Brain Science – Episode #12

Your choice is your superpower

the impact of awareness in change, choices & constraints

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Mireille and Adam discuss the power of choice as it relates to our locus of control, decision making, and the changes we want to make in our lives. Emotions play a role in decision making as do our values and the perceived payout. When we are aware of the choices we make, we have the capacity to change them and henceforth, the direction of our lives, and the way we feel.


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It seems we always have a choice. While we may not feel we have choices, somehow, despite our best efforts, we always have a choice to make. We say “We had to do it that way” or “We had to do this thing.” Meanwhile, we really did have other choices, it’s just a matter of they weren’t as good-looking of a choice, or with the right outcomes… But we always have a choice. What do you think?

Yeah, I wholeheartedly agree. I think it’s interesting – there’s patterns or themes that emerge as I work with people in the process of therapy, and the words “I had to” or “I didn’t have another option” come out so often… And the interesting thing and why I think this is a really big deal is because it gets at this sense of one’s control or locus of control, like “Where do I perceive that my ability to navigate my life resides?” And when I say that “I had to” or “I didn’t have another option”, it really externalizes, puts my locus of control outside of myself, right?

Yeah… There’s this big idea that this is just one big simulation.

It’s kind of like that.

Yeah. And I think the interesting thing is not everybody makes the same choices - of course, because they’re not the same person, and they don’t have the same preference, goals, desires, all of those things. And so it gets really muddled sometimes in life, especially when we encounter obstacles or things that are undesirable, uncomfortable, that we’re like “Oh, I didn’t have a choice. I had to do X, Y or Z.” And it’s like “Well…”, pause. Because I think about this a lot, like taxes. People will say “Well, I have to pay my taxes.” Well, no. No, you don’t. But I think…

But you should… [laughter]

…if you don’t wanna pay a lot more money, or go to prison, right?

So there are these constraints that always go with choices. An example - I think about this with looking at building a home. People would say “Well, this is the home I wanna build”, and then they go look for the land they wanna build it on, and then they buy said land, and then they go to have those building plans approved, and they’re like “Well, you can’t build that house on that land.” So here’s the constraints, because every piece of land is different… So then how do I put together these different puzzle pieces that I want from my life, that can’t go together? And then I’m apt to complain or blame someone else - not me, because how dare it be me…?

…when in fact this is just choice.

[03:57] And then from choice comes change, and change is constant…

…change is hard… I’m gonna reference a book that I’m sure that you’ve read, and hopefully a large portion of the audience has read, and if not, you should definitely read it. It’s easy; it’s maybe a few hours’ read, but it’s “Who moved my cheese?” Such life lessons you will learn from reading that book… It’s sort of the quintessential book to understand, you know, this Hem and this Haw characters in this book… And it’s all about how we react to change - because change happens - and it’s really how you react and the choices you make around that change, that sort of leads you down your next path… And sometimes can even delay the process of taking the path, because you’re sort of stuck, looking for the cheese where it used to be… And it’s moved. And that’s the whole point of the book, is it’s “Who moved my cheese?”

Right. Oh, I love that. It’s so true… Even in talking about trying to navigate relationships, and life, and whatnot, that I often say people are predictably unpredictable… Right?

That’s right.

And that change is our one constant. But people have a lot of feelings when it comes to change…

And as we talk about these different topics, it’s just interesting how much we end up going back and referencing where we started with those fundamentals of being human, and how we talk about emotions… Because guess what affects our choices? How we feel.

That’s right. Gosh, yes… How I feel definitely affects my choices. Because if I’m feeling good that day, I might be more positive, have a more positive outlook; I might even be more social, so more connection…

…maybe even deeper relationships with people because of that. But if I’m feeling bad, I might choose to isolate and retract, and I’m not making connections, I’m not open to new opportunities, and now suddenly I’m down and I’m making down choices.

Yeah, I think about it a lot with people in terms of vocation. People create a plan, they go to school and cultivate the skills they need to do to cultivate that plan, and then they do said job/career for X amount of time, and then they go “Oh, shoot. This doesn’t fit anymore, but now I have these other constraints, way of life, how I do my life, have the homes I want, activities I participate in, and I’m doing this thing that earns X amount of money, so now I can’t change what I’m doing, because this is how I optimized… And there’s nothing that I can think of that’s gonna be enough bang for my buck.” So my emotions are saying “I’m not gonna exchange that. It’s far too great a risk. And that now makes me feel uncomfortable, or overwhelmed, or fearful.”

