Effort as the Opposite of Habit

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.

@vihadas

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Self Improvement

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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.

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.

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.

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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RELATED IDEAS

  • 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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IDEAS

Understanding Effort

What makes something effortful? For example, why is it harder to do a math problem than play a video game?

Understanding how effort works is essential. Many of our goals will require a lot of it. If we have the wrong view on how effort works, many of our systems will fail or be poorly designed.

  • One solution is to tilt the playing field if your temporary motivation is strong enough, keeping in mind that there will be lots of little bumps.
  • An alternative can be to smooth the bumps by reducing friction to your goal.
  • Another is to block the easier routes to help you stay focused.
  • Better though is to design a new path for your goal that will flow where you want it to go. The person who gets in shape doing an activity they love (skiing, hiking) might not need so much motivation to get there.

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