Considering what you have learnt about Operant Learning, discuss how this information has now helped you to understand either your own behaviour, or the behaviour of someone in your immediate circle.
The best example to help my understanding of these different types of learning techniques is the Big Bang Theory, Sheldon & Penny scene. This, more than any theoretical understanding, has helped articulate in real world application what operant learning is – how it looks, how it feels, how it is put into practice. Operant conditioning is reinforcement given to a desirable behaviour to encourage that behaviour happening again. It can also be used to modify or slightly alter an existing behaviour, or to stop an undesirable behaviour occurring altogether. The Big Bang Theory example alludes to the idea that if the conditioning can happen subconsciously, without obvious reinforcement, it has a better, more intrinsic, chance of being effective.
I reflect on the times in my life when this may have happened to me without my immediate knowledge. Perhaps when I was very young, I was rewarded by using bathroom breaks correctly. That type of learning is an obvious necessity to become part of functioning society (who wants to be associated with an adult who still pees their pants?). And I think that is quite a point to make. A lot of what we learn and adapt to is based on the societal standards we have created for ourselves – be it learning to go to the bathroom, or how to conduct ourselves in a conversation.
By being the curious creatures that we are, we cannot help to see the world and want to make sense of it. Perhaps by our own understanding of the happenings around us, we are interpreting our own reinforcement to actions. Imagine if every time you went up a lift and held your breath, the lift worked just fine. Imagine if one day you just didn’t do this because you were talking to someone, and the lift shuddered, or stopped completely and you were stuck. Perhaps you would associate the holding of breath to the lift working ok, and have been conditioned to continue that behaviour.
What if every time you cooked dinner for you parents, they gave you chocolate for dessert. You really love chocolate, but still live at home without a job so you can’t go and get your own. You’d probably cook dinner more, yes? By the time you leave home, you’ll be so used to cooking dinner that you’d be great at it! You might even want to become a chef (if the prize was an endless supply of Cadbury’s).
Closer to home, however, operant conditioning becomes a very precarious tool. Do I now hold this power over people close to me who don’t understand the mental technology I am implementing? The power to subtly reinforce behaviours from my roommate that I like. When she takes the rubbish out, I offer her a cigarette. I take extra care to ensure she notices me emptying the rubbish, then I will initiate a smoke break. This modelling/imitation is working well so far. Our bins are nearly always clear. (then again, the smoking habit is a tougher nut to crack – working on it!).
I start to look outside of my immediate circle. What about the people I work with, what about the customers I talk to. Why do they have certain habits, why do they do things a certain way. Is our office manager employing such tactics to manipulate his staff to his own, or the companies, desired attributes? Is it even a bad thing? Our company recently employed a Future Recruiter – a young school graduate – to develop their career in recruitment. Career development now seems to be a socially acceptable term for Operant Conditioning. “We will reward you for adapting your behaviour for our desired results”. We train our Future Recruiters how to interact with clients, what the best tactics are to get the result you want, how to schedule your daily calendar to be the most productive. All the while, praising your adapted behaviours highly. Modifying your initial instincts to something more preferred.
What behaviours have I since adapted or changed because of operant learning? How did I end up being the person I am today? Who did this to me, who made me like this?! I know for certain that I do not act the same as my 15 year old self would. I have a different understanding of how to behave to garner the reaction I desire, be it in personally life (on a night out) or in work life (on a visit with a new client) or in my daily wind-down (at home with my roommate and closer friends). The reasons I act the way I do in any given situation is a result of previous actions and consequences I have learnt from them. Thus moulding my own behaviour with my own learning and interpretation of reinforcement. I guess the methods of conditioning are so subtle that over a lifetime, they are difficult to pinpoint. It plays more to the idea of Nurture more so than Nature shaping the people we become. If I had grown in isolation, like a lone tree in a desert, I would have grown very differently to a tree in a forest grove.
I’m in the fledgling stages of a new relationship. Well, an “on-again” relationship. You could say that my comet has come back into orbit. And he was, on the weekend, ablaze with light. I needed to get it out there, into that black void between us, that I couldn’t enter into this again if it was going to be the same trajectory as last time. I couldn’t. I wouldn’t. I won’t. He agreed.
