A Trail of Intentionality

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I began this post with the intention of talking about my new /now page on jimkarwisch.com, where I now list everything that my life is about at this moment. I did a quick hop over to google to find out more about the /now movement and how it started. This led me on a rabbit trail of fascinating information about intentionality and authenticity, which I will share with you now.

All of the relevant text is a part of this article so you won’t need to click the links to get the knowledge. This trail can be read from beginning to end here on this page. 

Hop 1 > the /now movement

What is a “now page”?

Most websites have a link that says “about”. It goes to a page that tells you something about the background of this person or business. For short, people just call it an “about page”.

Most websites have a link that says “contact”. It goes to a page that tells you how to contact this person or business. For short, people just call it a “contact page”.

So a website with a link that says “now” goes to a page that tells you what this person is focused on at this point in their life. For short, we call it a “now page”.

 

Hop 2 > Derek Sivers- Creator of /now

Derek Sivers

What I’m doing now

(This is a now page, and if you have your own site, you should make one, too.)

I’m home in New Zealand, being with my boy, teaching him to read. I was supposed to be in Tanzania for the past three weeks, but I missed him too much, so cancelled my entire trip, including TED. Fair trade.

I spent most of the last two weeks learning the C programming language — something I’ve wanted to do for years. Since all the other languages I know are based on C, it feels like learning Latin. Though I like how the great “21st Century C” book compares C to punk rock, and it’s tempting to try using it for my next few projects. (If you know other languages, but were always curious about C, try that book or “Beginning C, 5th edition”.)

I’m just starting to learn Portuguese, using Michel Thomas audio, and daily conversations booked with a native speaker through iTalki.

There are some other things I’m considering doing, but I’ll update this page when I do them.

This update was September 2nd, 2017.

Hop 3 > Don’t speak in future tense

The challenge: Don’t speak in future tense

When I lived in Los Angeles, I noticed they have a strange speaking pattern.

Everyone speaks in future tense. (Or, more specifically, present-tense inaction, future-tense action.)

“This guy from EMI is interested and going to be presenting it to the VP.”

“We’re in talks to do a pilot for the fall.”

“I’m getting ready to work on some new material with a hit writer.”

Of course these are the things some people have to tell themselves to be hopeful when facing another day of challenges.

But of course nothing materializes. You never hear it mentioned again, and you politely don’t ask. (Surprising circumstances always foiled the certain event.)

I felt like wearing a t-shirt that says, “TELL ME WHEN IT’S ACTUALLY HAPPENING.”

So now when I hear a future-tense sentence, my ears shut down. I’ll say “cool!” and hope it helps, but I don’t believe a word.

Try noticing this in yourself and others for a week. Are you speaking more in future tense or present tense? Are they?

Remember that announcing your plans makes them less likely to happen.

Hop 4 > Announcing your plans makes you less motivated to accomplish them

Shouldn’t you announce your goals, so friends can support you?

Isn’t it good networking to tell people about your upcoming projects?

Doesn’t the “law of attraction” mean you should state your intention, and visualize the goal as already yours?

Nope.

Tests done since 1933 show that people who talk about their intentions are less likely to make them happen.

Announcing your plans to others satisfies your self-identity just enough that you’re less motivated to do the hard work needed.

In 1933, W. Mahler found that if a person announced the solution to a problem, and was acknowledged by others, it was now in the brain as a “social reality”, even if the solution hadn’t actually been achieved.

NYU psychology professor Peter Gollwitzer has been studying this since his 1982 book “Symbolic Self-Completion” (pdf article here) — and recently published results of new tests in a research article, “When Intentions Go Public: Does Social Reality Widen the Intention-Behavior Gap?

Four different tests of 63 people found that those who kept their intentions private were more likely to achieve them than those who made them public and were acknowledged by others.

Once you’ve told people of your intentions, it gives you a “premature sense of completeness.”

You have “identity symbols” in your brain that make your self-image. Since both actions and talk create symbols in your brain, talking satisfies the brain enough that it “neglects the pursuit of further symbols.”

A related test found that success on one sub-goal (like eating healthy meals) reduced efforts on other important sub-goals (like going to the gym) for the same reason.

It may seem unnatural to keep your intentions and plans private, but try it. If you do tell a friend, make sure not to say it as a satisfaction (“I’m going to run a marathon!”), but as dissatisfaction (“I want to lose 20 pounds, so kick my ass if I don’t, OK?”)

Thanks to Wray Herbert’s article about this. Also please see this article for more clarification.

