Self limiting conscious or unconscious

So what does this mean to us and what relevance does this have in our daily work place and lives in general. The hidden constraints we all have are not often apparent to us; only when we stop and contemplate our actions and move away from our usual reactive state do we find some insight or realise that we often and typically impose constraints on our behaviour, actions, work, others and even our own metal state.

Think about it, when we do something we behave and work within a particular set of rules, these rules are either given to us by our peers or “betters” or we develop our own rules. The irony is that even when we supposedly develop our own rule for what ever the task at hand is, we often only modify the pre-existing rules of others. There is nothing wrong with this but to be aware of it is rather important if you seem to be at an impasse. Consider learning a new skill like archery or programming; we as adults bring many things to the table developed eye hand co-ordination etc and experience, a young adult or even child brings less to the table from this point of view yet they bring inexperience by the bucket load. Now the paradox of this is the child will jump in and explore every facet of the task from every direction that springs to their mind, while the adult burdened by previous experiences and possibly bad ones will slowly and safely explore the task. Have you every wondered why your children are better at certain games or tasks than you? It’s because we as adults often bring hidden constraints (baggage) to the table. When I was learning archery amongst a group of others including young adults and children I had the realisation that adults impose limits on how good they can be from the very beginning. Adults tend to say things like “I’m not very good at this” or “It’s my first try” all very I’m going to suck at this but be nice attitudes. While the more childish in the group just focus solely on the task at hand and bring no preconceived ideas about how good they will be, if any thing they would say “I can do that”. Using the example of archery the other thing adults tend to do is something quite amusing to statisticians. We tend to think if I got a bullseye then the next bullseye some how becomes less likely, somehow the previous event effects the next. To some degree with archery but conversely you could say that because you got a bullseye the next one should be easier because you already got one. You’ve done it before you can do it again, attitude. The child would see this as it should be easier to repeat, while most adults will see this as pressure and stress.

So what does this mean? Adults tend to place barriers while children do not, the barriers may be beneficial even life saving but they can also be hindering or even counter productive. Regardless to be aware of these self imposed limits is a good thing and when something is not working as it should be then reflection upon the possible ways you or others have limited the process or task may be beneficial.

Observation, Awareness, Reflection and Contemplation

One thought on “Self limiting conscious or unconscious

  1. Steve,

    The article is thought-provoking, thanks for writing it. If you’re inviting two cents’ worth, I’d offer that following established rules is a great thing for dangerous things (driving a car) or for highly honed skills (brain surgery)–its simply a matter that established processes exist for a reason: most permutations would result in catastrophe. The stakes are too high.

    For other things where the set of successful outcomes are not bounded, exploration is amazing: art, relationships, languages, science.

    I’ll concede that even for hard core technical things, once someone understands the rules, then this is a great stepping off point for exploration and innovation. Examples I can think of are thorium power or the music of Frank Zappa.

    There’s probably a bias in observing the freedom of children to explore as a suggestion that random approaches to development are good. For coding, this would be frowned upon–unless you’re shepherding the development of genetic algorithms.

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