13 Matching Annotations
  1. May 2020
  2. Apr 2020
    1. Keeping a goal in mind and using it to direct our actions requires constant willpower. During times when other parts of our lives deplete our supply of willpower, it can be easy to forget our goals. For example, the goal of saving money requires self-discipline each time we make a purchase. Meanwhile, the habit of putting $50 in a savings account every week requires little effort. Habits, not goals, make otherwise difficult things easy… While goals rely on extrinsic motivation, habits are automatic. They literally rewire our brains.

    1. The importance of self-compassion in tempering the brittleness of self-efficacy

      The main reason is that most people’s risk tolerance is very low, because self-efficacy (defined as “a person’s conviction or confidence about his or her abilities to mobilize the motivation, cognitive resources or courses of action needed to successfully execute a specific task within a given context”) is remarkably fragile. When it comes to trying and learning new things, people have difficulty transferring success in one arena to even highly related ones. Even small failures lead to learned helplessness so quickly, we learn to protect against that eventuality by not trying new things unless success is guaranteed.

      The primary risk of entrepreneurship and other free agent lifestyles is not financial or even social — it is the risk to a person’s very self-concept as someone who does what they set out to do.

      What we need if we want to change behavior at this fundamental level is to replace predictive models of behavior change—do this and you’ll get that —with exploratory models.

      Stories may actually be a more accurate way of describing how people think about and use mental models of behavior change. Stories, like emergent systems, only move in one direction. They cannot be rolled back and played again. This irreproducibility suggests the importance of another form of psychological capital that is also highly correlated with successful behavior change: self-compassion. They are two sides to the same coin — you need self-efficacy to believe you can do it, but you equally need self-compassion to be ok when you don’t. Self-compassion aids change by removing the veil of shame and pain that keeps you from examining the causes of your mistakes (and often, leads you to indulge in the very same bad habit as a way of forgetting the pain). Self-forgiveness is the first step in fostering an invitational attitude that is open to feedback and learning, from yourself and others.

      There is something about the turning of this coin — between efficacy and compassion — that I believe lies at the heart of the experimentation framework I’m envisioning. And the more I think about it, the more I suspect compassion is the far more radical and important side.

    1. Taken from a graduation address delivered at West Point, which is just so good and worth quoting many sections of at length

      That’s really the great mystery about bureaucracies. Why is it so often that the best people are stuck in the middle and the people who are running things—the leaders—are the mediocrities? Because excellence isn’t usually what gets you up the greasy pole. What gets you up is a talent for maneuvering. Kissing up to the people above you, kicking down to the people below you. Pleasing your teachers, pleasing your superiors, picking a powerful mentor and riding his coattails until it’s time to stab him in the back. Jumping through hoops. Getting along by going along. Being whatever other people want you to be, so that it finally comes to seem that, like the manager of the Central Station, you have nothing inside you at all. Not taking stupid risks like trying to change how things are done or question why they’re done. Just keeping the routine going.

      We have a crisis of leadership in America because our overwhelming power and wealth, earned under earlier generations of leaders, made us complacent, and for too long we have been training leaders who only know how to keep the routine going. Who can answer questions, but don’t know how to ask them. Who can fulfill goals, but don’t know how to set them. Who think about how to get things done, but not whether they’re worth doing in the first place. What we have now are the greatest technocrats the world has ever seen, people who have been trained to be incredibly good at one specific thing, but who have no interest in anything beyond their area of exper­tise. What we don’t have are leaders.

      What we don’t have, in other words, are thinkers. People who can think for themselves. People who can formulate a new direction: for the country, for a corporation or a college, for the Army—a new way of doing things, a new way of looking at things. People, in other words, with vision.

      That’s the first half of the lecture: the idea that true leadership means being able to think for yourself and act on your convictions. But how do you learn to do that? How do you learn to think? Let’s start with how you don’t learn to think. A study by a team of researchers at Stanford came out a couple of months ago. The investigators wanted to figure out how today’s college students were able to multitask so much more effectively than adults. How do they manage to do it, the researchers asked? The answer, they discovered—and this is by no means what they expected—is that they don’t. The enhanced cognitive abilities the investigators expected to find, the mental faculties that enable people to multitask effectively, were simply not there. In other words, people do not multitask effectively. And here’s the really surprising finding: the more people multitask, the worse they are, not just at other mental abilities, but at multitasking itself.

      One thing that made the study different from others is that the researchers didn’t test people’s cognitive functions while they were multitasking. They separated the subject group into high multitaskers and low multitaskers and used a different set of tests to measure the kinds of cognitive abilities involved in multitasking. They found that in every case the high multitaskers scored worse. They were worse at distinguishing between relevant and irrelevant information and ignoring the latter. In other words, they were more distractible. They were worse at what you might call “mental filing”: keeping information in the right conceptual boxes and being able to retrieve it quickly. In other words, their minds were more disorganized. And they were even worse at the very thing that defines multitasking itself: switching between tasks.

      Concentrating, focusing. You can just as easily consider this lecture to be about concentration as about solitude. Think about what the word means. It means gathering yourself together into a single point rather than letting yourself be dispersed everywhere into a cloud of electronic and social input. It seems to me that Facebook and Twitter and YouTube—and just so you don’t think this is a generational thing, TV and radio and magazines and even newspapers, too—are all ultimately just an elaborate excuse to run away from yourself. To avoid the difficult and troubling questions that being human throws in your way. Am I doing the right thing with my life? Do I believe the things I was taught as a child? What do the words I live by—words like duty, honor, and country—really mean? Am I happy?

