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My cat cannot strategize: can you?

He never thinks ahead so he's never concerned about getting locked into a room or cabinet

He even got locked into my bedroom for a whole day when he snuck into my bedroom just before I went out for the day. But did he learn from that? No.

He never thinks ahead so he's never concerned when the food left in his bowl is almost gone

He only starts to complain when it gets completely empty.

Humans' crowning distinction among all the animals is that we are time binders

All other animals live mostly "in the now." Some of them seem to be able to project or anticipate a few seconds ahead, but not much more than that.

The concept of humans as "time binders" was identified by Alfred Korzybski, a Polish engineer, mathematician, and philosopher. In his work "Manhood of Humanity" published in 1921, Korzybski propounded the theory of time-binding, which distinguishes humans from other forms of life.

Alternative futures

We have the ability to consider (and be motivated by) different possible futures that could be affected by our current actions. 

For example, if we notice a document lying out on our desk, then we will consider two possible futures: 1) if we file it away now then if we need to refer to it in the future, we would know where to find it easily and quickly or 2) if we don't file it away now or ever, then we would likely have difficulty finding it in the future should we need to refer to it.

Our ability to "bind our now to our future" is what gives humans the ability to get what we want and avoid what we don't want more effectively, by several orders of magnitude, than the ability possessed by any other animal. We humans strategize; other animals cannot.

Strategizing is our strength, but also our achilles heel

We misstrategize in three ways.

1) Overpromising (and prioritizing the results over the process)

The bane of modern humanity is our busyness. Got to do this. Have to do that. Need to do more. Don't have time for anything else. Being busy has got us by the balls. When others ask me, "Are you busy?", I reply, "I am leisurely busy." See Process first and What's the full idea of process first?

Overpromising is one common way that we toxically misstrategize.

2) Indulging in expectations

In our addiction to try to avoid a sense of risk we indulge in both positive and negative expectations. Positive expectations ignore or deny the risk that it might not happen the way we would like. Negative expectations ignore or deny the possibility that it could turn out the way we would like. Both avoid choosing courage to accept the risk and take the appropriate action in the face of that. See Undoing expectations and Cowards both: optimists and pessimists.

Indulging in expectations is another typical way that we misstrategize. 

3) Indulging in defensiveness

Anyone past the age of seven is likely to know, if they would stop to think about it, that defensiveness will almost always stimulate the other person to indulge in more of the offensive behavior which stimulated our defensiveness in the first place. As Byron Katie said, "Defense is the first act of war."

Yet, for most of us, when our defensiveness is stimulated by another, strategy goes out the window. If, however, in that split-second after we felt defensive, we asked ourselves, "How would I like this situation to turn out? What response from me is more likely to have it turn out the way I want?", then we would know that a defensive response would likely get us more of what we don't want than what we do want.

See Undoing defensiveness and How to interrupt yourself.

We're going to strategize anyway...let's learn to do it well

As time-binders, we inherently become strategizers, though this doesn't make us necessarily good at it. While nature provided the fundamental tools by making us time-binders, it's up to us to refine and master them.

 

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