If you take the time to recognize the hidden behavior patterns in your life, you will not only lead a self-examined life, but you will discover things about yourself and others that you hadn’t seen before. Many of us have never taken the time to journal and write down our thoughts about who we think we are, what motivates us, what we think might motivate others. We’re usually too preoccupied with what’s happening on the news or on social media to do this work. Or, we’re too scared of what we might find. It takes a degree of courage to perform this self-examination work. Where am I at and what do I want right now?
Food consumption is an easy pattern to discern in others because it is so salient. We see our friends, family, and co-workers eat every day, multiple times per day. Unless they grab their food and go hide in a room somewhere, they’re there on public display for all to see. Further, food brings us together to share and to create community. We all need food for survival, so it is a natural camaraderie builder. Fast food consumption, while potentially pernicious, seems to also be natural and aligned with what we want from food: fast, inexpensive, palatable (somewhat), and easily obtained. It is interesting to denote the geography of fast food as readily available whether you find yourself in a town of 1,000 people or city of 10,000,000 people. It also defies closure as many fast food merchants are open 24/7. This plays well into the weekend partier crowd with their drunken cravings at 2 AM. Note how all of these points makes it difficult to say no to fast food. It is fast, inexpensive, somewhat palatable and easily obtained. And if you’re not hungry right now, just wait.
Another pattern easily discerned in others is a work-out discipline. For those among us who get after it daily, we have a set call time. Whether it is 5 AM, 5 PM, or noon, we suit up, get ourselves to the gym, and we get after it. For the supremely disciplined, we do this five to six times per week. For the Uber-disciplined who are professionally dedicated to bodybuilding contests, they work-out 3 hours a day. (Anybody here working-out 3 hours a day? If you are, then God Bless.) Perhaps even more astonishing, they eat full meals 6 to 7 times per day. This is a tremendous resource burden / investment of time, emotion, physicality, and money. This amount of discipline and dedication hits on all four of the Big Human Resources, and yet, there they go. For the truly, physically dedicated, you cannot help but notice their results. They are salient.
Another pattern easily discovered in others is negative thinking. We all have people in our lives who are negative Nellies. Nothing is ever good enough. No job is sufficient. No friends offer enough support. No one in their family understands them. They are as incessant as Chicken Little: the sky is always falling.
Depending upon which scientific study you select, we have anywhere from 15,000 to 60,000 thoughts each day, the majority of which are negative. It is an unfortunate aspect of the Human Condition that negative thinking is default thinking, most likely for survivalism. The missing key is to acknowledge that much of what we think about isn’t worth thinking about. As any good writer will tell you, most of our thinking is worthless. It is just neurons firing randomly and creating dumb, shouldn’t-be-expresssed thoughts. Just because you have an idea doesn’t make it any good. And just because you can do something doesn’t mean you should.
Negative thinking is default is because the negative is salient. It acts as a constant warning signal, always the flashing-red beacon, because we respond to and acknowledge Dangerous signals. The modern day problem is that not everything and everyone we run into is dangerous. That, and what’s deemed dangerous is subjective. What you perceive as dangerous I may not. This puts one of us on near constant alert and the other more relaxed. What is a state of vigilant alertness to danger equivalent to without proper training? Near constant anxiety.
The great news is that our brains are plastic in the sense that they are malleable and can be reshaped. We mold them and shape them through what we allow in, what we ingest into our heads, through what we see, through what we hear, and, yes, through what we eat. Even if you’re an extreme negative Nellie, there is still hope for positivity, for engagement, and for enthusiasm. Everyone has some activity, some skill, some hobby about which they are enthusiastic about and engaged in. It is our job to not only find it, but to actively participate in it. This is one step in the right direction of what we’re really after.