Lets call it self-control.
idea of being in control of yourself has been called many things. This
site does not hold that calling it 'self-discipline' serves any useful
purpose (although it is correct usage). This is because our
understanding of the word discipline has been muddled by its many
confusing meanings as explained elsewhere in this site. This site does
not hold with the concept of 'willpower' either. Willpower appears to
be a mystical force and seems to promote the idea of a split self as
also explained elsewhere in this site. In the psychology journals of
past the subject has been referred to as 'self-regulation' which seems
perfectly adequate term to cover this concept. Unfortunately the
general public is unfamiliar with this term and appears to find it
strange. On the other hand the term 'self-control' seems to be well
understood and well used by everybody, so lets stick with it.
Learning self-control, self-controlling
the most important thing you can learn is how to control your own mind
and body. This is because self-control is a prerequisite, even
for any type of real learning. Indeed, this site holds that without
self-control there is no real learning. Sure you can have information
packed into your head, but if you are unable to connect that
to what you believe, you do not understand it and it has no practical
use. Real learning requires that you find errors in what you believe
and correct them. You cannot do this without self-control. Knowledge is
what is left when you have made these corrections. In
"A Programmed Course in Self-Discipline"
Joseph Strayhorn asks us two very important
questions about self-control:
many people in the world have a self discipline problem? Nearly all of
them! How many of those people have ever read a book, or even an
article, about how to solve that problem? Almost none of them."
fraction of children who make bad grades in school ever read anything
about how to make better grades? The fraction is very small. The
instructions are out there in the librarys and the book stores (as well
as in the book you are reading now). They are readily available, and
they are cheap. But it take self-discipline to read them."
The conscious self and the robot.
unconscious or as many have called it the subconscious comes in two
quite different forms. One is the creative form, where it is the place
that unconnected ideas are connected in a random chaotic process to
produce unexpected and uniquely creative new ideas and solutions. Then
there is the unconscious place which runs automatic programs that can
sometimes be referred to as skills and at other times be referred to as
habits. This site has adopted the term proposed by Colin Wilson in his
"New Pathways in Psychology" to refer to this part of the
that runs these automatic programs. 'The robot' as Colin Wilson calls
seems to be an ideal term. Thus we can say that our bodies are run by
two competing processes, our conscious self and our personal robot.
Therefore, clearly each individual is not completely in control of
everything he or she does, because much of what we do is simply done
automatically by 'the robot'. In his book Colin Wilson explains it like
moment I stepped through the office door in the morning, the familiar
smell and appearance would switch on the automatic pilot which
controlled my actions... I was was clearly aware that the problem was
automatism. And in a paper I later wrote for a symposium on existential
psychology I elaborated on this theory of the automatic pilot, speaking
of it as 'the robot'. I wrote: 'I am writing this on an electric
typewriter. When I learned to type, I had to do it painfully and with
much nervous ware and tear. But at a certain stage, a miracle occurred,
and this complicated operation was 'learned' by a useful robot whom I
concealed in my subconscious mind. Now I only have to think about what
I want to say: my robot secretary does the typing. He is really very
useful, He also drives the car for me, speaks French (not very well)
and occasionally gives lectures in American universities."
this idea seems a little unscientific a more scientific model can be
provided by neuroscience. The following is taken from a paper called
"The Cognitive Neuroscience of Self-Regulation" in the "Handbook of
useful framework for understanding self-regulation is provided by
Norman and Shallice (1986). Their seminal model concerning the role
of attention in automatic and willed action describes two processes for
control of behavior. According to the model, well-learned simple
may be executed via the contention scheduling system, without conscious
input. On the other hand, more complex behaviors that require
attentional input are carried out via the supervisory attentional
system (SAS). The contention scheduling system via lateral activation
and inhibition among selected schemas for action. Schema activation
within this system does not rely on attentional control but is simply
based on the determination of the activation values of the schemas.
Norman and Schallice use the example of typing a word on signal; this
action sequence is represented by a set of schemas that trigger
appropriate finger, hand and arm movements, and can be carried out
within the contention scheduling system without attentional input.
the model also allows for the conscious control of more novel or
complex tasks, a function of the SAS. This system mediates attention,
which in turn can control the activation or inhibition values
behavioral schemas and bias the selection of the contention scheduling
system. This higher order control provided by the SAS is required only
for complex, novel or dangerous tasks (e.g., a task that requires error
correction or planning), or tasks that require planning or overriding
temptation. In other words, the SAS is is required when there is no
available schema to achieve control of the desired behavior. As
mentioned earlier the initiation and execution of routine action
sequences do not require input from the SAS."
note that the SAS in this model is necessary for any type of real
real learning requires error correction, and schemas do not exist until
have learned them. Real learning cannot be automatic. Those who believe
learning are talking about letting random input from the environment
program our stupid robots. This results in bad habits and
superstitions. It happens, but it is not real learning because it is
not what we want or intend to learn, nor is it in any way normally to
advantage or befit.
be or not to be (in control of yourself).
many people do not seem to want to be in control of themselves. Some
people seem to want others to tell them what to do. They do not want to
make decisions or take responsibility for anything they do and the
simplest way to avoid that is to let somebody else make the decisions
and take the responsibility. People take drugs and drink alcohol so
that their ability to inhibit their base short term desires is
impaired. But people are also often slaves to habits that have built up
over time but which do not represent what they consciously enjoy doing.
people are not living full lives and are often just drifting through
fact is that most of the things we do in life are not directly
enjoyable in themselves, but rather become enjoyable by association
with other things. For instance when we get up from our chair and go to
the refrigerator, take out a can of coke, and pop it open, these are
all activities that are not enjoyable in themselves, but which have
become enjoyable because they are normally followed by that coke
splashing on our tongue and trickling down our throats. Now going to
the refrigerator, taking out a can of coke and popping it open are not
exactly unpleasant activities but this still would hold true if they
were. Exercise can be quite painful but it also has many rewards that
follow on from it. People exercise and those rewards, such as feeling
healthy, are associated with the exercising and the exercising becomes
sort of enjoyable. What we like doing, what we want to do, and what is
good for us to do, are all very different things and being in control
of our selves is simply a way of trying to bring these three things
being in control of yourself means essentially not being able
(You can remember information but you cannot use it because it is not
adjustable or correctable. You can only use it if someone
you what to do with it.) In his book
"A Programmed Course in Self-Discipline" Joseph Strayhorn
work on self-discipline in order to enjoy
life more. It is not about being glum and grim all the time." The
stoics of ancient Greece only had it half right, they seemed unaware
that their ability in self-control meant a life of greater pleasure,
albeit very different pleasure. Being without self-control means not
being able to fully
life and it means a life devoted to escaping pain. Joy arises out of
controlling ourselves sufficiently to accomplish the things we like to
accomplish. It is also making the things that we like to accomplish
those things that we want to
accomplish. It is also making the things we want to accomplish those
things that are necessary for our wellbeing. Finally, it is risking our
comfort for an optimal personal outcome.
