Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Scatter Brained Thoughts

I've been both lazy and productive at the same time. That funk I recently got over regarding my loneliness has not only made me examine my own failings in that area, but also in other realms where I realized I was being too stubborn to examine a folly. The result of such has been making me depart from my normal routines such as journal writing and tackling my to-do lists in favor of being a little more spontaneous and doing things out of apartment, which I think has been beneficial in realizing what would be a more healthful lifestyle to live. I should get back on schedule soon, but I still need to make some changes.

One minor/major thing I've noticed is how counter-productive it is for me to actually be in my apartment. I keep telling myself it would be most productive to remain near my PC where I can type rapidly, access vast information, and have my well-groomed to-do lists, but in fighting my stubbornness I've come to terms that reality doesn't support that conclusion. The recreational connotation and idle routines I've established in this location has made this place, at least temporarily, an environment that encourages bad habits, so I've been trying to get out more often to see if different locations might actually motivate me to behave better. (For those that remember, I once did a "sensory enrichment" experiment.)

I'd say the evidence is positive. When I tried doing some constructive reading at the bookstore, for instance, I noticed that I had a more serious mindset about the task at hand and was able to stick with it. I had already trained myself to tune out other distractions such as other people walking by or the music playing (with ear plugs), so they weren't a problem. Reflecting on the past, even having my Kindle Fire with me to surf the internet didn't even distract me at other times. When I took it with me it was to complete certain online tasks, and I stuck to that goal.

I can see now why some people suggest during the setup of a workspace to only use that space for work. Locations have emotional connotations, so entering a specific area can encourage a particular mindset in response, so if bad habits and play are the norm in the particular environment such as my apartment, then I can see why I tend to fall prey to those wasteful activities such as surfing the internet. The bookstore, however, emanates things of the mind to me, books to be browsed for stimulation or to be hunkered down with in a seat, so when I go there it's easier to work. I need to make my to-do portable and uproot more often. Ultimately, I think it would be a massive help in molding me in the person I want to become, since I wouldn't be so set back by temptations. Additionally, uprooting more often would help make my apartment a more viable study space in the future, as habituating going to the bookstore more often would help break bad habits here at home, thus helping me create better habits later on.

Anyhow, enough blah blah. I've been abstaining from my writing for so long that I feel I must semi-plagiarize Thomas Sowell's "Thoughts on the Passing Scene" and Gus Van Horn's "[Day of the week] Hodge Podge" since the thoughts are stockpiling to the point that I don't want to dedicate separate articles, so here's some scatter brained thoughts:

Pay Attention

Joe Dispenza's book turned out to be pretty boring -- I think I might like his other one better -- because previous reading has already satisfied me in all that I want to know in neurology, so from here I'm just looking for practical advice.

However, the one valuable piece of help I've derived from this book is how tremendously important it is to pay attention (i.e. concentrate) in order to initiate a desirable change in the brain's neurological make-up. Without scrupulous attention, the right neurological networks aren't going to be stimulated as intensely or not at all, and that in effect is going to prevent a rewiring process or the growth of new neurons.

I know it doesn't seem like much, but it's made me realize just how much I've underestimated concentration. I've noticed now just how little effort I invest in my attention during practices to change myself, which consequently has probably made me sacrifice a lot of progress.

To use a minor example, take mincing shallots. Last week at work the chef taught me how to mince shallots and let me cut a few. However, I allowed myself to be very distracted in the process. I didn't do well because I was so inexperienced of course, but now I have to think how much experience did I lose out on by not concentrating intensively. Doing it for the first time should have at least elevated me from rung one to rung two on the ladder of developing a skill, but could my willful distractedness have kept me perched on rung one?

Come to think of it, how much value and skill-honing am I sacrificing in other areas by not paying attention? Maybe that's why I've been so embarrassed of my writing skills as of late, which is way other par for what I used to accomplish. Nowadays while writing a blog piece I allow myself to be way too distracted, by doing such things as randomly walking away from the keyboard, switching internet tabs, and so on. Perhaps that's why I misspell, force poor sentences out, and generally complete what is to appearance and in nature poor pieces.

I need to immerse myself in my activities more often if I want to improve myself. I need to learn to fixate with laser precision that which I am cutting, lose track of time while writing, and not be tempted at all to look at a clock while reading. I understand now how incredibly value a little thing such as the ability to concentrate is, and am going to be far more diligent in incorporating in my daily life.

It's simple to ascertain the instructions to improvement, though a little hard. All I need to do is pay attention. My ability to do so will of course be sloppy and not all that great at first, but with practice, such as by saying "be here now!" when I notice I'm distracted, the skill will naturally develop and carry over into other endeavors. Hopefully this will make me far more able at reaching my ideals now.

Attention, Rehearsal, and Mnemonics? 

I know the value of attention, but could mental rehearsal and mnemonics also be a mass benefit I'm forgoing? I'm starting to think of this as possibly a few *fundamental* mental techniques I should be practicing.

From other neurology reading I've learned that by imaging the practice of a particular skill will actually fire up the particular set of neurons that's involved in performing that skill. Practice on a neurological level initiates changes and growth, so perhaps using mental rehearsal is a very practical way to develop certain skills when you're in a situation where you can't do physical practice. In the experiments I've read about people have been able to learn musical pieces without playing the piano (by visualizing themselves playing the piece over and over for extended periods), and another person was able to make his finger stronger by visualizing lifting a weight with it.

