Think about how easy it is to have one more—to go beyond what you allowed yourself and have one more piece, one more glass, one more handful. And yet, think about how much harder it is to do one more—one more lap, one more page, one more hour, one more rep than you intended. There’s always rationalization on hand for the one and an convenient excuse ready for the other.
The person who can conquer these two dilemmas and reverse the order of this seemingly inalterable paradox, they are a true master of themselves. They have achieved more than self-control. They have self-direction.
My body wants to store up fat for the future, because it has evolved that way. It wished to gorge on delicious sugary fatty foods, that intoxicate the senses and the decision made earlier to only have one chocolate and stop there is overrided by a much more primal instinct to store up food. Depending on how well fed I am, this will be a stronger or a weaker urge. Is this taken into account when conferring myself the title of self directed??
On the other side my body doesn’t want to do one more set in the gym because it is energy depleted, and already greatly taxed. My body wants a rest and is telling me to take one. the dopamine loop that I may have set up to feel self directed is just mental masturbation and I may push myself, but really it is nothing to be proud of/If I pull a muscle or drop dead of a heart attack, is this self mastery and achieved self direction?
I can stop myself from eating more than one chocolate, if I promise my friend that I am allowed to eat one chocolate per day and if I eat any more I will pay him 50 euros. This is how I regulate my diet and it works better than any will power attempts I have tried before. Does this mean I have achieved self direction? Is this something to be proud of? Am I to be counted among the Gods as one of them? I hope so.
In this post, I am concerned that you are arming your readers with pointless ideals to live up typical of the self help movement. Either eat the cake or don’t eat it, but there will be no salvation or redemption in the non eating.
It’s less about an “ideal,” and more about the law of compounding interest. Think about each of the decisions you describe – to eat a chocolate or not; and the decision Ryan outlines – to run that extra lap or not. Envision what a person looks like who makes one of those choices on a daily basis, ten years from now.
Whichever choice they make consistently will bleed over into other aspects of their life, whether they’re an entrepreneur or an artist or something else, and it will show.
Dude, yes if you can stop yourself from eating more than you intended and in terms of expending energy on a project you go past the normal day-to-day resistance but stop before the point of injury or diminishing returns then yes, that is self-direction. Exactly as I said. It’s not a pointless ideal, it is literally the recipe for efficient progress.
Steven-dude, I liked your comment.
I see you have a sophisticated concept of self-mastery because I think your question of a weaker or stronger urge implicitly questions free will–which is what self-mastery assumes. You also realize that you set up a feedback loop of feeling self-mastery and seem to implicitly ask if it’s still noble if it’s on auto-pilot. And you wonder if asking somebody to assist you violates self-mastery.
But if you also believe that setting up feedback loops on purpose, reducing stronger urges in various ways, and using other people to extend your self-control are all things that can be done consciously, then they are all part of the self-mastery concept.
From experience, after pushing my body, I do not seek out fat and sugar. That’s what I have sought out when I’m “hibernating”, or just sitting around more or less, and I am sure that other people would say the same. I also know that learning to say no to my compulsions feels like victory–is victory–because it means that I am creating my world in the weak sense of having power over it.
I am enamored with the idea of *owning* my world, rather than letting it own me, and thereby becoming more real somehow, and I think that’s what Mr Holiday is getting at. Kind of?
Both notions – have one more vs. do one more – are the two sides of one truism: that confidence is built by doing the thing you know you are supposed to do, when you’re supposed to do it.
I read about the idea of willpower before. Willpower is the most precious and rare form of energy we have. It’s that ability to get ourselves to do something we would not normally do. When we feel pulled in one direction but decide I’m going to do this other thing, we use our willpower. It gets burned through the suppression of emotion, holding ourselves back from doing things we want to do, pushing ourselves in the gym when we want to stop. It gets very inefficiently burned in negative anxiety states and so someone may binge on junk food after a gruelling day of meetings. It’s highest in the morning and gets depleted during the day. It’s most effectively used by installing positive habits until they no longer require willpower to continue them. So getting up every morning for 3 months for a run may require willpower, and then it’s habit, no longer requiring willpower and you can use your willpower to install a new habit. We do the same things every day anyway, habit patterns of movement, thoughts, these grooves are worn into us, into our muscle memory and emotional triggers are created. Someone who has the habit of eating just one chocolate may not be using their willpower to stop them from eating another if it’s what they do habitually.