I can’t tell you the exact words of that interaction between us, but I can tell you I felt good. Really good. #warmandfuzzy
But somehow, on a Tuesday afternoon, I find my belly sinking when I think of him. Does he really mean those kind words? Does he think of me? Am I important in his life? Do I even, cosmically speaking, matter? You see, I don’t trust it. I need to be reassured that yes, everything is okay. Yes, we are on the same page. Yes, we both are standing on the ledge this time. Because last time I thought it was fine, I was fine, we were fine, EVERYTHING WAS DAMN FINE, and it wasn’t. Oh gods it totally wasn’t. I stood on that ledge alone, and fell without really knowing it. It wasn’t until those words “I really like you, but..” that the falling stopped feeling like flying and gravity turned it’s attention to me, the ground rushed up to smack me in the face. Is that just going to happen again?
These thoughts are a little insane. I realise that completely. I’m not normally needy and uncertain. I’m confident in myself and sure of what’s good for me. Perhaps the shift in gravitational pull has me a little loopy. Here I am, Frightened and Happy – contradictions that won’t reconcile themselves easily.
I want to trust that the days will turn into weeks, weeks into months, fear into happiness. But these things take time. Fortunately, Time is what I’m willing to give.
Why, Reader, is it all too easy for my fingertips to trust you with this?
I fear that the balance of love will always be uneven. I fear that I will wake up sometime 10 years from now and be alone in my bed. I fear that I am unlovable, and people waste their time with me until someone better comes along. I fear that I am not enough for those people. I fear that I am too much for others and if I allowed myself the freedom to not hold back, that it would scare them away. I fear letting myself be someone’s second choice and not being brave enough to find that person to whom I am the first choice. Because what if I never find that? I fear I won’t be able to stand it.
All of those #inspirationalquotes telling you that you deserve better, you should be treated like a queen, etc etc, they scare me. The pressure to be all that sits heavily on my chest and won’t let me breathe. I do love myself, I really do. But I was built as half of a whole and I fear being incomplete for my whole life.
My first job out of highschool was working for a bank. I was driven, determined and motivated to climb that corporate ladder. I remember the excitement and sense of accomplishment when I got my very own business cards. I had dreams to grow my empire. Unfortunately, that company wasn’t the right place to do it. My drive was halted, my determination was pushed back, my motivation was gone. So I moved cities to find something more. The first steps were tentative – I took the first job I was offered. But it didn’t have the same feeling. I was good at it, but there was no challenge. No opportunity to be more than a number. But it was a gateway to something more.
Now, after 18 months in this new city, after many an unexpected hurdle (both personally and professionally…), I got real lucky. I now work as a recruitment consultant in a smallish branch in Brisbane that’s part of a global brand. The international opportunities are something I’ve only dreamed of, but HELLO REALITY, I’m here for this! #corporateworld
I’ve had 7 years of practice selling other companies products that have given me the tools to sell my self – my skills, personality, and capability. With this, I can be my own brand. I can rely on myself for my success. I’m fostering relationships with existing clients, I’m creating relationships with new clients. I look after my own book. And the rewards for that work come back to me. I get out what I put in. Plain and simple. And I love it.
The little icing on this beautiful cake is of course the people I work with. It’s a small team, but so much change has happened (before I came in) to make it a great team. We have the right people, the right personalities, the right level of fun and competition. It’s makes for a great office to spend my days in.
I’m still learning (gosh there’s so much new stuff to learn!), and it’s challenging every day. But I’m up for it. I can do this.
I actually have a career now, not just a mindless job.
Since I’ve started my #newcorporatejob I’ve discovered I don’t have as many corporate clothes as I have “lazy day every day” clothes. And since I’ve been out of work and not yet been paid, I’m also a bit low on the fund$ to go out an revamp my wardrobe. When I moved apartments recently I threw away (donated) about half my clothes that didn’t fit, didn’t need, and didn’t want, to Vinnies & Salvo’s.
SO, whilst spending our house deposit money on smashed avo and coffee, we planned our attack on thrift shops in our vicinity. We had a list, we had a car, we had coffee in our veins, we were ready to go! (By this point in the story, it’s 1 o’clock in the afternoon – we don’t move fast on weekends..)
Being thrifty is fantastic. It’s a great way to give back a little to your community whilst you and your gal pals going on a shopping spree that doesn’t break the bank. Win! And to be honest, if we’re going to spend a bunch of dough on breakfast, we can’t afford to buy off the runway outfits. It’s all about balance, am I right?
