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Why Self-Discipline is so Hard

Defining self-discipline

We usually use this term when we describe a person that makes positive long-term decisions, by overcoming short-term temptations.

We associate this process with some sort of "will" or "willpower", though what these really mean is not that obvious.

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Why Self-Discipline is so Hard

Why Self-Discipline is so Hard

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mVbrgBjZm60

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Key Ideas

The virtue of self-control

We have hold self-control as a high virtue since the earliest times, and that's why it is a staple in most religions and the moral of many myths.

Defining self-discipline

We usually use this term when we describe a person that makes positive long-term decisions, by overcoming short-term temptations.

We associate this process with some sort of "will" or "willpower", though what these really mean is not that obvious.

Making decisions

In every moment of our lives, we are making decisions on how to act. Problems arise when we have to choose between what's immediately gratifying and what is not, but will be in the future. 

The difficulty thus lies in delaying gratification.

Behind decision-making

There are different factors behind every decision we make: genes, hormones, social environment, physical environment, past experiences, the context of the situation, etc. 

But the most immediate cause of any of our actions can be traced back to our brain activity.

The role of dopamine

The neurotransmitter called dopamine is more about the anticipation of a reward than it is about the reward itself.

Some specific cues found in our environment hint to a potential reward and dopamine starts to raise anticipation. So dopamine is the one responsible to make us take action towards a specific goal.

Dopamine and rewards

When we're deciding between immediate and delayed rewards, our brain chooses how much dopamine to send to each part of the brain (the limbic targets for immediate rewards and the frontocortical targets for the delayed ones) pragmatically by how pleasurable the reward is and how much time would take us to get to that reward.

Self-discipline and habits

Habits are the ones that mediate the relationship between our desires and our environment.

To change a habit, both we and the environment have to change, and that's why self-discipline is so hard.

The role of education

An individual can be changed through education.

We have so little control over the biology that determines our desires. But the part of our biology that is more malleable is our brain.

The product of our environment

Self-discipline is both an environmental and an individual problem: we can change our behaviors and beliefs through education, but the resources available for education are provided by our environment. Also, our habits are a product of what's available in the environment.

By acknowledging this, we can start finding alternative opportunities for learning and for satisfying our needs.

SIMILAR ARTICLES & IDEAS:

First Principles

A first principle is the fundamental building block of an idea, the most indivisible part that we know to be true and that we can use to build more complex thought...

Not A New Idea

Thinking from first principles is not a new idea. It's actually the single most consistent factor among great thinkers.

For example, Aristotle believed that you could not possess true knowledge without first understanding the first principles. He thought that everything could be divided into categories and sub-categories (the smallest of them being the equivalent for first principles). 

Reason And Experience

An empiricist is a person that believed all true knowledge is based and obtained through experience.

The process of seeking knowledge through experience and making use of reason to give it structure it how we can find the first principles of a subject.

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Denying Your Own Creativity

That’s a self-imposed and self-limiting belief. Stop that.

Creativity is a requirement for problem-solving and we all problem-solve. Acknowledge that you're inherently creative,

Being Afraid Of Being Wrong

We hate being wrong, but mistakes often teach us the most and allow us to innovate.

Think of the pros and cons of trying something and then free yourself to do it. If it doesn't work, take what you learn, and try something else. 

Being Too "Serious"

The persona of the fool allows the truth to be told, without the usual ramifications that might come with speaking against social conventions. Give yourself permission to be a fool and see things for what they really are.

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