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Self Improvement

88 SAVED IDEAS

  • Founded by Zeno, Stoicism states that our emotions get their wings by our thoughts, while our feelings are based on our beliefs. The key to living is to be virtuous and move in harmony with nature. Bad things will keep happening, just don't’ get so hung up by that.
  • Marcus Aurelius, a great Stoic thinker, wrote that if we are pained by an external factor, our own judgement about that is the problem. It is in our own hands to change our judgement.
  • Psychotherapy, or paying attention to ourselves and the wellbeing of our souls was suggested by Socrates, while he was facing execution.

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Self Improvement

  • The Roman philosopher Boethius was on death row as he fell out of favour with the King in the year 524 AD. He wrote his last work, Consolations in Philosophy while awaiting death.
  • He wrote about why bad things happen, why bad men prosper and live in wealth, while good men stay poor and get killed.
  • The life manual written on the brink of death became highly popular in the middle ages, read by people like Queen Elizabeth I and King Alfred.

In the 16th century, Niccolo Macchiavelli’s The Prince became a huge hit among kings and politicians.

The book suggested certain immoral ways to rule a kingdom, with famous advice like ‘The end justifies the means’. The guidelines resonated so much that the book is still a huge influence.

In the 16th Century, Robert Burton wrote about the human condition, which can be classified as melancholy, a big book consisting of sad tales about everything, but written in a simple, readable style.

It was like an encyclopedia of misery, with the writer meditating on sad things just to keep his mind off them.

Self-published in the 19th century, ‘Self-help’ by Samuel Smiles illustrated and executed the power of perseverance.

It was an international bestseller, kickstarting the ‘self-help’ genre itself after making the publishing industry sit up and take notice.

The Law Of Effect

Developed by psychologist Edward Thorndike, the law of effect states that any behaviour that is positive or leads to satisfaction in a specific situation is likely to be repeated when that same situation arises again. Behaviours that lead to unease or discomfort tends to not be repeated.

Example: If we practice for a public talk and give an outstanding performance, leading to huge applause and subsequent praise, we are more likely to practice for our next performance.

In the Law Of Effect experiments, Edward Thorndike used a cat that was kept in a puzzle box with a lever, and could only go out by pressing the lever.

This and other behavioural studies on animals led the psychologist to publish the law of effect in his 1911 book Animal Intelligence.

  • The Law of Effect has two parts, and records contrasting behaviours. If the effect is positive and leads to satisfaction, it forms a connection in the mind and will be repeated.
  • The actions that lead to negative effects or consequences, or which lead to discomfort for the doer, are less likely to be repeated as they will not form a connection in the mind. Example: Getting a speeding ticket makes it less likely to drive at full speed.

Similar experiments conducted by B.F. Skinner, in which animals were kept in puzzle boxes with levers, led to a modified theory called Operant Conditioning.

The concept of reinforcement was introduced in the original law of effect theory, with reinforcements inserted in the positive and negative actions of animals, instead of waiting for them to try them out for themselves.

Paleontology

National Geographic defines paleontology as “the study of the history of life on Earth as based on fossils.”

This means the remains of everything from single-celled living things, fungi, and bacteria to plants and animals (and dinosaurs).

These include:

  • the study of microscopic fossils (micropaleontology)
  • the study of fossil plants (paleobotany)
  • the study of pollen and spores produced by land plants and protists (palynology)
  • the study of invertebrate animal fossils (invertebrate paleontology)
  • the study of prehistoric human and proto-human fossils (human paleontology)
  • the study of the processes of decay, preservation and the formation on fossils (taphonomy)
  • the study of fossil tracks, trails and footprints (ichnology)
  • and the study of the ecology and climate of the past (paleoecology).

Paleontology is the study of the history of life. Because that history is written in the fossil and geological record, paleontology allows us to place living organisms in both evolutionary (life-historical) and geological (earth-historical) context.

It is this contextual background that allows us to interpret the significance of characteristics of living organisms, and the significance of biological events occurring today.

While many paleontologists pursue careers in academia, there are other options as well.

  • Some end up working as geological surveyors, while others work in the commercial sector for oil, coal, and gas companies.
  • Others pursue fulfilling careers as museum curators, geoscientists, and oceanographers.
The Beast in our lives

The Beast has many forms. The Doom-Anxiety Beast. The Regret Beast, or the Despair Beast.

The Beast has specific characteristics. It erodes your feeling of control and eats away at your ability to function when you least expect it. But it can never entirely take away that last bit of agency. This bit of agency can be used to control the Beast.

The Beast can't stop you from standing up straight - physically. It may want you to lower your head and shoulders. But an upright posture symbolizes resilience in the face of suffering.

Be your full height. Do it again and again.

The Beast's presence makes you feel like you can't possibly live until it is gone.

However, history proves this is false. Human beings have lived with Beasts forever, often for years. Life still happens during that time. Choices are still made, and good things are still achieved.

When you feel the Beast is pulling at you, do something that will improve your situation even is small ways. Straighten a crooked picture or picking up the laundry off the floor.

The point is to exercise the small bit of agency you do have. One little act of defiance shows that you will not be clamped down. Do anything to weaken the Beast.

Physical exertion and cleaning is a superpower to overcome the Beast. A little of either can change the course of your day.

Do a movement routine to weaken the Beast. Get the house to a tidyish state - a single room if you can't. Keep it that way as best as you're able.

It is a great relief to describe your experience to someone.

The goal is not to solve your problem. The goal is to break the illusion that something unique has gone wrong for you.

Altruistic behaviours promote wellbeing

Formal volunteering, monetary donations and random acts of everyday kindness promote wellbeing and longevity.

  • Studies show that volunteering correlates with a 24% lower risk of early death, a lower risk of high blood glucose, and a lower risk of inflammation levels connected to heart disease.
  • In one study, participants who showed simple acts of kindness, such as buying coffee for a stranger, had lower activity of leukocyte genes related to inflammation.
  • Participants who showed acts of kindness became more pain-resistant.
  • Grandparents who regularly babysit their grandchildren have a 37% lower mortality risk than those who don't provide such childcare. That is a larger effect than may be achieved from regular exercise.

It is not surprising that kindness and altruism should impact our physical wellbeing. People are immensely social. When we are interconnected and are truly useful to others, it influences our wellbeing.

During the first half of 2020, Britons donated £800m more to charity, half of Americans have recently checked on their elderly or sick neighbours. Americans and Australians left teddybears in their windows to cheer up children. A French florist placed 400 bouquets on cars of hospital staff.

A third of how empathetic we are is down to our genes. But it does not mean people born with low empathy are lost.

No matter where we start, we can all improve in empathy.

  • Try to look at the world from another person's perspective for a moment each day.
  • Practice mindfulness and loving-kindness meditation.
  • During lockdown, take care of pets or read emotionally-charged books.

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