Programing your robot.
So the supervisory attentional system, the SAS
is our conscious self and this conscious self uses energy to either
inhibit our impulses or to initiate actions that prevent us from
situations we are afraid of or find repugnant. When we perform such
actions we are asserting the I or me (our self) and taking control of
or overriding the robot. The robot is the contention scheduling system
or the CAS. When we are not performing intentional actions there is no
there is only the robot doing things
(which is essentially stupid if not properly
programed). You end up with environmental contingencies
acting as cues to activate routines which are more or less automatic
reactions to those cues. When the robot is running things we are very
much as the behaviorists imagined us to be.
The robot is not another
self, but is rather an unthinking machine that should be doing our
bidding as our servant. However, it is often performing actions that
are not what we want, nor in our best interests. This robot has to be
programed and it can be programed in three different ways. It can be
programed by our conscious self, it can be programed by others, or it
can be programed by accidental random contingencies thrown up by an
uncaring environment. If we are not programing the robot we are just a
passive, passenger, observing our life as the robot does our living for
us. This site holds that each person should, to the best of his or her
ability, be doing the programing of his or her personal robot. Here
attention is the key to the conscious self.
able to turn your attention where you want it to go appears to be very
useful for all sorts of other self-discipline challenges. If
want to make something more pleasant or less unpleasant, you can turn
your attention toward the pleasant parts of it and away from the
and habits as automatic routines.
learning skills they are not automatic. But as we perform them over and
over they can, or at least parts of them can, become so well learned as
to become automatic and require no conscious input from the self to
activate. Thus they become habits. If, on the other hand, we continue
find slight errors in our
performance and continue to modify that performance of the skill, then
the skill does not become completely automatic. The skill can be said
to be still in the process of being learned and thus remains
flexible. Thus it can be said that such a skill remains
easy to change or modify. Skills usually remain somewhat flexible in
this way. Learning a skill always requires considerable input
the conscious self as it always involves an existing routine being
modified through a process of error elimination. Only as parts of
skills become very expert is it possible for those routines to become
automatic. As we are learning skills we are continually programing our
robot till the routine is perfect only then does it become something we
do without thought (a habit).
are very similar to skills except that they usually do not
retain much in the way of flexibility.
Also unlike skills habits tend to be programed into us by random cues
and rewards occurring in our environment. Sadly these random cues and
rewards that our environment delivers rather easily program us
with many many habits and most of them are bad habits. Habits programed
into us in this way are laid down over and over till they
strongly and deeply entrenched and thus inflexible and very difficult
change or modify. Our parents our teachers and society in general all
try to program our robots to give us what they consider to be good
habits. Thankfully they are never very successful in programing our
robots. We are most out of control, we have least control over what our
body is doing, when the robot is running routines that are easily
recognized as bad habits. Bad habits are routines that are counter
productive, self destructive, and generally run counter to what we
would want our bodies to be doing.
Roy Baumeister explains how his research led him
to the importance of habit and how it interrelated with self-control.
working together with Denise de Ridder and Catrin
Finkenauer, two Dutch researchers...led an analysis of a large set of
published and unpublished studies on people who scored high in
self-control as measured in a personality test. These studies reported
experiments involving a variety of behaviors, which the researchers
divided into a couple of broad categories: mainly automatic and mainly
controlled. The researchers assumed, logically enough, that people with
high self-control would tend to exercise it most noticeably in the
behavior they controlled the most. Yet when the results were totaled up
in a meta-analysis, just the opposite pattern appeared. The people with
high self-control were distinguished by their behaviors that took place
more or less automatically. ...Their results suggested that we don't
use self-control on controllable behaviors. How could that be?
behaviors they had coded as automatic tended to be linked to habits,
whereas the more controlled sorts of behaviors tended to
be unusual or
one-time -only actions. Self-control turned out to be most effective
people used it to establish good habits and break bad ones.
Learning and habits.
Habits are not enemy of self-control they are in
the end just how things are done on a regular basis by the robot.
Habits are actions you have already learned or have been acquired
without your intention. Actions for which you have
to maintain attentional control, on the other hand, are actions in the
process of being learned. If
you wish to control what is done by you on a regular basis the you have
to program your robot to do that. Part of the problem is that habits
are always there. You cannot just program the robot you have to
reprogram it. Reprogramming the robot means, not just creating a
good habit and learning its routine, but normally unlearning a bad
habit as well.
and the three step loop.
In his book
"The Power of Habit" Charles Duhigg
explains what habits are and how they are formed:
process - in which the brain converts a sequence of actions into an
automatic routine - is known as 'chunking,' and it's at the root of how
habits form. There are dozens - if not hundreds - of behavioral chunks
that that we rely on every day. Some are simple: You automatically put
toothpaste on your toothbrush before sticking it in your mouth. Some,
such as getting dressed or making the kids' lunch are a
are so complicated that it's remarkable a small bit of tissue that
millions of years ago can turn them into habits at all. Take the act of
backing your car out of the driveway. ...Millions of people perform
this intricate ballet every morning, unthinkingly, because as soon as
pullout the car keys, our basal ganglia kicks in.
scientists say, emerge because the brain is constantly looking for ways
to save effort. Left to its own devices, the brain will try to make any
routine into a habit, because habits allow our minds to ramp down more
often. This effort saving instinct is a huge advantage. An efficient
brain requires less room, which makes for a smaller head, which makes
childbirth easier and therefor causes fewer infant and mother deaths.
An efficient brain also allows us to to stop thinking constantly about
basic behaviors, such as walking and choosing what to eat, so we can
devote mental energy to inventing spears, irrigation systems, and
eventually, airplanes and video games.
process within our brains is a three step loop. First, there is a cue,
a trigger that tells your brain to go into automatic mode and which
habit to use. Then there is the routine, which can be physical or
mental or emotional. Finally there is a reward, which helps your brain
figure out if this particular loop is worth remembering for the future:
time, this loop - cue, routine, reward; cue, routine, reward - becomes
more and more automatic. The cue and reward become intertwined until a
powerful sense of anticipation and craving emerges. Eventually, whether
in a chilly MIT laboratory or your driveway, a habit is born."
order to change a habit you have to want do it and believe that you can
do it. This probably means you have in mind some future circumstances
for yourself that should come into being if you are able to break the
habit. That future circumstance would be your goal an is also a reward.
Resolutions, on the
other hand, are promises you make mostly to yourself because you
anticipate some eventual reward. Either you
promise to start doing something or you promise not to do something.
Things you promise to start doing are really an attempt to instigate a
new good habit and things you promise not to do are attempts to break a
Goals and resolution are what motivate us to break
and replace them with good habits. Our success at reaching a goal or
fulfilling a resolution is a big part of our eventual reward when we
get there. Goals and resolutions in a sense are rewards. However, goals
and resolutions are
useless without self-control and that means making a mental effort to
change. Whether you have self-control or not reaching goals or
fulfilling resolutions requires work and clarity. Strayhorn puts it
of the major
goals of both education and psychology is to rig things up so that
ordinary people, without huge amounts of self-discipline, can do
productive work. But even in the best of circumstances goals take work
possible, it's good to make your goal statements so specific that it's
very clear whether you have reached them or not."
