Are You Copy Pasting Your Life?

Do you know what copy paste is? Of course you do, you must be reading this article on your computer right now (or laptop, or iPad or iPhone), hence you do have a moderate knowledge of how to use it. In fact, everybody knows what copy paste is nowadays. And everybody uses it big time. You copy paste your address, your personal identification number, your phone number or your social media nicknames. You copy paste parts of your messages, photos, songs, and videos. It saves a lot of time and makes your tasks a little less tedious.

Copy pasting is indeed a very powerful process.

But you’re not copy pasting only that. You’re copy pasting a lot more than that. You’re copy pasting behaviors, reactions, attitudes, and processes. During your day, many parts of what you’re doing or you’re reacting to are based on a copy paste process. You’re actually copy pasting big chunks of your life everyday, sometimes without even knowing it.

For instance, when a beggar approaches you on the street, you don’t really take the time to hear his story. Be honest, you don’t. Most of the time your thoughts are following this pattern

  1. “Oh, a beggar, I don’t have time for this.”
  2. “I really want to get over this and I want to get over this fast.”
  3. “Where is that piece of behavior that I usually apply when bumping into a beggar?”
  4. “Oh here it is: copy from that remote shelf in my mind.”
  5. “And now paste it to the current moment.”

Depending on what your usual behavior is, you might give some cash to the beggar, or you might repel him with a low voice. You may even ignore him. But whatever the choice, you believe that you won some time on your side because you didn’t write the whole action in the moment, you copy pasted it from some other corner of your consciousness. You may think that you won some time on your side, but in fact, you didn’t.

How Copy Pasting Works in Real Life

If you really take the time to assess how copy pasting works, you can identify some common points. In my experience, a typical copy paste situation unfolds in 3 steps.

Step 1: Identifying the Stimuli

We all have something called perception. This quality allows us to identify changes in our universe and match them to our internal history. We may choose to respond or not to respond to those stimuli, based on things like our past experience, intentions or current context. Some stimuli are processed by “lower” parts of our brain, while other stimuli are processed by “higher” parts of our brain.

For instance, every dangerous situation is processed in the “reptilian” brain, one of the oldest parts of our brain. That’s where fear is processed, and in turn where “fight or flight” reactions are generated. Listening to music or reading a book are processed in more recent parts of the brain, which are specialized in performing these types of tasks. That’s where “artistic” emotions take place.

Step 2 Identify the Usual Behavior

If the change in our reality triggers the need for an answer from us, we usually try to identify the most “popular” one. It’s a way for our brain to create shortcuts, it follows “known paths”. So, based on what the stimuli offers, we browse our internal library and pick whatever we think it might be appropriate.

For instance, if the stimuli is a big flame touching our hand, our reptilian brain will trigger a powerful and potentially life-saving response, usually in the form of a “run!” command. It does that in half of a second. It’s perceived as a “fight or flight situation”.

On the other hand, if we are listening to some beautiful music, our cortex may choose to respond by producing endorphins, or “pleasure hormones”, releasing them in our blood. It’s the most appropriate and beneficial answer from our cortex when facing what we may perceive as “beauty”.

Step 3 Copy it and Apply it

After we’ve identified the stimuli and picked up the most appropriate answer, we begin applying it. Our body follows the orders sent by the central unit. If there’s a reptilian brain command to “run”, our hand muscles will contract and our hand will retreat from the perceived danger of the flame. If there’s a cortex initiated response to release endorphins, our body begins to enjoy positive feelings while listening to the music.

So, every time we identify a change in our reality, we match it to our internal history and we chose wether to respond or not. We may often choose to apply a “verified” model, or contrarily we may choose to start something from scratch.

When Copy Pasting Is Playing Nice

If you burned your hand once, then copy pasting forgoes the need to repeat the contact of your hand with the fire a thousand times to learn the consequences. Just copy paste the “avoid” behavior and move on. That goes for basically all life and death situations you’ve ever been in (or situations that have been “tagged” as such by your reptilian brain).

Being on top of a building and feeling the need to jump, just to experience flying, well, that’s a stimuli you have probably never experienced. Based on the knowledge of your own or others’ previous experience with similar situations however, your brain has most likely tagged this activity as “don’t”. Somehow you know you won’t experience true flying, or you’ll experience it, but at a much higher price than you’re prepared to pay.

Usually, copy pasting works when you’re avoiding past traumas or judging identical traumatic contexts.

