Mar 5, 2007

Conscious decisions

You come home and put the keys in the usual place, right? Now, can you remember what was lying/mounted to the left of the key? No? You placed those keys unconsciously... Get it? When we get used to doing the same thing repeatedly (like pulling out of the driveway or society gate onto the main road), we tend to not do that consciously.

First, how to spot these unconscious things. Try and remember everything you did over the past hour. The more detail you can remember, the more stuff you did consciously. The stuff that you can't is what you did without taking any active effort to think about that 'process.' On a motorcycle, these are usually straight stretches between the lights, where you are effectively just 'passing through.'

Second, why is this crucial? Because decisions you make unconsciously can be bad decisions. And if they're made unconcsiously, they could slip through your bad decision filter and snowball into something more serious altogether. Basically, you start eliminating stuff, at least, on the motorcycle that you do without thinking about it. The only things that are exceptions, are the actual control operations. As in, you should not need to actively think about how much clutch actuation you need, or how far to twist the throttle. These should be 'automatic' operations that follow from your conscious reading of the situation ahead (and behind).

Third, how do you do this? I don't know. What I do is that everytime I fail to recall, I aim to remember next time. As in, when The Wife suddenly asks where I kept the keys/money/her lemonade/etc and I can't recall, I make a mental note to not do that thing unconsciously again. In the long term, I find that locating that absconding credit cart statement, bijli ka bill and what have you has become easier. I'd go so far as to say that I remember more today than I used to forget before.

On the bike, this means you can't divert even a fraction of your mind into thinking about other stuff. Like you to-do list for the day. Or whether you locked the house properly. When this happens to me, I've found it useful and relaxing to actually stop and figure this out. Even if it means calling someone at home and checking on the particulars. I'm a bit of freak, of course, and I don't let my concentration and focus waver even at long traffic lights. Sometimes, when I am very distracted, I find it helpful to actually speak whatever I see. As in a running commentary in the lid, 'the white car has lots of scratches on the left side.... probably has troubly judging spaces on the his left, stay away... oh look, that idiot's helmet's been pre-crashed, ride's like a squid too... and here's the old uncle slowly making his way to wherever on his Chetak... need to find a place to pass without honking...' and so on.

The other hidden benefit will become obvious much later. You will start remembering details you didn't know you picked up. Like potholes, like places where water tankers usually leave a slippery trail, all of which either increase your safety quotient, or boost your speed. And if you really put some thought into it, both.


The BATFAN said...

This I will surely refer to as and when I return to blogging. The unconscious and the sub conscious mostly form our habits with the former taking a large part of it. Those are the bad habits. The good habits of actually knowing the controls of your motorcycle well are from the sub conscious. They are conscious decisions which have been imbibed into your self that they now come out as instinct.

It all boils down to one word for which I would again like to thank you for your excellent resources.

Think !

It applies to everything in life rather than only motorcycling.

Hrishikesh said...

I used to call this as 'compiling' situations for future use. Once you come across a problem and solve it, the solution is stored for future use.
The next time something similar happens, before you know it, you have done it. (If you know what i mean)...

The BATFAN said...

I have an interesting incident to relate to this. Today I was in a very tight sticky messy situation. Can't describe it as it would take pages but to cut long story short I must say there was some instinct that pulled through. I don't know whether instinct is luck though. I was at 50-55 when had to hit the brakes hard because of a possible collision scenario. I did something wrong and the next moment I knew I had lost control. My heart thumped But I didn't want to fall. Not this time. Not again. I thought of this for sure. I didn't want to fall again. Something clicked. And a second later I was back in control having lost 20 KPH to now be at 30-35. That moment I am sure I had let go of the rear brakes positively. And in a flash after that I had simultaneously released the front brake and given a smooth slow throttle twist. The important point here is that if I had faced this situation three months back it would have surely been a crash. But after having read and taken care to try what I read I thought something stuck in my mind. The bad part of all this is I don't remember having made a conscious decision in all this except for the single thought decision of not wanting to crash again. It all came out as though it was some magical spell or pure luck at work. Definitely would like to know more insight on what kicked in here from you rearset. Whether it was instinct or it was chance that I did the right thing? Is instinct while riding a part of conscious decision making or is it dangerous to follow instinct in such situations.