Most people in this world are pretty lazy. They complain, the argue, they think they are the shit, but when it comes to doing, they don’t do anything.
They know things need to change, but what do they do? Keep on doing the same shit. They never learn from their mistakes and even if things don’t work, they still keep doing them.
You might have heard about experiments that they have done with mice in a maze. A mouse is put in a maze and it needs to get out of it. However there are a few obstacles blocking its path.
The mouse runs around the maze and then gets blocked by an obstacle. It will then run around the maze again, taking the same path and get blocked again. It does this a few more times, but eventually learns that this is not the right way.
The mouse then takes a different path. Eventually it learns, finds a new path through the maze and gets out!
What about people? I sometimes feel that some are more stupid than a mouse. A person will run around in the maze, get blocked and then run using the same path again. And again, and again, and again…
Unlike mice, some people will never learn that in order to get out of the maze, they need to run a different path.
The maze is a metaphor I like to use when people keep on doing the same thing, and making the same mistake over and over again, never learning from it and never changing things up.
Luckily, one man has come up with one simple hack that will magically change this and help you to turn into a superhero, without any effort! Seriously, no effort required on your part. Guaranteed! You can trust me, I am a consultant.
Just kidding… 🙂
There is no simple hack, but I did recently come across a book “Breaking out of Homeostasis” by Ludvig Sunstrom that discusses this problem and gives some tips on how to break out of this pattern.
I am a fan of Ludvig’s blog, probably mostly because I get massive amounts of confirmation bias from it. Yeah, I know. I preach against falling for cognitive biases and I do it myself. So sue me! 😛 😛 😛
Ludvig managed to put all his thoughts together and come out with this book. Before I go into my thoughts about the book, let’s define what he means by the phrase “breaking out of homeostasis”:
Homeostasis in biology terms is your body’s process of maintaining stability and equilibrium, a steady state. This usually refers to the body’s internal processes like the body temperature, PH levels, and different types of metabolic processes.
However, this term has also been expanded to mean psychological homeostasis and this is the meaning that Ludvig is working with.
Homeostasis is basically having a shitty routine and sticking to it. It can also be not having a routine, but doing random things without thinking of the actual purpose of doing them.
To quote Ludvig:
“It’s the person whose life is deﬁned by their unwillingness to think and exert effort.”
Ludvig makes two categories of people:
1) Homeostasis Dwellers
2) Homeostasis Breakers
Homestasis Dwellers are the guys that just pass through life, going through the motions, never really striving for anything. Sometimes they are even proud of being lazy and self-centered:
“Homeostasis Dwellers are proud of being ignorant, lazy, or self-indulgent.”
This is the majority of the people in this world. The majority of the people will never read this book. And even most of the people who do read it will never take action.
The main reason in my opinion is that they don’t want to change. If that’s you, stop reading this and just go back to sitting for hours trying to take the perfect selfie!
Then post it on Facebook and watch the Likes roll in! So much easier to seek external validation through instant gratification! Fuck intrinsic motivation…
However if you are a guy who does want to change, then Ludvig’s book gives some tips on how to do that. Of course different people will get different things out of reading the book, depending on their motivations and status in life.
I think I am a Homeostasis Breaker, or at least striving to be. For people like me, I think I am already implementing many of the things, so the most valuable part of the book was crystallizing some thoughts that I already had brewing in my head.
So this isn’t a traditional book review, but instead a sort of think-along, a summary of some of the thoughts that I had while reading Ludvig’s book.
The success of any book is dependent on whether people take action on it, and whether it sparks new ideas in its readers. Here I am firing the first salvos.
Are you a Homeostasis Breaker? If not, do you want to be?
A Renaissance Man by definition is a Homeostasis Breaker. They are not satisfied with the status quo, but instead want to break free of the chains that are holding them down.
What does this require? Knowledge and discipline.
The word “discipline” is the key here. Most people don’t have it and never will.
To once again quote Ludvig’s definition of homeostasis:
“Homeostasis is the ancient biological force that causes us to conserve energy, resist change and seek pleasure. It is the reason we want to prolong our emotional state (and why we don’t want to get up in the morning).”
You see, this is all about self-discipline or the lack of it. This is the primary driver of success.
The second chapter of Ludvig’s book has a very telling title:
“Pushing Through the Plateau, The 3 Types of Pain-Tolerance, and Building Character by Becoming Comfortable with the Uncomfortable.”
“The reason most people fail (at anything and everything) is because they quit as soon as it feels uncomfortable. Winners push past that.”
This made me think of some of the things that I have been doing in order to acquire self-discipline. The key to all this is the ability to withstand pain. How do I do that?
By going to Thailand to train martial arts, and especially climbing mountains like Mt. Kilimanjaro, Mt. Blanc, as well as different mountains in the Alps and other places.
