Do the Thing Right Now



I was planning to synthesize all this stuff but I think it’s all pretty good as it is.

  1. The last Psychiatrist – mechanisms learned in childhood


<doing awesome>

is better than

<feeling terrible about yourself>

is better than

<the mental work of change>

You should memorize this, it is running your life.  “I’m constantly thinking about ways to improve myself.”  No, you’re gunning the engine while you’re up on blocks.  Obsessing and ruminating is a skill at which we are all tremendously accomplished, and admittedly that feels like mental work because it’s exhausting and unrewarding, but you can no more ruminate your way through a life crisis than a differential equation.  So the parents unknowingly teach you to opt for <b>, and after a few years of childhood insecurity, you’ll choose the Blue Pill  and begin the dreaming: someday and someplace you’ll show someone how great you somehow are…

Your parents were dutifully strict about their arbitrary and expedient rules, not about making you a better person… “They made me practice piano an hour every day!” as if the fact of practice was the whole point; what they did not teach you is to try and sound better every practice. They meant well, they loved you, but the generation that invented grade inflation is not also going to know about self-monitoring and paedeia, which is roughly translated, “making yourself better at piano.”  The mistake is in thinking that misery and self-loathing are the “bad” things you are trying to get away from with drugs or drinking or therapy or whatever, but you have this completely backwards. Self-loathing is the defense against change, self-loathing is preferable to <mental work.> You choose misery so that nothing changes, and the drugs and the drinking and the therapy placate the misery so that you can go on not changing. That’s why when you look in the mirror and don’t like what you see, you don’t immediately crank out 30 pushups, you open a bag of chips. You don’t even try, you only plan to try. The goal of your ego is not to change, but what you don’t realize is that time is moving on regardless… 

I [once] heard Howard Stern railing about an uncle who liked to play golf. “It infuriated me that he never took a lesson, never tried to get better. He was happy just playing, he didn’t care if he got any better. It made no sense to me. How can you enjoy something and not want to get better at it?”  Answer: some people are happy with par.  He isn’t, which is why he succeeded. The retort is, “well, I don’t want to have to improve on everything, some things I just want to mindlessly enjoy.” I sympathize, but I also own a clock, and there are only 24hrs in a day.  Look on how many of those hours go to true self-improvement vs. mindless enjoyment, and despair.

That hierarchy you learned applies to everything, including addictions.  Addiction may be biological, but no one ever claims that getting clean is biological.  “When I hit 45, my testosterone levels fell which also lowered the dopaminergic activity in the reinforcement pathways of the brain, so I was able to get off dope.”  Wait, is that true?  HA!   No.  It’s a decision, made at that time in those circumstances.  I know it’s a hard decision, but like every other decision in life it is ultimately a binary one.  Biology is pulling you towards 0, learning pulls you towards 1. 

“All this happens at age 8?!”  Think of how many years you’ve since practiced that hierarchy.  “So after childhood, you’re screwed?  You can’t change?”  Oh, no, people change all the time, once they figure out how they’re sabotaging themselves.  Now it’s your turn.

2. Cracked.com / NY Times: neurological basis

Brain scans have shown that different parts of our brain light up when we’re thinking of ourselves versus when we’re thinking of other people. That part makes sense — your brain is partitioned out into separate regions for yourself and for everyone else because you have to look out for yourself first. But where it gets weird is that in some people, when they’re asked to think about their future selves, the region that lights up is the one reserved for other people. 


“Future Bill can worry about cardiovascular disease. Now Bill has trans fat consumption to attend to.”


In other words, if someone asks you to think about what you’ll look like in 20 years, your brain treats it as though you’re trying to picture some bizarre stranger. Now think about what that means in terms of your ability to fix what’s wrong in your life. What motivation do you have to abstain from your 14th peanut butter doughnut today just to help out some droopy manimal in the future? Logically, you understand that you’re endangering the person you’ll become, but subconsciously, your brain doesn’t have the sympathy to spare for that poor slob, and just wants to enjoy the doughnut. – Dennis Hong 

Ignoring the needs of our future self is one way we create problems for our present self. Another way is by dumping all the issues we don’t want to deal with now on the mythical future self who’s somehow going to be more patient, more organized, more restrained — more everything we’re not now. – Alina Tugend 

3. Cracked.com / M. Keith Chen – linguistic basis

“Futureless” Language Speakers Are Better at Friggin’ Everything

Consider the tenses past, present, and future. The difference between the sentences “Bob is at the store buying nachos” and “Bob will go to the store to buy nachos” has explicit implications about how far we are from eating nachos. But it may be surprising that some languages don’t have a future tense, or it’s not obligatory. In Mandarin, for example, it’s fine to say something like “Bob store buy nachos.”

It turns out that speakers of these tenseless languages actually make far better decisions than tense-language speakers, about virtually everything.

For example, a study by Keith Chen of Yale Business School analyzed data from 76 countries, focusing on things like saving money, smoking and exercise habits, and general health. The surprising result was that cultures in which most people speak languages without a future tense make better health and financial decisions overall. In fact, it found that speaking a tensed language, like English, made people 30 percent less likely to save money. It is thought that speakers of such languages, whom we shall call Untensers, see their lives as less of a timeline and more of a whole. Therefore they are automatically more mindful of how their decisions will affect their futures than we savage, primitive Tensers. Strangely, it seems that thinking of “the future” as being some far-off place, removed from the realities of our daily lives, makes us more likely to buy that second Xbox just because the first looked lonely.

Untensers consistently accumulate more wealth, hold onto it for longer periods of time, are healthier, and live longer than Tensers, for whom the past is something we’ve left behind, and the future is like a distant planet where consequences live that we don’t fully intend to visit.


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