"The Antidote" Oliver Burkeman warns us that goals
have become part of the rat race of modern day life and can become so
important in driven people's live that they afford no reward or
pleasurable outcome. For such people overlapping multiple goals leave
no time to relax and appreciate rewards. Strayhorn provides some
perspective on this:
is true that you want to give yourself enough time to relax and enjoy
life. It's important not to feel that you have to be working all the
time. But many people are more afraid of pushing themselves to work
than they need to be."
Changing a habit or a skill requires
mental effort. Some people would call this willpower but this site
holds that mental effort is a better description of what's involved as
the same type of mental effort is required to make decisions or even
just choose between alternatives. Here's why. Mental effort is required
when a schema or program is about to activate and we try to suppress
or program by sending a signal from the prefrontal cortex to inhibit
that schema or program. Deciding, choosing, or trying to prevent the
activation of a habit all require that an inhibiting signal is sent to
interfere with the running of different programs. All of them require
mental effort. Habits are actually a useful device created by our
brains to conserve this mental energy. Habits do not require mental
effort. They run automatically without any input from the self. It is
only when trying to change a habit that the brain is taxed by mental
and mental effort.
Just as physical effort, if sustained for some
makes a person tired and his physical energy is depleted by the
effort, mental energy also becomes depleted with sustained mental
effort and if used for too many things. It can become so depleted as to
make mental effort impossible. This analogy between physical and mental
effort is even more closely aligned in that just as physical effort
uses up glucose in our bloodstreams so does mental effort. In his book
Roy Baumeister sites many experiments that clearly show
glucose is depleted in the bloodstream by trying to prevent the
activation of a habit, by making decisions, and by making
choices. In his book
Baumeister tells us the following:
the body uses glucose during self control, it starts to crave sweet
things to eat -which is bad news for people hoping to use their self
control to avoid sweets. When people have more demands of self-control
in their daily lives, their hunger for sweets increases. It's not a
simple matter of wanting all food more - they seen to be
specifically hungry for sweets."
order to not eat, a dieter needs willpower.
order to have willpower, a dieter needs to eat."
This is a biological catch 22 and is the
reason that the habit of overeating is the trickiest or most
difficult habit to break. It is possible, however, as this site will
show further on.
persistence power, regulatory strength or grit
and how to get it.
Strayhorn tells us that: "Self-discipline
and persistence power are in many ways like a muscle. You can develop
persistence power by exercising it. You can also get it tired."
We all have at our disposal different amounts of
energy that we can use to produce effort, both the physical kind and
the mental kind. This is linked to the amount of glucose in our
bloodstream. The amount of glucose in our blood is linked to
how recently we have eaten, what
we have eaten, how much rest we have had from using this particular
how much sleep we have had. Strayhorn gives us some examples of
different ways of restoring your power to persist:
that you have been using your persistence power to sit still all
morning and work on writing an article. You might find your persistence
power restored best by taking a nice run, walk or swim Suppose that you
have been helping to put out a forest fire. You have been using your
persistence power to keep working hard even though you are physically
exhausted. You might find your persistence power restored best by
Strayhorne is suggesting that the power to
continue resisting can be restored by doing the opposite of what you
have been using mental effort to resist. This makes some sense up to a
point. It is certainly a way to make sure you are taking a rest from
using persistence in that way. So it is certainly providing the body
with a chance to restore it. However only food and a good night's sleep
will completely restore it because what you are restoring is your
ability to produce mental effort.
The body creates glucose from almost any food.
and sleep allow this process to restore the correct balance of glucose
without further depletion. It is possible, however, to increase the
efficiency of the body's use of energy so that it produces superior
results. If you exercise your body gets stronger it uses more energy
but also recovers more quickly and is able to produce more effort. In
a similar the overall mental effort a person can produce can be
improved by exercising self-control. The more you change bad habits
into good ones the easier it becomes to do it. Our ability to improve
our self-control in this way has also been called grit by psychologist
Angela Duckworth, but in most research it is referred to as regulatory
do our robots get programed?
big question is, "How do these habits get programed into our robots?"
There are three ways this can happen. We can program our robot
ourselves, others can program it, or random events in the
environment can program it. In the case of bad habits, they are
programed into the robot by random occurrences in our environments. How
does the environment manage to pull this off?
do random events in our environments manage to program our robots?
process was well known and understood by the behaviorists and was
studied in detail by Skinner. He called it operant conditioning. The
behaviorists didn't seem to understand that they were only studying
habits but this was the case. Be that as it may, operant conditioning
works like this: The organism performs some action and for whatever
reason is somehow rewarded. There are so many reward processes built
into our bodies that the chances of our being rewarded for any action
is quite high. Still a habit is not formed by an action that
rewarded one time. A habit is only formed if the action is performed
many times and rewarded each time. So after some time the organism
performs the same action again and gets the same reward. It has
happened twice so the organism gets the idea that it might happen again
so the organism becomes motivated to perform the action. The organism
performs the action again and is rewarded again. It becomes even more
motivated. So the process continues locking action and reward together.
Organisms begin to associate the action with a reward. Still the habit
not complete. At some point in this process the organism starts to
associate the action with some event that precedes the action being
performed. This event after many repetitions becomes strongly
associated with the action and the reward becoming the cue that cues
the action to be performed. The behaviorists called the cue a
stimulus, they called the routine a behavior and the reward
do others program our robots?
are constantly trying to program each other's robots. Our parents try
program us, our teachers, our bosses, all try to program us.
we have strong built in defenses that prevent us from being easily
controlled by others. At the slightest wif of manipulation or control
others we tend to resist. This resistance to control comes from our
need for autonomy. In it's strongest form this kind of resistance has
been overcome by reverse psychology. There are always ways for others
past our defenses and end up controlling us somewhat, but this is not
do we program our own robots?
rest of this page will be devoted to answering that very question. This
is because the process is very complex and difficult but well worth the
effort. First, there is the golden rule of habit change which Charles
Duhigg lays out in his book
"The Power of Habit":
How does it work?
Use the same cue.
Change the routine.
Provide the same reward.
If you're going to find
out how to change bad habits into good habits it seems logical to look
at people who have been very successful at doing it. That is just what
a group of Neuroscientest, psychologists, geneticists, and
a sociologist did. In his book
"The Power of Habit" Charles Duhigg
the participants had one thing in common: They had remade their live in
relatively short periods of time. The researchers wanted to know how."
