“You become what you think. All limitations are self imposed. There is no failure, only feedback. Your imagination is infinite.” Gordana Biernat
By Dana Smith
Why do we feel so much resistance to personal change? Why is it a challenge to form new habits? Why do we do things we know probably aren’t good for us? Why is motivation on new projects or goals hard to maintain? Why do we make excuses for our behaviors? Why do we sometimes label our dreams and goals as unrealistic, not worth it, or silly? Is there a common denominator to all these questions? One perspective that can help us gain clarity these phenomena is an understanding of feedback loops and their relation to our environments and nervous systems.
The notion of a feedback loop has impacted many fields and has a lengthy history, yet the concept is fairly simple. Elementarily, a feedback loop occurs when: Thing A gives off an output, Thing B receives that output as input data, which then influences Thing B’s output which Thing A receives as feedback. Another way to think about it is a feedback loop occurs when some type of origin gives off an output to something else, which then gives off an output (feedback) to the origin, which affects the origin’s next output. An example of this would be a thought, which may spark an emotion, which then influences another thought, which influences another emotion. Another example is how a persons initial body language and tone of voice affects our own, which then can affect that person, which then affects our own again.
While American culture doesn’t necessarily promote self reflection, feedback loops have several intrinsic properties that can make them elusive and hard to identify in our lives. They are ubiquitous and are basically universal in all of our interactions. Time can also act as a veil that can distort our perception of the feedback we do receive. Being aware and understanding the implications of the feedback loops we engage in is a profound tool. What if instead of seeing slivers of progress we make in our day to day life that seem insignificant we could not only clearly see, but also feel how all those slivers eventually connect together collectively to become the end manifestation of what and who we are? What if, on the flip side, we could see the collective sum result of living unconsciously and idle? How quickly do you think we would change ourselves? How empowered do you feel just imagining it? Our environment, or everything that is external, is saturated with feedback loops. The group of people we interact with, the food we eat, the music we listen to, the media we expose ourselves to, the beliefs we have, the books we read or don’t read, the ways we spend our time, the things we value – all of these are connected and feed into each other and into us. It is up to us on whether we choose to take the time and effort to understand the connections and ask if they are shaping us into the person we truly want to be.
One huge aspect of our environments is information. Living in the age of information, its important we are conscious of our information diet if we wish to navigate through the jungle of irrelevancy channeled through your phone, TV, computer, radio, newspapers, media, and other mediums of information transfer. Google’s Chairman Eric Schmidt reported in 2010, that every two days we create so much information that it is equivalent the amount of information created by humans since the dawn of time up until 2003. The Global Information Industry Center (GIIC) of the University of California reported in 2009 that Americans consume 34 gigabytes of data per day, equating to approximately 100,000 words a day. The pinpoint accuracy of just how much information we are creating and consuming is something that is debated, but everyone agrees that the amount of information that passes through our senses on a daily basis in the 21st century is insanely greater than what the average human came across for the previous 200,000 years or so.
While this technology is opening doors previously unfathomable to the human species, biologically we are not equipped to download and integrate all the information the average American is exposed to on a daily basis. It is no coincidence that in the midsts of all these exciting new frontiers that define the digital age there are large social and cultural blowbacks. More and more people are seeking a different way of life than what conventional modernity offers. Meditation retreats, float tank centers, ecstatic dance centers, Ayahuasca retreats, the self help movement, yoga, the This is A Good Sign movement, the rise of all these subcultures are perhaps rafts for the human spirit in the flood of information.
We can make an understanding of feedback loops practical by manipulating them and engineering our external spaces that act as biohacks, fueling our creativity, drive, passion, optimism, and knowledge. This is possible because the external world acts on us, interacting with our neural circuitry by activating neurons, mirror neurons, influencing the firing of neurotransmitters, and ultimately literally molding the physical nature of our nervous system. By choosing to surround ourselves with people, places, and things that feed our visions of ourselves and the things we wish to accomplish, we biohack our nervous system by creating feedback loops that overtime fuel our baseline creative potential, emotional equilibrium, and overall personal growth. Our environment should act as sustenance to all these things, not act against them.
Everything that we choose to expose ourselves to, whether it be people, or abstract information gives our senses and nervous systems feedback which then impact us on a biochemical level, influencing our bodies, consciousnesses, and ultimately the lives we live. While we can’t control every variable, we have a lot more power than we tend to think, and, as Morpheus says “everything begins with a choice”.
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Dana is our second intern at Team Good Sign. He will be blogging about emotional, spiritual, and physical evolution, in addition to hosting podcast and Good Sign TV. Dana is 18 and a resident of Austin, Texas. Check out his blog, WanderGrowth where he will be exploring various topics such as morality, honesty, obedience, perception, self-improvement, imagination, logic, curiosity, questioning, passion, humility, diet, stress, & self-education. “My hope is to inspire and ultimately empower the reader.”