The value of this is limited, but perhaps very useful. One thing I've anguished at in my culinary thinking is how the finitude of ingredients limit how much knife practice I can get it. With my finances, there's only so many mushrooms to cut, onions to chop, chickens to separate, and so on, so how fast I can really develop myself facing this limit? With mental rehearsal, perhaps faster than I think.

Maybe it would be of great value to me to practice a semi-meditative practice where I sit or lay down (with my eyes open) and try to visualize as vividly as possible myself performing those feats of dexterity. I may only buy and dissect one chicken at a time, but I can do several dozen in my head. This, I think, could be key to developing knife skills at a faster pace than practice alone would accomplish, given that money in the bank is affords only so much. Of course, actual physical practice is far superior and necessary to experience, but adopting mental rehearsal as a supplement can't hurt.

Furthermore, I've also been getting really enthused by mnemonics as of late by reading about them in Moonwalking with Einstein. In addition to paying stronger attention and doing mental rehearsal, perhaps mnemonics is also another thing I might find of value to train myself in. The better I get at it, the faster I can gather and retain information, and the faster I can memorize it the faster I can think about it and rearrange elements, which would surely be helpful in culinary endeavors. Hmm, I think I'll start setting up some practice goals, such as learning the entire menu and stock of the restaurant I work at, as a start.

But I need to stop somewhere. There I go again: Gathering more goals than I can possibly pursue. The key is to tackle them a little at a time, and only worry about stopping certain practices once they become second-nature and can be maintained by proper lifestyle changes, so that my mere way of living keeps my skills up without my having to take time out to hone them.

Do I Really Want to Open a Restaurant?

I've been thinking about my career goals again. Oddly, I've been second-guessing whether I actually do want to open a restaurant of my own one day. No, I'm not doubting the entirety of my involvement in food . . . I DO know that I want my career to be food-based and culinary-related . . . I'm just not sure where I want to take it.

Strangely, the seed of doubt has been planted by a desire to go swimming lately. The desire for water has been making me visualize beach fronts and beautiful oceans, and when I made the connection that I was pondering the subject of nature I began visualizing other beautiful landmarks, such as a pine forest or looking up at a starry sky from a barren field. I've always valued an untouched environment to an extent, beautiful trees and all that. It all started when my walking habit began: At my old neighborhood in Michigan I loved the trees at the very back, and I also once lived near a nature park which I visited with extreme regularity.

Why this makes me doubt my restaurant aspirations is because I realize opening a restaurant would more or less tie me to a physical location. One can't go travel out and about crazy-like when you've got a restaurant to run, you know? My desire to go swimming is not only related to a desire to visit some sort of tropical, aquatic location, but also to a larger desire to take in beautiful scenery on a much wider scale. Would I, perhaps, find a happier life in traveling around and examining the various natural foods the environment has to offer in different locations and writing books about them? Or do I simply want to go swimming in some pretty water?

It's hard to think out one's precise career direction, where one truly wants to go. I don't know what I do, but given that I actually live life my mind should come upon it sooner or later. I've noticed that the right course to take tends to unveil itself before me when I'm authentically chasing after my values: Sooner or later I come across a values that really resonates with me and says a lot about who I am as a person. 

For instance, I pretty much just stumbled upon the culinary profession as my chosen career line. An intellectual friend had been talking about her new "Paleo" diet and recommended some resources upon it. Being open to new information, I read the suggested book and became persuaded that an alternative nutritional lifestyle was more practical. I would go "Paleo."

I expected nothing of it except maybe some added years to my life, but to my shock my excess weight began melting off; my skin, teeth, and eyes improved incredibly; and I felt fantastic. Suddenly I began thinking about food continuously, not as a glutton, but as someone very deeply interested in it. I wanted to try all sorts of new flavors and things I haven't tasted, and dug up recipes and relished exploring the farmers market. Bingo! Randomly one day I realized that all these new interests meant the culinary field would be a fitting profession for me. It's been about three years since the decision, and I've been moving forward since then.

Just by selecting a random self-improvement goal -- altering my nutritional lifestyle -- I came upon a vast conclusion, what I want to dedicate myself to professionally. So I think that if I continue living my life in pursuit of values, sooner or later I'll come across that value that will really tell me something about myself, and alert me as to which direction I want to go.

A New Year's Resolution Redefined

One of my 2012 resolutions is to become more inspirational as a person. I've rethought it, and think it's better to redefine it as becoming a more uplifting leader. In other words, becoming a person who is a stronger influence upon others in a positive, uplifting manner.

The world is collapsing around us -- it doesn't have to necessarily, of course -- so the topic of how to become an effective advocate for better ideas often enters my mind. There's many little things I could say -- maybe I'll write them eventually -- but for now I want to say that redefining my new year's resolution in this realm should be helpful in redirecting my focus. Being "inspirational" is far too broad; how to be uplifting and how to be an effective leader is much easier to bring to a concrete level. By thinking in this vein I should be able to deduce more tangible practices.

In short, I want to make this type of change to myself because I don't want to let the world go. Happiness is possible, and I, you, and everyone has got to do something to encourage a culture more hospitable to it, otherwise the possibility will vanish.

* * * * *

That's it for now.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Ah! So you want to comment? Good!

My only rule: Use common sense manners.