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How Neuroscience Backed Up A Mother’s Solution
A mother coming to the rescue and neuroscience helping the reasoning. Who would’ve thought mother dear knew the Elon Way?
Zedites, 48 hours to the weekend!
This one’s about neuroscience helping the lazy.
A Story For You
Let’s sit around a bonfire and call upon Mnemosyne to take you back to the moment you were first put on the spot. Want to go over some scenarios? Practicing your lines as you muster up the courage to talk to your crush only to find them behind you, maybe? Mistaking the CEO as a regular shmegular person, on your first day as an intern? Deciding to wing one of the important meetings, only to deliver one of the worst impromptu speeches to ever exist, perhaps?
Well, my memory’s clear as day. It was in math class at school, when one of the teachers tried to embarrass me. “Do you know how to solve this equation?” She asked, eyes fixated. “Yes,” I smirked, picking up the chalk and solving it, for the entire class to gawk at what they just witnessed.
“If you knew how to do it, then why is your homework incomplete?”
The smirk had faded. My mind replaced triumph with retrospect as I thought about that for a second and returned to my seat. If I really did know how to solve that problem, and pride myself over it, why wasn’t I getting the work done?
It was baffling. There were endless thoughts in my mind thinking about how I had endless thoughts in my mind. They were like customers at a food truck, just pouring in, one after another. I would start another task without having completed what I was already doing. My WIPs were soaring! What ticked me the most was when I revisited a task, I completed it and then scoffed at it! “Ahh, that was too easy!” If it was easy, why didn’t I get it done before???
I had to give it to myself though, I did exceedingly well when I was put under pressure - when I was ‘put on the spot’. I’d effortlessly complete any work given to me, provided I had someone to nag me. The more it happened, the lazier I got.
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Tremendous potential could have gone down the drain had I wasted time and gotten used to being audited from time to time. Thankfully, the realization was earlier than doomsday. I didn’t want to slack, didn’t want to depend on follow-ups, didn’t want to be under pressure to get work done and so, sought to make a change. And sometimes, it’s that easy to make a change (it’s also because I was young, nothing is set in stone where you’re young).
I didn’t have this website back then, but I eventually figured out what student syndrome was. The need for pressure to submit your work. It was appalling how many were going through the same issue! It was a common problem with 0 solutions.
“Where in the world do I find a solution now?”
The reliance on the internet has led to giving up on your research if you haven’t found a solution to your problem (it’s true, I’ve heard a lot of people saying - if it’s not on the internet, it doesn’t exist). And I almost did give up. It seemed like a dead end. The only solution they cared to mention was - get work done. Bravo! I HADN’T THOUGHT OF THAT. My problem revolved around the ‘How?’
My mother has an efficient, long-ranged and damn near perfect stress radar. She was the first to almost immediately notice the behavioral change. She’d often come and ask me what was happening and I’d never tell her. One day, she just walked into my room and kept a new empty book on my table.
“Here, write everything here. And I mean, everything.”
She didn’t know what the problem was, but I wouldn’t argue with her because she had (still has), a gift of always being right. I squinted my eyes at that empty book, not knowing what to write. After a few more minutes of procrastination, I opened up the first page and wrote an equation from the math textbook. On the top right corner, I gave myself 5 minutes to solve the equation. Minute 4, I picked up the pencil and solved it.
I did that again, this time, with 4 minutes on the clock. Minute 3:01 is when I picked up the pencil this time. I kept reducing the time until I reached a minute. I solved that equation in 30 seconds each time.
I put the pencil down and sat there in silence. The problem was me. I needed to be my own teacher. I needed to audit myself. And I needed to remember the deadline. If I can set my own deadlines, I’d better set them right. If I gave myself 5 minutes, I took 5 minutes to complete the task. If I gave myself a minute, I’d complete it in a minute. That was the reality of life. Even Elon does it.
“Stop being patient and start asking yourself, how do I accomplish my 10-year plan in 6 months? You will probably fail but you will be a lot further ahead of the person who simply accepted it was going to take 10 years.”
The only thing I did differently, was accept that I have student syndrome and more importantly, challenge it. I had to. After a point, there wouldn’t be people around, looking over my shoulder, telling me what to do. Accountability was key and that empty new book was now my guide. I confided in it and told it everything. I penned down my daily schedule, ticked off the tasks that had to be completed and wrote down extra thoughts that my brain couldn’t contain.
Neuroscience backs me and my mom on this one too!
Turns out that vividly describing your goals in written form is strongly associated with goal success, and people who very vividly describe or picture their goals are anywhere from 1.2 to 1.4 times more likely to successfully accomplish their goals than people who don’t. That’s a pretty big difference in goal achievement just from writing your goals on a piece of paper. (Credits: Forbes)
But why and how does this help? It actually does two things: storing and encoding.
Well, storing is easy to explain. You’re essentially storing the information, i.e. your goal, in an external place (a piece of paper). This piece of paper is easy to access and you could take it to your office, put it in your fridge, or maybe keep it in your pocket as a reminder! It’s always there for you to look at instead of it getting tangled with other thoughts that constantly run in your mind.
But there’s another deeper phenomenon happening: encoding. Encoding is the biological process by which the things we perceive travel to our brain’s hippocampus where they’re analyzed. From there, decisions are made about what gets stored in our long-term memory and, in turn, what gets discarded. Writing improves that encoding process. In other words, when you write it down it has a much greater chance of being remembered.
Neuropsychologists have identified the “generation effect” which basically says individuals demonstrate better memory for material they’ve generated themselves than for material they’ve merely read. It’s a nice edge to have and, when you write down your goal, you get to access the “generation effect” twice: first, when you generate the goal (create a picture in your mind), and second, when you write it down because you’re essentially reprocessing or regenerating that image. You have to rethink your mental picture, put it on the paper, place objects, scale them, think about their spatial relations, draw facial expressions, etc. There’s a lot of cognitive processing taking place right there. In essence, you get a double whammy that really sears the goal into your brain. (Credit: Forbes)
Read the article yourself, it just might help you! Here you go.
As time passed by, this helped me immensely. I had official records I could circle back to that helped me track my progress! Slowly and steadily, I started to become my own teacher. I’d assign deadlines to myself, and get things done. Why would I get them done? Because it was written in my diary. The moment you put your thoughts onto paper, things get serious.
It took me around 3 months to completely turn things around. It sounds like ages but the moment you’re in rhythm, time flies. No matter how small this hack was, it helped me change my life and organise things around me.
A Story From You
Yup, so that’s my story. And because I’ve read online that many people still suffer from student syndrome, you’re not too far away from the problem I’ve just stated (not everyone has it, but there’s a good chance of an increase in student syndrome after COVID-19).
Which brings me to my next question. What are some life hacks that have helped you grow? Something you can’t do without anymore?