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Why is Taking Action Hard? | Scott H Young

Confidence

Confidence
Motivation and expectation of success create a feedback loop:
  • Your motivation to complete a task depends on the value of the reward and your expectation of success. 
  • Your expectation of success depends on your motivation.

If your projects tend to fail, your expectations are low, and motivation fades. If your projects tend to succeed, your expectations go up, and motivation stays strong.

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Why is Taking Action Hard? | Scott H Young

Why is Taking Action Hard? | Scott H Young

https://www.scotthyoung.com/blog/2019/12/16/why-is-action-hard/

scotthyoung.com

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Key Ideas

Taking action = eventual success

Inaction is the biggest cause of our failures and our miseries. If we could consistently do the things we know we should do, we would be more successful, and our lives would be better. Yet we struggle to take action.

Explaining inaction

Some possible but weak reasons why action is hard:

  • Talent. But the world is full of brilliant stars that flame out and mediocre minds that build empires.
  • Preferences can explain our failure to try, but don't explain our inner struggles with inaction.
  • Capacity for effort. If your capacity for doing things is lower, it does not explain chronic bursts of activity with inevitable crashes in your goals and projects.
  • Motivation. Some people with the most reason have the hardest time taking action. 

Social-Desirability Bias

Our conscious mind may be functioning more by making reasonable-sounding explanations for its behavior rather than actually making decisions.

This means that we fail because the unconscious parts of our mind have decided not to take action. You might be convincing yourself that you want to pursue a goal when your unconscious mind is not committed to it.

Daydreams and Reality

We have two characteristic modes of viewing things—an abstract (or far-mode) and a concrete (or near-mode) view.

Because of the two modes, many big goals have a far-near incompatibility that can make it difficult to take action on. The person who dreams up the goal is different from the one who executes it.

Sticking Your Neck Out

Our nature may be to view the cost-benefits of taking actions and be willing to retreat to conformity instead of getting punished.

Some ventures into different kinds of actions are discouraged if they don't yield big rewards. It may explain inaction to start your own business, but a strong expectation to show up on time to work.

We're Short-Sighted

Procrastination may be a delaying tactic to avoid wasting energy here and now, even if you think you might work harder later on.

Get Better at Taking Action

Traditional approaches often focus on human will alone. But, our minds are complicated things, with many conscious and unconscious control mechanisms.

To take action, we need to not only have new inputs to turn us in the right direction, but also the ability to keep headed in the chosen direction.

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Mark Twain

“It ain’t what you know that gets you into trouble. It’s what you know for sure that just ain’t so.”

Mark Twain
The most useful learning
Most people think about learning as adding knowledge and skills. You now have a new fact in your mind that didn’t exist before.

The most useful learning isn’t usually a strict addition of new knowledge, but first unlearning something false or unhelpful.

Types of Unlearning
  • Straightforward refutation of the old idea. This complete refutation is atypical. More likely the new knowledge doesn’t contradict the old one, but it may modify it in some way.
  • The new knowledge revises a simpler picture by filling it with more complex details. This is similar to adding new knowledge, although because the older, simpler view of the issue has been overwritten with more detail, there is some unlearning going on.

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