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I'm Going Slow
Amplifying the main idea from 'Your Theme' - a video by CGP Grey
In January 2020, Grey produced a video describing an alternative model for thinking about your new year’s resolutions. That video has been on my mind as I determine what my goals and action items are for this year, and so I thought it’d be worth amplifying here for your consideration. I’ll conclude by putting forth my chosen theme for 2022.
On to it —
According to Grey, that view of yours is worth about 1/8th of a cent so help a fellow creator out and give it to ‘em if you’re so inclined.
Grey outlines a hierarchy of layers to alter if you want to change your life’s trajectory:
Building life → Themes → Systems → Targets → Actions
Targets are what most people set during new years resolutions. Targets are the numbers that we set to track progress in a direction. This is where Grey thinks we’re going wrong, we aren’t establishing our direction firmly by setting goals downstream of our themes. By choosing a theme rather that a target, Grey suggests that you are setting up the mental model to instantiate a new life pattern as opposed to at best, accomplishing a target without altering your behavior upstream.
He gives an example of his own decision to embark on a year of novelty. Rather than setting a marker to do an arbitrary number of novel things, he explains that what theming the goal did for his mental modeling was make it so that every time he was presented with the opportunity to do the novel thing or the ordinary thing, he consciously choose the novel thing.
Over the course of a year, this helped to ingrain a pattern of behavior that would last past its January - December temporal scale.
Some other main ideas from the video:
‘The trend line matters more than the data points’
Themes are adaptable, whereas targets, ie - wanting to read 20 books or run 1000 miles - are not.
Themes should be broad, directional and resonant.
What Grey means by this last point is that chosen themes should be broad enough that they can be interpreted and adapted through the year, directional enough to promote positive change from your current state to your end state after a year of embodying that theme, and resonant in that the words chosen are ‘tuning forks for your brain’.
Going a little deeper on the idea of a theme being resonant, think about words that create an easy binary decision tree in your head when faced with a given choice matrix.
Year of Health = What’s the thing that would be better for my long term health here?
Year of Reading = Let me open up a book or article rather than a social media app.
Year of Joy = What’s the thing for me to do here that would bring me more joy?
Year of Slow
I want to do the impossible in this age of acceleration. I want to go a little slower.
2021 has been a year full of accomplishments and a full schedule for me most days. That said, it’s also been a blur. I mean that here with the full negative connotation. There’s so much going on at any given time, that I feel like my brain has been constantly inundated with stimuli and when it’s not, has developed a voracious craving for more.
I heard a quote from Terrance McKenna that asks something like: ‘Which feels longer, a million years where nothing happens or a single second where a million things are happening?’
When I heard this the first time, I thought it was profound. Now, I’ve actually come to disagree. My seconds where it seemed like a million things were happening didn’t feel longer. When stacked up back to back to back, they actually flew by far faster than I would have hoped. I know that if I don’t break the pattern now, they will only continue the current trajectory, going faster and faster and faster until I’ve got no time left.
So that’s why I’m theming 2022 as my year of slowness. Whenever I’m presented with the opportunity to either jump to the next task or sit in the present for a moment, I hope to choose the latter.
I will also give myself more time to do the things that I know I can finish faster. My hope here is that having the additional time to focus my attention in the present will allow me to apply a greater emphasis on quality in the work that I do. For the new ideas that I do explore, I will explore them deeper and take the time to develop an understanding that breaks past a conceptual framework and into the realm of applying those ideas to my own world.
I know the latter portion of this newsletter was more of a public proclamation for me to stick to over the next 12 months than an idea for you to apply, thanks for sticking with me there. Hopefully it inspires you to pick a similar theme that is both challenging and will orient you in a better direction.
Next week, I’m going to share The Vance Crowe Podcast’s top episodes of 2021, as voted by our audience.