What Can Go Wrong

The only part that can really go wrong in this copy pasting process is stimuli identification. The reptilian brain sends very powerful messages, and those messages are generated due to real life and death situations. Every time you overcome a threat by listening to your reptilian brain, your trust in its responses grows. You become more and more sure of your reactions. You start to see the world in black and white. So, the temptation to give “black and white” answers becomes bigger and bigger. You start to evaluate all of the stimuli around you as “black and white” and insert those really fast, primitive responses.

Even if the situation requires more attention and assessment, you assume that by copy pasting some “definitive” reaction, you’ll be safe. So, you don’t really take the time to assess.

For instance, if you had been in a relationship that was wrong for you, then every time you saw a person that reminded you of your ex, you would “instinctively” step back. Your internal history tells you that you’ve been burned by a similar stimuli, so you just pencil in that “secure” behavior by copy pasting your reaction. Which is to withdraw.

Of course that person is not even remotely identical to the person who hurt you. It’s probably only something in the attitude, gestures or even smile that reminds you of the person who hurt you in the past. If you would take the time to assess the situation, without copy pasting your behavior, you’d realize that in a few seconds.

In my experience, copy paste works only on the reptilian brain level. I mean when there is immediate danger and your brain is triggering the fight or flight reaction, you should copy paste. Those are life and death situations. You have to be fast. So copy pasting is probably your best bet.

But above these situations that trigger the reptilian brain, copy pasting doesn’t work as well as expected. The most common problem being that you’re identifying the stimuli in the wrong way. Not every situation should be dealt with using the ‘fight or flight’ response. In other words, you’re missing opportunities. You may have had a bad relationship in the past. Now you meet a new person. He or she reminds you of your ex. You identify a stimuli here, so you copy paste the last best behavior you had (either give in or give out).

But fact is no one person is identical to any other person. People are different. This new person is completely different from the person they resemble. And yet, you limit your experiences and opportunities by categorizing it into the same system, instead of assessing it at face value.

The Exercise

Copy pasting your everyday life, outside the basic survival situations will make you a copy paste person. You will spend so little time assessing what’s actually going on with your life under the present circumstances, and you will automate your reactions at such a level, that you won’t live a life anymore. You will be like a puppet. Trigger, copy paste, trigger, copy paste…

Let’s do a test here: if your normal behavior for reading blog posts is to get over with it and close the browser without a comment, do the opposite now. Even if you don’t agree with what I wrote (or especially if you don’t agree). Just leave a comment and do it with a new level of awareness. See what’s happening with yourself. Describe it in the comment.

Even more, it doesn’t need to be related to this article, just identify some stimuli in your immediate world and see if you’re copy pasting your behavior in response to it right now. If you are, describe the situation.

Because, you know, our worlds are different and your story is completely different than my own. My book of life is written in a different way from yours, and I’m copy pasting in completely different areas.

Let’s see. What are you copy pasting right now in your life?

59 thoughts on “Are You Copy Pasting Your Life?”

  1. I hardly leave messages – was compelled really. Love all your blogs posts.

    When I was a teenager, I had “bad” experience with couple of family members who I trusted; they would say one thing but meant another, and there was always that passive aggressiveness. I was okay (mostly confused) with all that until my mother got roped into all that and became passive aggressive with me just like them – before that we had a great relationship. Then bunch of verbal exchanges happened with these people and also my mother which made me emotionally scarred. That’s where it all began, mistrusting people who are close to me or are in my life.

    My husband is one of the best peoples I know, and even If I hear something similar tone or along those lines from him (or pretty much anybody else who I trust), my lizard brain reacts and I always have this “belligerent” response , I flip out as in he is (or they are) telling me something hurtful and are being passive aggressive. I have tried to control my response, but it doesn’t seem to work all the time (works sometimes) and I have made our relationship really bad (in case of others, I shy away from being close to them).

    All what is mentioned in this blog, makes perfect sense, my husband is not being passive aggressive at all (in fact he is the opposite of that), but my reaction to him is the same of copy pasting one whenever I hear a combination of similar tone and words.

    Time to really assess my responses, well, reactions..

  2. I had a nasty experence with apricotes when I was younger, so I avoided them for almost a decade. Have found recently that I don’t mind them anymore.

  3. If you “copy and paste” be sure that it is good for
    you. I agree copy pasting is a crowd mentality whats
    in, they copy and paste it in there life..Great reminder
    to all of us..

  4. This article was just was I needed. I seem to be able to identify the habits I would like to break fairly easily, however taking action to make those changes is where I struggle. Taking action takes courage, and courage stems from taking action. I’ve been copy and pasting for too long. Thank you for challenging me to step outside of my comfort zone to leave my first comment.

