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What is Effort? | Scott H Young

Effort as Energy Expenditure

Effort as Energy Expenditure

Effort represents an investment of a fixed resource, like calories.

For this reason, running takes more effort than sitting. It takes more calories and strains muscles and joints. If you run non-stop, you will need to eat more to stay alive, and you will wear your muscles out.

However, effort as energy expenditure does not fully answer why we struggle to take action, as effortful tasks, such as playing tennis, is more fun than doing nothing.

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What is Effort? | Scott H Young

What is Effort? | Scott H Young

https://www.scotthyoung.com/blog/2020/03/09/what-is-effort/

scotthyoung.com

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Key Ideas

Effort as Attention

Paying attention seems to be linked to effort, since deliberate control of attention take effort.

Focus is only hard if we're trying to focus. If our attention is held automatically, focus is not an effort.

Effort as the Opposite of Habit

Effort could be seen as the opposite of something we do automatically. Effort then is what happens when we try to override an automatic pattern.

Effort as Moving Upstream

You can look at effort in the context when you need to make a choice that involves internal conflict. Part of you wants to eat more, while the other part thinks you shouldn't.
Internal conflict requires you to move "uphill" or resist the easy flow.

Different Kinds of Effort

Taking action is hard because it requires effort. Some things feel easy, while others feel difficult. This is a reason we don't always act on our plans.

But, maybe the problem is that we have combined distinct issues under the same label of "effort": physical fatigue, attention control, automaticity, self-control. If we could separate them, we might be able to ease the effort required to take action.

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SIMILAR ARTICLES & IDEAS:

Goal-Setting

Any goal or project will usually have these basic qualities:

  • A general ambition or motivation. (e.g. learn French)
  • A specific target. (e.g.  speak fluently)
Goals To Start In The Middle

When a goal has high uncertainty as to what level is achievable to reach within a particular time-frame, it is better to set specific targets in the middle of the process.

Plan your goals with the variables you do have: overall direction, time-frame, level of effort and strategies.

Reasons To Postpone Goal-Setting
  • Uncertain goals should be set in the middle. This will enable you to set the correct challenge level to maximize effort.
  • Some research shows that for very complex tasks, goal-setting can hinder effectiveness. This is because complex tasks are cognitively demanding in the beginning and can be frustrating because you can't perform adequately. To add on more tasks can impair your performance.

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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.

For example, successful self-control means sacrificing immediate pleasure (cookies a...

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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Taking action = eventual success
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 w...

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. 
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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