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Hidden Brain

Why Trying Too Hard Can Backfire On You

Mon Jun 03 2024
effortlessnessrelaxationperformanceauthenticityspontaneityunthinking generosityUway state

Description

Effortlessness can lead to better outcomes in various aspects of life, from social interactions to sports performance. This episode explores the importance of relaxation and the detrimental effects of overthinking. It also delves into the role of authenticity and spontaneity in politics and the concept of unthinking generosity in Chinese philosophy. Additionally, insights on entering an Uway state and a story of overcoming poverty are shared.

Insights

Effortlessness Can Be More Effective

Practice, grit, and determination are often emphasized for success, but sometimes effortlessness can be more effective. Letting go and not trying too hard can lead to better outcomes in certain situations.

Relaxation Enhances Performance

Learning a skill like tennis as an adult requires conscious effort and time, but true improvement comes when one can relax and not overthink. Playing 'danger tennis' by hitting the ball as hard as possible without worrying about accuracy can lead to improved performance.

Overthinking Hinders Success

Effortful thinking can hinder relaxation and performance in activities like sleeping, tennis, music, and dancing. Elite athletes in sports like tennis need to relax to perform at their best. Overthinking can be detrimental in music improvisation and stand-up comedy, where relaxation is key for success.

Authenticity and Spontaneity in Politics

In politics, authenticity and charisma play a crucial role in connecting with ordinary people. More effort is not always the solution to success. There are important goals in life that can be ruined if directly attacked, emphasizing the need for a different approach.

Unthinking Generosity and Effortless Action

Early Chinese philosophy values unthinking generosity and effortless action over striving and effort. The concept of 'Uway' in Chinese philosophy is similar to the modern concept of flow, but more expansive and helpful.

Entering the Uway State

Brain imaging study shows that musicians in an Uway state have different brain activity compared to when playing set pieces. To enter an Uway state, focus on external activities that you care about rather than on yourself.

Additional Insights

The episode discussed in the transcript is titled 'Letting Go' and is available for Hidden Brain Plus subscribers. Listeners can join Hidden Brain Plus either through Apple Podcasts or Patreon to access more episodes.

Chapters

  1. Effortlessness for Success
  2. Relaxation and Performance
  3. Effortful Thinking Hinders Performance
  4. Authenticity and Spontaneity in Politics
  5. Unthinking Generosity and Effortless Action
  6. Entering the Uway State
  7. Additional Insights
Summary
Transcript

Effortlessness for Success

00:00 - 08:24

  • Practice, grit, and determination are often emphasized for success, but sometimes effortlessness can be more effective.
  • Letting go and not trying too hard can lead to better outcomes in certain situations.
  • The story of Ted's experiences in trying too hard to meet women highlights the importance of being calm and genuine rather than forcing interactions.
  • Ted's shift from trying too hard to a state of calm and curiosity led to positive outcomes in his social interactions.

Relaxation and Performance

08:08 - 16:35

  • Learning a skill like tennis as an adult requires conscious effort and time, but true improvement comes when one can relax and not overthink.
  • Playing 'danger tennis' by hitting the ball as hard as possible without worrying about accuracy can lead to improved performance.
  • Mindball is a game that requires players to use their relaxed state of mind, indicated by alpha and theta waves, to move a ball with their thoughts rather than physical effort.
  • The concept of system one (hot cognition) and system two (cold cognition) explains how automatic processes dominate human thinking, with conscious effort being slower and more deliberate.
  • While cold cognition is important for correcting errors from hot cognition, the value of intuitive thinking should not be overlooked.

Effortful Thinking Hinders Performance

16:06 - 23:50

  • Effortful thinking can hinder relaxation and performance in activities like sleeping, tennis, music, and dancing.
  • Elite athletes in sports like tennis need to relax to perform at their best, as seen with John McEnroe's tactics.
  • Overthinking can be detrimental in music improvisation and stand-up comedy, where relaxation is key for success.
  • In high-stakes situations like job interviews or debates, caring too much about the outcome can lead to desperation and hinder performance.
  • Politicians face a challenge of appearing authentic and spontaneous without coming across as controlled or untrustworthy.

Authenticity and Spontaneity in Politics

23:26 - 31:44

  • In politics, authenticity and charisma play a crucial role in connecting with ordinary people.
  • Psychologist Daniel Wagner's work highlights the paradoxical relationship between effort and achieving spontaneity.
  • More effort is not always the solution to success, as demonstrated by Dan Wegner's research.
  • There are important goals in life that can be ruined if directly attacked, emphasizing the need for a different approach.
  • Western philosophy's emphasis on cold cognition for morality is challenged by the idea that unthinking generosity can be more genuine and effective.

Unthinking Generosity and Effortless Action

31:18 - 39:36

  • Early Chinese philosophy values unthinking generosity and effortless action over striving and effort.
  • The concept of 'Uway' in Chinese philosophy is similar to the modern concept of flow, but more expansive and helpful.
  • Flow states are distinguished by being just the right level of complexity to challenge one's skill.
  • Being in an Uway state allows a person to radiate charismatic power, attracting others naturally.
  • Humans associate spontaneity with trustworthiness, making it a valuable trait in social interactions.
  • Chinese philosophy provides a language to discuss the relationship between spontaneity and charisma, which is often overlooked in Western cultures.

Entering the Uway State

39:09 - 47:35

  • Brain imaging study shows that musicians in an Uway state have different brain activity compared to when playing set pieces.
  • To enter an Uway state, focus on external activities that you care about rather than on yourself.
  • Intense physical exercise can lead to Uway by shutting down parts of the brain through 'hypofrontality'.
  • Alcohol and other chemical intoxicants are cultural technologies used to shut down the prefrontal cortex for creative purposes.
  • Effortless language acquisition in early childhood can teach us about the science of effortless action.

Additional Insights

47:28 - 52:06

  • The episode discussed in the transcript is titled 'Letting Go' and is available for Hidden Brain Plus subscribers.
  • Listeners can join Hidden Brain Plus either through Apple Podcasts or Patreon to access more episodes.
  • A story from the sister show, My Unsung Hero, features Joy Diaz's experience growing up in extreme poverty in Mexico City.
  • Joy's parents, through humanitarian work, built essential facilities like a clinic and school in a garbage dump community.
  • A generous donation from Jack Bloxam enabled Joy's family to move into a middle-class neighborhood and support her college education, impacting future generations positively.
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