Thursday, July 12, 2007

Damn you, cave people

I read an article in Psychology Today* (as I was doing my daily 15 minute stationary bike exercise - yes, pedaling nowhere fast) about how humans are hardwired to be lazy. Well, not exactly. But back in the caveman and cavewoman day, the main goal at hand was to survive. So one was motivated to do things by hunger and thirst and the need to get out of dangerous situations. Once all that was taken care of, it was important to sit back and relax to conserve energy. Of course we haven't evolved that much - we're basically the same biologically and we have the same "evolutionary hardwiring" (um, whatever that means) as our cave people ancestors. So now that our survival is ensured (more or less), we can't deal with the contemporary world where we have long-term goals to worry about. We're still conserving energy because our survival needs are met. In contemporary world terms, it's called laziness and procrastination. (Are ambitious people who do stuff on time more evolved?)

Some of the solutions suggested to getting over our evolutionary 'handicaps' are not to freak out too much about long-term goals which require lots of little steps to accomplish and to just dive in, and to have daily to-do lists to stay focused on the long-term goal. Also, think about how accomplishing your long-term goal will enhance your life.

I'm writing about this because I have just made a major life decision (grad school: to go or to skip, I've chosen skip) and I can't help wondering how much this bears on my decision. Certainly grad school requires long-term planning, and not going doesn't threaten my survival, and it promises hard work. It's not what I based my decision on (dwindling interest is), but still.

* Psychology Today doesn't have this article online yet. Maybe next month.

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