Yeah. There’s the term “I’ve painted myself into a corner.”

And that’s kind of what we do with our life, we sort of paint… I think the terminology comes from maybe painting the floor; most rooms have four walls, four corners, and so what happens is you don’t think about the process of painting the room’s floor, and you literally paint yourself into the corner, where you can’t step out of it anymore, because you will step all over your paint and make a mess… Or put footmarks in the paint, and that’s obviously not the point of painting the floor.

This metaphor though is pretty interesting, because you feel locked in, you feel like change is not possible… But you said before about this aspect of hope - if we lose hope in the future, hope of change, that we will begin to dwindle.

Right. Yeah, exactly. It’s interesting how working with people, just little nuances and words can make such a difference… And I love it when people get this awareness of the concept of time, and recognizing “Well, maybe I can’t make that change yet.”

The parentheses with yet is a big super-power.

Right, because you know what that “yet” does? It changes actually how I feel. Because remember how we talked about this perception of threat; when I’m fearful, what my brain does because it’s adaptive, it’s environmentally adaptive to go “I see far and narrow.” So my ability to see alternative choices or alternative ways that I can get somewhere narrows, hence now I’m painting myself into this corner, and - uh-oh… Now I’m more scared than I started out, so now I’m gonna shut down and I’m not gonna look for any other options, and now I’m just stuck, and now I’m gonna complain, because of my constraints. Look how quick we got there…

Yeah. But how often do we use constraints in a positive way though? For example, we’ve just had a conversation on the Changelog that’s gonna come out next week with Stephanie… She was writing this book, and she gave herself a constraint of “Okay, I’ve never written a book before.”

“…and I have to give myself a deadline, or I won’t do it.”

This is an example of a constraint used in a positive way.

Sure. But – so I would say that constraint provided her with hope, and a certainty of her ability to achieve it. For example, if something feels too overwhelming, too big, like “I wanna change my career”, I probably wouldn’t look at it like “Alright, I’m gonna quit my job tomorrow…” But rather, I would go “Alright, what are my other options? What feels like it would fit me, my lifestyle, the things that I value? And then I’m gonna reverse-engineer it, and now I’m going to do a baby step that I think is achievable.”

An example might be “Okay, I’m just gonna practice – if I wanna write a book and I haven’t written one before, I am gonna commit to sitting down and writing for 120 minutes/two hours a day, or 60 minutes, or 30 minutes.” That’s where a constraint is helpful, because it does identify parameters.

I’m so glad you bring this up, because constraints aren’t all bad. They just are a function of anything. It would be really weird if I was walking down the street and somebody punched me… Right? I would hope that’d be weird… [laughs]

Yeah, that’d be super-weird. Don’t do that.

Right? However, if I gave you a constraint or a form and I said “Well, I got punched when I was in the boxing ring”, it would make a lot more sense.

Yeah, contextual scenarios would certainly make that more easy to deal with, I suppose. If [unintelligible 00:11:14.11] get a little upset. But if it was in a boxing ring, it’s like “Well, you’re probably there for a reason.”

So then I would say “Well, who chose to put me in the boxing ring?”

That’s right… [laughter] Okay, you tell me then; this is your story…

Who put you in the boxing ring?

Well, this is why when I participate in my own choice, and the constraints that I’m operating within, it is also going to change the way that I feel about the choice that I made, as well as the outcome that could occur.

So if someone shoved you into the boxing ring, you might be quite more upset that you got punched in the face… However, if it was your choice to get it, you’d be like “Well, par for the course. This is what happens when you get in the boxing ring on your own accord and fight somebody.”

[12:02] Right, right. So this is one of the things I wanna highlight when we’re trying to change… Awareness is a key factor in changing… So if I don’t hold an awareness of myself or the choices that are available to me, and the emotions that are involved, I’m already sort of starting way too far back, and really ill-equipped to make effective choices that take me in the direction I wanna go.

