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September 30, 2020

Hardwired for Survival with Dr. Ellen Vora

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I am fascinated by evolutionary biology and how evolution has created us to be a certain type of species that exhibits certain traits. But the issue is we’ve created a  society where those traits are so out of place. In her work, Dr. Ellen Vora has identified a few of those misplaced optimizations, with a longer emphasis on the mechanism itself and how it designs us for survival.

"There's three things that are adaptive in the past that are really maladaptive these days. One of them is that we want to be lazy, another is that we really enjoy calorie dense food, and the other is that we're hardwired for survival - Which is a really good design on a savannah where 99% of the time you're not particularly stressed but 1% of the time it's life or death. We live in this flipped script now where we are chronic low-grade stress all the time, and it's not so life or death for the most part. We're sort of designed to be hypervigilant in anticipating negative consequences and to be obsessed about that. There's not survival advantage to being hardwired to be chill. I think the more that we can surrender and trust and show up and say 'all I can do is do my best and then I release the outcome, I don't control that part' then that's the way to push back against our hardwiring for survival."

All of the cognitive biases we have, and the predispositions, and subconscious behaviors were all created as a result of what helped us survive evolutionarily as humans. And as Dr. Vora pointed out one of the most maladaptive forms of that is our stress response. In order to combat our natural physiological tendencies to perceive threats and our hyperactive fight or flight sympathetic nervous systems, we need to detach ourselves from the results and accept them as they are rather than obsess on how we can influence the outcome.


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