Be conscious of the imitation factor

If you mindlessly copy how other people handle things, or fail to examine your habits, you will miss some opportunities to do things better.

Human beings tend to unconsciously use imitation as a tool for dealing with a lot of situations. They either imitate what they have seen other people do in similar situations, or they imitate what they themselves did the last time they faced a similar situation (Thats what habits are: Us imitating ourselves).

Imitation more or less works most of the time. Imitation allows you to gain the benefit of your own or other people's experience without re-inventing the wheel.

But sometimes what other people do in a particular situation is not the best thing for you to do in that situation. Maybe your values and preferences are different than most peoples, so what works for them doesn't work for you. Or maybe other people are just making stupid choices for unknown reasons. To paraphrase your mother: "Well, if Johnny jumped off a bridge, would you jump off too?"

And sometimes the way you have always handled a particular situation in the past is no longer (if it ever was) the best way to handle that situation. Maybe your values and preferences have changed. Maybe your situation has changed. Maybe the first time you dealt with a particular type of situation you just made a stupid choice and then never revisited your decision.

The moral is, when you are making choices about how to get something done take a moment to step back and try to explain your decision to yourself as if you were explaining it to a stranger. If you find that your explanation for your decision sounds kind of stilted and shallow, or if it boils down to "that's just what I have always done" or "that's just what everyone does" then stop and take even more time to think through whether your decision is really the best possible in the circumstances, and whether there might be better alternatives. This process of re-assessing your habits, or the traditions of others, helps you spot inefficient or counterproductive habits and come up with new solutions that work better for you.

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