The Paradox of Effort | Scott H Young
The difficulty of the new challenge makes us take things seriously. With powerful time constraints, procrastinating is out of the question.
Taking studying seriously pushes you to do better than you might have, absent those constraints, for example.
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Some theories of motivation claim we're naturally biased. It may happen because we can't consider all the angles. At other times, as the world advance, the usual criteria no longer apply.
There may be only a few exceptional people like Elon Musk because we can't grasp the idea that one person can create wealth or drive progress. We don't notice opportunities and more easily dismiss them.
If you think motivation is mostly rational, pay attention to what motivates you. You might not feel motivated because your current opportunities aren't that good.
If you think motivation is biased and nudging is necessary, create rules, systems, and habits to move you ahead. If you can't motivate yourself for months or years, your project may be at fault.
When Ivan Pavlov and his dogs led to the discovery of learned behaviour through repeated exposure, and Edward Thorndike discovered the Law of Effect that stated that rewarded behaviours tended to increase, many psychologists were impelled to separate psychology from armchair introspection and formulated their theories as mathematical formulas.
Donald Hebb realised that existing theories were too focused on reacting to the immediate environment. Thoughts, ideas and goals could be just as strong for triggering action as sights and sounds.
Together with John Atkinson, they noted that the study of motivation had undergone a "paradigm shift", where motivation couldn't be seen as how actions get started, but how the organism decides to change its behaviour from one thing to another.
How much we can change ourselves can be explored by looking at the extremes.
Studies involving identical and fraternal twins (even reared apart) showed that most parts of our nature are partly heritable. Intelligence may be as high as 80% heritable, but 50% is the standard number of many of the domains, including personality.
However, being heritable isn't the same as being fixed. There might be a difference between inheriting different capabilities versus different preferences.
While genetic research stands out in favour of rigidity, there is contrary evidence.