We hit up a lot of great places. The first was a quaint little church* with darling old sisters running the store. I’ve also come to the resolution that I in fact NEED a record player. If only to buy all the old classics and play them in my house all day long for background noise. I would then also need a long black cigarette holder, a chesterfield, and a few great hats. Classic.
I picked up a few amazing men’s t-shirts that will be re-purposed as some of my corporate day-to-day shirts. If I can look good the morning after in them, I can certainly make it work with a blazer and cropped black pants. #workappropriate. Steph picked up two pants, which needed a little nip/tuck to fit just right, but at $2.50, the threads were well worth the stitch.
Don’t get me started on getting out of that carpark. It’s a tiny little entry and I swear there was only a hairsbreadth between my car and some obnoxious SUV who swerved into the driveway.
We hit the next closest Salvo’s in Red Hill**. I’m certain the guys out the front had a bit of a laugh at the two chicks with some music banging out the car window. It’s OK, we had a giggle at you too.
I tell ya, if you move out of home or just need to get a piece of furniture or anything for your house, don’t go to K-Mart. As fabulous as it is, you will find everything you never knew you needed at a Salvo’s or Vinnies***. These are gold mines for anyone setting up house. Save a buck, be eclectic, have some fun history to that side-table.
For some truly amazing wardrobe pieces though, we found the independent thrift shops to be the best. They are also a WHOLE LOT CHEAPER than the bigger places. There’s a reason Macklemore won 2012 Triple J’s Hottest 100. SH*T, it was 99c! Everything we picked up was from two or three smaller shops. 10/10 would go again.
Yesterday**** offered up some great sundresses, excellent vintage pieces, and a small jewellery collection (a watch that I already seemed to have misplaced..). The ladies in there were amazing. They were just chatting away about a some quirks their beauty therapist has. The creaking floorboards tracked out steps through the old house. The faint smell of musk hung in the air.
What I love the most about thrift is they only stock things in good condition. When we were kids we used to go to the dump shop (second hand store, I think?). There was so much stuff! But a lot of it was useless or broken or stained and in no way “pre-loved”. Certainly “pre-worn” and trashed, but definitely no love went in to selecting these items for the racks.
We had the best day and are planning another attack in a few weeks. Steph’s mum and a few workmates want to come too. Share the love, I say. So that was our little weekend adventure. I highly suggest you all checking out what your locals have; it will be a good time, and a cheap time. Who doesn’t love shopping? Who loves shopping and not having to refinance their mortgage to pay off the credit card debt?!
This is a little list of the places we popped into.
The eternal paradox of life and death tightens its grip on us, whilst at the same time being challenged by modern science. Centuries before our time, the cycle of life and death was readily accepted. The afterlife was worshipped to be everlasting, with many cultures investing a lot of their time and energy into ensuring a good afterlife (see, Egyptians, Myans, Vikings etc). Life was cyclical. It came and went as the seasons changed.
A fantastic marketing ploy in only the past 100 years has made time liner and fashioned it into a commodity to be earned and spent. A line stretching straight on into the void. This shift in scope has changed our current view of the passage of time. Instead of accepting death as a part of life, science and engineering has aspired to extend our normal cycles to be everlasting. The search for eternal life continues in earnest. Science fiction movies envision suspended hibernation, beings who live beyond our normal human stretch of years. New aged health care, medicines, lifestyles are marketed with the possibility of extending your life, at a price. We can exchange one currency for another. Money for time.
The dramatic events of recent history, Chernobyl, 9/11, the Boxing Day Tsunami, have made us even more keenly aware of how fragile life is, whilst at the same time still thinking “it won’t happen to me”. Many of us live in the ignorant bliss of our own mortality, whilst quickly passing judgement on others. It’s easier to not think about death. But right there, in really knowing you don’t get to live forever, that you only have this one shot, can we really transcend, can we really appreciate the gift of today and live the best of it. In the immortal words of Eminem, “if you only had one shot, would you take it?” Sure, your new behaviour might be seen as erratic, neurotic even, but only to the people who aren’t on your level.
Refusing to live in constraints given to you by society might be seen as crazy. It might seem enlightened. It might be the encouragement someone else needs to break free of their chains and truly live their best life today. Because you don’t know what will happen tomorrow.
