Life is not one long Netflix series filled with life hacks and rom-coms. Your results are the shadow of your Inputs.
No matter how many books you read or resources you consume to find the most lit methods to improve your life, you’ll not always become better.
In a world where the supply is much higher than the demand, people have to find a way to get above the noise if they want to sell you something. Sellers promise outcomes and invoke a wide range of reasons for you to believe them. Attractive commercials are veils hiding the ugly truth.
You buy their programs and ebooks not because they will change your life for the better, you buy them to please a moment of insecurity and give you a false sense of accomplishment. You feel like you’ve taken action and are one step closer to your goals. But until you don’t know how to extract tangible metrics to measure your progress, It’s all distraction.
I’m not the holder of a miracle solution. You won’t find an easy fix here. Instead, I like to show you an improved framework to consume smarter.
You are what you do, not what you say you’ll do — C.G. Jung
Inputs - Thoughts
We can choose what to watch, read or listen to better than any other human being before. And that’s a good thing accompanied by unprecedented opportunities. It also means we have to be careful.
Environment is the invisible hand that shapes human behavior, as James Clear put it. So the first thing to do is to sanitize your entries.
For instance, If you want to be kind and happy people, maybe it would be great to have less violence, aggression, and negativity around you. The key is to take authority over what you consume.
Start with these questions when you finish an activity:
- How do I feel immediately after? one hour after? one day after?
- How much of my precious time I’ve been spending on this?
It allows you to quantify the cost of what you have just read, watched, or heard. If you don’t get any benefits despite the enormous amount of time you’ve spent on something, it’s probably not good for you.
The next step is to analyze the thoughts and ideas it gives you.
Thoughts - Mental Models
Every human you talk to. Every word you read. And every sound you hear enters your thought system and interacts with your beliefs and knowledge. They settle in a little corner of your head and will wait there to reemerge under the right circumstances.
The lattice of thoughts, as they are triggered again and again, is transformed into knowledge. Eventually, we use this knowledge to build a more accurate representation of the world around us. It helps us predict the outcomes of our actions and, in turn, make better decisions.
These simplified mental previews of the world are what we call mental models. They are representations of how things work, which helps us understand and predict the behavior of complex systems.
So, to sum up, Inputs turn into ideas and thoughts. And the more you’ll come across situations that trigger this idea and thought, the more likely it will become knowledge. Over time, this knowledge will fuel new or preexistent mental models that are pillars of your actions.
If you don’t see an input as toxic right after, try to identify the mental models this one feeds over time. See how they fit (or not) in your life philosophy. After that, you can judge if it’s a good use of your time.
Reasoning through the extreme is a great way to break through your mental models’ limitations.
Example: I’m not reading the news because it’s negative, and I don’t want to fill my head with that. This input might trigger the mental model that negative news is toxic and you should avoid them. But if you reason through the extreme, you might realize that avoiding all negative news is unrealistic and undesirable.
Instead, you could try to find a balance between positive and negative news, or diversify your sources.
Often, we don’t go so far as to question the merits of a model. We jump straight to real life and pay the price of our choices. It’s ok. It’s not too late set things right.
Mental Models - Practice
Your brain can’t stop churning out these predictive models. They set the pace for your daily life.
Behind your results, there are actions that are the products of these mental models. Now, to change your results, you need to change your actions. And to change your actions, you need to change your mental models, thoughts, and inputs.
To do so, two things. First, take full responsibility for what happens to you. It’s easy to externalize the cause of your problems to feel better. Unfortunately, It will only further entrench you in your victimhood mentality. As for wins, modesty deprives you of them. Simply embrace reality. In the end, you are a blend of excellence and mediocrity, not entirely either.
Secondly, step back and reflect. Whether you succeed or not, there are always lessons to be learned. Take a moment each week to find one from the previous seven days. It can be from work, your relationships, your health, or anything else. Just one thing.
Locate the causes of a given result. From there, it’s easier to trace back to mental models and measure the consequences of your actions. Finally, you can judge if a given input or type of input leads you to live a better life or if it’s another entertainment.