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Why Self-Discipline is so Hard

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.

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Why Self-Discipline is so Hard

Why Self-Discipline is so Hard

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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.

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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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Why you should plan to plan ahead for retirement.
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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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Reading is work, important work actually. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. - Ryan Holiday

Pick a set of clothes you like and are comfortable in and buy a lot of them

This is a way to cut down on unnecessary decisions. It also means you’re focused on what is important (who you are vs how you look).

Exercise will make you productive

It will clear your mind, process any negative energy, and give you a win every day.  🏀 🏈

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The philosophy of working "smart"

... is to maximize your productivity when you are working so that you can get more stuff done in shorter periods of time.

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Find the to-do list app that work for you

The best one for you depends entirely on your working style and personal preferences.

You can use a physical notebook around everywhere you go, but it's easier to use a to-do list app or tool that syncs across all your devices. That way, you can access your to-do items whenever and wherever you need to, whether you're at your desk, in a meeting, or on a business trip.

Prepare in advance

Write out your to-do list the day before:

  • You'll free your time to dive right into your to-do list in the morning - one of the most productive times of day.
  • It can help you spot obstacles ahead of time and prepare accordingly.
  • Knowing what you have going on well in advance could help you relax and sleep better the night before.

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Jordan Peterson

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Life as a Tragedy
Jordan Peterson’s view of the world around him is complex, and he tries to simplify this with books.
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  • Only compare yourself with your yesterday, not with others.

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Why Change Is So Hard

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Make Change a Team Effort

 “Role Modelling” is one of the main factors behind successful change in organizations and consists of inspiring change by example.

While leadership will ultimately give you sign-off, the rest of the team will determine its success. So in an organizational setting, you must convince everyone of the necessity of change. 

Know Who You’re Dealing With

In a collection of individuals, one bad seed can kill all the hard work you’re putting in. You must understand who you are working with so you can tailor your message and actions so no one becomes a bad seed. To do this, sort your team in the following categories:

  • Fast Yes: those on your team and ready to work to implement the change.
  • Slow Yes: slightly skeptical but still open and can see the value in what you’re doing.
  • Fast No: quick to dismiss change but clarity and decisiveness can change that and turn them into strong supporters.
  • Slow No: look like they can be persuaded but have already decided against you and will stall and undermine. Here, convincing by example is the best route.

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Self-control
Self-control

It’s your ability to resolve conflicts between your short-term desires and your long-term goals.

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Why self-control matters

People who have high self-control aren’t missing out on enjoyment. Not being able to resist temptation and enjoying life are not the same things.

They tend to eat in a healthily way, exercise more, sleep better, drink less alcohol, smoke fewer cigarettes, achieve higher grades at university, have more peaceful relationships, and are more financially secure.

Biological limits to self-control

Research showed that self-control is ultimately limited by our biology. We can’t exercise effortful self-control indefinitely – the brain has to do regular maintenance to remain functional.

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Read 1 book per week

Ordinary people seek entertainment. Extraordinary people seek education and learning.

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Do something that terrifies you

But you don’t have to constantly be battling your fears. You only need to be courageous for 20 seconds at a time.

If you courageously confront fear for 20 seconds every single day, before you know it, you’ll be in a different socio-economic and social situation.

“A person’s success in life can usually be measured by the number of uncomfortable conversations he or she is willing to have.”

“A person’s success in life can usually be measured by the number of uncomfortable conversations he or she is willing to have.”

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