So Stefan Molyneux interviewed Scott Adams a while back, and covered a lot of interesting ground.
I don’t want to get into the whole free will vs. meat-robot thing here – and will go ahead and agree with the following – we are hugely influenced, and strongly driven by our bodies, our instincts, our habits, our hormones, what we ate and how that affects our mood. So much so that we fall into ruts, and cannot break out of them. Worse, as the saying goes, we’re not the rational animal, but the rationalizing one.
That said – we can change that. Maybe less the rationalizing part than the how we react. We can, to a limited degree, reprogram ourselves. The example Scott uses is his system of going to the gym every day, whether he works out or not. In a similar way this blog was started to quit the wankery of absorbing everything I see and sometimes commenting.
If you listen carefully, what you hear being described is what we would have, in the past, called “building a good habit.”
I don’t think Scott is trying to be pretentious – he calls it a system, because it *is *a system, a system for building other systems, or habits, to change his life, his lifestyle, and the choices he makes. It’s also a useful way to abstract away the moral dimension of discussing “good” and “bad” habits. Much like one Marine officer I knew detailed how in planning sessions they’d talk in terms of whether or not something would work rather than if it was good or bad. The latter are value judgments. They are why you may want to build a different system or habit, or take a different approach based on the overall holistic results and consequences, but they don’t bear on whether or not eating a tub of ice cream every night puts on calories.
Systems also have to address failure. Scott makes his success criteria not “finish a workout” but “show up at the gym”. Since that in and of itself requires a trip, once there, he’s motivated to do something, and on days he’s dog sick, he can be proud that he at least showed up.
The future, of course, belongs to those who show up.
Once the habit of showing up at the gym is established, or writing every day, you build your life around it, it becomes your priority, and you will actually feel off balance or anxious if you don’t do that.
Get in the habit of doing the hard things.
Add them, one little bit at a time, like gradually putting on weights as you progress in weightlifting.
Heck – start out light. You’ll be surprised at what gets in the way to drag you back to your old way of doing things.
if you can pick an easy “success” that almost always falls into a bigger success, make that your benchmark. In this blogs case – it’s “write every damn day” – even if it’s just putting up a shot of Kate Upton.
Have an escape valve – part of what you put in place has to be a way to decide “will this work?” – and if not, fail faster.
You’ll get there, eventually.