Can this willpower energy source be increased by putting demands on it, I don’t think so. Sometimes you will have the willpower to push yourself in the gym, depending on the time of the day it is, or how you spend your day, not giving into temptation, or maybe you were in a negative anxiety state, then you will not likely to be able to push yourself. If you are an underling in a company and attended meetings where you had to plaster on a fake smile or stiff upper lip while you felt dead inside, rather than letting your face grimace as it would do if you had let it, then you probably won’t be able to push yourself in the gym that evening. And if you are the boss at that meeting feeling no obligation to suppress his emotions, that evening he might be able to push himself for that final set in the gym.
So without paying attention to and conserving our precious willpower and using it efficiently, we may find our ability to be self directed inconsistent.
I can’t hold my tongue. These comments are getting way too aspergersery for me. Y’all need to go outside and break shit, derp.
Never underestimate the ability of commenters to be pedantic, argumentative and obtuse. Otherwise, they’d have nothing to say but “I agree.”
Ryan, I was not sure of the definition of obtuse and had never heard of pedantic. I looked both up and now have learned something today. Thanks.
I argue because people tend to take concepts like this and validate themselves pointlessly. The post was vague and wanted to flesh it out. No hard feelings
Never again. Never again am I responding to a slightly interesting comment because this (see steven’s comment #2) happens. No more doing it just to feel smarter. I felt like writing something finally because I’ve been reading this blog and it’s pretty much my favorite because so few others think deeply, to be succinct.
I crave sweets and when I do instead of eating chocolate, I eat honey or fruit. The more times I make this decision the easier it gets to choose the honey. As a matter of fact the honey was there way before the chocolates and therefore was accessible for much longer to our primitive ancestors. We can use our primal instinct along with our cerebral cortex to make wise decisions. You not only run the extra mile but you run it faster.
The trouble with a blog like this is, everyone feels obliged to agree with the writer, tell him how insightful he is. It is automatically assumed that he is right, and everyone makes comments backing up what he says. I learnt in the book influence the psychology of persuasion that where authority is present people simply yield to the authority and don’t think. It’s a short cut. It’s like in American college campuses where the professor’s opinion is the doctrine and everyone’s opinion is simply, this is another way that shows why professor’s opinion is true. Look how poor Adam above has to reaffirm his loyalty to Ryan after Ryan condemns my comment, and Adam has a comment above liking one of the condemned man’s comments. Maybe I am wrong but I think this is a perfect example a good intelligent man feeling the pressure to conform. I reread my willpower comment and I really like it. Let’s have more questioning and respect for dissenters, at least giving them the courtesy of telling them why you find their comment obtuse and not prescreening their comments like may happen in a dictatorship. Ha ha . It can be painful to read so many ass kissing comments.
Steven, the problem is that you give off a very distinct crazy person vibe. Intentional or not, it’s what everyone picks up on and is reacting to. I’m sure you love your will power comment, after all, you were the only intended audience. (which is the main problem with internet comments–it’s either people talking past the post to gratify themselves or they talk at the audience to bait and rile them up by being obnoxious or contrarian just for the sake of it)
People who are genuinely successful love what they do and are motivated to push themselves. To them it is not a grind. I dont think willpower comes into it. There is never the question of ‘one more drink’ because they’d rather be working on their project rather than down at the bar.
Someone like Bill Gates – when he was working on programming as a young man in the late 60s it would have seemd to others as though it was just a hobby that was wasting time. He wasn’t doing it because he thought it would make him wealthy, it was an impulse to do what he enjoyed. Success was merely an inadvertant by product. There was no case of ‘how much harder it is to do one more’.
‘Outliers’ by Malcolm Gladwell is a really good book on this (it’s where I stole the Bill Gates example from). The main idea is that success is less to do with personal traits and more to do with external factors that are more than often well beyond our controll.
(re-reading my post it is not really coherant but I think you will be able to at least make up what I mean)
Your focusing too much on the drink, that’s not the point. What I mean to say is that it’s easy to simply have a little more than you intended (for instance, an extra hour of sleep) to the point where it basically comes naturally but it is much less simple to do a little more than you’re planned (say, spending an extra hour writing). In computer terms, the former is opt out and the latter is opt in. We default to one and have to consciously make an effort for the other.