These in my opinion are the best ways to train yourself to tolerate pain and to push through. This then helps you to build self-discipline, as well as gives you a great sense of accomplishment.
As Ludvig says, the key here is knowing about plateaus and how to break through them:
“Because I didn’t know about homeostasis and the nature of plateaus, I’d quit the moment I lost motivation. I was a weakling who would give up at the slightest hint of boredom, discomfort, pain, or cognitive dissonance.”
This quote reminded me of my own struggles and quitting whenever the going got tough. I think this is one of the most important points that you need to learn: not to quit.
Back in ancient times, most of the philosophies of life were based on the assumption that life is hard and you need to work for things. This is a message that is often lost in the hack-obsessed, self-gratification seeking modern world.
In today’s world, everyone wants to have everything fast and without having to make an effort for it. When they don’t get it, they quit.
What do you need to do to get rid of this weak mental state? You need to work on metacognition.
When Ludvig was describing the three evil minions of homeostasis (cognive biases, coping mechanisms, and evolutionary mismatches), I started thinking that maybe homeostasis is a cognitive bias in itself?
Maybe there is a homeostasis effect, just like there are tons of other effects. In many ways this effect behaves similarly to the status quo bias.
Homeostasis effect – keeping things the same, while having a preference for change.
As opposed to status quo bias – keeping things the same, while having a preference for keeping things the same.
According to the classification in my Cognitive Biases Framework, the homeostasis effect would belong in the status quo category of biases. Why?
Because even while having a preference for change, the people falling for this bias do not want to put out an effort to change. The hassle of the effort is not worth the potential change for them (sometimes they justify this in various ways).
Also in general, keeping homeostasis is the beneficial and risk-averse strategy. You don’t want your core body temperature rising suddenly or your breathing becoming erratic.
No, you want a steady and predictable pattern. That’s why homeostasis is so hard to get rid of, including the psychological type.
What you need to do here is to rewire your brain’s reward system and get rid of bad habits.
In the book, Ludvig mentions how he did that. He used to be a lazy guy who played video games all day and had stomach problems, but at one point enough was enough and he decided to change: to break out of his own homeostasis.
Just following the journey of a guy like Ludvig can have beneficial effects for many people. They will realize that if he can do it, why not them? Personal examples always serve as the best sources of inspiration and the book is filled with them.
Overcome your fears
The most important part of the book for me in terms of lessons was the section on overcoming your fears.
This is one of the obstacles that I have when I want to connect with change-makers. In my explorations of successful ideas, I have discovered that the crucial part for an idea to spread is not coming up with the idea, but instead its marketing.
For example, James Hutton came up with the revolutionary idea on deep time and rewrote the first principles of geology. However he was not very successful in persuading others about the correctness of this. He was really bad at marketing.
Luckily, when he was alive, he had gathered together a network of influential people, some of whom were good “sellers”. After his death, they succeeded in promoting his work.
Personally, this is the part I have always struggled with. I am good at research, coming out with ideas, bringing together ideas from different corners, but I am not good at convincing other people.
I am bad at connecting with people, probably stemming from my introverted nature and focus on coming up with the ideas themselves.
Ludvig on the other hand, is very good at connecting with change-makers and influencers. I think this is his core competence and something that he excels at above others.
There is one Jedi mind trick that Ludvig teaches that can help you in getting to his level.
No Jedi mind tricks here. Just some advice.
In the chapter titled “Amygdala Slavery”, there is a discussion on fears, more particularly social fears. This has always been my biggest stumbling block.
What’s the secret? Don’t give a fuck.
“After about one or two months I noticed that the people who were doing well, and selling more newspaper subscriptions than the rest of us, weren’t successful so much because they did this or that thing; they were successful because they didn’t care.”
This chapter was for me the most pertinent, since it addressed my biggest obstacle, one that I am really struggling to overcome.
I just wish that the book had gone a bit more into this, and also addressed more of Ludvig’s strength and that is his amazing ability to get influencers to support him and spend time with him.
When shit hits the fan
That said, the most important thing is taking action. You can read as many smart books as you want, but if you don’t take action on them, they will be of little benefit.
What you need to do is come up with a system that will help you to break out of homeostasis. This system needs to reflect your own personal circumstances.
Mix and match. Apply some of Ludvig’s stuff, mix in some of my stuff, go back to the Ancients and add in some of their ideas.
Ludvig’s book contains a lot of messages that you can use in order to break out of homeostasis. He spent great amounts of time researching this topic and the book summarizes his ideas very well.
If you are a lazy Homeostasis Dweller, it can help you with some of your sticking points and get you over the hump. If you are a Homeostasis Breaker (like me), there are always a few golden nuggets that you can pick out to enhance your own personal system with.