The Thursday Thesis - 03/10/2019
As a spotty teenage guitar wannabe, all I knew about feedback was that it was a hideous, high-pitched scream emanating from my Marshall amplifier when I had the volume cranked and I was too close to the speakers.
These days, my amps are smaller, my guitar playing slightly less bad, and electronic feedback much less common.
But feedback is the bread-and-butter of daily life – it’s how our bodies respond to our environment without us even thinking about it, and how we decide upon which behaviours to adopt, continue or abandon.
In fact, feedback is the core of human behaviour: look at any behaviour pattern and feedback will be present, one way or another. From our eating habits to our exercise patterns, sexual proclivities and spending habits (no connection between these last two), everything comes down to feedback.
So what is feedback, how does it work, and how can we hijack ourselves to get more of what we what and less of what we don’t?
In a nutshell, feedback is the tendency of a system - in this case, us – to respond to received information (sensations or feelings) in a consistent way in order to produce more or less of the incoming sensations.
If we are receiving information we find pleasurable or positive – say, a delicious taste, sexual excitement, rewards or peer esteem – we will continue to perform the activity which produces those desirable sensations. This is known as Positive Feedback.
And if the sensations being received are unpleasant or negative – for example, food we don’t like, pain, punishment or exclusion from our peer group – we will modify our behaviour to reduce or eliminate the unpleasantness.
Freud’s Pleasure Principle is a pretty good summary of how feedback works: “people to seek pleasure and avoid pain”. That’s really the nuts and bolts of feedback – it’s pretty simple.
So how do we hack our own feedback loops to be happier, fitter, wealthier?
Just two: words: pay attention.
Notice what is working for you and do more of it.
And notice what isn’t working for you, then do less of it.
It’s simple, and it only takes a moment of detached consideration and honesty to ask yourself the simple question “Is what I am doing now producing the kinds of results which will make me more like the person I want to become?”
If the answer is “Yes”, do more of it and improve it.
If the answer is “No”, stop doing it as soon as you possibly can.
Suppose you’re mouth is watering at the sight of a yummy fresh doughnut...
Before you wade in with all teeth blazing – just ask yourself “Is eating that doughnut going to help make me the sort of fit, slim person I want to be?”
And be honest with yourself.
If you're wrestling your guitar and getting nowhere, pause and ask yourself "is what I'm doing now helping or hurting my development and enjoyment on the guitar?"
"Success leaves clues", as they say - and so does failure...
If you spend your life doing things consistent with the actions of the person you’d most like to meet, you must – inevitably – become that person.
© Neil Cowmeadow 2019
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