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Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Reprogramming

I plan to spend most of 2017 reprogramming my life--as you might have noticed. The idea here is not that everything is bad. In fact, I really began this process long before now, but now I am doing it in a much more systematic and deliberate way.

Change is possible. We know this, because people make deliberate, freely chosen changes all the time.  They become vegetarians, convert to a religion or out of one, learn a language. Even in the absence of deliberation, change occurs naturally, with biological life events and gradual shifts. Angry people can become more mellow, or more angry. Change is also neither good nor bad in itself. In other words, it is a fallacy to think that change always tends toward making things worse.

I don't imagine a cat or a tree makes New Year's Resolutions. The capacity to institute deliberate change according to a plan seems uniquely human. It seems that we should be taking advantage of that.

I suppose change could be threatening even if positive, because there is a certain comfort in familiar things even if negative. The main obstacle is not really wanting to change in the first place. Someone wanting to learn a language (they say) but is not willing to commit to memory a few hundred verb forms, or practice pronunciation for hours at at time by reading the Quijote aloud.

Change in behavior can affect the brain, which is much more "plastic" than we used to think. I closed my eyes this morning and played through one of my compositions, without any hesitations. Surely my brain must have grown new connections for me to be able to do this.

Habits are powerful.  But even good habits are "habitual," in the sense that if you always hold the door open for people, then you don't have to make deliberate decisions at each opportunity. That is just what you do. In the same way, I don't think the vegetarians have to exercise great will power at the meat counter. After a while, they just aren't there in the first place.

At the beginning, I will have to be more deliberate and less habitual in my actions. So I will have to make conscious decisions about things that later on might become automatic. I'm sure I'll not be making forward progress at every moment, and will relapse into old, non-productive patterns.  Bring it on.

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