It might be the ENTP in me, but I get both impressed and wierded out by how quickly humans build certain technologies.
I recently learned that we’ve had an autopilot feature on airplanes for over a hundred years. Which is crazy to me, but understandable. Apparently flying is seriously mentally exhausting, and so autopilot was invented just nine years after the Wright Brothers’ famous flight.
Granted, it was pretty simple by today’s standards. It registered pitch and tilt and where the nose of the plane headed to keep the plane straight and on course without having to constantly monitor each variable. These simple tools mitigated a ton of fatigue.
From there, autopilot technology spread to ships, oil tankers, and eventually spaceships and missiles. Autopilot is now so sophisticated the majority of flight utilizes the technology. You still need a human pilot for an airplane – you still have to know what you’re doing – but even take-offs and landings use autopilot assistance.
Unless something goes wrong during flight, I’d argue some of the most important decision making is done while programming the GPS and autopilot systems.
We as humans evolved the a very similar technology inside of ourselves for pretty much the same reason.
Life is exhausting. We live in the most over communicated period in history. We feed our minds on a steady diet of sensationalism and heightened emotions. Getting basic needs met can be challenging. We master one and the next surfaces. We’re forced to develop new skills all the time. The landscapes are ever changing.
To mitigate the fatigue of life at some point, we too discovered autopilot.
Too much information exists for us to digest and too many decisions require careful thought. Possibly for the first time in history, the challenges created by consumer technology have outpaced the mental technologies we have available to solve them. We live in overwhelm, and we hand much of ourselves over to autopilot.
Our personal mental autopilot is made up of quite a few elements. We’re going to talk about one of those elements: Mindset.
Mindset is a fixed mental attitude or disposition that predetermines a person’s responses to and interpretation of situations. Or in other words, “the mental habits one builds over time which influences how one sees life and behaves.”
Personally, my favorite synonym is “mental inertia.”
Mindsets are a major part of your autopilot, worth revisiting on a regular basis to ensure you protect the ones you really want.
Your brain relies heavily on mindsets for pattern recognition to assist with big and small decisions. If left to their own devices they build capriciously over time through a mixture of propaganda and personal experiences, the latter of which we massively over value. They’re foundational and all-encompassing and where we get ideas like, “How you do anything is how you do everything.” We risk a lot by leaving them to one’s subjective interpretation of chance encounters.
In the more eloquent words of Jack Kornfield, “Every facet, every department of your mind, is to be programmed by you. And unless you assume your rightful responsibility, and begin to program your own mind, the world will program it for you.”
We deny how little control we have over our mindsets, but burgeoning scientific study illustrates our true limitations.
The amount of control you believe you have during a decision versus the amount of control you actually have is a pretty big gap. For example, a recent study shows that your neurons know what decision you’ll be making a full second and a half before the rest of your brain registers it even wants to make a decision.
If your neurology is more responsive and on the stick than your “identity” mind, as Jack Kornfield encourages, you should assume your rightful responsibility to program it.
In summary, you can’t control decision-making in the moment of the decision. You’re most likely on autopilot. But if you take the time and effort to thoughtfully pre-program the GPS system of your mind, it’s gonna be okay.
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