  5. It is a hard truth that plays itself in our every day life. for me, the negative aspect of copy paste life is putting me in hole. Thanks for the write-up, am breaking the jinx.

  6. A good way of thinking well here is something to think about what if I’m dealing with the same person is it copy and past also if I had bad experience with this guy or my manger for example ??

  7. I want to be a “copy & paste” person at work. I’m sure it would be a lot easier. I tried it for a while – just couldn’t remember what was the response required. The internal dialogue got screwed and I ended up in a worse situation. Best if you operate outside the norm to keep that as your norm.

  8. Although I know that being present in your actions is the goal, I still copy-paste parts of my life and this message from you came in the perfect moment for turning on the light to be careful on what and how we are pasting. Too much copy-paste leads to lack of progress and this is not anyones intention (I guess).
    Thx for bringing light onto this issue.

  9. hey, dragos! just a thought. people who tend to copy-and-paste the negatives in life are often the same ones who dwell too much in that same thought. whereas people who have broken free are those that who pushed themselves out of the cycle by thinking, living and desiring what’s out of the box. we think and then become – with some actions in between that connects both. so maybe some folks just need to be told, “hey, get a life – one that’s your own!” LOL!

    there’s one encounter i remember so well. she’s always been conscious, even fearful of getting into yet another broken heart. she overly thinks, keen of the smell of “dangerous Adams” and I think she knows them from dandruff to athlete’s foot! LOL. and boy, i had to tell her she was pulled towards the wrong kind because she thinks about them more! it was only after she began thinking of “finding the right man” did she find one.

    just a story to drive that point of copy-and-paste. we must know what to and what not to, huh?

    anyways, great read, Dragos.


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  12. I couldn’t agree with you more! The reticular acitivating system gets involved here and becomes the lense by which we filter all information. In order to change our default tendencies we need to be aware of them. Wonderful suggestions on how to do so. It really doesn’t matter if you think your way into better actions or act your way into better thinking, better thinking is what is required! Thanks for a wonderful post!

  13. Copy paste would have ordinarily caused me to not leave a comment. You have raised some good points in this article that have alerted me to a behaviour I was unaware that I was really doing in relation to meeting new people.

    Thanks 🙂

  14. Oh, this is fun! My copy paste habit told me not to leave a comment because there are so many here saying things better than I could have. Thanks for nudging me out of my comfort zone at least long enough to say this clever analogy is going to stick with me for a while. I can just feel it. 🙂

  15. Hey Dragos,

    Wow, what a great metaphor for human behavior. In particularly, I resonate with your example of treating other people in this copy/paste way. I’m getting to an age (23) where I’ve now met and interacted with many different kinds of people, and I’ve experienced the temptation to treat people based on nonsensical judgments of what we THINK they are like. Of course, human beings are an amazing testament to the individuality of all beings, and this way of copy/paste living doesn’t make any sense.

    As Sandra Lee said, I think it’s all just a reminder to step back into the present. Then we can observe with fresh eyes.

    • Well, it’s not exactly about habits, which are usually good things. The habit of riding the bike is a good one, if you know what I mean. it’s more about copy pasting entire behaviors in similar contexts…

      • Well, the habit of riding the bike is a good one, until one day you decide to try to walk instead and see how much more you can see/feel by doing what essentially looks like the same thing, just a bit different. Taking your example of a beggar approaching you, do you think you would even notice him while biking? Or try taking the bus. Or biking an alternate route. Every habit is worth breaking, including good habits. If you break a good habit you’ll always be able to get back to it if you notice it was actually good. But if you don’t break it you’ll never even see something else. You don’t really know a habit is a good habit until you try alternatives.

        • I am completely in sync with what you’re saying. One of the biggest habits I broke was the “business man” habit, which, to be honest, was a very prosperous one 😉 . Now I am doing something completely different and I’m literally hunting the discomfort zone, both in professional and persona life. As a coincidence, I started to walk a LOT in the last few weeks. My non-compete agreement after the sale of my company ended at the end of august and starting October I got involved in a new project (as a consultant, this time). Fact is I’m getting out of the house, have something that other people call office, have meetings and so on. And, during the process, I surprise myself walking 4-5 km every day.

