Premature What?

by | Aug 7, 2019 | Blog | 0 comments

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One of the great perks of doing research for As We Get Older is that I sometimes come across some scientific type jargon that just seems to tickle my funny bone. I recently came across one as I was reading Mindfulness by Ellen Langer. In Chapter 3 The Roots of Mindlessness (the other side of the mindfulness coin) she talks about how we get fixed on a way of thinking or how we use a piece of information right from the get-go and never let it go because we never really think about the validity of the thing. So, if you form a mindset before you really reflect on it or think it through, you may end up with a problem called “premature cognitive commitment.” Just has a certain ring to it to me.

Now, as a guy, I don’t like being associated with being premature about, well, anything I guess. But Ellen gives an example of this in one of the earliest little limericks we all seem to know – “sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” We learned that one as children and it has unconsciously screwed with us ever since. Glad it was not the example I was worried about.

She goes on to describe the consequences of this and other premature cognitive commitments and I will leave it to you if you want to read the book to get the whole explanation. The short version is, we are not a mind separate from the body. It’s all one thing. A bit like we had space and time and now we have space-time. Mind and body are intimately connected.
Another set of common premature cognitive commitments (PCCs for short) are the ones around aging. These can really mess with our health as we get older. It looks like you can actually put yourself in the grave early with PCCs that are just plain wrong. And here’s another bit of bad news – we form a mental picture and base actions, beliefs, and decisions on hundreds of small (and usually unconscious) PCCs.

Some of the PCCs around aging are usually about the negative and detrimental effects of time on the mind and body. Western cultures seem to have a lot of PCCs that age and deterioration are connected. If we unconsciously draw on our fixed mindsets from the past we are doomed to live shorter lives. If we can open our minds to options and find new ways to think, we can live longer and more productive lives than we ever thought possible.

So, now you might be saying “Well shit! How the hell am I ever going to get a grip on these little bastards?”

Mindfulness helps. Here is something you might try. I find a little free time and a quiet spot to ask myself these questions (and write down the answers):

  1. What is the core question or problem I am dealing with?
  2. What do I think I know about this?
  3. What assumptions, PCCs, or fixed mindsets from my past might I be at work here?
  4. What do I really know about this?
  5. What information am I missing?

This can help get you started on a fresh approach. See where it leads you. Keep searching out of the norm, out of the box, out of your normal old mind. This has worked for me and I hope it will do the same for you.

I will be doing a review of Mindfulness (the 25th anniversary edition) by Ellen Langer in a couple of weeks. You can check it out on Amazon here if you like. It’s an excellent read.


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