Tag Archives: paradigm

Change your paradigm, change your habits: review of The Now Habit

The big impediment to getting things done is procrastination. Procrastination is a habit. The most effective way to break habits is to change the mental stimulus that causes the habitual action. The easiest way to change the stimulus is not to change the environment (though that can help) but rather to change the interpretation of the environment; that is to say that the best way to change a habit is to change the underlying paradigm. The word “paradigm” is often overused and even misused. It doesn’t just mean “point of view.” It goes deeper than that. It’s not a thing you can change over the course of a conversation, and it is a concept that deserves more respect that boar-room buzz words. In general, people are not aware of their paradigm. It is the subconscious value system that filters what we see. Today I’ll discuss that in general terms.

A person’s paradigm is sometimes compared to eyeglasses, but a paradigm is not something you can just take off. I would compare it to a person’s eyes rather than their glasses. Lots of people have bad vision without realizing it. They assume everyone sees the world the way they do – blurred. They don’t know it’s blurred. That’s how the world has has always been. There are mental tricks that are like “corrective lenses,” in that they slowly affect your “eyes” until you don’t need to wear them any more. When a person truly has adopted a new paradigm, they have “new eyes.” It takes a while. What’s more, it’s hard to even remember how the world looked before it changed.

Habitual actions stem from paradigms. It’s easy to see in that analogy: someone with blurred vision might habitually feel and smell objects to identify them. That’s a habit. And it would be foolish to tell someone with bad eyesight “you don’t need to smell that – it says ‘milk’ right on the bottle.” That fact is not accessible from their reality. But then, once their eyesight has improved, the smelling/feeling habit disappears naturally. That’s the power of paradigm. New paradigm yields new stimulus which produces new action, even in the same physical environment.

How does that relate to procrastination? I’m reading The Now Habit by Niel Fiore, which does a great job of explaining the procrastinator’s paradigm. Procrastinators have a paradigm of risk and coercion (I’m generalizing and paraphrasing, so forgive my imprecision). Procrastination is a habit that is a resultof the following stimulus: “I have to do X, and I must do it perfectly, or it will be terrible”

Saying “I have to…” implies a lack of freedom; it implies coercion. Whether it’s self-imposed or externally imposed coercion is irrelevant; the easiest way to rebel against coercion is to do nothing.

Saying “… and I must do it perfectly, or it will be terrible” is the perception of risk. The easiest way to avoid risk is to do nothing.

Hence, procrastination.

If I change the paradigm of coercion and risk, then the perception of how hard it is to do something will change. With that change of perception, Getting things Done will happen far more naturally.

More on The Now Habit next week.


P.S. I continue this article further in next week’s post.

two examples to illustrate the usefulness of the memetic paradigm

I can think of two examples to illustrate the usefulness of the memetic paradigm. The first is a post on VilralOne , a blog on memetics. The blog entry describes the philosophical underpinnings and history of memetics. It is thorough. It goes into a great many criticisms of the memetic paradigm and how they might be countered. And, eventually, discourse of this kind might win memetics a grudging place in academia. From there, it could spread (a meta-meme) into the popular consciousness of young students who would then put it to (presumably) good use. Eventually, it could influence the development of good ideas in a similar fashion to how Darwins’ ideas helped influence the development of molecular genetics. This would validate the current memeticist’s perspective and efforts, but probably not in their lifetime.

In a sense, this is an example of the old method for memetic success. Problem: memetics is not an accepted science. Solution: write a careful, long description of why it is worth accepting, then wait 100 years.

There is another way for memetics to gain acceptance, and that is the direct and immediate application to current problems. Take the example of Godwin’s law. Godwin noticed that when discussion on the ‘net got heated, it was almost inevitable that someone would make a Nazi comparison. He wanted to design a meme to combat it, so he wrote Godwin’s law. The new form is that “once a discussion reaches a comparison to Nazis or Hitler, its usefulness is over,” but that is not how Godwin phrased it originally. He started a meme, and it evolved. And it was, arguably, successful. People seem to be more careful about making comparisons to Nazism, as they don’t want to be the person who takes the discussion over the line into uselessness (or at least they don’t want people to call them out by invoking Godwin’s law).

Godwin designed this idea specifically as a meme. And so it stands as a success story of the memetic perspective. Memetics, philosophically sound or not, is useful. It is an intellectual tool and need not be a philosophy of life. I’m neither a social scientist nor a committed materialist. Both of those people might have reason to be threatened by memetics if they refuse to adapt. Social scientist may well have to learn a new vocabulary as their field is eclipsed by a new one. Strict materialists may have to accept that a new perspective explains human behavior without specific reference to biology. Of course, genetics was a successful science long before the specifics of DNA replication were known, and it’s probable that neurobiology and memetics will be reconciled eventually.

But in the end, reconciling these disparate ideas (sociology, biology, memetics) by way of philosophical discourse is inefficient. It will happen eventually if all of them prove to be useful descriptors of the same thing. Look at the history of M-theory or Quantum Electrodynamics. The big upshot is in that key word: useful. And the marketing companies already know that memetics is the wave of the future.