Hop 5 > Wray Herbert

I grew up on the Jersey shore, and besides loving all things that taste and smell of saltwater, I developed an early curiosity for life sciences. In fact, I was originally a pre-med major before my 60’s-style search for meaning and my love of all things bookish drew me into more literary pursuits. I loved school so much that I kept going until I could no longer afford it. Then, in the mid-70s, I moved to Washington, DC, to try my hand at journalism–which I’ve been doing ever since.

Passions, circumstances and opportunity intersected to shape my journalism career, but I have always had a strong focus on human behavior and health. I started out writing for the National Institute of Mental Health, where I was immersed in cutting-edge work on the brain and neuroscience. My subsequent jobs included: psychology editor at Science News; editor-in-chief of Psychology Today, health and science editor at US News & World Report; columnist for Newsweek, Scientific American Mind and, most recently, the Huffington Post. I now write two popular psychology blogs–“We’re Only Human” and “Full Frontal Psychology.” Each of these jobs has reinforced my belief that every story, whether it is about war, or love, or crime, or economics, is at its heart about human psychology–how each of us uses our brain and mind to interpret the world, make choices, and learn from our experience.

The area of cognitive psychology described in On Second Thought will continue to evolve as talented and curious psychologists study human behavior both inside and outside of the lab. Great literature, current events, pop culture and my own life experiences–all these provide lenses for examining human behavior both old and new. I hope you will join me in an ongoing discussion as I continue to blog about the science (on http://www.wrayherbert.com/), what it means (and doesn’t mean) and how you and I can use it in our lives every day.

I live and make decisions, choices and judgements, both good and bad, with my wife Susie and dog Zooey in Washington, DC.

Hop 6 > Association for Psychological Science

This page made me excited. A blog of psychology where every single previewed title piqued my interest:

IS TWITTER AN ECHO CHAMBER?
WHO ARE YOU? IDENTITY AND DEMENTIA
THE NEUROLOGY OF LENDING
I’M RICH. YOU MUST BE, TOO.

Hop 7 > Overclaimers

I grew up with a habitual overclaimer. He wildly exaggerated his expertise, at times claiming knowledge of things he couldn’t possibly know—people, events, ideas that simply do not exist. Being unfamiliar with overclaiming, I just called him a liar.

I couldn’t have known the word overclaimer, nor the concept. The word didn’t exist, and is only used today in the world of psychological science. Even so, we’re all familiar with these people who feel the need to overestimate what they know about the world. What underlies such assertions of impossible knowledge?

A team of researchers at Cornell University—Stav Atir, Emily Rosenzweig and David Dunning—have a theory about overclaiming, one they decided to test in a series of studies. They had the idea that people’s perceptions of their own knowledge of specific domains—biology, personal technology, sculpture—might play a role in overclaiming expertise in that domain. So for example, if I believe my understanding of biology is excellent, and you are a little shaky on the field, I will be more likely to claim knowledge about biology—even non-existent biological concepts.

The scientists decided to test this connection in the area of personal finance—a domain where a distorted sense of one’s expertise could lead to devastating results. They first asked about 100 men and women to rate their general knowledge of personal finance, and to compare themselves to the average American. Then they asked the subjects to rate their knowledge of specific terms related to personal finance. But here’s the rub: Only some of these terms were real—fixed-rate mortgage, home equity, and so forth. The others were non-existent terms invented by the scientists—pre-rated stocks, for example, or annualized credit.

The results were intriguing. The more that people viewed themselves as knowledgeable about personal finance, the more they claimed impossible knowledge of made-up concepts. This remained true whether the subjects were genuinely knowledgeable about finance or not.

The Cornell scientists ran several other versions of this same basic experiment, illuminating some nuances of overclaiming. In one, they showed that overclaiming is domain specific. That is, if I see myself as an expert on personal computers but not Renaissance art, I will only claim impossible knowledge in the area of personal computers. Interestingly, even warning subjects about the bogus concepts ahead of time did not diminish the effect. This suggests, importantly, that self-perceived knowledge prompts mistaken claims of impossible expertise—not dishonest claims.

The scientists also demonstrated a clear causal link between self-perceptions and overclaiming. They experimentally enhanced only some subjects’ self-perceived knowledge of North American geography, and then tested them on both real and made-up places. Those with overblown perceptions of their general knowledge of North America were much more likely to claim specific familiarity with non-existent places like Lake Othello, Wisconsin, and Cashmere, Oregon.

These findings, taken together and reported in a forthcoming issue of the journal Psychological Science, suggest that the seemingly straightforward task of assessing one’s knowledge may not be so straightforward after all. It seems that people do not simply consult a mental index that catalogues their knowledge. Instead, they draw on pre-existing self-perceptions to decide what they do—or should—understand about the world.

That’s it. You followed along with my rabbit trail. Now you are free to roam about the cabin.

 Photo by Gary Bendig on Unsplash

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