Imagine there are two people in your consciousness who are running your life. One is awake all the time, big, strong, but dumb. This is your Goliath. The other one is weak, small, asleep most of the time, but intelligent. This is your David. Can you see the problem here?
Most of us go through our lives as if we are possessed by an entity. We know we can do better, but somehow that entity hijacks us. We end up doing the silly things that we regret later or not doing the things that we know we should do. That entity is Goliath.
Most of us go through our lives as if we are possessed by an entity.
Nobel laureate economist David Kahneman has written a brilliant book about this subject called Thinking Fast and Slow. He uses the term System 1 for Goliath and System 2 for David.
Our lives are run by the strong, dumb giant that Goliath is. The only person who can prevent this giant from ruining our lives is David, who is small and weak, but intelligent. This is a problem. The question is how can we solve this problem?
How to Solve the Problem of David and Goliath
One way we can solve the problem of David and Goliath is to use our David to educate our Goliath. There are many ways to do that, but we have to take into account the limitations of our Goliath. My favorite way of getting Goliath on board is to keep a sheet of paper with my life goal, a pain point, and three to five action items per day in sight.
Another way of solving the problem of David and Goliath is to keep David awake as much as possible and strengthen him. Ideally, we need to improve both, our David and our Goliath. However, while doing that, we need to take into account the properties of both entities.
How Can We Improve David?
Our goal when improving David is twofold. Remember David is asleep most of the time. The more awake David is, the better it is for us. The first goal is to keep David awake as long as possible. The second goal is to strengthen David.
What Weakens David and Puts Him to Sleep?
David requires intense concentration. Intense concentration is the ability to allocate as much mental capacity as possible to a single task at hand. In order to do that, you need to free up as much mental capacity as possible. Freeing up mental capacity requires relaxing and eliminating distraction. The good news is that eliminating distraction helps relaxing and relaxing helps tuning out distraction that you can’t eliminate.
Distraction can be any sensory input that consumes your mental bandwidth. Distraction is detrimental to your David, not only while you’re working, but also while you’re relaxing or going through your daily chores.
Eliminate Distraction at Work
- Do you work in a noisy environment?
- Do you work in an environment where radio, TV, or music is switched on in the background?
- Do you work in an environment where your colleagues are on the phone all the time?
- Do you work in an environment with a lot of background noise such as traffic outside or noisy computers?
- Do you work in an environment with a lot of blinking lights and/or unpleasant smell?
All of the above will be distracting you and weakening your David. You need to eliminate those distractions to the extent possible.
Eliminate Distraction in Your Daily Life
Distraction is not only detrimental when you are working. It’s also detrimental while you’re resting or going through your day. In order to strengthen your David, you need to free up as much space in your mind as possible. You can’t do that if you overload your mind with sensory input throughout the day.
- Do you listen to radio or upbeat music while you’re driving?
- Is the TV always switched on while you’re at home?
- Is there a lot of clutter in your home?
- Do you spend a lot of time on social media or surfing the Internet?
- Do you live in a big city with a lot of traffic?
- Do you live in a crowded city?
- Do you live in a city with a lot of blinking commercial screens demanding your attention?
All of that distraction is detrimental to your David. You might want to eliminate that as much as possible to strengthen your David.
The Challenges of Eliminating Distraction
Eliminating distraction can be a challenge. You might need to ask others for favors and risk getting rejected. You need to embrace that risk in order to make progress with your life. You might need to ask your boss for a silent, quiet, peaceful working environment. You might need to ask your colleagues for switching off the radio. You might need to ask them to put their cellphones on silent and to eliminate constant buzzing of their cellphones.
You need to embrace risk in order to make progress with your life.
If you are addicted to stimulation, you might have unpleasant withdrawal symptoms when you eliminate distractions such as social media, Internet surfing, and radio or TV in the background. If that’s the case you might need to learn relaxation techniques.
Eliminating some distractions might not be feasible in the short term. If you are living in a crowded city, with a lot of traffic, and a lot of commercial screens demanding your attention, you might not be able to move to a peaceful town overnight. If you work in a noisy corporate environment, you might not be able change your job overnight. If that’s the case, you might want to make long-term plans to make those changes.
Start with not joining yet another social media channel and downloading its app.
The best way to deal with the challenges of eliminating distraction is to go step by step. Start with not adding any more distraction to your daily routine. Start with not joining yet another social media channel and downloading its app. Then start with eliminating the distractions one by one. You can get rid of clutter in your home in a week. Next week, you can focus on switching off the radio or TV in the background while you’re at home or while you’re driving. This way you can minimize distraction in your life step by step.
Strengthening your David requires intense concentration. Intense concentration requires freeing up as much mental bandwidth as possible. The best way to free up mental bandwidth is to eliminate distraction from your professional and private life.
There are other things than eliminating distraction you can do to improve your David. These are learning to relax, physical exercise, mental exercises, such as reflecting and journaling, and minimizing or eliminating caffeine, alcohol, and other recreational drugs.
I plan to publish more posts on how to improve your David and how to use your David to improve your Goliath. So please check this blog often and sign up to the free email newsletter to stay in touch.
Software developer with a Ph.D. and 15 years of experience. I write daily on personal development and life lessons. Sign up to my email newsletter to receive a weekly overview of my latest content on personal development and life lessons.