I’m obsessed with thoughts and human behaviors.
This makes sense as I work in marketing—where understanding the inner thoughts that lead to behaviors is key to success.
This also makes sense as someone who has dealt with addiction—seeking to better understand why the hell I did what I did with the hopes of not going back down that path again.
With that in mind, here are my working theories on a few topics of interest to me.
Anxiety and Depression
Just last week, I wrote about what I consider the whack stories we believe and share about anxiety and depression.
I’ll expand on those thoughts a bit here by first highlighting my belief that we are all somewhere on the spectrum of anxiety and depression. My take is that it is impossible to live a human experience without juggling these two bad boys on some level each and every day.
Does that mean all days have high highs and low lows? Nope.
However, we do have some level of daily ebbs and flows as we navigate our lives.
How do I make sense of this? Evolution.
Survival is key to evolution and for as long as our ancestors have been around, they’ve been fighting the good fight to survive and multiply. My guess is that we’ve become so successful at worrying about the things that might harm us in the future (anxiety) by remembering the pain and struggles that moved us closer to becoming extinct in the past (depression) that it is hard-wired in all of us.
Now, when we look for the causes of anxiety or depression, we often turn our attention to products such as alcohol, relationship issues, gambling, social media, unhealthy food, or any other of the prime targets.
My view here is that these can all clearly act as accelerants of depression or anxiety, but that doesn’t make them the source of either.
Just as we have accelerants to depression and anxiety, we also have things in our lives that can deescalate them and move us back down to the lower end of the spectrum. For me, a few of these include going for hikes, falling into deep conversation, or striking a golf ball purely.
The best anecdote I’ve found for both understanding my anxiety and depression as well as moving my current place on the spectrum of each is endless curiosity. I simply try to step outside of myself to better view and understand the interaction each thought, decision, or behavior in my life has on my level of anxiety and depression.
I’ve also given up on the myth that either of these can be eradicated from our lives. To do so is not only impossible but would remove so many of the great aspects of the human experience.
I’ll surely visit these topics again in the future, but let’s move on to a new subject for the moment.
Everyday Human Behaviors
As someone that has experienced gambling addiction (along with other addictions along the way), I have a need to understand why I did what I did as well as why I now do what I do.
In the past, I subscribed to various narratives that are pervasive about addiction including scientific theories on dopamine hits as well as the genetic propensity to addiction.
Now, I subscribe to a much simpler theory.
My working theory on why we make the decisions we make is rooted in the hundreds of thousands—or quite possibly millions—of stories we’ve collected throughout our lives. We have an incredible processing tool for storing and recalling these stories and each and every decision we make can ultimately be traced back to a story we have deemed to be the winner in the moment.
Think of recent choices or decisions you’ve made in your life. Think about how fast the various considerations came rushing into your brain. Think about the stories you told yourself about why it would and would not be a good decision. In that moment, your brain acted like a supercomputer tallying up the pros and cons which ultimately led to your final decision.
Now, if we fully understood the origin of each story and have ruthlessly verified that it is indeed true, we’d likely make great decisions 99.9% of the time.
Unfortunately, that’s not the case.
I’ve found that I am frequently completely unaware of the origin of many of the stories I store. It’s not until I go on a journey to track down their origin—which is in many cases impossible—that I begin to understand where they came from, who they benefit, and most importantly if they are rooted in fact.
Making things even more difficult is that for most stories, there are conflicting views on validity and value. On one hand, the stories might really benefit an area of my life while also seeing that they wreak havoc in another area.
Oh, the challenges and beauty of the human mind.
Ultimately, our goal is to better understand the stories we believe and use in our lives to ensure they are both true and helpful to us.
And what should we do when we find stories that just aren’t true any longer?
This is where the magic happens for behavior change!
Once we identify stories that aren’t true, we can’t just remove them from the shelf. Instead, we need to go a step further and replace them with a story that is true and helpful.
Don’t worry, they are all working drafts and you can upgrade to a better story at any time. However, we need to have this replacement story as we will rely upon it the next time the decision is presented to us.
Just like anxiety and depression, I’ll have much more on the relationship between story and human behavior in the future. I just wanted to get this first working draft out to the public to begin gathering feedback.
So, what do you think? Shoot me a DM or send me an email with your thoughts and views on the topics. I’d love to hear from you as I challenge and refine these views.