Looking for better alternatives to self-discipline

A common reason people don’t do stuff – which applies to philosophy study but not flossing – is they are tired. People often lack self-awareness of how tired they are and have unrealistic expectations about how much they should be able to do per day with how little sleep. Self-discipline is pretty ineffective against tiredness.

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yes. Here’s one for example.

The example that best helps me understand your point is that if I can follow along a solved example in a maths textbook, and even repeat every step if asked about it, doesn’t mean I have understood how to solve that problem. Or even if I have I cannot solve harder problems that builds upon that problem because I only have a superficial understanding. To be able to use a idea fluently you need to master/automatize it. I agree with all this and it helps me understand how to make progress.

But isn’t it the case that static memes affect my emotions. If I can explicitly say something is good for me but I am not able to integrate that into my life doesn’t it make sense to want to understand what is happening? What the static memes are doing and how they are doing it? How does improving at basic stuff and building up to a level where I can take more control over my life changes things with respect to static memes? What changes happen over various steps of progress? My interest in knowing this not just intellectual fascination or wanting to be mind blown. I wanna know about because it can help keep track of or at least notice what progress one is making. I don’t think that knowing this stuff will provide some kind of shortcut. I expect the effort would be the same but knowing this stuff will give some context to the journey.

I don’t think I’m stuck on an unusually hard problem. A lot of people talk about deciding to change their life and then building grit, determination, discipline and will power to make themselves work hard on goals that will make their life better. Jocko Willink and Jordan Peterson are two people that come to mind. I don’t think I’ve used this rationalization to excuse and evade my faults.

This makes me think that how do I explain to myself that I have been making these faults? When I was making the mistake I was enjoying doing the things that I would say are bad when I’m wearing my thinking cap.

Got any opinions/conclusions/results of that thinking to share?

I did some thinking, but I didn’t write down most of it down, so I can’t remember (or maybe I just never bothered to identify) the extent to which my recent thoughts did or did not come from this thread.

One recent conclusion I’ve come to that relates to this thread is that it’s really important that I learn how to be less of a rationalist. My solution here is to start by reading Understanding Objectivism, because rationalism is a big theme of that course. I just finished chapter 3 like yesterday.

A more parochial conclusion: I was using some poorly thought-out (by me) philosophy stuff as an excuse to procrastinate from work that I really didn’t want to do. I realized that I should stick with traditional ideas about productivity until/unless I actually have better ones. I successfully stopped using poorly thought-out philosophy stuff as an excuse to procrastinate, but it didn’t really matter in the end because I just found other excuses to procrastinate.

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How to not be tired? Is having energy only about getting enough sleep? What other stuff impacts energy? (My guess would be exercise and healthy diet.) What are some signs that can help me know that depletion of energy is the reason that I am actually unable to do intellectual stuff productively? How should one organize their daily work keeping this fact in mind that one has limited energy to do productive intellectual work in a day.

One thing is that I get frustrated by is the idea of putting in effort into something which I consider to be easy to improve at like learning to read and write better and do that with the expectation of no big positive change will happen. I think to myself that if I’m gonna put in effort then why not put it in stuff that is advertised to lead to big improvements instead and solve the big problems I have in life.

I wrote something relevant here.

This is very relevant here as well. I really liked the following part:

Don’t assume the conclusion that certain ideas are the right ones (something similar might be right but in their current form those ideas are unable to address the other side’s points well enough to reach a conclusion, so they’re actually wrong).

I always thought that if something is true why shouldn’t I just tyrannize myself. The explanation inside the brackets explain why I shouldn’t. Even though I think I know the right theory it’s not totally correct because if it were it would’ve defeated/convinced the other theory.

Wait, could it be the case the the other (emotional/inexplicit) part of me that is having other ideas (of not feeling motivated about doing something which I can explicitly conclude is right) is irrational so it is not convinced by a true theory?

Edit: My bad. It says in the next paragraph that don’t declare parts of yourself as irrational among other things.
Edit 2: Question after noticing the error: how does one reason with emotional part of themselves? By using non-judgmental introspection?

When Jordan Peterson talks about cleaning your room he’s talking about forming a habit of cleaning your room everyday. I was thinking that to start a self reinforcing cycle you need a reward on completing the task. Is that correct? Is this a good self help idea. Reward here is something like thinking that you are making progress and feeling good about that instead of thinking that cleaning your room is nothing to feel good about.

Also does it make sense to think of being able to do a task vs being able to form a habit of doing that task regularly as two separate things. I think it does. If a person isn’t able to form habits how can that person improve? what does that person lack?