Yeah. This lesson you shared before on frontloading I’ve actually used quite a lot in these scenarios… Dealing with change and making better choices. Whenever I feel like I have some pushback to change or choice, I’m like, “Well, what is causing that and how could I pre-plan or front-load to make the choice smoother when I get to the choice factor?” And one example of it - and this seems so silly that this is the example, but… It’s my son’s lunch for school. If we prepare the lunch prior to, so the night before, the morning of going to school is so much more smooth… Because we’ve frontloaded everything. We’ve pre-planned, we chose to put this kid in school, we chose to drive him to school, I chose to take him that day – whatever, all the choices involved, I’m just trying to emphasize…

But the point is if I chose not to frontload, well my morning gets more hectic, because I’ll probably be tired, like anybody is in the morning… You know, kids don’t always cooperate the best in the morning, or maybe they do… So every day it’s a crapshoot of whether it’s gonna be a good morning or a bad morning, and one way to make it a slightly better morning - or at least optimize for an opportunity of a better morning - is to, hey, frontload, and by doing the lunch prior to. It seems so silly, but it makes the day so much easier if that’s done. One thing.

It is, and that’s just it, Adam. All you did was articulate recognizing the part to the whole puzzle, and going “What factors play a role in the options available to me with the outcome I’m trying to achieve?” Because the bigger, broader goal is you’re trying to educate your child - socially, emotionally and intellectually - via school. Well, he’s not the only person in your home, so you and your wife, other children play a role in that morning routine, and recognizing, “Okay, if I’m tired, i.e. what emotions might I be experiencing when I’m trying to do said task, alongside what other objective, which is getting my child to school on time, when I feel like time is very limited…” So I tweak the methodology of what I do, so that it works better, and that all of the parts to whole get to hang out in a more functional environment.

This is the thing that’s so huge when we talk about choices, especially as it relates to change - that choices don’t occur in solitude. If I make a choice, there’s like 4, 5, 100 other dominoes that get knocked over as a result of the choice. So when I don’t start with this sense of awareness of the part to whole, I’m already going to be struggling more so than I need to be.

Yeah. What I find even more profound is that [unintelligible 00:15:41.26] example could be the factor of an amazing day… So we just talked about earlier, I could be more positive that day… So this morning routine could lead to a more positive day, or it could lead to a more negative day, and we just talked through what might happen if I was negative or positive… So all of these (as you said) dominoes, this trickle effect - it really stacks up to this idea that our super-power is our choice, right? And that the choice I make today impacts the choices I make this week, this month, this year, and the next thing you know, it can really change your life dramatically. One small choice, one small frontloading, one small optimization could really change the course of a lot.

[16:25] Right, and that’s why we’re talking about this… Because I really want people to understand how much opportunity is out there in their lives. If something isn’t working, there are opportunities to change it, but you have to look at the choices that are available to you and go “In what small way could I make a different?”

I’m not sure if I’ve shared this before, but I think about it with people who are trying to make changes with eating habits… Some of the things I recommend in the course of treatment is “Can you just not go through the drive-through? Anytime – I don’t care if you wanna eat fast-food or not, but I just want you to walk in.”

Go eat the fast-food, but – it’s almost like you have to feel more of the pain. You really have to want to do it.

Right. I’m making one other aspect more aversive, so it’s less desirable… Because my emotions say “Oh, I don’t really wanna do that.” If I’m gonna walk into fast food, I can just walk into my kitchen and also pick something out, too.

Yeah… [laughs]

Or walk into a grocery store. This is why it is such a super-power to go “Okay, what small change could I make? What mini-choice would take me in the trajectory?” It doesn’t mean I cultivate the goal I’m trying to reach, but it just moves me in the direction that I’m trying to go.

I can’t talk about awareness without talking about how our brain works… And I think of Daniel Kahneman, who wrote the “Thinking in Systems”. I forget if that’s the name, but… He talks about and identifies thinking system one, and differentiates it from thinking system two. Oh, “Thinking, Fast and Slow.” That’s the name of the book.