      So it’s perfectly natural to have doubts, or questions, or even just difficulties. The question is, what do you do with them? Do you suppress them, do you distract yourself from them, do you pretend they don’t exist? Or do you confront them directly, honestly, courageously? If you decide to do so, you will find that the answers to these dilemmas are not to be found on Twitter or Comedy Central or even in The New York Times. They can only be found within—without distractions, without peer pressure, in solitude.

      “Your own reality—for yourself, not for others.” Thinking for yourself means finding yourself, finding your own reality. Here’s the other problem with Facebook and Twitter and even The New York Times. When you expose yourself to those things, especially in the constant way that people do now—older people as well as younger people—you are continuously bombarding yourself with a stream of other people’s thoughts. You are marinating yourself in the conventional wisdom. In other people’s reality: for others, not for yourself. You are creating a cacophony in which it is impossible to hear your own voice, whether it’s yourself you’re thinking about or anything else. That’s what Emerson meant when he said that “he who should inspire and lead his race must be defended from travelling with the souls of other men, from living, breathing, reading, and writing in the daily, time-worn yoke of their opinions.” Notice that he uses the word lead. Leadership means finding a new direction, not simply putting yourself at the front of the herd that’s heading toward the cliff.

      So solitude can mean introspection, it can mean the concentration of focused work, and it can mean sustained reading. All of these help you to know yourself better. But there’s one more thing I’m going to include as a form of solitude, and it will seem counterintuitive: friendship. Of course friendship is the opposite of solitude; it means being with other people. But I’m talking about one kind of friendship in particular, the deep friendship of intimate conversation. Long, uninterrupted talk with one other person. Not Skyping with three people and texting with two others at the same time while you hang out in a friend’s room listening to music and studying. That’s what Emerson meant when he said that “the soul environs itself with friends, that it may enter into a grander self-acquaintance or solitude.”

      Introspection means talking to yourself, and one of the best ways of talking to yourself is by talking to another person. One other person you can trust, one other person to whom you can unfold your soul. One other person you feel safe enough with to allow you to acknowledge things—to acknowledge things to yourself—that you otherwise can’t. Doubts you aren’t supposed to have, questions you aren’t supposed to ask. Feelings or opinions that would get you laughed at by the group or reprimanded by the authorities.

      This is what we call thinking out loud, discovering what you believe in the course of articulating it. But it takes just as much time and just as much patience as solitude in the strict sense. And our new electronic world has disrupted it just as violently. Instead of having one or two true friends that we can sit and talk to for three hours at a time, we have 968 “friends” that we never actually talk to; instead we just bounce one-line messages off them a hundred times a day. This is not friendship, this is distraction.

    1. I finally realized today why politics and religion yield such uniquely useless discussions.

      "the best plan is to let as few things into your identity as possible"

      I think what religion and politics have in common is that they become part of people's identity, and people can never have a fruitful argument about something that's part of their identity. By definition they're partisan.

      More generally, you can have a fruitful discussion about a topic only if it doesn't engage the identities of any of the participants.

      The most intriguing thing about this theory, if it's right, is that it explains not merely which kinds of discussions to avoid, but how to have better ideas. If people can't think clearly about anything that has become part of their identity, then all other things being equal, the best plan is to let as few things into your identity as possible.

  3. Sep 2019
    1. Only 1% of Americans rewrite their goals on a daily basis.Giving yourself even five minutes per day to orient your life in the direction of your goals is the difference between success and average.
    2. It’s easy to focus on the constraints of your circumstances rather than the power of your capabilities.
    1. Other consequences of present bias include procrastination or eating unhealthily, even though we promised ourselves we wouldn’t.
  4. Nov 2018
    1. The Modern Stoicism movement traces its roots to Victor Frankl’s (Sahakian 1979) logotherapy, as well as to early versions of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, for instance in the work of Albert Ellis (Robertson 2010). But Stoicism is a philosophy, not a therapy, and it is in the works of philosophers such as William Irvine (2008), John Sellars (2003), and Lawrence Becker (1997) that we find articulations of 21st century Stoicism, though the more self-help oriented contribution by CBT therapist Donald Robertson (2013) is also worthy of note. All of these authors attempt to distance the philosophical meaning of "Stoic"—even in a modern setting—from the common English word "stoic," indicating someone who goes through life with a stiff upper lip, so to speak. While there are commonalities between "Stoic" and "stoic," for instance the emphasis on endurance, the latter is a diminutive version of the former, and the two should accordingly be kept distinct.
  5. Sep 2017
  6. Jul 2017
    1. The students who exerted more self-control were not more successful in accomplishing their goals. It was the students who experienced fewer temptations overall who were more successful when the researchers checked back in at the end of the semester.

      Reduce the number of distractions you get better results.

  7. Feb 2017
  8. Jun 2016
    1. As a context, we must understand that there are four major types of these "technologies," each a matrixof practical reason: (I) technologies of production, which permit us to produce, transform, or manipulatethings; (2) technologies of sign systems, which permit us to use signs, meanings, symbols, orsignification; (3) technologies of power, which determine the conduct of individuals and submit them tocertain ends or domination, an objectivizing of the subject; (4) technologies of the self, which permitindividuals to effect by their own means or with the help of others a certain number of operations on theirown bodies and souls, thoughts, conduct, and way of being, so as to transform I themselves in order toattain a certain state of happiness, purity, wisdom, perfection, or immortality.

      It's great to ask what are the trends? How are we working on ourselves? Is their a role capitalism plays in what is currently being "valued"? Where's the profit?