Animal Farm is a story by George Orwell about a group of animals revolting against the status quo and taking over the farm they inhabit. It is now a bit dated in the specifics. Still, it is a thought-provoking book that illustrates several societal habits that can impact your life.
Orwell demonized the pigs and the dogs, but it could have easily been any other animal that assumed a leadership role on the farm. It’s challenging to be a leader. The best leaders tend to be those without the intention to make it to the top; they simply want to create a better world for those around them. Unfortunately, it is easy for these well-suited leaders – like Orwell’s Snowball – to be overthrown by a malicious leader.
“Power tends to corrupt; absolute power corrupts absolutely.”Lord Acton
Active decision making
When making decisions, we have two options, active or passive. In The Marshmallow Test, these are defined as Hot and Cold responses. You respond hot when you are passively falling for the fallacy of consumerism and giving your brain all the rewards it wants.
Meanwhile, when you decide actively, you consider the consequences of your actions before making a decision. Bad habits develop when we forget to make these active decisions. They start as things we want (e.g. a bag of chips, a beer, a smoke) and then become a thing we need to reach a basic level of comfort. Incrementally, they become our vices, taking over our lives until we can’t imagine living without them.
The wise old man
The parable of the wise old man illustrates how this happens. It involves a wealthy man sending his daughter to a wise elder to rid her of her bad habits. The two are walking in the forest when the girl – bored by the idle conversation – grabs a small plant and pulls it out of the ground. The wise man sees this and points to a slightly larger plant for the girl to pull out. With mild difficulty, the girl succeeds.
Then, the wise man points to a small shrub growing nearby. This time, the girl struggles significantly, twisting and tugging, using all her strength. Eventually, she manages to pull out the shrub. The old man, now impressed, points to an old oak tree and says: “pull that one out.”
The girl, unable to even wrap her arms around the tree, tries in vain to pull it out but quickly gives up, telling the man that it is impossible. To this, the man replies:
“yes, but the first plant you pulled out was also an oak tree. Your bad habits are like an oak tree; the longer you let them grow, the harder it becomes to pull them out.”
How you can be wise too
The earlier we become aware of our habit patterns, the easier it is to modify them. Often, bad habits develop without us noticing their impact on our lives. Therefore, by becoming aware, we start to see how these habits affect us and gain the ability to change them.
This awareness can be achieved by either practicing mindfulness meditation or keeping a habit journal. Neither of these practices prevents you from doing your bad habit – being prevented from doing them is more likely to lead to frustration or relapse. In The craving mind, Judson Brewer elucidates that being aware of your habits will significantly reduce your likelihood of doing them.
He explains that paying attention to your bad habits will make you realize that these habits do not support your values. This lack of values will cause you to become disillusioned and eventually disinterested. If the animals of Animal Farm had considered how Nepolian’s leadership affected their lives, there would have likely been another revolution.
Slipping out of your healthy routine every once in a while is okay. As emphasized by James Clear in Atomic Habits, the key is not letting yourself slip twice in a row. When you allow yourself to repeatedly fall, you are on your way to creating new habits.
Let’s be like Snowball; let’s work to make out lives easier by maintaining those good habits. It’s much easier to keep living a good life than to start. Still, if you have some habits, you would like to break, that’s okay too; life is about progress, not perfection.
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The sunny side of Animal Farm
While conditions were rough for some of the animals on Animal Farm, there was one thing they were doing well: community. The animals had a strong community meeting every Sunday and supported each other when in need.
As social media becomes a more significant part of our lives, we need to know that there is a difference between being social and being on social media. Humans crave connection. It is easy to think that they can satisfy this craving by scrolling through social media and texting their friends, but all that does is make us less social and more stressed.
How to find your community
Moses, the raven, was happy to introduce the idea of Sugar Candy Mountain to the poor animals working on the farm – the idea of reaching this paradise made their struggles worthwhile. It has already been shown that being part of a religious community can improve your lifespan.
While the animals were happy to wait for their Sugar Candy Mountain, you can take advantage of all the community benefits while living your fullest life. While social media does tend to make us anti-social, We can also use it to build a community.
Use social media as a tool rather than a distraction.
Having done a couple laps around the world with extended stops in between, I have gotten used to having to build a group of friends from scratch. It was easy to make friends in the wine industry because so many of us travelled to work in foreign countries. But during my extended stays, these travellers were not around, and I found it more challenging to make friends.
Through this difficulty, I have come to appreciate community-building apps like Meetup, Couchsurfing and even Facebook groups dedicated to helping foreigners find each other. Most recently, I joined Toastmasters, which has introduced me to a group of similar-minded, highly motivated people working on various projects.
Through these groups and applications, I have started building circles of friends with similar interests. If you adhere to a religion, your life is easier as you can join the local branch of that religion, which is usually inviting to fellow believers. Help me build my community by subscribing to my monthly newsletter below, and let us grow together.