To me this is something powerful I learned by reading McDonough and Braungart books, Cradle to Cradle and Upcycle. In Cradle to Cradle they had a section about Ways to Improve Success. They discussed it as a way to understand and prepare for the learning curve so things would be learned more easily. In their description I understood them to say for us to develop into who we want to be, we needed extra capacity to get better at what we do.
How can we get or have extra capacity when it seems that life continues to crowd more and more information and things into every day? We had thought when cell phones and computers were just ideas that when they existed they would make our days simpler and easier. I remember when I was younger they used to talk about a 4 day work week because we will be able to get so much more done that there wouldn’t be a need to work more. Instead, although these better and more efficient ways have helped us work harder and produce more, which is good, it has seemed to squeeze out leisure and rest since we can work 24/7.
This relates to something Seligman discussed in Flourish (see this post), Kahneman discussed in Thinking Fast & Slow (see this post), and Gladwell in Blink: The Power of Thinking without Thinking about why it is good to have habits. Each of these respected researchers and authors thoughts related to capacity when they discussed the value of habits and how they could help us be better. Seligman even suggested that the ability to do things faster was related to higher intelligence and only when basic things are habits can we get things done more quickly. In Blink, Gladwell documents how experts are able to know in an instant complex things before they even know why or how they know. He goes on to show that these experts know because of their reserve of knowledge, skills, and wisdom which created their expertise from previous work.
As is well known, it takes 10,000 hours or ten years of work to become an expert in any area. During those 10,00 hours it is important we become knowledgable and improve our ability. It is also important that as we develop, we practice doing things well because as Aristotle observed – excellence is a habit, not an act.
So how does this relate to capacity? Habits provide and create capacity because habits are performed with less effort and require lower amounts of energy. Duhigg in The Power of Habits showed how we use less brain power when we have habits. As you can see in the visual, less brain activity is needed to do a habit than when doing something that we have to think about how it must be completed. This is important because brain activity uses more glucose than any other human activity. In other words, thinking takes a lot of energy. I guess this explains why we often get tired when we only think even if we are not physically active.
It takes energy to develop habits, those 10,000 hours needed to develop expertise, which means during that time we should develop efficient, helpful habits for what we can. With habits we don’t have to expend as much effort to do things that must be done and then we have an EXTRA CAPACITY of energy to use to develop ourselves and our ideas so we can learn, develop and use new and better ways.
In other words, to have the capacity to innovate and think about better ways, we must get good, really good at what we must. During this time we when we learn we should work to make our acts habits so we have extra capacity to use to innovate. We need this capacity to adapt, improve and innovate to make things better. Beyond the energy to make things better, it also provides a clear mind to think about not just mitigating or fixing a problem but instead about how can we do things better so the problems are avoided or become irrelevant (see here). In reality, crisis mitigation or solving a problem is really a method to be at best average, not excellent (see next post) . This happens because if we are drained from continually thinking about what should be one, it will be all we can do to just mitigate a crisis. However with capacity created by developing and using habits, our efforts can be directed toward not just eliminating a problem but making it better. (See here or here or here or here or here and many more previous posts)
How can you use this idea? For me I think about what parts of my day I can you get really good at so it becomes an almost effortless habit. This reminds me of something I read in one of the Steve Jobs books. In this section it was explained that he made a habit out of clothes he would wear. He chose to wear the same looking clothes every day so he would not have to expend energy to make that decision.
Habits are helpful because the willpower and effort needed to make most decisions are like muscles, if they are overused, they become fatigued. Habits give those thinking muscles time to rest and recover. Give yourself extra capacity and do better by making what you can a habit. To practice paneugenesis, we need to innovate to find better ways that generate comprehensive improvements by creating interactions so everyone and everything benefits. I look forward to hearing about your successes.