So they measured subjects' vital signs, installed video cameras in
their homes to watch their daily routines, sequenced portions of their
DNA and, with technologies that allowed them to peer inside peoples
skulls in real time, watched as blood and electronic impulses flowed
though their brains while exposed to temptations such as cigarette
and lavish meals. The researchers' goal was to figure out how habits
work on a neurological level - and what it took to make them change."
of the subjects supplied hints about what was happening that allowed
them to change their lives so radically, but one subject was clearly
the star. Her name was Lisa and her life had been a tragic mess of bad
habits. Suddenly all that changed during a trip to Cairo. Everything
was going wrong in her life. She was getting a divorce. It was a very
low point in her life when she got it into her head to go on a trek
through the desert. In order to do that she felt she would have to give
up smoking. Duhigg explains:
conviction that she had to give up smoking to accomplish her goal - had
touched off a series of changes that would ultimately radiate out to
every part of her life. Over the next six months she would replace
smoking with jogging,and that in turn, changed how she ate, worked,
slept, saved money, scheduled her work days, planned for the future,
and so on. She would start running half marathons, and then a marathon,
go back to school, buy a house, and get engaged. Eventually she was
recruited into the scientist's study and when researchers began
images of Lisa's brain they found something remarkable. One set of
neurological patterns - her old habits - had been overridden
new patterns. They could still see the neural activity of her
behaviors, but those impulses were crowded out by new urges. As Lisa's
habits changed, so had her brain.
wasn't the trip to Cairo that had caused the shift, scientists were
convinced, or the divorce or desert trek. It was that Lisa had focused
on changing just one habit - smoking - at first. Everyone in
study had gone through a similar process. By focusing on one pattern -
what is known as a 'keystone habit' - Lisa had taught herself how to
reprogram the other routines in her life as well."
we are able to produce only a finite amount of metal effort at a given
time, trying to change a lot bad habits during that time is not the
best strategy for replacing bad habits with good
ones. Instead people should pick
the habit which they most want to change and concentrate entirely on
Many of the books on self-control tell you to make list of your goals
or write down your resolutions, but it is clear from this research that
such is not a good idea, especially if you try to implement them all at
the same time. If you try to implement more than one your chances of
succeeding go down alarmingly.
There are, however, some circumstances where
trying to change more than
one habit will prove to be more effective. If for instance you wish to
lose weight it is obvious that changing both your diet and you exercise
simultaneously will be more effective than changing only one of these
activities. Related bad habits tend to reinforce one another thus
changing them simultaneously is more effective. You will change faster
and more saliently thus rewarding you with more immediate success. It
is important to succeed, because when you do, it
increases the amount of mental effort you can produce. Change one bad
habit into a good one and your ability to replace bad habits with good
ones increases. An immediate success can lead to other rapid successes.
Thus you can set off a chain reaction where you change
one or two bad habits then another and another, each time becoming
stronger and more easily able to change other bad habits. A keystone
habit is the first one (or two), the ones that can make it possible to
the others. As with any kind of change you have to start small.
is important to note, however, that that you do not have to reach your
goal before attempting to change other bad habits. You only have to
install the new habit to the point that you are being rewarded with
good progress. The moment you are satisfied you are making good
progress, and thus the new habit is effectively installed, you can
start to plan how you will change a different bad habit. Especially if
the new good habits support one another, this will result in further
acceleration in the total change and in your ability to change as each
new good habit comes on line.
cue the routine and the reward.
Although it is best to change the routine or
activity both the
cue and the reward can be changed also.
The cue is the key element in a habit loop. In his
"A Programmed Course in Self-Discipline" Joseph Strayhorne
calls cues choice points. However, it is probably best not to
cues in this way. The whole purpose of habits is to conserve mental
energy and to reduce mental effort. If we use mental effort to abort a
bad habit every time a cue prompts a bad habit to activate, this is
doing the opposite of conserving energy. We would be wasting
mental effort on a
massive scale. Anyway, it is simply not necessary to oppose bad habits
directly with large amounts of mental effort when
can use a bit of mental jujitsu to get around them.
If you wish to change a bad habit you first have
to discover what the cue is. What is it that activates that
out what the cue is, can
be accomplished by taking note of all the various
elements present when the habit starts to activate. The cue will be one
of the following:
time of day. Does the habit start to activate at about the
same time each day?
place where you are. Does the habit start to activate in
the same place each time?
person. Does the habit start to
activate when you are with the same person each time?
sensory input. Does
the habit start to activate when you see, hear, smell, taste or feel a
some particular thing each time?
you just did. Does
the habit start to activate when you just did something each time?
emotion you just felt. Does
the habit start to activate when you feel a particular emotion each
It may be necessary check out several
before you find the right cue. In
"A Programmed Course in Self-Discipline" Joseph Strayhorn
talks about cues as choice points:
you know what the most difficult choice points will be as soon as you
write down your goal. At other times, you have to try making daily
and see which ones are the hardest for you to follow. But it's very
useful to answer the question: 'In meeting this goal, what are the
situations that will challenge my self-discipline skills the most?'
These are called self-discipline choice points."
ways of dealing bad habit cues.
When you have
found out what the cue is, there are two ways you can try to deal with
it. Both of these ways make use of the the fact that habits
weaken through inactivity. The less a habit is
activated the weaker the habit gets.
In his book Duhigg
suggests that you keep the cue
in tact and use it to activate a different routine that is a good
habit. To make this work you have to use mental effort at first to
perform the new routine but as the new habit takes hold and the old
habit gets weaker it takes less and less mental effort to
accomplish. This is the best way to change a habit because the old
habit stops being cued as the cue can only cue one habit at a
The other way to deal with a cue for a bad habit
is to rearrange your environment so that the cue does not occur. You
simply arrange your life so that you avoid any presentation of the cue
that activates the bad habit. In this way you avoid the
cue and thus circumvent the activation of the bad habit. Joe
Strayhorn calls cues stimuli. He says:
you purposely arrange the stimuli around you to try to bring out the
responses in yourself that you want you are using stimulus
control. When you use stimulus control well, you avoid the temptations
that would get in the way of your goal. Someone who goes into a quiet
room to study instead of trying to study in front of the TV is using
this tactic is less effective. No mater how careful you are
about avoiding the cue it will turn up. You
supplement this idea by making the activation of the habit as difficult
as possible for yourself. For instance if you don't want to eat certain
things do not keep them close by or in the refrigerator. Assuming this
tactic is fairly effective, you can then create a
complete with a cue of your own
choosing. The best kind of cue to use is the time of day. In his book
"The End of Illness" Dr David Argus informs us that timing is
everything. He tells us that doing as many things as you can at unique
and fixed times each day promotes not only health but happiness,
etc. He tells us our bodies have been molded by evolution to function
at their best when particular things happen at the same time each day.
we eat at the same time, sleep at the same time, exercise at the same
time, our bodys can prepare to automatically adjust themselves for each
eventuality. This way our habits become attached to our daily
Perhaps the best approach to dealing with cues is
some combination of these two ideas.
While changing a habit is easiest if exactly the
same reward is used, this is not often possible. If
you use the same cue, the same reward and change the routine you will
find changing a habit is easy. Unfortunately it is usually
impossible to use the same reward. In
that case the only way to make it work is to use an equivalent
or better reward. Sadly the normal rewards for good habits are not
immediate but are rather delayed to some unspecific time in
to and investing in a personal future.
