Four kind of behaviors

I end up thinking a lot about Four Kinds of Behaviors described by Venkatesh Rao in his book Tempo .

Reactive behavior is "here and now", there is some stimulus, and you react to it, fast. Example is when we quickly created the covid app when the covid situation worsened in India.

Deliberative behavior is where you act based on your knowledge/experience/wants/desires though the behavior isn't rooted in some known/concrete and immediate external stimulus. Deliberative behavior is "What" in "What and How". For example, we are deliberately going after the consumer search market, though the environment isn't screaming to us to "improve search". Another example is when you decide to improve your health, even if you feel healthy, and none of your friends are giving you FOMO about joining an exercise program.

When engaging in Procedural behavior, you follow a series of steps, and the environment isn't telling you do this then, do that. Processes/habits/rituals/traditions come under this. This is "How" in "What and how". For example, doing exercise everyday at 5PM is a procedural behavior to improve your health.  Another example, some kids build a habit of verifying their exam sheets before submitting them, that is a procedural behavior.

Opportunistic behavior is easy, you see an opportunity, you act on it. Example, you were going back home from school, saw a candy stop, and decided to buy candy. Opportunistic behavior necessarily requires slack. If you were in a hurry to reach home, you wouldn't notice the candy shop.

How do the Four Kinds of Behaviour fail?

  • If you are Purely Reactive, you fail by missing the forest for the trees. You are too much “here and now”, and don’t see things might play out in the long term or in hidden ways.

  • Primarily Deliberative behavior fails by not being connected to reality. So you end up being deliberate about the wrong kind of things.

  • Purely Opportunistic behavior fails by losing too much time and energy. You either wait too long for the right opportunity, or you don’t react effectively enough to cash it.

  • Purely Procedural behavior fails by being dead. A particular process/habit works for a particular goal in a particular environment. You fail to notice the change in environment, and stick with the process/habit even if it doesn't serve you. Purely procedural behaviors are dead, because dead things like your computer can also do it.

You need all four kinds of behavior, can't rely on just one or two. I am strong in reactive and opportunistic quadrants. I believe I can see opportunities which no one else sees, and I am quick to react to them as well. I am weakest with Procedural behaviour because I find it hard to follow processes or stick to habits. Without the right processes, it is hard to duplicate results and maintain consistency.

What hasn't worked well for me?

- Schedules don't work for me. I have tried it multiple times, the thing about dividing the hours for specific activities doesn't work for me.

- I have a hard time sticking to plans. By plans, I mean things like we'll do X, then Y, then Z. I often take some random road in the middle of executing a plan.

- Generally I have a hard time staying "organized". For example, my notes have always been a mess, nothing goes in the right place, and I am never able to find the right note when its time.

What has worked for me?

- I usually stick to commitments I make to others.

- Deadlines are fine.

- Checklists are fine.

Generally for a process to work for me I need to be convinced it is good for me in the long run. I hate being in a situation where I told myself I'll do something, I find that the thing is clearly not working for me. Another helpful thing is a minimal no excuse condition, which allows me to continue a habit. For example, I have a rule of doing at least 10 pushups before I turn on internet on my phone. 10 pushups hardly take a minute, wall pushups are also okay. There is no reasonable excuse to not do it. This is not a substitute for exercise, and I often do another session in evening. But this keeps the habit of exercise going.