The surprising benefits of accountability and stability

Accountability and stability are very important in our lives. These are the qualities we usually want to find in our partners. With life experience also comes greater appreciation of these qaulities. Any sustainable change often requires accountability and stability. For more information you are welcome to read here, here, here, here, here and here.

Same same

When I was a child I was definitely very boring. I loved the subjects I learned, especially the dorky subjects. Quite often I spent a large part of my day reading books on physics, chemistry, and history. Then I would daydream about these subjects. As a child, I found sports incredibly boring, and the attempts of other boys to score with girls ill-advised and pathetic. This did not make me the most popular guy in the school. I did not have enemies but I also had very few friends, who were also a bit too old for their age.

Fast-forward several decades, and I am basically the same person. Only now nobody considers me boring. I feel that my interests did not change that much since I was a child, and now people find me a bit younger than my actual age. My teenage boys think that I am kind of cool. Being cool might not be the best quality for a dad, but it is definitely fun.

The risk to appear boring

Is it good to be stable and accountable? Probably. Especially if we do not live in a risky environment. We have developed to risk when we are young and try to gain a competitive advantage when we have nothing to lose. Some studies show that alpha-males are actually less likely to take chances. The people who take most changes are usually classified as the want-to-be. This makes evolutionary sense. If no girl will choose you over the next guy, your genes will not pass to the next generation. You might as well be dead. Young people with no status will often take stupid and unnecessary risks, and when they fail may even be tempted to commit suicide. Also, it is hard to get a mentor and a good position when you are boring. Important people need to notice you, and being boring is a dangerous position.

From the mature viewpoint

In my current position, I do many hiring interviews. I interview on average two candidates per day. I definitely try to give everyone a fair chance, yet I am only human. When I see an interesting candidate with a rare career path or an intriguing skillset, I am automatically more biased to hire that person. Then I do the reality check. How likely is the person to complete his tasks? Is the amount of guidance the person will require reasonable? Will he be likely to leave for a new job once he learns everything I need to teach him? While the younger more dynamic people tend to grab attention, more experienced and reliable players are here to stay. I am hardwired to interview more interesting people, but eventually to select more stable and experienced ones.

Changing habits

Counterintuitively, accountability and stability are a great fundament for a profound change. If someone needs to change his habits, the deed is very easy for upholder and very hard for a rebel. When we need to meet our own expectations or expectations of other people we will rise to the occasion. Given a journaling technique or an accountability partner, most of us will be able to implement even the most tricky routines. Rebels need to find how the change is a part of their true nature and the way it is the right thing in the given situation, which may be more profound but definitely not easy. The people who are most likely to rebel against the way the things work are the least likely to change themselves. Quite often they will prefer to change the world instead, which is a very risky position.

Dynamic stability

When we try to change the world, it is much easier when the things are stable. We can try small changes and see how they optimize the results. If the situation is unstable, any small change can generate a huge and irreversible result. We might not be even able to attribute the result to our own actions or strange coincidences that happen all the time. Without the ability to judge our actions and their results how can we improve? Unstable life often puts people in defensive position, reducing the ability to manage win-win communication and generating aggressive behavior. The 20th century saw a lot of political turmoils, yet the biggest changes came in times of relative stabilities, like the 60s in America. The cultural change did not come as a result of the external threat or internal instability but as a reaction to stagnation and conservatism.

Littlewood law

There is a so-called “Littelewood law” named after a great English mathematician. It has very little to do with actual math. If we see interesting and boring stuff every second, once in a million second something really remarkable will happen. This one in a million event will happen each and every month. Therefore each month we will see a miracle. However, the situation needs to be pretty stable for us to notice the small miracles. If the situations changes, our point of view also changes, and we will not notice the monthly miracles. Mindfulness is very much about personal freedom, yet this freedom requires that we quiet our minds and surroundings. This quietness and stability is required for us to notice and count the small things that matter.

Slowing down the time

Each time we see something interesting, we count it and the time slows by. The most interesting event is seeing something for the first time. When we are children a lot of what we see we see for the first time. As we get older, it is harder to generate truly unique experiences. If we are locked up in a vicious cycle of actions, changes, and reactions, we may miss the first times a lot. We need to be there to see the first step of a child, the first rain of the autumn or the first flower of spring. These first experiences slow down the time and make the life more joyful.

Listening to the others

Quite often we need some silence to listen to others, to get close to the people around. Many people around us are probably interesting and loveable. It takes time to understand what makes them special. If we do not take the time to actually hear the other, people tend to be rather annoying. But once we do take the time, we hear amazing stories and get a glimpse of the inner world of others – which is so similar to ours, and yet amazingly so different. It is a good practice to listen to people, especially to the people we love. One of the best things in being a man is the amazing ability to spend some time with others without actually talking. Some studies show that nonverbal communication accounts for 70% of the message or more. Even if the numbers are not correct, simply turning the volume down a notch may provide interesting insights.

Dealing with mundane tasks

When we deal with mundane tasks we find our character strengths. We manage to find the places and routines which improve our productivity. The best way to deal with mundane tasks is to ask questions till we build up the curiosity. Once we can activate our curiosity, we may be surprised by the things we are interested in and widen our horizons. At the same time, we improve our self-regulation. With nothing to drive our attention, we can focus on the task at hand and improve our focusing skills. In a quiet environment, we become more creative, and our ability to focus allows manipulation with a larger working memory. As a result, we may reach profound results.

Controlled environment

We build our confidence and practice in controlled environments. During the training, we often repeat the same task time after time, and each time we improve. The biggest improvement often comes not when we do the action quickly, but when we perform it slowly paying attention to the smallest aspects and of the action. Once we get all the details right, we often improve the speed until we get the task perfectly.

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