To have any chance in making delayed rewards
effective we have
to some how connect to our personal futures and invest in that future.
Many of the techniques for helping us to change our bad habits into
good ones is about connecting us to, and getting us to invest in, our
"Willpower" Roy Baumeister tells of an experiment that showed
a major difference in people's ability not to indulge in a temptation,
they had postponed indulging in the temptation initially by telling
themselves they could indulge later. Roy Baumeister explains:
results suggest that telling yourself 'I can have this later' operates
the mind a bit like having it now. It satisfies the craving to some
degree - and can be be even more effective at suppressing the appetite
than actually eating the treat."
One way of connecting with the future is to
surround yourself with other people who tend to forgo small rewards now
for large rewards later on. Only recently it was discovered that when
we observe another being doing something, our neurons for that action
schema fire up, and in all probability this action has to be inhibited
by our prefrontal cortex. In other words we are cued to copy or imitate
others unless we actively try to prevent it using self control. So by
surrounding ourselves by others, in this way, we are using habit to
overcome a habit instead of wasting precious mental effort. In
"A Programmed Course in Self-Discipline" Joseph Strayhorn
do people learn to do what they do? A large fraction of what we learn
from modeling and by imitation learning. People see people doing
something, and they tend to do the same thing."
researchers Albert Bandura and Walter Mischel, did an experiment. They
showed children someone else who was making this choice. [between
a small reward now or a greater reward later.]
The children tended to imitate the person they saw. Children who saw
someone choose the greater reward later on were influenced to use self
discipline too in that way. Children who saw someone choose to get the
smaller reward right away were influenced to make the same sort of
choice. This influence took place even when children heard about the
choice and did not see it in real life."
can you take the most advantage of the power of modeling? By collecting
written or recorded examples of the type of self-disciplined behavior
you want to do more often, and purposely exposing yourself to those
models over and over."
is natural and good to admire the actions
of people who use this skill successfully. Admiring these people's
actions can only help us get the energy to develop our own
easier if you see other people doing the work".
yourself with logic.
Another way to connect with the future is to talk
yourself into it. In his book
"A Programmed Course in Self-Discipline" Joseph Strayhorn
suggest we need a sales pitch for ourselves:
you are trying to convince yourself to...triumph in
any...self-discipline goal...you need a sales pitch for
about thinking, 'This problem may take lots of work for me to solve.
But if I'm willing to work enough, I can make things better. If doing
that work makes my life better, it will be worth it.' This is the way
of thinking that causes success."
about when you are trying to convince yourself to work hard to improve
schoolwork, keep your temper, lose weight get in better shape, or
triumph in any other self-discipline goal? You need a sales pitch for
sales pitch is basically two lists. List number one is a list of the
reasons why you should implement a new routine. List number two is a
list of all the counter arguments to reasons you might give to keep
indulging in the same bad habit routine.
measurement, improvement and self-monitoring.
Perhaps the most effective tool we have to connect
ourselves to a future goal (reward) is to find some way of measuring
improvement toward that goal (reward). This serves to provide you with
small incremental rewards, each one connect to the future reward along
the way, each one providing increasing ability to summon your mental
effort and increase you determination to reach that goal. In
"A Programmed Course in Self-Discipline" Joseph Strayhorn
which gets measured gets improved.' If you really want to get better at
something, measure progress accurately and frequently. That way, you
will know right away if you are getting off track, and you can correct
yourself. You will also get positive feedback if you are on the right
track, and you can reinforce yourself for that. Measuring, or
are doing gives you the crucial information you need to decide 'Do I
keep on doing more of the same?' or 'Do I change what I am doing?'"
you can count on other people to measure your performance. If you are a
professional basketball player, after every game you can find out what
percent of your shots went in, how many rebounds you made, and many
other statistics. But if you are trying to pay attention in class, lose
weight, quit smoking, control your temper, or start homework projects
early, you will have to do most of the measuring yourself. No one else
is interested enough in your goals to do it for you."
weighs himself every morning and writes down down his weight on a chart
he keeps. He has weekly and monthly goals for the weight he wants to
be, and he frequently compares his actual weight to his goal weight."
Support from others has been long known to be of
great help in making future rewards more real and desirable for us.
There may be many reasons individual and group support works. As Joe
Strayhorn explains individuals or groups can provide small rewards
leading to the larger reward in the future:
doing that work [on a self-control problems]
much easier if you
have some really nice, supportive person helping you out with it,
encouraging you and celebrating your successes with you."
Roy Baumeister says:
outsider can often encourage you by pointing out signs of progress that
you have taken for granted. And when things are going badly, sometimes
the best solution is to look elsewhere for help."
Research has shown over and over that support from
a person or group of people can have an amazing effect on making future
for us and is highly instrumental in enabling us to
invest in those future rewards. Perhaps its partly modeling, or as Roy
Baumeister explains below fear of rejection by a group can help us
most enthusiastic walkers were the ones who shared each days tally with
a few friends. They were applying a sound psychological principle that
was demonstrated in some of Baumeister's earliest experiments, long
before he got involved in studying self-control: Public information has
more impact than private information. People care more more about what
other people know about them than what they know about themselves. A
failure, a slip up, a lapse in self-control can be swept under the
carpet pretty easily if you are the only one who knows about it. You
can rationalize it or just plain ignore it. But if other people know
about it, its harder to dismiss. After all, the other person may not
buy the excuses that you make, even though you find them satisfying.
And you'll have even more trouble selling that excuse when you expand
from one person to a whole social network.
Roy Baumeister also points out that others can
you monitor your behavior thus helping you conserve some mental effort:
also outsourcing the job of monitoring, which can ease the burden on
good way of connecting to you personal future, connecting to rewards
long term goals, and fulfilling resolutions, is to actively imagine you
already performing the new good habit and then have been performing it
for some time. Joe Strayhorn has
the following to say in his book:
chapter contains a very important idea, one that can help you improve
your performance in almost any area you want to improve in. It has been
used by Olympic athletes, professional speakers, musicians, people who
want to get along better with other people, and by successful students.
The idea is called fantasy rehearsal. The idea is that by practicing
things in your imagination, you can get better at them in real life."
experimenters asked one group to perform a physical action, and
another group to imagine vividly that they were doing the same action.
The activation of the brain was very similar for both groups. This
study suggests that by fantasy rehearsals, you can bring about effect
your brain that are similar to real rehearsals."
is not just useful for improving your performance but also helps speed
up the process of habituation. In other words it will help you get used
to any unpleasant elements involved in the performance of the new good
habit. For this to be effective you have to experience in your mind
it will be like to perform the new habit moment by moment with all the
emotion, strain, fatigue, discomfort, pain and pleasure that might
involve. In addition by vividly imagining at the end of this process
the eventual reward that will be yours if you reach your goal or
fulfill you resolution, you will make a strong connection to the future
reward. You have to imagine how people will react how you will feel how
pleasurable it will be just as if you had just received the reward.
