The Big Picture in Your Mind

Keeping a holistic view of your own world.

Hey friends,

As a generalist, I have a lot of stuff going on in my life and in my mind: interests, people, projects, tasks, thoughts, concepts, ideas. I love the variety, but there's a drawback: it's sometimes hard to keep a holistic view of it in my mind. Focusing on some things makes others fade from view. This can cause issues ranging from minor annoyances (whatever) to going in the wrong direction in life (pretty bad).

A simple example is my climate studies. Back in April, I decided to learn more about climate change. It's an important problem that I care about, and I'd love to apply my experience and get more involved in the space. I found a great Climate Change course, asked ChatGPT to help me review my learnings, and started writing simple climate essays to reinforce what I've learned.

It was going great, but halfway through the course I got distracted by a trip to London and a consulting project, climate studies fell by the wayside, and it took me considerable effort to get back to them weeks later since my focus has already switched to a completely different area.

A more complex example is psychology. I've been journaling daily for over two years, and by this point, I've learned to pay close attention to how I think, feel, act, and make decisions. I'm aware of (some of) the aspects of my thought process, principles, heuristics, cognitive distortions, biases, mental representations, quirks, and other things that make me me.

But being aware of these things and doing something about them are two different things. For example, I know I'm sometimes impulsive and quick to jump to conclusions, and I'd like to change it. But I can only change it if:

  • I have a strategy to change the behavior
  • I'm conscious of it happening in the moment
  • I take action to change it when it's happening

Multiply that by the number of concepts you want to do something about and the amount of things to keep in mind quickly becomes unwieldy. That's how I end up falling back to going through life as usual switching between things until one day I trip up, realize I've strayed from the path, get frustrated by the organizational mess in my mind, and sit down to fix it. Rinse, repeat.

Right now I'm at this stage again, but this time I'm determined to address this issue once and for all - at least the psychology part of it. We're working with ChatGPT to create my personal library of mental concepts that I can look into on a daily basis and use as the core part of my self-improvement process.

Any techniques you've found helpful for keeping the big picture in mind?

Have a holistic week,


A few thoughts

Mindset-oriented podcasts. I find it fascinating how different my mind feels when I'm listening to a regular podcast vs a mindset-oriented one. E.g. Lex Fridman interviewing Sam Altman in the background makes a world of difference to my work focus compared to something like Stuff You Should Know (and I love SYSK!), which makes me feel more relaxed and therefore procrastinative.

Who do you want to be? It's crazy we have to choose what to do with our lives at like 18. Now at 30+, I'd love to have studied business management, finance, and climate in college, but back then I didn't care about any of these things in the least, and got really lucky I ended up in computer science, and not something completely random and possibly irrelevant by now.

Loved this

ChatGPT and the Nature of Truth, Reality & Computation Lex Fridman's four-hour conversation with Stephen Wolfram on how math, reality, and truth tie together. I wish I paid more attention to math back in school to see it not just as a boring subject, but as a fundamental piece of the world we live in.

5 things I wish I heard at the graduation I never had "The first thing is, your life isn’t a one-act play. You probably feel a lot of pressure right now to make the right decisions about your career. It might feel like those decisions are permanent. They’re not. What you do tomorrow—or for the next ten years—does not have to be what you do forever."

The End

I'm curious what percentage of people actually pay that much attention to their big pictures (mental or others) instead of simply going about their lives. Some of the people I talked to about this thought I'm going in too deep, others said they don't use any systems to track these concepts and just kinda remember them.