implies that you are a finished product.

How about, be the best parts of yourself. You can take the worst parts of yourself and try to change those.

Sure, on some level there is a process of learning to differentiate between your needs and desires and those of someone else.

But don't think of yourself as a persistent “I”.

The very cells of your body and just about every other aspect of your being is constantly in flux.

You are always a work in progress.

Even better than being the best parts of yourself, you can find the power to CREATE yourself.

“Create yourself.”

That's better.

Everyday Mindfulness: Notice and Name

While studying for my Precision Nutrition Level 2 certification, I came across this cool metaphor for the relationship between our frontal cortex (‘thinking’ brain) and our deeper emotional brain. It’s from the book ‘Switch’ by Chip and Dan Heath. I think it’s a great way to describe the challenges you face when you’re trying to make a change in your life.

The elephant and the rider

  • The rider is logical, planning, judging, ‘thinky’ brain. It controls the direction of the elephant... sort of.
  • The elephant is the deeper emotional brain, as well as the more basic physical sensations and impulses devoted to survival. It’s powerful and the rider can only direct it for so long.
  • The path is the environment. The path can affect the elephants movements much more strongly than the rider can, and usually unconsciously.

As the rider, you believe yourself to be in control. So you try to ‘control’ the emotional-brain elephant. You will be met with disastrous consequences when you try to force the elephant to go somewhere it doesn’t want to go (or indeed, if something surprises the elephant on the path).

Instead, your job as the rider is to observe and guide the elephant to navigate the path carefully. You can do this through mindfulness - observing your emotional brain and your environment and acting accordingly.

Speaking to the rider alone is a waste of time. The rider will be overwhelmed by the elephant at some point and the elephant is constrained by the path. Instead, you must talk to the rider, guide the elephant, and shape the path.

Noticing and Naming

You can start doing this with a basic mindfullness strategy called “noticing and naming”. This helps the rider (thinky brain) observe the elephants (emotional brain) movements and the paths contribution so you can respond rather than react.

Noticing is about observing and describing something at the most basic level. Naming is taking that description further and putting language (or imagery/metaphor) to it.

This should happen before you decide how to respond.

Give it a go. Ask yourself three questions today:

  1. What am I noticing?
  2. What would I name the thing I’m observing?
  3. How will I choose to respond?

A Decision Making Heuristic

You decide to start a new business, but you don’t commit to it fully because you’re afraid it won’t work. Problem is because you’re not committed to it fully, you may actually be causing it not to work.

You decide to date someone new. You like them, they like you. But you spend your time worrying that you’d be better with someone else.

You decide to change the way you eat, but you don't want to miss out on birthday cake for the rest of your life.

Halfheartedly making decisions makes a fool out of those decisions.

It’s scary to commit fully to something. It means dropping other things. By making the decision to do this, you’re making the decision not to do a bunch of other things. You don’t want to close the door on all those other opportunities.

You can have both.

Use the duration of a decision as a way to fully commit to your decisions.

Decide to commit to something for a specific length of time. At the end of that time, you have another decision to make - you keep going with this, or you take up any of the other opportunities that exist at that time.

Your decisions all have an expiry anyway. Whether you realise it or not, they only exist until you decide to do something else.

Opening a new shop? Take out a lease on the shop for two years and commit fully to trying to make it work for two years. You’re not in this for the rest of your life.

Dating someone new? Try assuming that it’s going great and that you’re committed for the next six weeks. At the end of that time, see where you’re up to.

Trying to change the way you eat? Decide to be strict for a week, then have a day off once a week. You get to make the change, while still enjoying the social side of eating.

When you make difficult decisions, create an expiry date for it. Commit yourself and have a moment planned when you will have to make the decision again.

What are you Hiding from Yourself?

Very early in 2018 I had a super weird realisation: I’m a details person. I delight in details. I get sucked into and lost in details.

Time and time again in 2017 I noticed people saying things to me like “thanks for all the detail you put into this” or “you spent way too long on this, it’s only a small detail for this report!” or “you’re a great [physiotherapy] client because you’re always asking so many questions and pay attention to all the details” . I kept putting it out of my mind, but I could feel a little pull that there was something important here. It took me almost all year, but eventually the common theme got through to me: on things that matter to me, I go into lots of detail.

This was a mind blown moment for me. For some reason I’ve always thought of myself as a big picture person who stayed up in the clouds and didn’t like detail. When I heard descriptions of ‘dreamers’ and ‘details’ people, I always identified so much more with the ‘dreamers’. I think part of it is also that somewhere deep inside, I feel that it’s somehow ‘better’ to be a dreamer than a details person so I willed myself to be a ‘dreamer’ so I could be better. Pretty dumb right? Talk about a [story I’ve built my identity on].

I asked a few of my close friends about this and they were all surprised I didn’t realise I was a details person. They told me that the difference with me and a ‘classic details person’ is that I tended to start big picture, then sink right down into the detail to get something done. Apparently other ‘details people’ always start in the detail and have trouble ever coming up to big picture.

All of a sudden I’m free of this story. I’m not a dreamer. I am capable of getting into details (so capable that I do it all the time without even meaning to!) I’m not just a slow worker - I’m getting bogged down in detail. Now that I realise that’s what’s happening, I’m able to catch myself much sooner than before. I’m able to use my details-power for good! It’s very exciting and I’m looking forward to seeing what I can do with this new knowledge.


All this got me thinking. What long-held truths about you aren’t true? Is there anything pulling at your awareness right now that might change your story of who you are?