Deterministic Thought is Cowardly Thinking

Deterministic Though is Cowardly Thinking - a metaphor

This post won’t be philosophical, or any silly gibberish like that.

I’m not going to talk about the nature of time. I won’t be giving a treatise on free will or an overwrought discussion of believing that anything is possible.

This is about mindset. It’s about framing the environment you live in a way that nets you the most benefit.

It’s about confronting blind spots: pushing past limiting beliefs that we subconsciously develop as we ramble through this world.

This is about combating determinism.

Look, more than a few of us are living our lives, and we don’t have any clue about what is real and what isn’t. We think things about ourselves, about our capabilities. Some of them are true, most of them aren’t.

What this post is about is level setting expectations about who you are and how you see and understand yourself.

Here we go.

What is deterministic thinking?

Deterministic thinking is simply believing that the world you live in is already determined. It’s a view (often held unconsciously) that a person has less control in their life than they really do.

Remember when you graduated from college, and your dad told you about the real world? Remember when your sixth-grade teacher told you that not everybody is good at math? Remember last week when you decided not to do something because you didn’t have the time or didn’t have the talent? All of this is deterministic thinking.

How can you tell? Well, because in each case, an untrue statement is having a very real impact on your life.

It’s funny because when we’re kids, our parents and family seem to disregard determinism when they talk about our future. We’re all told we can grow up to be presidents, artists, rock stars. The world is our oyster.

But as we creep up closer and closer to adulthood, it feels like those forces start reversing. We’re herded into belief boxes, and told (maybe not out rightly) that we have to follow a course, be it a career or social structure. We’re asked to mirror the path of those that came before us, be it family or some collective belief of what success looks like.

You can check out my late bloomer post for more on that kind of fun.

But why do we do this

We do this because we’re human. We like to put things in boxes, think in patterns, and follow set schemes. And it’s for good reason. Those patterns and schemes pay off in terms of safety and predictability.

So why is this bad, then? Well, at its root, deterministic thinking isn’t “wrong”. If we think about the inverse, really committing to an idea that you can do anything purely out of will can get you into trouble. Believing that you’ll be the next great musician of all time, isn’t necessarily bad, but that road is paved with a lot more failure than success.

It’s really hard to become the next John Lennon and probably takes as much luck as effort. Level setting expectations is just good, reasonable thinking.

But that’s not exactly what we’re talking about here.

We’re talking about those beliefs that you ingrained so deeply in your mind that they extend past reasonable thinking. We’re talking about the ones that not only suggest that you can’t do something but outright convince you that you can’t.

So why is this so bad?

This one’s easy. It’s bad because it’s not really even though you think it is.

But to dig down into it, there’s really 2 potential reasons that deterministic thinking can be harmful to your well-being:

  1. It indicates that you haven’t thought through your reality enough to realize the falsehoods in what you believe.
  2. You have thought through them and determined that the reality is far too difficult and terrifying to face.

There are really 2 sides of the same coin, and both are cowardly, false, and mentally unhealthy.

In both of these situations, you’re training yourself to be a victim of your own mind. The first one is nefarious because of the subversions. It’s just an idea, floating around your brain. Probably put in there by some well-meaning asshole.

These are the ideas that tell you that you’re not talented enough (check out this blog on talent being a lie).

The second one can be even worse. Here you can’t accept responsibility for your life. It’s victim mentality. If you have a less control of your life, you’re not responsible, right?


What will you lose, control? It’s like living in the matrix, people. This lie might make things easier, but it doesn’t make it real.

What to do with this?

The first step is to admit you have a problem. My name is (your name), and I think deterministically.

But for real, there’s only one fix for this problem, and that’s opening up your mind to what’s real and what’s possible. Not what you think is real and possible.

What does the field really look like? Not what you want it to look like. Not what you hope or think it looks like. A fair and honest assessment of yourself is a good place to start.

Not good enough? How about erring on the other side. Just assume you can do whatever you want. Assume limitations aren’t real. Go all in!

From there, it’s easy.

Fortunate favors the bold, so be bold.

Let’s wrap this up

So, let’s be clear. I’m not suggesting that you quit your job and go off to follow your dream of becoming a movie star. In general, I wouldn’t advocate you setting profoundly unreasonable goals or expectations in any direction. Unfortunately, there are material and physical realities that exist in and around you.

All I’m saying is that you should be mindful of the limitations you put on yourself because most of those limitations are 100% bullshit. Your reality is a construct. Just like the matrix.

I mean, unless we’re talking about gravity, almost all that “reality” you were warned about from your folks, friends, and media is simple social structures constructed and preserved by people.

And since we made them, we can change them…or at least ignore them.

Best of luck!

Deterministic Thought is Cowardly Thinking

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