Here is a picture of my cat, Cora, who is free from the ravages of self-awareness and other crippling paradoxes. I think.
Live in fear of the end of your life, and find freedom in that.
I can’t pin down exactly what makes it good, it’s just a feeling. My soul feels lighter.
I took off my pyjamas, I put on a dress I’ve never worn. I felt the sunlight through the window. I went outside again. The cold air has given way to warmth today.
I talked about what inspired me, what I’m working on, what my goals are. In talking about them, I realised they are real and achievable. I forgot that. I got lost in the darkness that suddenly descended. I was overcome with fear of the future. But like a great fog, this too will lift.
These days have given me space to breath in a world where time is a commodity. It’s nice to let that go for a change.
I will not fear tomorrow, it hasn’t happened yet. I will make the best of today.
I find myself sitting on the couch after a long week of sitting on the couch. Yesterday I went for an interview, and I received the follow up call this morning. “We thank you for the time you’ve taken to come and meet with us, unfortunately on this occasion we won’t be proceeding to the next stage.” I can feel the tears welling behind my eyes. I can feel my throat tighten. Now as I sit here on the couch scrolling through Seek.com.au and any other job opportunities I’ve been referred, with The Lord Of The Rings playing in the background, I feel my heart aching for home again.
On Monday it was my Grandad’s 80th birthday. Much like Bilbo Baggins was saying, we have a love of peace and quiet, and good tilled earth, a love of things that grow (I dunno, maybe we are Hobbits). When I’m feeling worn down, out of spoons, and out of luck, home is the place that fills me up again. I flew down on Friday night and back again on Sunday afternoon. How I wish I had known before the flights were booked, I would have spent the whole week there.
My brother called my on Friday afternoon, and said to get dressed ready to go out when I got there. My friend and roommate Steph had caught an earlier flight and was waiting for me to arrive. So I change out of my jeans and sweatshirt into something less “aeroplane attire” and more “party all night”. The rest of the passengers were all a little taken aback I can imagine. But, I’ve always said, better to be overdressed for any occasion. #OwnIt. “The eagle has landed,” a quick text to my brother and he was waiting to pick me up. So, out in town we go. I lived here for a few years before moving away. I remember why I left..
Early on Saturday morning I am up and ready to go. The drive back home is an hour down the highway, lined with bushland and canefarms. Everything is saturated green and blue. They’re the most vivid colours I’ve seen all year. I think to myself “this is the road home, every time, for my whole life, this is the road home.” This is the bridge I will cross every time. There is no way around it. This in the only crossing on this river unless you drive 6 hours inland to detour. This bridge means I’m 5 minutes from home. You can see my Grandad’s farm on the from the other side.
Turning into our driveway is one of the best feelings in the world. Walking across the yard, through the gate and into the house – retracing my own steps from a thousand times before. Grandad is already here with my older brother. Mum welcomes me at the door. Dad isn’t far off. We are all sitting out under the back roof, overlooking the backyard, the chicken pen beyond the fence, the canfields past that, and up into the blue horizon. Steph is already allergic to the place, covered in bites and rashes and dog scratches. You can take a girl out of the city..
There’s a 1945 resorted Jeep Willy in the shed that I’ve been telling Steph about. I’m pretty sure actually this is her main motivation for coming here in the first place. So we take it out for a ride around the farm. Crikey. The breaks aren’t good, and power steering didn’t exist in the 40’s. It’s a tough drive. We may have got it bogged in some mud on the headlands too, but the important thing is, we got it out. 3 dogs, 2 girls, 1 jeep. We did alright. We made it back to the farm with time to wash the mud off our legs and get ready for the night.
Soon the family starts arriving, coming in twos and threes, until I am encompassed by a feeling of love like a warm blanket in the cold night. Grandad is wandering around his party taking photos with his phone, I can already tell every single one of them will have his blurred finger shadow in the corner. Bless. He is capturing his legacy – a happy family. I wish I could say we are all here, but we’re not. There are 2 cousins missing. Sisters. They didn’t make the trip. I guess they are too young or too stubborn to appreciate the significance of tonight. I can see it in his eyes, if only they would have been here, they would have been forgiven. Love is all my grandad has to give, there is no capacity for malice in his kind heart.