"Willpower" Roy Baumeister recounts the results of an
experiment where people were required to reflect on the goals they had
achieved or the goals they wanted to achieve. These results indicated
that it might not be such a good idea to celebrate our past
achievements, although it seems possible that rewards already
experienced could be used to help us imagine what long term rewards
might be like:
random assignment half were told to reflect on what they had achieved
thus far... The rest were instructed to reflect on what they were
planning to achieve but had not yet accomplished. The ones who wrote
about what they had already achieved had higher satisfaction with their
current tasks and projects, as compared with the ones who reflected on
what they had not yet achieved. But the latter were more motivated to
reach their goals and then move on to more challenging projects. Those
who focused on what they had already done did not seem eager to move on
to more difficult and challenging tasks. They were reasonably content
with where they were and what they were currently doing. For
contentment, apparently it pays to look how far you have come. To stoke
motivation and ambition, focus instead on the road ahead."
reinforcement or extrinsic self rewards.
Connecting to future rewards may be facilitated by
giving yourself rewards for progress toward that long term reward. In
"A Programmed Course in Self-Discipline" Joseph Strayhorn
gives several suggestions
as to how one might go about rewarding one's self:
are several different types of rewards, or reinforcers. When you say to
yourself, 'Hooray for me! I did a good job' that is an internal
reinforcer, or a self talk reinforcer. When something happens outside
you that makes you feel good, that's an external reinforcer. There are
several sorts of reinforcers."
You can congratulate yourself or praise yourself
either inside your mind or out loud when
you reach some points in you progress toward your goal.
principle is that if you reward yourself in your own mind for
self-discipline triumphs, you'll be more likely to repeat them."
have to some magic on yourself that lets you enjoy your own
compliments. But if you cultivate the skill of feeling good about your
own inner congratulations, your ability to triumph over self-discipline
choice points will soar."
yourself a physical reward.
can arrange your life so that you can allow yourself some physical
you reach some points in you progress toward your goal.
decides to make the tea and biscuit reinforcers for writing. He has a
program on his computer that measures his keystrokes. He decides that
he will give himself the tea and biscuit when he has typed 10,000
keystrokes on his book."
makes a rule for herself that on any day, she will do her academic work
first. When all her work has been done really well, she will only then
let herself surf the Internet."
sets up a rule for himself that he is allowed to play computer chess on
any day when his room is very organized, when he has made a to do list,
and when he has done all essential items on the list. The chance to
chess then becomes a reinforcer for organizing."
people in the last three examples did not give in to the
temptations. But they also did not give up the temptations altogether.
They decided to give themselves the rewards, but only after they had
done their work toward their long term goals. Thus the same foods or
activities that had been temptations now did some special thing for the
work on the long term goal."
Resolutions and the
The worst habit you can get into is to set gaols
for yourself and fail to reach them, to make resolutions and fail to
accomplish them. If you do not reach the
goal or accomplish the resolution you do not get the reward and the
whole effort you have put in is wasted. Not only that, but by giving in
to temptation you are giving yourself a different reward for failing,
you are making a habit of failing. When
you do this you are making the whole process of changing a
habit impossible. In his book
"A Programmed Course in Self-Discipline" Joseph Strayhorn is
fully familiar with this
and has the following to say:
people are in the habit of constantly making resolutions and then
breaking them. This is an important habit to stay out of! You want to
get into the habit of keeping resolutions. If you break too higher a
fraction of your own resolutions, you get discouraged with your own
ability to do what you plan."
absolutely essential that if you set a goal for yourself or make a
resolution, that you accomplish that goal or resolution as often as
possible. It is only by
reaching the goal or accomplishing the resolution that you get rewarded
and the new habit can
begin to replace a bad habit. Strayhorne goes on to say:
when people make resolutions that are too hard, and break them, they
feel guilty. Sometimes they try to take care of their guilt by making
even harsher resolutions"
This is obviously the worst thing you can do. If
you fail in you resolution it is probably because you have made the
resolution so difficult as too be almost impossible to accomplish.
Clearly you need to make your goals easier not harder.
your goals and resolutions sufficiently easy that you can accomplish
There are two ways to think about turning bad
habit routines into better ones. We can do this either by setting small
goals for ourselves or by setting proximal goals for ourselves. In this
way we concentrate on changing the bad habit and not on reaching some
distant goal. Habits usually involve fairly small manageable routines.
This being so, our goals or resolutions should similarly be focused on
each one of these small routines, and the replacing of it with a better
goals. The idea with small goals is to make the
goal or resolution easy enough to accomplish.
Strayhorne goes on to say: "so
you start by making easy resolutions to follow. You take into account
that you may not have developed the best possible habits yet. You try
to arrange success experiences for yourself. For people who have become
discouraged about keeping those resolutions, the first resolution
should be really easy." For
dieters it is a matter of cutting down on the amounts of different
food you eat. For cigarette smokers it is cutting down the number of
cigarettes. For exercising it is a matter of starting with easy
exercises. etc. etc. We can reward ourselves for accomplishing these
small goals as we accomplish them even if its only the feeling of
accomplishment that comes with succeeding in those small goals.
and proximal goals. With big goals it is best to think of
being composed of smaller goals that can be more easily accomplished.
Because many of the habits we wish to change are not rewarded in the
immediate time frame, and are only rewarded in a distant long term
it may be necessary to divide such goals into much smaller goals that
are easy to accomplish. Such goals can be rewarded immediately.
Strayhorn put it like this: "Doing that work
is also easier if you get rewarded in some small way for each small bit
of progress that you make." "Often
certain skill is made up from a combination of simpler skills.
Sometimes if you are having a hard time getting fast and accurate at
some skill, it is best to practice the simpler skills that are part of
discussed the possibility of breaking long term goals into smaller
goals that act as sort of stepping stones to the long term goal. He
called the long term goals 'distal goals' and the short term goals
'proximal goals'. Take exercising. There is a big pay off for
it makes you healthy and normally makes your body look good. Such
are very much in a distant future that we may not be invested in. We
can however reward ourselves in a more immediate present by taking note
of changes in our body and health as they occur and patting ourselves
on the back as we notice. As with all learning the trick with proximal
goals is to only make them small enough to allow them to be
accomplishable. But if you make them too small there will be little
of accomplishment and/or the whole process of reaching the final distal
goal will take too long.
Changing the routine requires planning. When you
have found out what what the cue is, that is activating your bad habit,
and what the reward is that you are craving, you can plan to perform a
different action when the cue presents itself. While this could be any
old action that produces the same or an equivalent
reward, ideally we want to take the opportunity to replace the
bad habit with a good one. In his book
"The Power of Habit" Charles
Duhigg gives the following example:
for instance , my cookie-in-the-afternoon habit. By using this
framework, I learned that my cue was roughly 3:30 in the afternoon. I
knew that my routine was to go to the cafeteria, buy a cookie, and chat
with friends. And through experimentation, I had learned that it
wasn't really the cookie that I craved - rather it was a moment of
distraction and the opportunity to socialize.
