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What's Beyond Self-Improvement?

https://www.scotthyoung.com/blog/2020/09/07/beyond-self-improvement/

scotthyoung.com

What's Beyond Self-Improvement?
What to you do after you've fixed your problems in life? What gives you the energy to work hard every day if the struggles are gone?

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A Life Full Of Struggles

A Life Full Of Struggles

For many people, life is full of struggles. However, many struggles can be lessened through reasonably clear steps: set goals, build better habits, learn more, do the work.

When you're successful with all the big parts of your life, there may be some pleasure in obtaining it, but no enduring satisfaction. Just like the pleasure in eating when you're very hungry, afterward, there is simply a nothingness. This realization often comes as a surprise.

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Struggles Create A Motivating Tension

Facing life's struggles often create pain and lack, but it also adds a motivating tension in your life that gives structure and direction for the things you do.

Once the major struggles in your life are gone, the motivating tension diminishes too. The result is that you desire to regain that energizing force. One strategy people use to regain this tension is self-destruction. They break the thing they worked hard to build.

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Mentally Tearing Down Your Past Achievements

Sometimes, what was previously good enough is now not acceptable anymore. It could be a person who gets in shape but now wants 6% body fat.

The problem isn't the mindset of continual growth, but motivating that growth by creating new, imagined needs. One can pursue excellence without mentally downgrading your past accomplishments.

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Goals That Are Not Explicitly Improving Your Life

Since most of our motivating tensions come from our difficulties, we create struggles to feel the motivation.

To escape this trap, we need to shift our philosophy of life away from fixing our problems and onto goals that you know won't explicitly improve your life. These include service to others, pursuing mastery, or creative vision.

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Self-Improvement And Diminishing Returns

Self-improvement can reach a stage of diminishing returns. Once your basic needs are met, and there are no large, obvious things that would make your life better, the motivating tension that structured and guided your life may be gone and create a vacuum you want to fill. A major indicator that you're near a transition is when you mostly feel bored.

We have to consider planning for this transition. This involves new ways of thinking about the step beyond.

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Rigid Vs Malleable: Exploring the Ability to Change Ourselves

Rigid Vs Malleable: Exploring the Ability to Change Ourselves

How much we can change ourselves can be explored by looking at the extremes.

  • At one extreme (Rigidland ), our nature is fixed and unchanging. No amount of effort or ...

Arguments in Favor of Rigidity

Studies involving identical and fraternal twins (even reared apart) showed that most parts of our nature are partly heritable. Intelligence may be as high as 80% heritable, but 50% is the standard number of many of the domains, including personality.

However, being heritable isn't the same as being fixed. There might be a difference between inheriting different capabilities versus different preferences.

Arguments in Favor of Malleability

While genetic research stands out in favour of rigidity, there is contrary evidence.

  • One is that most psychology studies are done using Western undergraduates. This means that while we think we measure universal human functioning, we may be measuring culturally-specific ones.
  • If our abilities were fixed, then the amount of work required to get good is greatly reduced.
  • Positive feedback increases motivation and confidence. This means that if you started with a fixed advantage towards math, for example, it might increase as you gain more confidence and make you much, much better at math than you would have been without motivation and confidence.

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Learning is not the same as studying

Learning is not the same as studying

You might not study at all. However, learning underpins your life.

In relationships, you need to understand your partner and know how to communicate. At work, you prof...

Only putting in time does not lead to mastery

Doing something every day doesn't guarantee mastery, only adequacy. What is needed is deliberate practice.

Only putting in time does not lead to mastery. You may improve at first but will eventually reach a comfortable level and stay there indefinitely.

What separates growth from stagnation

Research on violinists shows that those who went on to become concert performers didn't practice more, but the time spent in deliberate practice was much higher.

Deliberate practice means trading automatic behavior for strategies to increase performance.

The limits of habits

The limits of habits

Habit-building is a powerful tool for self-improvement. But the power of the tool can also create some overreach. In one way, habits will fail to form.

In other circumstances, habits are no...

Not all behaviors can be easily automated

Many habits are simply routines, but not all of them. _For example, there isn't a habit for a hard workout at the gym - you won't become absent-minded midway through a benchpress.

  • Habits are behaviors that flow automatically from a set of prompts.
  • Routines are behaviors we repeatedly do but involve many deliberate actions done with some effort and thinking.

Habits aren’t commitments

  • A commitment is a rule you've added for yourself. "I must exercise five times per week." But if you break that commitment, it can result in a backsliding effect.
  • A habit is that behavior that happens automatically from a triggering situation.