It’s time for the speeches. My Dad gets up to say some kind words, my Aunty also does as well, the only daughter. My younger brother has nice things to say. Our youngest cousin says she loves her family. They all look to me. I’m drunk on Pimms and high on dopamine. I stand next to him in front of our whole family. I tell him that I love him, and between him and dad, you’ve shown me the measure of a good man. I don’t know if it was enough, but it was the truth. After the cake was eaten and the dessert was cleaned up, the celebrations for the night are over, but not the fun. Steph is sitting in her chair curled up on her knees, “Why don’t you go to bed if you’re tired honey? It’s been a big day,” my mother says. I know why she’s still here. We’ll be damned if we let any 80 year old party goers outlast us.
The next morning is something special. The family comes around for leftovers lunch today, and it’s much more relaxed. I soak in this time just listening and being near them. One uncle has flown in from Perth with his daughter, another from Brisbane with her husband and daughters. Even the ones that live just down the road from our farm, I hardly see them too. I look around and count the many ways I am happy to be here. But it’s over too soon. Steph and I have a plane to catch so we have to pack and leave much too prematurely. Saying goodbye is always the hard part. “When will you be back?” “You can always come and visit us in Perth” “Be sure to drop by whenever you like” “I look forward to seeing you here again”. Then all too soon, we are back in our apartment with our bags dropped on the floor thinking how quickly that weekend went.
Let me let you in on a little thing. I am going overseas at the end of the year like every good human should do when they’re not ready for the reality of adulthood. I’m going with my best friend Mimi, and my best roommate Steph. It will be a rad super amazing time. BUT to travel, you need money, a source of income. Now, I have a lot of bills. I worked really hard when I was younger, and with a little boost from my dearest grandad, and I brought myself a house for my 21st. It will be a great investment and get’s me in the housing market. There are also many bills that arise from that. As well as renting here where I am now, and the expenses of living, I need a steady stream of income and I had one. Had.
Today I was fired. Fired from a job I was still in probation for. I’ve never been fired. In all my working history. I’m a pleasure to work with. I take quick understanding to my role and I’m a damn good kind human who does what is right by her customers. But anyway, I was fired. The management team gave me no grounds for dismissal, instead palming me off to call their HR department. I was informed that because I was still on probation, they wouldn’t deal with it and I should seek clarity from my Team Leader. OK well sure. It doesn’t really matter why, I guess, what’s done is done and it can’t be taken back. And for me, work isn’t everything right now. I have a lot going on, I just need an income. So now I am moving on to find that stream of income so I can fund my immediate life, and also fund a super rad great holiday with the best people I know.
Most people freak out about work, and unemployment, and unfair dismissal, or just dismissal in general. But work is only important if that’s the only thing in your life. There will always be other jobs you can do, there will always be other people to work for, there will always be something else. Even if that something is not the same as what you had before. When one door closes, it doesn’t mean they all have. It’s the shove that you need to look at a different industry, learn new skills, learn how to apply old skills to a new task. For me, particularly, at this stage of my life, there is so much more than work. Work is just a means to an end.
Since moving away from my little home town, the people I’ve met here have all been from work. I daresay most of the best connections I’ll make with people will be through the workforce. Being employed is more than just a job, it’s the people you meet and the bonds that you grow. If you’re lucky enough, when you part ways those bonds will strengthen into friendships that were built from the lunchroom and grow into your lounge room (preferably with a bottle of wine to share). So leaving one office and starting a new one is just an opportunity to widen that network and to grow those bonds.
I will take this unexpected long weekend to catch up on uni, maybe even submit a few assignments early because I’ll have time to do them, rather than be at work all day. I’ll clean my home, which I’ve newly set up with Steph. I’ll go to the afternoon yoga class, that I’ve been neglecting because I’ve been too exhausted to go after work every evening. I’ll organise my working Visa for Canada, because I definitely wouldn’t have been able to do that whilst at work, so I can take the odd job over there to support our adventures. I’ll reach out to my network of friends (all of whom I’ve met through previous jobs) to help me find a new stream of income in whatever field there is.
I don’t mind starting again. I will start again and again and again in my life. I’m comfortable with that. I’m comfortable being in this totally uncomfortable position of not knowing what I’m going to do on Monday. I’m comfortable with the thrill of meeting new people and learning new things and becoming really good at it.
So here I go, polishing my resume to catch a fish in that stream of income. To find something totally new that I can learn. Wish me luck!