He says system one is this automatic, quick, intuitive, emotional and reactive system. Then thinking system two - think of this like more of our higher-order thought process, which is conscious, effortful, logical and deliberate. So while each have these distinct styles, one can operate without the other, and these are highly integrated. So they’re mutually supportive, they’re not discreet or hierarchical, like one and then the other; they’re both – imagine two spinning plates, that also can turn into yarn, and go back and forth…

And so system two, which is that higher order, has limited resources. So it picks and chooses what is most sensible to invest its energy in.

It’s always evaluating.

Right. Sometimes it can be lazy, especially if something is not viewed as a very important decision. Then it kicks it back to system one to pick up the slack.

This is where we get stuck in our choices… Because it’s like, I can think about the stress of daily life, and being a wife, a mom, a professional, and just a human, trying to manage and modulate myself… That I can get this decision fatigue. So instead of using more of this higher-order, thoughtful thing – it’s like, any muscle under tension for an extended period of time tends to give way… So does my brain.

Which is why at the end of the day when my kids ask me something, I’m like “I don’t… I don’t know.” [laughs]

I’ve got nothing. I’m toast.

Because your brain is literally on fire.

Well, figuratively, literally, on fire.

Yeah, I’m done. So recognizing that choices might be more challenging for me later off in the day, or under certain constraints, like other stressors… What are the top ones? Getting married, buying a house, moving…

Buying a car, moving jobs…

Yup, all these things.

Relationship change in general… Death…

Yeah. So we wanna say “Well, we’re fully in charge of our choices” - well… Yes and no. Because this one part of our brain is more deliberate and can be reflective and thoughtful, while the other part is reflexive, which is based far more on how we’ve been conditioned or trained. Imagine how you operate your life is based on this system that was downloaded via your experiences, especially between the ages of 0 and 5.

I mean, I’m going way back.

Yes, that’s so far back that I personally have a hard time remembering prior to age five. There’s a couple things that are somewhat vivid to me, but I don’t have a memory that I can recollect that would be accurate to true events.

Sure. And this is why – like, zero to five is just, imagine you’re starting with a blank slate, and now you’re just downloading information about how the world operates, what to expect, and really just through this process of conditioning, like “When I sit down at the table, I get food” or “I’m allowed to run around my house” or “This is how I speak to people” or “This is how people respond when I get sad, upset, angry etc.” We all have this default system. So having the awareness of these systems that everybody is contending with…

Even in the workplace - sometimes you might have an exchange with someone and you walk away like “Gosh, that was really weird. Their response… Why did they say that? I don’t get that…” Well, who knows to what degree they’re in system one, system two, or a myriad or a hybrid of both… Because they’re in their own brain, thinking through things, and they have their own proclivities, way of being in the world, that they learned “This is how I just operate. What’s your problem?”

Yeah. Well, so you’re saying almost at odds with one another… You say we do have a choice, and then you’re saying “Well, kind of… Maybe not”, based upon these systems… So I’m kind of confused, to some degree. But when we talk about system one and system two thinking, this is a choice our brain makes outside of our control. We can’t say “Okay, I’m only gonna activate system two.”

We don’t have an option of turning one on or off, or favoring one system over the other.

Well, right. Adam, you just highlighted why we have challenges when we talk about the brain… Because you’re like “Well, Mireille, you said this and then you said that, and they don’t go together.”

Right… [laughter] Well, this show started off very hopeful, like “Every choice you make is your choice, and you did it, there you go…” Now you’re saying “Well, maybe not.”

Well, but what we’re talking about is awareness… So this is why people come into therapy. I can’t ever tell you how many times the referring reason people come in is they’re like “I keep doing this thing, and I don’t know why… I keep picking these people that I don’t wanna pick” or “I keep doing this thing I don’t wanna do” or “I think I’m depressed…”

“I think I’m depressed…”, that’s the best one. I’m not saying that’s a good thing, obviously, but “I think…” You’re not even sure.

That’s how depressed you are. You’re not even sure if you’re depressed.

[23:53] Right. And so if they don’t have the awareness of themselves or how they’ve been trained… Like, I work with people for some time, and they’ll sort of comment like “Gosh, I wish I knew this” or “I wish I would have come to therapy before I made X, Y or Z major decision”, because they just didn’t know all of what was beneath the iceberg in themselves.