          • Prosperous habits are the most difficult to break. Kudos for that. I’m sure it will pay off, be it in $$ or just in a better life. 😉

  16. Not that I don’t agree, but I think you only provide part of the reason why “copy paste life” is bad. You say the reason to avoid it is to avoid mistakes. I’d say that’s the smallest problem. The real problem of a “copy paste life” is that it will finish sooner than you think without giving you the feeling that you even lived it. Sure, we all like our routine to some extent, but living a life which consists only of routine [which is essentially what you call “copy paste”] means you’re not actually living it! Same as writing an article which consists of the same sentence copy pasted 100 times means you didn’t write any article! Here’s a very nice post on this topic: .
    Also related to this, I particularly like the last part of The Black Swan. After the book talks about black swans – what they are, gives examples, etc. – it makes this strong point for living a life which is favorable to black swans – these unexpected events – which of course, can be both good or bad – but trying to avoid the bad ones will make you avoid the good ones too due to their unexpected nature. Read the book if you haven’t yet.
    So as a conclusion, your post is a good start, but there’s a lot more to it than what you said here. 🙂

    • first of all, thanks for the link, I thoroughly enjoyed the article (felt at times like it was written by yours truly, not that I’m not paranoid at times, you know that 😉 ).

      And I’m totally with you on what you say about “there’s more than that”. I have only a few thousands words for a blog post and even like that, the length of my articles (usually over 1500 words) is a very good filter, meaning only few people are actually finishing them. Parts of what you’re saying have been touched in other articles, and other parts will be touched in the future. Bottom line: I totally agree with what you say here.

      • Sure, it’s not bad for a blog post. 🙂 If you ever decide to publish a book on this subject, this post could be included somewhere. 😉

        If I seem unexcited about your blog at times it’s not because it doesn’t have good content, but because the topics you cover are really broad and simply touching them with a post like this makes it seem more like a scratchpad than something serious. Sure, most blogs are just scratchpads and not serious at all. Hell, I only read a handful of blogs, because most of what’s out there is crap. Just letting you know that this kind of content is better suited as a continuous piece where you have a better chance to develop it rather than a bunch of small posts. At least for the casual reader. But I guess you know that and you’re working on it. 🙂

        • There’s a trade off here: how many people can you “touch” and how many people are in your “league”. We’re all evolving, at different speeds. But the content here is for people like me or you 5 years ago. It will stay. I like to keep the more “grounded” content for infoproducts. Those are having a different consuming process. They’re paid, they’re longer and more consistent.

          All in all, yes, you can see, from your current evolution position, these kind of posts like teasers. But that’s just because there is an audience which is awaiting these type of triggers. And I am aware that there is another audience, like you and many others, which is interested in a different approach.

        • And yes, I broke my habit of usually not replying to your blog posts for the aforementioned reasons just because of your call to action. So your post *did* make me change something about my habits. 🙂

  17. Hey Dragos,

    I’ve never realized how much I actually copy and paste throughout my daily life–now that I think about it.

    I think in someways besides survival, it’s best to copy and paste.. like your example, when dealing with homeless people.

    I’m not gonna lie as I spam my “copy n paste” reactions towards the homeless 100% of the time :/

    • The problem with copy pasting outside the survival situations is that you’re in fact loosing time to connect with yourself, and you think you’re gaining time to do “something else”. It’s an illusion.

  18. As we grow up, we emulate the things around us until we finally realize that we’re individuals with our own direction in life! Great post and definitely a good reminder to me.

  19. I have dealt with anxiety in my life and in order to heal and change I’ve needed to discover my own copy paste mentalities. I realized that anxiety is very much a reaction rather than allowing rational thoughts to process. Once I was able to change my thinking and reactions (the copy paste) it changed my life dramatically!

  20. Geeeze…I feel this was written for me especially the relationship portion becasue that is EXACTLY what has happened to me. And not only that, reading this came at the right time in my current relationship. I was at one time, in a relationship that was VERY wrong for me and every time anyone new did or said anything remotely close to that previous person, it DID remind me of my ex and I DID “instinctively” step back! Everytime- including my current relationship. However, he is trying VERY hard to try in calm my mind about things but it’s not easy for me to ignore an instinct that rarely, if ever, lead me wrong in the past when I did suspect somethng. Call it a curse or a gift, but it’s rarely been wrong in things like my relationships and now my brain asks ‘what’s so different abt this new guy?’ If my instinct was not wrong several times in the past, even w/ new peopleat that time – then how do I not copy & paste now with new people like my current guy who is really great? This is frustrating. I feellike this topic is VERY right on and yet I feel like if I were to ignore the instinct I could be ‘had’ becasue I ignored the copy/paste scenerio or the ‘stepping back’. I don’t knwo if the copy/past habit that messed me up or if I just ran into one too many rediculous guys…

    • I’m so with you on this one. The dilemma: follow your “instinct” or break the pattern. Fact is we’re not as in touch with our intuition as we THINK we are. Most of the time we take for granted some signals but they’re not coming form our intuition. They came from a long, personal history.

