Desire vs. Effort

A reflection on self-directed neuroplasticity

Upen Singh

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I am currently experiencing a lifestyle of the “1% compounding effort.” The idea is to wake up in the morning and start my day by journaling about what is the next thing I will do to make my life 1% better from where it is now.

Today, I started my day with a simple meditation focused on self-loving thoughts while not giving much attention to other thoughts. Sure, it wasn’t perfect. There were only a few self-loving thoughts during the meditation. Most of the thoughts were normal, day-to-day, and fear-based. But that’s ok. I am just trying to make it 1% better. And yes, I did it!

Then, move to the next one: from the new baseline (where I have already become 1% better), what is the next thing I can do to make it 1% more? I had a work meeting, so I decided to communicate slowly during the call with my client, as one of my professional goals is to become an excellent communicator. Of course, I kept forgetting this goal during the meeting, but once in a while, I remembered and tried. Overall, was it a lot better? Probably not. But was it 1% better? Absolutely.

And that is the point: to get 1% better with every next endeavor.

This practice gradually puts in 1% more effort throughout the day.

I am slowly sensing the magic of this practice. I am experiencing that this is very different from being driven by desires. I used to chase big dreams that required me to get high on coffee in the morning and just “go for it.” This way of doing things can achieve bigger, but it risks setting unrealistic expectations and falling into the “valley” once the “peak” is over.

The science behind this is neurosplasticity. Yes, we have plastic brains, meaning the brain will adjust and morph to change our habits and behavior. However, being desire-driven lacks the consciousness we need for long-term, sustainable growth. The craving we get to constantly check our phone is the ideal example — it gives us the dopamine hit that makes us feel good. Next thing we know, after a period of unintended practice, the desire feels “natural” because the brain has adjusted its neural connections. Hence, our body automatically moves toward the phone. It becomes effortless.

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Upen Singh

A Practical Visionary | Education Counselor | Builder | People & Progress | Traveler | Author | Nature & Animals