Some would say sometimes that’s a good thing… You can dig into the past, and the past gets you, so to speak… This aspect of like what you don’t know is better off, to some degree… And then - yeah, that could be it. A slippery slope where you just start to dig into things that – you know, this aspect of identity.

Age 0 to 5 is, to some degree, an identity factor, because someone in your life told you who you were - potentially your parents, grandparents, and that impressive time of your life is when you sort of find out who you are.

You spend your whole life wondering that, and then you turn – suddenly, you’re 25… [laughs] Suddenly, you know… But it’s this aspect of when you start to look back at who you are and why you are, and you’re like “Well, really a lot of this time was 0 to 5 or whatever age was when you found out who you were, and you’re just reflecting back on this identity that potentially might have a dark past. Or things you didn’t know, because you’ve grown up. Now you can handle the emotions of, let’s say, choices family members made when you were younger, or… I don’t know, the point is that there’s darkness in the past, and sometimes you were too young to know, and you might be better off not.

Well, sure. I mean, I would tweak that a little bit and say there’s some things that no amount of digging would discover, because you can’t totally know. Don’t go back and try to dig up things that – to some degree, the Why doesn’t always make a difference. I only bring this point into conversation because some awareness is helpful.

One of the things we talked about in habit formation was the way in which we’re more apt to do things that resonate or are consistent with how we see ourselves… So if I see myself as skilled in athletics, I’m probably more apt to take risks in anything athletically-oriented.

So I’m saying that having an awareness of ourselves, or going “Look, I trained, I went to school, I put a major investment in this education to cultivate these skills, to get this job, to work at this company, and now I’m here… Now what? And I don’t see any other choice.” If I’m able to be aware of how all these pieces fit together, then I can look and say “Oh my word, I actually think that I have my self concept totally tethered to that job, and now I don’t know how to change it.

Yeah, identity is a huge factor in these things, and I think the sooner you know who you are, so that you know what you should do or could do, the better off you might be long-term. Identity is such a key piece.

It is. And that’s why recognizing how you feel, the role that emotions play in your choice, and how different things make you feel - that’s relative to the choices you’re gonna make. Choices aren’t good or bad. It’s interesting - you know, different conversations I have, and fears that people have over “Did I fail if I don’t do this thing, if I don’t follow through?”

I’m forgetting the story I read about some entrepreneur who went to Stanford, and was in her master’s program, and I think she had a very successful family - doctors, attorneys, or scientists, whatever - but she called up her parents, because she’s like “I’m gonna quit.” I’m at Stanford, like “Hoo-rah! Here’s this great Ivy League school”, and I’m not gonna keep going… Because she realized it didn’t fit for her anymore in that way. Some people would say “No, no, no, you can’t do that. Look at what you did! You got in, you’ve gotta finish!”

So then changing and going “Look, you’re not a failure if you don’t finish something you thought you wanted.”

Is the person’s name Elizabeth Holmes?

Tell me more.

Well, it would be ironic to reference her if that’s the truth, because she’s the founder of Theranos, which is a now-defunct health technology company that was in many ways fraudulent.

Yeah… Great example, but it’s just ironic if that is in fact Elizabeth Holmes. She has an interesting story, and that’s why that company and what she was doing was so beloved… Because she had that story. She quit school to be an entrepreneur; she quit school to build this company Theranos. And as things unraveled over many years, the company was very bad; she’s in court now, and stuff… It’s a big deal.

I’m wanting to say that wasn’t the person I was thinking of, but…

Okay… Very similar then. Very similar. It would have been ironic though.

It would have. And you know, I only say that – and even if that were the case, Adam, there’s other choices that happen. We can’t look at just the one choice over whether or not that person chose to stay at Stanford or leave, and saying “If you leave your masters program, then you’re going to be fraudulent.”

So you can make inferences about… One of the things that in my field we talk about with research a lot is there’s a big difference between causation and correlation. I’m not saying “Well, that then caused…”


Look, a lot of people wanna say that power corrupts, but to some degree, this sense of power or opportunity just reveals what’s on the inside. So when there’s opportunity to make other choices… Like, people talk about integrity, and integrity really is a choice. I don’t have to always do what I say I’m gonna do.

