Stimulus & Action

I love rearranging my furniture.

It still feels weird to own furniture, truth be told, but now that I have it, I’m an enthusiastic repositioner.

Which probably shouldn’t come as much of a surprise. My lifestyle since 2009 has been predicated on changing things around, adjusting my environment (and myself within that environment) to ensure that I never lack for novelty and change; that my curiosity always has something upon which to fixate, and my mind never spends too much time repeating the same familiar, comfortable loops.

What’s amazing to me is how little adjustment is required to catalyze changes in how one thinks and perceives.

As we go about our day, engage in our routines and habits, familiar portions of these sequences become reflexive enough that we can complete them on autopilot. You do a series of workouts, one component after another. You follow a set route on the way to work each morning.

At a certain point, these complex processes becomes rote enough that you may sometimes find yourself in your office parking lot, the details of how you arrived there a little fuzzy. The habit of getting there is so familiar that your brain doesn’t even bother to store the details; nothing new, nothing interesting, might as well space out and save energy.

That we’re capable of delegating these sorts of tasks to less energy-draining portions of our mind is wonderful. Less wonderful is that the portions we do keep active tend to get stuck in their own loops if we lack new material, new variables, to keep them active and interested.

If you’ve ever stopped mid-year and looked back at the months leading up to that moment, amazed at how much time has passed so quickly, unable to pinpoint anything specific and notable that happened, you understand what I mean by this. It’s possible to be alive but not awake. It’s possible to be moving around, doing stuff, but not engaged and growing. There’s growth to be found in repetition, but lacking valuable jolts to our thought processes, it’s unlikely we’ll feel inspired to locate new things worth practicing, or fully benefit from the increased skill we achieve through whatever we practice.

Thankfully, it doesn’t take much to shake the dust from our cozy, under-taxed grey matter.

Tiny adjustments to one’s routines, like taking a different route to work, or moving the furniture around—trying out a new living room layout—can shock one’s system into fresh awareness. Suddenly, perhaps for the first time in a long time, everything is a potential threat or opportunity, not a known quantity. The brain will expend energy figuring out what the hell is happening and how it might build new habits around this adjusted reality.

Every time this happens for me, it feels like waking up after a period of half-sleep; I didn’t even realize how unengaged I was until I became fully reengaged.

Action is good, but ideally our actions are intentional. Our hopes and desires and motivations are informed by our thought processes, and those thought processes are goosed by shifting stimuli.

Hence, regular changes to the norm can result in better informed intent and clearer, more enthusiastic action.

Act accordingly.

I now have a Patreon page for my writing here on the blog, if you’re interested.