Pavlov Says Jump

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Next week we’ll be into March. That means a whopping 17% of the year is now history and I didn’t even notice it passing. This is completely contrary to my grand plan to turn off auto-pilot and engage with life on a daily basis. I want to be conscious of the beauty of life that is everywhere, conscious of how I devote my thoughts and time, and to look at people I pass in the street like they hold a greater value than mere stranger.

I’m good at planning – it is one of my strengths and one of life’s joys. There’s not a lot that gets me more excited than a new plan which joy sadly is not shared in our household. Clearly though execution is still a problem or is there something else I can legitimately blame for having failed to put the grand plan into place with March on approach?

I think so, and his name is Pavlov and he had some dogs. Pavlov trained his dogs to salivate every time he rang a bell. The bell meant food. And while most psychologists would suggest this same type of conditioning in humans would be akin to hypnotism, I would argue that this means a lot of us do therefore spend every day in a hypnotic state.

During a ‘normal’ day, we are unaware of our conditioned responses to every stimulus. For example, the alarm clock in the morning sets off a series of rituals that then continue with different stimuli throughout the day. Most workers don’t have lunch when they are hungry but when the clock tells them it is the designated lunch hour and time to eat. They will however most likely be hungry at this time because of conditioning – at that time there will be food, just like Pavlov’s dogs. Employers may as well just ring a bell.

Not only are we unaware of what we’re doing during the day, most likely we’re thinking of something entirely unrelated while undertaking the actions – sounds like a hypnotic state. The series of rituals we develop for our day aim to generate the most reward and that reward is to make the day run as smoothly as possible eg the setting of an alarm clock for a particular time. It is however all subject to spanners in the works which cause turmoil because we are not conditioned to their presence nor conditioned for the response.

So, the reason I have not yet implemented my grand plan for 2014 is because I am conditioned to live unconsciously even when I desire to live consciously. It’s not my fault at all. It’s 1:30pm. Time for lunch.

Contact Leigh at:

Website: http://www.leighkcunningham.com

Email: leigh @ leighkcunningham.com

Twitter: @leighcunningham

Facebook: Leigh K Cunningham

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One response »

  1. Leigh, I just now found out about this post from Goodreads. I agree we all have a tendency to go through life as if we were Pavlov’s dogs. Then sometimes we aren’t. Yesterday evening David and I watched the first installment, Richard II, of the BBC’s 2012 series The Hollow Crown, its title for Shakespeare’s tetralogy including Richard II, Henry IV, parts 1 and 2, and Henry V. And this evening we viewed Henry IV, part 1. I’d forgotten how wonderful these plays are. And the BBC, as usual, does them so damned well. The next two evenings we’ll treat ourselves to Henry IV, part 2, and Henry V. And, for a while at least, we’ll no longer be Pavlov’s dogs!

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