I wrote a plan:
3:30, every day I will walk to a friend's desk and talk for 10 minuets.
make sure I remembered to do this, I set the alarm on my watch for 3:30.
didn't work immediately. There were some days I was too busy and
the alarm, and then fell off the wagon. Other times it seemed like too
much work to find a friend willing to chat - it was easier to get a
cookie, and so I gave in to the urge. But on those days that I abided
by the plan - when the alarm went off. I forced myself to walk to a
friend's desk and chat for ten minuets - I found that I ended the work
day feeling better. I hadn't gone to the cafeteria, I hadn't
a cookie. and I felt fine. Eventually, it got to be automatic: when the
alarm rang, I found a friend and ended the day feeling a small but
real, sense of accomplishment. After a few weeks, I hardly thought
about the routine any more. And when I couldn't find anyone to chat
with, I went to the cafeteria and bought tea and drank it with friends."
In his book
"A Programmed Course in Self-Discipline" Joe Strayhorn talks
plans in terms of reaching goals but his advice is also applicable to
simple plans to change habits:
it takes a very long time to find the right plan to achieve a goal. You
can save yourself a lot of time by studying the plans and method used
by people who have already been successful."
you make plans, it's good to
project yourself forward in your imagination, to the time when you will
be carrying out those plans."
You do this to try and
anticipate any obstacles or things that could derail your plan and thus
prepare for those problems. This is obviously connected to his next bit
you also have a plan in case you mess up. You plan that if you have a
little failure of self-discipline, you will tell yourself, 'My task is
to start back immediately on the pattern that will help me reach my
A small failure is much smaller than a big failure! The fact that I had
a little failure doesn't change the fact that everything counts in
either advancing me toward my goal or moving me away from it. Let me
view the reasons I want to achieve my goal and muster my energy toward
"What the Hell" effect.
That bit of advice from Strayhorn, it turns out,
significant when it comes to making plans to change habits. As to just
why this is so is made abundantly clear by Roy Baumeister in his book
in the section called "The What-the-Hell Effect" where he
describes the following experiment:
people arrived at the lab in what researchers call a 'food deprived
state,' which is more commonly known as 'hungry'. They hadn't eaten for
several hours. Some were given a small milkshake to take the edge off;
others drank two giant milkshakes with enough calories to leave a
normal person feeling stuffed. Then both groups, along with other
subject that hadn't been given any kind of milkshake, were asked to
serve as food tasters. It was a ruse."
This was just a way of tempting them with piles of
different types of snacks.
non dieters reacted predictably enough. Those who had just drunk the
giant milkshakes nibbled at the crackers and quickly filled out their
ratings. Those who had drunk the one modest milkshake ate more
crackers. And those who were still hungry after not eating for hours
went on to chomp through the better part of the cookies and crackers.
All perfectly understandable.
the dieters reacted in the opposite pattern. The ones who had downed
the giant milkshakes actually ate more cookies and crackers than the
ones who'd had nothing to eat for hours. The results stunned the
researchers, who were led by Peter Herman. Incredulous, they conducted
further experiments, with similar results, until they finally began to
see why self-control in eating can fail even among people who are
carefully regulating themselves.
researchers gave it a formal scientific term, counterregulatory eating,
but in their lab and among colleagues it was known simply as the
what-the-hell effect. Dieters have a fixed target in mind for their
maximum daily calories, and when they exceed it for some unexpected
reason, such as being given a pair of large milkshakes in an
experiment, they regard their diet as blown for the day. That day is
therefore mentally classified as a failure, regardless of what else
happens. Virtue cannot resume until tomorrow. So they think, What the
Hell, I might as well enjoy myself today - and the resulting binge
often puts on far more weight than the original lapse."
This What-the-Hell Effect, or beginning again
back to a bad habit, is not just applicable to over eating and dieting.
It can happen with any bad habit and is much more severe with habits
where people are said to be addicted. When an alcoholic has one drink
he/she must have another and so on. You not only have to have a plan
but you must also plan what will happen, what you will do if you fail.
Roy Baumeister in his book
"Willpower" has some advice for dealing with
an idea of what you want to accomplish in a month and how to get there.
Leave some flexibility and anticipate setbacks. When you check your
progress at month's end, remember that you don't have to meet each goal
every time - what matters is that your life gradually improves from
month to month. Aiming for huge and quick transformations will backfire
if they seem impossible."
The moment you put a different routine in place of
the old habit it begins to build momentum. Not only does repetition
build persistence power, but you also begin to get used to the new
habit and you start to build pleasurable associations with it. All this
makes a person who has been performing the new habit for some time,
likely to continue than a person that is just starting a new good
habit. In his book
"A Programmed Course in Self-Discipline" Joseph Strayhorn
person most likely not to smoke on a given day is the person who has
not smoked for a good while up until that day. This is the person who
has some 'momentum' for the self-discipline habit."
of the way momentum works is simple habit strength. When you repeat a
action several times, it starts to become a habit. Life is much easier
and happier if you can get into a habit and routine of making certain
good choices; you get to save the energy of struggling with them over
you tell yourself, 'Just one will not make any difference,' you are
also telling yourself something false, because you run the risk of
having your momentum stopped."
The beauty of putting a new routine in place is
that, although it may be very unpleasant to perform at first, it will
a time become what is normal and comfortable. Joe Strayhorn explains:
of the way people increase their work capacity and their
self-discipline is by habituation. Habituation means 'getting used to
it.' Someone at first can't stand to do homework for more than fifteen
minutes without stopping, but he pushes himself to work for longer and
longer. The more experience he gets with working for longer times, the
more he gets used to it. It isn't so unpleasant as it was before. As he
habituates to working, he becomes able to work for a couple of hours
you work hard and long you habituate to the unpleasant sensations of
putting out effort. You get used to those feelings, so that they don't
bother you so much. Pushing yourself really hard sometimes makes you
enjoy the work a lot more in the future rather than making you hate it."
As Joe Strayhorn explains below that not
only do we get
used to almost anything but after some time most habits become
made up the phrase advanced self-discipline to refer to a very
important accomplishment. When you use advanced self-discipline, you
gradually train yourself to enjoy the activities and choices that
accomplish your long-term goals. For example, someone starts an
exercise program. At first, it's very unpleasant to exercise. The
person uses ordinary self-discipline to make himself keep running. But
gradually, something changes. The person trains himself to take
pleasure from running. He looks forward to his runs. Now his long term
motive and his short-term motive are less in conflict with each other.