You choose to.

Yeah, yeah. And no everybody has the same mind. We can talk about different things, like if I’m going “Hey, awareness is a critical thing”, I’m sure all of us can look back in our lives and remember some really negative experience which provided us a lesson in terms of noting that in our brain and saying “Hey, don’t do that.” So I’m gonna be passionate about having a sense of integrity now, or I’m gonna be passionate about being successful, or X, Y or Z, because it caused a negative or aversive experience earlier on in my life.

So to some degree, I’m saying we have to look at what’s underneath the iceberg to sometimes recognize the motive behind our choices. In the same way, I could talk about this - choice - when we talk about awareness, but there’s also defenses at play. Defense isn’t bad, defenses are designed for self-preservation, for protection. But they also restrict or limit our awareness if I’m defending against something I don’t wanna see or know.

I can talk about this in the context of therapy and going, a lot of people when we talk through contributing factors to why they are where they are, most people don’t wanna blame their parents… And if they even talk about “Oh goodness, my parents had a part in how I turned out like I did”, then they feel guilty, so they don’t wanna talk about it… And I always have to run interference and go “Look, the purpose of this is never to vilify people.” I wholeheartedly believe that all parents - well, most parents - do the best they can with what they have at the time they’re doing it. Most parents don’t have ill intentions; they’re just human, and doing the best they can.

So recognizing – it doesn’t mean that there aren’t still negative consequences… So to at least understand how we were formed and how we go about ourselves in our day-to-day life makes a difference in terms of the choices that we see as available to us.

Do you think it makes sense to examine this from the lens of “I wanna know why things are the way they are” versus “Who is to blame?”

I don’t think blame is even necessary.

Well, you said “vilify”, so that’s usually trying to find somebody to say “Well, it’s their fault.”

To push it off on somebody else. I would be more interested to figure out “Why are things the way they are?”, so that I can know what to do.

Not so much who to blame because circumstances are what they are.

Correct. That’s just it. And some people I actually have to work with because they get very fixated on “Why is this the case?” and I’m like, okay, it kind of doesn’t matter at this point, because you need to shift gears to going “Well, now what?” So if this was the case, if this is how you were raised, or how you were trained, or how you learned to see the world, now what? Not in a not-empathetic way, but literally, we’re gonna set that aside, and we’re gonna go “Now what can we do, given that these are the constraints that you’re operating within? How do you wanna modify that? What do you think you can do differently?”

Yeah. Well, the one thing - to sort of shine the light back on to hope - is that we can change.

Given the right kind of pain threshold, there’s the saying essentially that we often don’t change until the pain – let me actually read this, because it’s easier read than just randomly scripted… People often said that the pain to change has to be less than the pain it takes to remain the same. So that means you don’t often change until it’s like “Well, this is so painful to stay the way I am… I now have to change, just because it’s too painful to remain in that pain, or in that choice, or in that circumstance…” But that we can change.

It takes intention though.

It does. And I would say not just intention, but deliberate effort. I don’t want people to think “I just need to do the right thing, or make the right choice.” For whatever reason, that’s one of those abrasive things to me… There isn’t necessarily a right choice, unless we’re talking about morality, possibly… But generally speaking, when it comes to our lives and where we work, what we do, who we spend time with, the foods we eat, the activities we engage in, that it is much more around this sense of effort, and where do I want to continue to put effort. Because effort repeated over time is how I’m likely going to get where I wanna go.

Yeah. This aspect of conditioning has been really clear to me after these many conversations with you - that we condition ourselves, we create habits, we create processes, we create systems… Whatever framework or language you wanna use to describe that, essentially we’re conditioning ourselves to make choices - or certain choices; potentially ones we don’t like making - to do a certain routine, given a certain scenario.

Yeah, exactly. And that’s why in looking at this and saying “Well, what do our listeners do now?” “Okay, so you gave me some data, but I actually wanna make changes…” So if we can take a step back and get some distance… Like, if I’m looking to make a decision - let’s think about this in three different ways, three different timeframes. “How are we gonna feel about this choice in ten minutes? How about ten months? And how about ten years?”

