Sometimes it feels like we’re stuck in a terrible loop.
We know that buying the 3 extra bars of chocolate just to get the 4th for free isn’t good for our health. We definitely know smoking isn’t. We know that procrastinating a workout to the end of the day means it never gets done.
So why do we keep doing it?
Socrates and Plato believed that knowledge is sufficient for virtue. In other words, knowing is half the battle. Which kind of makes sense, right? If you didn’t even know what the right thing is, how would you ever do it?
Living in the age of information, there is little about self-improvement and development that we do not know by now. We know we must turn off our devices at least 2 hours before bedtime, as the blue light can impair sleep.
Has that ever stopped me from scrolling through Reddit on my laptop in bed, waiting for sleep to miraculously appear? (Answer- no, it hasn’t)
Laurie Santos and Tamar Gendler, both professors at Yale, coined the term GI Joe fallacy explaining the difference between knowing and doing. This is a fallacy because knowing, it turns out, is not half the battle. It’s not even close. If anything, work in cognitive science has demonstrated that knowing is a shockingly tiny fraction of the battle for most real-world decisions.
G.I. Joe’s cartoon is long gone, but his fallacy is alive and well.
The unpredictable forces of emotion, habit, and situation reign despite how much we “know’ better. When it comes to behavior change, we have to step beyond simple “knowing” to emotional regulation, habit formation, deep practice, and the situations we place ourselves in.
Conscious action seems to be the key to overcoming these cognitive biases. Being intentional with our thoughts and actions, that will nudge us in the direction of our goals.
Knowing that a battle exists at least gives us some sense of the main characteristics of the conflict and the issues at stake.
This should help determine what side we’re on, and hopefully provide some of the information you need to know to figure out what actions to take that would be helpful to shape our behaviors.
Well, now you know. And that is not half the battle.
You would be lying if you told me that you didn’t feel motivated to suddenly “get your life together”at midnight after watching an inspiring movie or show. And that you didn’t wish to emulate the effortlessly beautiful life the main characters in these stories have- how they are always the centre of attention, how their actions seem deliberate. You, on the other hand, always feel like you’re drifting along where the wind takes you, like a confused and tired bumblebee. More so right now, when life feels (a little more than usual) out of your control, and you’re struggling to make sense of the days and nights, and it feels like we’re living in an extended version of April 2020. So I’m going to tell you about something that has been helping me a lot these days- and that is immersing myself in an imaginary movie and acting as the main character of my own life.
It started as a tik-tok trend, where users put up songs that make them feel like they were in a 90s coming-of-age movie and it quickly spread to YouTubers who extended the format and tried to live like the main character for a day, a week and so on. It calls you to be aware of where you are- look for beauty in the mundane stuff. even if it is tough to do so, and cultivate a rich imagination.
Here’s how you can have a great day being the protagonist of your own life.
Wake up early, watch the sunrise, even if you slept late the night before. We all need to correct our body clocks anyway. Walk around barefoot.
Make a big bowl of creamy oatmeal topped with bananas and strawberry and honey and chia seeds. Sprinkle some cinnamon. Eat it by the window. Stream lo-fi in the background.
Chalk up a tiny to-do list on a small piece of paper and stick it to your laptop or your wall.
Have fun crossing off things – like folding the laundry, or organizing your kitchen cabinets.
Sit up nice and straight, preferably in a place with natural light, and be aware that the process of creating something is just as beautiful. The path is the goal. The process of taking notes for your next exam, the process of reading research papers for your thesis, the process of brainstorming ideas for your next creative project. Write on separate white sheets, with coloured or even glitter pens. Highlight. Put them neatly in a binder. Label the binder.
Colour code- find your work method.
Watch out for the golden hour.
Take pictures. Lots of them, if that’s your thing. Pictures of the sky, pictures of a plant, or your once-a-week clean desk.
Make a vision board on Pinterest. Visuals hold an unprecedented amount of power. Make use of them.
Treat yourself to a deliberate, 30-minute long skincare routine once a week.
Delete social media apps from your phone without a second thought. You don’t want to be stuck mindlessly scrolling down Instagram.
There’s something to learn from the vintage aesthetic. It was a more intentional and creative way of living. Read books you’ve already read. Here’s a great article about rereading – there’s a high chance that you’ll always find new insights in the same texts as you grow and mature. For me, with my terrible memory, I find great joy in the fact that I can remember certain paragraphs with uncanny accuracy ( while completely blanking over other parts).
Music is another great portal to get you in the zone- there are playlists on youtube and Spotify with the same name. I read somewhere that your alarm is the theme song of your life. I immediately switched my alarm to a song I might enjoy listening to first thing in the morning. Sometimes, I let it play when I wake up as long as it doesn’t disturb anyone else. I haven’t gotten to the point where I wake up and dance and twirl because I’m so happy- but maybe, I will do that someday.
You may not want to do any of these- and that’s perfectly okay. That is my idea of the main character in a 90s coming-of-age Hollywood movie, with an all-white cast and a token quirky black girl. Maybe I should have seen better movies. But the best part is that YOU create your main character. Let your imagination run wild. Yours doesn’t have to be as chirpy and bubbly. It could be more subdued and mysterious. The dark academia aesthetic might be more your thing. Set big goals for yourself. Learn a language or two. Or three, at the same time. It may be the most efficient method and it’s just great to revel in the fact that you might have access to the literature and cinema in your target language.
However, all of this isn’t going to change your life. It’s only going to create little pockets of joy in super busy days, when you’re working or, studying or just doing your thing and you remind yourself to romanticize the hell out of your own life. Everything you do is an event. This is not a call for you to do spectacular things, it is only to shift your perspective and make you more appreciative of what exists around you and the life you’ve created.
Do it for the aesthetic. Aesthetics are the only thing worth pursuing- and even it is pointless. It is part of the experience of beautiful objects, and as Immanuel Kant argues, that they should affect us as if they had a purpose, although no particular purpose can be found.