He can use some of his self-discipline energy on something else."
site does not hold that people have to train themselves to like or take
pleasure in good habits. Everything we do has parts of it that are
pleasurable and parts of it that are unpleasant. Just think of
Michaelangelo painting the Sistine Chapel. On the one hand it must have
been an exquisitely pleasure to see this painting coming into being. On
the other hand it must have been very painful lying on his back
painting upwards. Here is the thing though, the more he worked on the
painting the more pleasurable it would have become. After a while even
pain becomes pleasurable. Any masochist will confirm this. The
pleasurable bits get associated together with the unpleasant bits and
the pleasure overwhelms the pain and it all becomes pleasurable. Indeed
the pain associated with pleasure this way seems to intensify the
pleasure. For more information on this please click here for the page
dealing with work.
special case of food.
dieting is only peripherally significant for learning, it is the one
thing most people try to use self-control for. Thus information is
here to provide a clear understanding of the connection between food
and self-control. As explained earlier on this page there is a
biological catch 22 involved in dieting, in that we need glucose to
enable us to maintain mental effort used in overcoming temptations, and
to obtain glucose we need to eat.
weight, getting fit and being healthy.
Unfortunately dieting is further complicated by
the fact that people do it, not just with the goal of losing weight,
but also to get fit and be healthy. This is because getting fat is, not
just what you eat but also, how much you exercise. It follows then that
people struggle with dieting because they often try to exercise at the
same time. As documented above the likelihood of succeeding if
you do this is very small. Unless you are very over weight (obese) it's
probably better to try and change you exercise habit first simply
because it is easier as there is no catch 22 as there is with eating.
When you have established a good exercise habit you can use the
momentum and persistence strength, obtained from that, to help you work
your eating habit.
sugar rush and crash.
"Willpower" Roy Baumeister points out
that although the body tends to crave sugar when you have depleted
ability to enact mental or physical effort, you should avoid satisfying
this craving, and instead replenish your energy by eating other food.
sugar spike is promptly followed by a crash that leaves you feeling
depleted, so its not a good long term strategy."
fact although our bodies are experiencing this craving getting a quick
fix of sugar does not help at all, it just makes things worse by
producing cycles of high and low glucose in the blood. Roy
body converts just about all sorts of food into glucose, but at
different rates. Foods that are converted quickly are said to have a
high glycemic index. These include starchy carbohydrates like white
bread, potatoes, white rice, and plenty of offerings on snack racks and
fast food counters. Eating them causes boom and bust cycles, leaving
you short on glucose and self-control - and too often unable
the body's craving for quick hits of starch and sugar from doughnuts
sugar enters the blood as glucose so quickly it tends to flood our
system with too much glucose. In response our body tends to rev up or
active both physically and mentally in an effort to balance out our
glucose levels, which results in us using up the excess glucose and
more. This in turn leaves us with low glucose, a craving for sugar and
little self control. If we then eat sugar the cycle begins
maintain steady self-control, you're better off eating foods with a low
glycemic index: most vegetables, nuts (like peanuts and cashews), many
raw fruits (like apples, blueberries, and pairs), cheese, fish, meat,
olive oil, and other 'good' fats. (These low-glycemic foods may also
help keep you slim.)"
burn fat while you sleep.
Recent studies have
shown that your
body burns flab while you sleep, but only if it isn't too busy
processing a full stomach. While
you are awake, your brain and muscles use some of the calories you eat
for mental and physical effort, and the rest is stored in your liver as
glycogen. While you are asleep, your body converts that glycogen into
glucose and gradually releases it into your bloodstream keeping your
blood-sugar levels steady. When the stored glycogen is used up, your
liver starts burning fat cells. However, it
takes a few hours to use the glycogen built up during your
awake time. The secret to losing weight is not just eating less but
fasting. This does not mean you have to fast for long periods of time,
which is hard on the body, but simply increase the amount of time in
our natural everyday fast between our last meal of the day and
breakfast. If you do not eat anything after 7pm, assuming you go to
1am or later and have eight hours sleep, should
allow your body enough time to burn all of the stored glycogen plus
some fat every night.
So it is possible to diet despite the catch 22
it is just a matter of following 2 simple rules:
Avoid sugar, starches and fats and fill up on
other food with a low glycemic index.
Do not eat anything at least 6 hours before you
go to sleep. Do not drink any sugary drinks during that time. It's also
best to build a good habit of only eating at
fixed times so that, it becomes your eating habit.
and life long learning.
is many things. Further
up this page it was suggested that learning is something done
intentionally and attentionally by our conscious self, while what has
been learned is something done automatically by our personal robot and
is thus a habit. While this is essentially correct, it is not
the entire story. Learning is an activity and any activity that is
roughly performed the same way many times can become routine and can be
rightly classified as a habit.
habit of learning has to be seen as a good habit and one of life long
know by now, a habit involves cues, routines and rewards. The problem
with trying to perceive learning as a routine, is that a learning
slightly different each time. Oh sure, many of the sub activities are
similar each time like reading, searching though books and
or doing an Internet search with a search engine, but even they are not
exactly the same each time. Each time you are reading or researching
different. This process relies on the reward for doing routine A to be
anticipated for doing routine B. Given the right environment this works
by means of our tendency to generalize the reward we get for learning
one thing to be applicable to learning similar items. This is
as developing a passionate personal interest in a particular content
area. In this way a single bit of learning is generalized to be similar
to a whole subject content area where it is anticipated any learning
will rewarded as was the single item of learning. If we develop this
passionate personal interest by means generalizing rewards we can start
a process whereby we can develop a life long habit of learning within
that content area.
rewards for learning. There are often external rewards such as money or
praise, but these extrinsic rewards can be counter productive. Still
learning also generates many kinds of internal or intrinsic rewards.
Because learning helps us accomplish all of our goals,
it provides rewards in the form of feelings of accomplishment,
usefulness, efficiency, orderliness, etc. etc. Such strong intrinsic
motivators or rewards should guarantee that learning should become a
life long habit. But there is more. Learning itself has its own
intrinsic reward. The feeling of having learned something, and that now
you know something is the special reward well known to learners.
Unfortunately our schools for the most part are not
places where we get to feel these pleasures much, because of students
constantly being coerced into learning things in which they have
interest, and the fact that they are often punished for not having
learned as well as
instructors would hope.
develop the desire to learn you desire to learn some particular things
and to do that you need to be in control of what
learned. In fact self-control enables you not only to control what you
learn, but also how much, and how well you learn.
Also Roy Baumeister in his book
"Willpower" provides some evidence that
if we enjoy doing some thing (say for example learning) it does not
require much in the way of mental effort to do it, and that mental
effort is only required to maintain such tasks for long periods of
time. In other words learning requires less and less mental effort the
however, learning should not stop with developing an area of passionate
personal interest. Learning should involve developing new interests
where the similarity in the generalization of the rewards becomes less
similar as our interest expands outward to envelop many fields of
knowledge and areas of deep personal interest. Ideally learners could
approach the point
where the pleasure associated with learning would be generalized to
anything and everything. In this way we could develop a life long
desire to learn all things. Life
long learning is all about being in control of our self in order to
develop and guide this passionate interest in learning and the desire
to learn which ultimately becomes itself a habit.