And ironically, that sort of allows for time to both system one and system two to think through… Because too, how I might feel – I can take a food example, like “Oh, I want that huge dessert” or whatever… And going “Well, ten seconds from now that’s gonna be awesome.” [laughter]

Potentially ten minutes from now, because I’ll also be eating it, because it’s so big…

[laughs] But I might even go “How am I gonna feel ten hours, or ten days, or ten months from now?”

To go “Does it really matter…?” So what I’m wanting people to see is I want them to look at their choices as a hybrid of now and later. And then saying “Here’s my constraints” and “What are my complaints even around those constraints? What’s aversive, that I don’t like?” and then “What other ways might I consider doing it? Can I leapfrog? Can I do one lily pad to another lily pad, that don’t feel like I’m having to jump in a way that feels incredibly risky to me?”

Yeah. This constant you’re bringing up is kind of like this algorithm. When you come to this fork in the road, this choice factor, so to speak… We all have certain preferences in our life, and I’d consider it being some sort of personal choice algorithm, where – and everybody is gonna be a little different, but what’s your core purpose in life? What are you trying to do? Your choices should reflect you moving in the direction of your goals for your life. These things are all built upon your passions, your values, beliefs… And at the root of all that really is identity. And for me, it’s become, as I start to have this scenario happen to me often, this algorithm of choice, so to speak, I’m like “Well, Adam, who are you?”, when I come to these decisions. If you’re optimizing – even if you’re not that person today, if you wanna go in this direction, then these are the things you should do because of that.

So this algorithm of choice is pretty interesting, because it might be simple things like maybe buying a car, or going on vacation. It might be these choices…

I really can’t see how a vacation fits into that personally, but maybe it’s like where to go potentially… But this car, “Should I buy this car?” Well, if you’re the kind of person that doesn’t really need this car, why would you buy the car?

[38:52] Yeah. Well, it’s interesting; you’re like “I don’t know how a vacation…” I can think of it like – you know, here, living where I am, and doing certain seasons in life, it looked very different when my children were not of school age… And I joke with my family now about like “We’re only available Christmas, spring break and summer.” We have three times that we do anything, because the constraints are during the academic year.

So I don’t take vacations, generally speaking, apart from those times, because of what my husband and I and our family are optimizing for.

That’s true.

And it is fascinating… I think when we look at marketing and the choices we make and the cars we drive, that sense of alignment around self-perception, “How do I see myself, so then what choice am I gonna make?” Because it’s interesting, I can say “I like this make or brand of car, but it doesn’t resonate with me.” Or even purchasing a home, I’m like “Oh, that style isn’t my style at all”, so it then wouldn’t feel - ironically, back to that feeling - the way that I want my home to feel.

Yes… Which, as you’ve said before, environment plays a key role in habits and routines, so why wouldn’t the feeling of your home also influence you in those ways? If my identity was rooted in someone who said “Well, I’m super-wealthy (or I’m wealthy enough) and I deserve/desire to drive cars that are in alignment with the identity I hold.” So I might drive a Mercedes, or a BMW, or just some sort of higher-end model or car or brand… But if my identity is not rooted in that, then I might drive a Toyota, or a Ford, or a normal brand that you see every day on the road. A less eclectic car.

Right, yeah. So as we’re thinking about these choices, if you can look at what is the sort of criterion I’m trying to create/cultivate? How am I establishing a framework? There’s so many things in our world that have form. I can think about it in the kitchen in terms of pots and pans, and there’s different sizes and styles; I can think about it with cars, I can think about it with jobs, and locations, and styles…

But recognizing if you can be aware of you as a sort of puzzle piece, always fitting within a larger puzzle, and then puzzles internally that you’re trying to fit together… And that we’re all gonna fare better when we operate out of this place of alignment, like what is presented on the outside - the way in which I live, the choices I make are congruent with how I feel on the inside, the priorities that I have, the values, the things I care about, the places I make investments. It sounds so much more like a cacophony in a sort of symphony, as opposed to more of a sort of stark staccato, not rhythmic, like “car starting or stopping” way of life.

That’s really what I want people to optimize around - recognizing they’re in the driver’s seat for their life, along with the people they care most about, and going “How can we all respect these individuality we all posses?” and figure out how we can be our best selves amidst those constraints.


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