      Now, most of the time I just choose the discomfort zone. The discomfort is a sure sign that I will be pushed to evolve. Somehow.

  21. Hi Dragos,
    I love the copy paste metaphor. What a great way to describe the mechanical nature of the mind. We must learn to be an ‘impersonal listener’ and recognize those old mental recordings that bolster self-weakness and trigger a copy/paste response to life. It takes rising above the conditioned mind to see the infinite possibilities we never would have noticed before.

    • He he, I like the idea of an “impersonal listener” although it kinda conflicts with my idea of a self-aware person. A person can’t be impersonal, you know…

  22. Really like the idea of just taking the time to comment on this, Dragos… even as I’m writing this, I can feel the urge to get moving, next article, gotta get stuff done!

    There are so many times when I read good articles and don’t take the time to comment, just because I’m on the way to the next one before finishing the one I’m reading.

    Thanks for the reminder… sorry that I couldn’t disagree with you. 🙂

    • Well, this is exactly what I’m experiencing too. It’s like my life “document” should be ready and I don’t have time to write by hand all the paragraphs. Hence, I start to cheat by copy pasting big parts of it. At the end of the day I’m tired and I don’t know why 🙁

  23. I always recognized that I was doing this to some degree but I never was able to pinpoint it. After reading this i want to take a new approach to my interactions with people I see everyday, maybe I will surprise myself!

    • I am very pleased to have read this blog, generally i wouldnt even take the time to read one of these self-help idea’s, but recently i’ve been learning that if you dont take the time to evaluate your life, then nobody else is going to do it for you. I copy and paste stimuli into my everyday life all the time to try to save some time, or circumnavigate hard tasks. Well now im going to atleast try in quelling some of these instantaneous responses, I want to start dictating my own reactions to the world that keeps moving all around me!!!!!

  24. Reminds me of some discussions I’ve had on the socialization process and the powerful (and often undesirable) effect it has on our behaviors…oftentimes, unconsciously. There are so many things that we automatically do because we just “know that’s what you do,” but when we take a step back to truly examine our actions, it’s probably wise to see how well they align with our ideals and our goals, rather than how well they align with what everyone else is doing. Usually, for people in this crowd, the two are quite different.

    Loved this post.

    • I liked the comparison. I think this behavior is very powerful and also deeply buried in our subconscious. I surprise myself many times “following the crowd” when I really shouldn’t. Good thing I’m aware of that…

      • Yes – the follow the crowd mentality is probably in part a biological response, as well, dating back to long ago when we depended on the group for survival. I have no data to back that up off the top of my head, but it’s interesting to note that now that we don’t depend on the crowd for our basic needs, such as food and shelter, we still depend on the crowd for our psychological needs, such as acceptance. Regardless of the rationale, the benefits of following are limited; they can only benefit us as far as they crowd goes. On the other hand, if we’re willing to take the leap and think critically about our lives, and take action in areas that we wish to change, whether the crowd backs us or not, we open ourselves up to opportunities to push civilization forward.

        • Yeap, my thoughts exactly. As an individual, I had to fight this urge to be “crowd compliant” for a long time. It’s scary when you did it, because it triggers feelings of loneliness and alienation. But as you say, in the long run, it’s more fulfilling.

  25. Very nice article, I feel you hit on some very key points. I’ll admit, I was one of those people that would read a good article and close the browser. Though as I type this, I can feel the endorphins being released inside of me just knowing that I’ve changed a copy and paste habit.

    • Now, I appreciate the plug, but I don’t entirely believe you 😉 Thise endorphins releasing process are taking a little longer, you know… 😀

  26. I can definitely think of situations where I copy/paste behaviour and not always good behaviour. A very interesting post and will make me think more about some of my automatic reactions to situations.

  27. The call to action made me smile instantly. I’ve noticed the urge to finish reading the article when I was in the middle of it. It is interesting to me, but I even scrolled a page a little to assess how long is it by the size of scrollbar and even assumed that there’s some more content after the text, so it’s not that long as it seems…

    Call that awareness 😀 So after noticing those small things while reading you can understand why the ending of it made me smile and keep smiling while I’m writting this.

    The thing that I notice about myself I usually am pretty aware of these little things and here comes the big “but” I kind of keep ignoring them most of the time for the same reason “I don’t have time/urge… (fill with your own word)” to deal with it now.


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