Portrait of the Artist as a Man
December 22, 2014

Be Pavlov; Not The Dog

At the beginning of December I made a choice: stop filling empty time with diversion.

I, like many in my cohort, love my iPhone and my iPad and all the wondrous things of the connected world. I, like many in my cohort, enjoy updating and checking all my social media. Currently, I interact with Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, Tumblr, and Ello (a little). (RunKeeper abd MyFitnessPal too insofar as I have two people I follow who use it as actively as I do.)

I, like many in my cohort, spend inordinate amounts of time bouncing between social media streams. I follow enough people that by the time I’m done with a round of checking, there’s new stuff to be seen.

The random reinforcement, the dopamine hit, is strong. It’s classical operant (thank you @_toddmc) conditioning, you see, and a pleasant way to spend your free time. I just felt like it was getting out of my hand.

So. Instead of checking twitter in those moments of down time, I either read a book (a real paper book) or engage in active mindfulness (sort of like short term meditation).

The results have been rather neat for the first one. In the last 20 days, I have read the following books:

  • The Quick and Easy Way to Effective Public Speaking, Dale Carnegie (224 pages)
  • Confessions of a public speaker, Scott Berkun (240)
  • Keeping it Straight, Patrick Rhone (175 pages)
  • This Could Help, Patrick Rhone (145 pages)
  • Presentation Zen, Gar Reynolds (312 pages)
  • Presentation Secrets of Steve Jobs, Carmine Gallo (256 pages)
  • The Elements of Style, Strunk & White. (88 pages)
  • On Writing, Stephen King (320 pages)December 2014
  • Beyond Trying, Mike Vardy (e-book, no listing)

They aren’t hefty or anything and I’m obviously reading outside of the interstitial times. But: I’m finding the change significantly more gratifying.

And when I read more, I feel like I’m doing something good for myself. When I’m feeling good about myself, I do good things for myself like exercise, write, plan projects, and the like.

The reduction of the dopaminergic reward cycle of social media has allowed my drive for self-actualization to reassert itself rather than hunt for the next stimulus.

In other words: Be Pavlov; Not the dog.


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do good things Thanksgiving come and gone. It was quiet this year. We went from three families to just the one, me and my Dad. The introverts. It was sedate with a
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