Does it make sense to think of forming a habit as a perpetual motion machine cycle that keeps running on it’s own and no new effort needs to be put in to start it again. It just keeps running on its own. Or is it unrealistic to expect that?

I am using the coercion idea to come to this conclusion that one should expect that doing tasks should feel effortless. If not then you should try to try to find out where the resistance is and then remove it. If you’re not successful in removing the resistance then you shouldn’t continue anyways. You should do something else.

This sounds like arm chair philosophy stuff to me. One reason for that is you keep switching without making any progress then you are never gonna accomplish anything. I guess I don’t understand what it means to have no coercion and am making other errors as well. Can you point out the errors with my reasoning. Also what CF say about this? That encountering some resistance is normal. Things feeling as effortless as breathing is an unrealistic benchmark.

A relevant thing Elliot said here:

If you think 3 hours means the video cost 20% of a day, you’d be wrong. It definitely cost more than that. I can’t write for 15 hours a day. Not even close. Even the easier stuff like animating or editing would be too hard to do for that long per day.

3 hours of good focus and creativity in a day is plenty. Add 5 hours of easier stuff and that’s enough to burn most people out if they average that much, 7 days a week, for a few months. (That’s assuming they weren’t tired out at the start and they get enough sleep, or it’d be worse.)

3 hours of creative + 5 hours of easier stuff will burn out most people. So thinking that things can start feeling as effortless as breathing contradicts with the idea that people burn out. So what is right expectation? When one desires to be free of coercion or if not completely free then to a great extent what would that mean? How does the experience of a person changes when they become free of coercion? Expecting that after removing coercion tasks will start feeling effortless seems wrong to me now but I don’t understand why.

Edit: I wrote ‘want’ in the last line of the first paragraph but changed it to ‘expect’ because that makes more sense.

I like the chaos order metaphor that Jordan Peterson uses. It fits very well with CF ideas like overreaching. He says order is when you’re in control of a situation. If you want to pick up your phone, you’re in control of that situation. You rarely fail at that task. If you do fail you know why and and can improve so that you don’t fail for that reason again. I see the idea of setting up cycles like clean your room/ make your bed daily as establishing order in your life. Order shouldn’t take up your energy. Energy should be used to tame chaos and bring it into order. Doing arm chair philosophy and reaching to the conclusion that making your bed or flossing your teeth and similar stuff should feel effortless is a way to introduce chaos into simple things that should help you set up order. If you’re not able to build the habit of flossing then you could try to change the activity in some ways like listening to music so that you like flossing. You could try to figure out what is it about flossing that you don’t like? In my case I figured out that I don’t see the role of habits and for me whether to floss or not is a decision to make everyday. That’s counter productive. A habit is a helpful cycle that produces a useful output towards your goal everytime you complete the cycle hence you should automate that cycle. You shouldn’t have to think about starting another loop of that cycle everytime.

I’m pasting the autogenerated transcript from the video I linked because I really like one thing he said. I’m adding some punctuations because there aren’t any so I’m adding ones that make sense to me so somethings can be wrong.

Order is when you’re where what you’re doing is producing what you want to have happen. okay so why is that orderly? because you can predict it. you do a and you want B to happen and B happens. so what does that mean? it means you know where you are, you know what you’re doing, and things are working. and then you’re calm because there’s nothing to be nervous about, and you’re moderately happy because you’re getting what you need and want, and there’s evidence that you are competent because that’s why things are working. that’s order.

I guess that having order can make you calm and happy. Concluding that you’re competent because you have established order makes more sense to me. To build a habit you need competence like being able to keep a goal in mind. For example flossing is gonna keep your teeth and gums healthy. Keeping them healthy is most likely a long term goal of yours. Being able to keep that in mind and automatizing it and not having to make that decision again and again and fighting your laziness are skills.

If you are competent at these skills you will be able to form habits. You can feel good about having these skills and that good feeling can be the reward required to set up a positive reinforcement cycle.

There’s another angle through which I thought about this problem.

I’m pretty sure Mark Twain didn’t say this. This quote has been attributed to Confucius as well.

Here is another similar quote from The power of passion - Richard St. John - YouTube a Ted Talk around 1 minute 30 seconds into the video.

Stress isn’t working 15 hours at a job you like, stress is working 15 minutes at a job you dislike.

A similar idea is in this dialog article Fallible Ideas – Pursuit Of Happiness. It says pursuit of happiness is an important tradition and it shouldn’t be discarded. Forcing kids to go to school contradicts with the pursuit of happiness tradition so schooling system should be changed to something that doesn’t contradict with pursuit of happiness tradition.

