Our default state is the state which we default to subconsciously. It’s what we do with our instinct, if we aren’t aware of what’s actually going on. It influences the majority of the actions, decisions, movements, and thoughts in our lives.
Our default state is explained by how we’ve evolved, what we’ve evolved to, and the reasons we evolved to those states. For example, we’ve evolved to be social creatures, utilizing family and social connections to build relationships, which help us grow and raise a family together. Studies show that relationships play a key role in how we live our lives, and how satisfied we are with them. As a result, relationships hold a lot of emotions within them (love, lust, trust, etc.).
Default states can often be found by looking at societies or populations of people and seeing how they behave. As a whole, different actions and decisions will describe default states. Psychology is such a study. When we’re making moment to moment decisions and actions, the vast majority happen subconsciously, resorting to our default state to make such decisions. This is why building good habits and removing bad ones is so important.
The only way to influence our default state is to be aware of it. For example, if our default state is the path of least resistance, consciously knowing that we will default to that state will enable us to then go beyond the path of least resistance and perhaps take a path that is more difficult, but more beneficial to our lives. Without being aware of our default state, we don’t change it, and will stay in the default. This is why it is called the default state.
Beyond Our Default State
Going beyond our default state happens whenever we consciously think about why or how we’re doing something, and then change our behavior. For example, if we decide to pass up a chocolate bar even when our minds crave it, we’re overriding our instinct with our conscious thoughts, which then changes our actions – instead of eating the chocolate, we don’t eat it or eat something else.
Because our actions always go to the default state unless overridden by our conscious mind, going beyond our default state to understand more about our actions can help us prevent harm and help us produce things in life that make us happier, more satisfied, healthier, more useful people.
Our instinctual default state isn’t meant to make us happy, it simply tells us how we’ve evolved. But since we’re now in a world which is significantly different than our evolved brain and body, it’s important to question more about our default state, our instinct, and our subconscious – and go beyond our default state. By doing so, we can become conscious of many of the actions which are potentially not helping us, but otherwise may be hurting us and those around us.
Why is it important to be aware of our default states?
For one, it makes us more aware and mindful of what we’re doing. Because actions in our lives are made up mostly of things we do without thinking about it , being aware of it makes us more mindful of what we’re doing. Secondly, the default state isn’t necessarily a good state for us to be in – in fact more often then not it may not be. For example, our instincts tell us to binge on sugar and watch TV. As we’ve evolved, sugar was often limited to when we came across a fruit tree, and because of its scarcity whenever we came across a fruit tree, we’d binge. Our default state is to binge on sugar – it create a craving/reward mechanism in our brain which is by definition addictive.
Fast forward to modern day, and our instincts are still the same, but our environment is completely different – sugar is abundant everywhere. If we simply follow our default state, we’ll die a young death from over-consuming sugar, which is actually what most of the world is trending towards (obesity rates are increasing across the world mostly due to overconsumption – following our default state). By questioning whether we should eat too much sugar, we’re going beyond our default state and becoming conscious of what we’re doing, which allows us to become healthier. Our instincts don’t tell us what’s good for us, our instinct simply tells us our default state. This is why it is so incredibly important to go beyond our default state as often as possible – to better understand ourselves, our actions, and our decisions. Without doing so, we’re at the mercy of our instincts.
Whenever we follow our curiosity, we are going beyond our default state and attempting to understand more about a subject, using the resources available to us to enlighten us on a subject.
Whenever we decide to consciously exercise, we are going beyond our default state to become healthier, recognizing that our default state will lead us to sit on the couch or in an office.
Whenever we read a book, we’re going beyond our default state to learn, be entertained, become more creative.
The default state of humans can be summarized by how we’ve evolved, here are a few examples:
Health – We’ve evolved to be physically active, using our bodies for the purpose of survival – hunting, building, moving, etc. Our diets were restricted to what we could find in nature due to scarcity. Most people were physically active by default, and therefore were mentally so. Today, with abundance of everything (including food), this is not the case. We must go beyond on our default state to overcome it.
Happiness – While difficult to measure, modern day is full of “what makes us happy?” questions, and in part this is due to the unique world we’re living in – potentially causing more unhappiness than people had in the past. Asking these questions goes beyond our default state where we may not be satisfied, fulfilled, and happy with our lives. By studying happiness, we can begin to understand the science of what makes people happy and satisfied with their lives, which we can then use to apply to our own. After all, we’re all human.
Wealth – Because money is an object which dictates our freedom and how we can spend our time, people can go beyond the default state to strategize how to best manage time to create wealth. This, in my mind, is what entrepreneurship is – consciously recognizing that wealth is a barrier in life and figuring out how to best overcome it without sacrificing your life doing so.
Spirituality – The vast majority of people who believe in an organized religion learn it from their family, primarily their parents. Our default state is to believe what our parents say, because that is how we’ve evolved. By overcoming our default state of belief, we can follow our curiosity and discover the other potential belief systems that influence how we view the world and therefore how we live our lives.
Going beyond the default state is about becoming aware of the actions we take and decisions we make, and correcting them to better fit the life we want to live, not solely relying on instinct to do such.
Inspiration for writing this came from the realization that I’m always trying to question my actions, which is really me questioning my default state. Being curious about why things happen and how they happen led me to realize that this “default state” is often the wrong the state to be in. We live in a world that evolution hasn’t caught up, so it’s ever more important to become conscious of our actions such that our instinct don’t lead us down the the wrong path.