I guess that most really successful people succeed because they find something they really enjoy doing. They enjoyed putting in the effort to get the result. They become self motivated. How are these people able to put in so much effort that is required to achieve such great results and stay self motivated? I used to think that if I found a really good goal to achieve then I would become self motivated like these people and would be able to put in effort that is required to achieve great results. But that is not the case. I need to argue with myself every time just convince myself to put in little effort towards a small goal. Most of the times I fail to convince myself and use bad reasoning to justify my bad choice. For example I make the choice of passively consuming content like physics lectures or philosophy videos and then I justify the choice by concluding that choosing to passively consume content makes me happy thus it is the right choice according to the pursuit of happiness tradition.

Does it make sense to expect that a positive reinforcing cycle of self improvement can be created by bringing about some changes in me? If yes what are the changes required? How long would it take to get to that stage?

Some people focus on big picture stuff or planning, but they don’t “do the work” or successfully complete small projects/milestones.

Some people focus on details and local successes but avoid planning or thinking about the global picture.

Both of these are evasion strategies. People need to be doing some of both (big and small) on a regular basis.

Similarly, if you’re studying something else to hopefully get better at philosophy analysis, you should try to do philosophy analysis periodically to see if you got better. Is it working? You should sometimes check how much progress you’ve made on your longer term goals and see how close you are.

And if you’re making lots of plans, you should try doing some of the plans sometimes, to see if they work and get feedback from reality. Don’t just keep making new plans that you never test out. If you try doing them, you’ll learn about how well they work or don’t work, and get better at planning.

Put another way: you need both some non-meta and some meta stuff. E.g. you need both some organization/planning (meta) and some stuff that is being organized/planned (non-meta). One without the other doesn’t make sense.

I think this is relevant to lots of people, and I hope it’s helpful to say: @doubtingthomas is one of the big picture focused people who doesn’t do learning activities like practicing things, studying or creating stuff within his abilities.

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It is helpful. Thank you.

I’m trying to figure out a perfect plan where everything makes sense and everything is in order. A plan where there is a clear understanding of why the actions are being taken and what results they will lead to and how those results will finally lead to the final goal. This in itself is a kind of evasion strategy. Wanting a final plan and wanting it to completely make sense is infalliblism and creationism.

There is another spanner in the works. I believe that the better path to progress is not only easier but also more effective and reliable and produces better results. The path is easier in the sense that it is emotionally easier, makes you feel better thus you are more likely to follow on the path to get the positive reward. I think this misunderstanding that I’ve formed is another way to evade. If you could remove this misunderstanding as well it would be very helpful.

But your reply consists of only big picture stuff, and it even asks me for more discussion of that type.

One reason (and I think it is the main reasons) why I focus on big picture is that having a big picture makes me feel superior to other people. I’ve always had a negative attitude in life and listening to Elliot point out how bad most things are in the world because of irrationality reinforces that negative attitude of mine. It makes me feel good that I at least have a better bigger picture than most people. Even though I think I have a better bigger picture I don’t act on it any way. I don’t do anything that I should be doing if I really believed my big picture. The main purpose of my big picture is that I use my big picture to defend my passivity and shield myself from criticisms which points out how doing non-meta stuff can also improve my life. I see people who are making some actual good progress in their life by doing non-meta stuff and I scoff at them by pointing out in my head how those people don’t have a clear meta picture.

I kind of feel pressured to do non-meta stuff now and not do meta thinking or ask questions related to meta stuff. It is the same pressure that a kid feels when the kid’s parents tell the kid that he should study instead of watching TV all the time. The fact that I feel pressured doesn’t have anything to do with you. I think it has to do with my childhood irrationalities. This is a tangent to the topic being discussed here but I’m still saying it here just because I want it to be out there. Being out there helps in two things: first is that I could get someone feedback so that I stop seeing things in a way that makes me feel pressured and second is that if others know this about me then they will have a better idea about me and how I can feel pressured this way so if I make some error because of this irrationality then it would be easier to spot and deal with.

I get your point that focusing on only big picture stuff is an evasion strategy and I’ve thought about it myself as well before a few times but I’m not fully convinced of that. A major problem is I believe that if I was able to get the right meta picture then it would be easier for me to do non-meta stuff. Right now when I try to do non-meta stuff then my emotions act counter productively. I believe that if I get a better meta picture then my emotions will become helpful when I’m doing non-meta activities. Do you disagree that getting the right meta picture can make doing non meta things much easier emotion wise?