Did Bill Gates master that? Absolutely. But in a different way than you’re reducing it to.
Dear Ryan. What a beautiful way to frame those who disagree. Either they are trying to rile up the people on the site just for the sake of it, or just gratifying themselves. The only way to escape this labelling is to agree. Better agree then. The leader does smile on those who agree. Also, how do you know EVERYONE picks up on a crazy person vibe from me, have people been emailing you privately with this information?? It’s possible that you pick it up, but why speak for everybody. Nobody has said this on the site so far. Is this just a case of the leader telling his followers how to interpret the troublesome commenter? ” careful, he’s crazy, dont side with the crazy one, or your sanity might be in question.”
I think this pretty much settles it.
ah the duplicitous peace offering … or is it, we’ll never know.
If it’s any consolation, I think you have a point AND you end up sounding like a crazy person. A complicated feat.
I think this post is good in combination with your other posts, and with the idea of moderation. To the “dissenters”, though, I say: there aren’t as many people addicted to doing more (the extra mile) as there are addicted to getting or having more (the extra bon-bon), let’s put it that way.
Unless all your readers are bulimic-anorexics, of course…
I agree with this post.
This the first time I’ve looked at this blog (clicked through from bakadesuyo). I have to say, I think the blog piece is fairly limited as Ryan seems to be saying ‘try harder to do more things that are good for you and fewer things that are bad for you’, which is pretty unarguable but not terribly interesting. Some discussion of how to achieve this could have been more useful.
To me, Steven’s comments do not come across to me as ‘mad-person’ at all. I haven’t read any of his other comments on this blog-site though – perhaps he is weirder elsewhere? in fact he has some very good points. I find the plays to ego inherent in a lot of these kind of blogs quite distasteful. I mean, if I’m trying harder to do more good things for myself (laps, pages etc) and fewer bad things (sweets drinks) then does that really make me ‘a master’? That seems a pretty massive compliment to give me for just looking after myself. I also thing Steven’s points about commenters following the authority of the blogger were spot on. And he references a very good book.
Not often I bother to comment on blogs, but I’d like to encourage a little more consideration from the author of this one on opposing views.
Just because self-direction is simple doesn’t mean it’s easy.
Ryan based on this post I am making your blog my homepage.
are you self directed Nathan, or are you just excited at the idea of becoming self directed? Though remember the rules, you can’t call yourself self directed unless you eat one chocolate and no more for 365 days ina row, and there has to be at least 20 chocolates you could eat your home at any one time. If you want to be a master in my eyes (this is where Ryan and I differ) you must do this for 5 years.
That’s the wrong question to be asking. Who cares what I call myself? The only thing you, Steven, should be wondering about is why your ego factors so heavily into your thought patterns.
Steven, I for one enjoyed reading your insipid pontifications. I don’t feel you take yourself seriously enough tho-work on that( and spice up your spiels with some more adverbs)
Steven, your first post makes sense. Your second post is complete garbage and makes no sense.
This post seems to be in regards to mentally masturbating at the fact that you can employ self-direction, but I could be wrong because after reading your second post, I’m not sure where your points lie.
Ryan isn’t saying that every time you encounter a piece of chocolate, you’re supposed to say “No, I must not give in! Remember the willpower!”
He is referring to self-consistency. This means waking up the next morning while tired and sleepy when you promised yourself last night when you were excited and motivated.
Take the chocolate when you’re fine with taking the chocolate, but if you feel guilty after, maybe you shouldn’t have.
I kind of see what you’re saying regarding habits. Once you get used to it, that becomes WHO YOU ARE. You no longer have to be conscious of it. And that’s the self-direction Ryan’s talking about.
Other than that, don’t get so butthurt over shit.
Wow Ryan – powerful and simple. Such a short post, but it really offers a lot of food for thought. I think you are onto something big here…
Putting aside your emotional state, fatigue, circumstances, immediate gratification, to move in an uncertain direction with no guarantee of success. Doing things you do not want to do because you believe they will improve you as a person and get results eventually. A difficult and vital practice if you want to live well or accomplish anything.
Ryan, I’m pretty new to your site here but after stumbling onto this short post, I can tell you, I plan on exploring a bit. This little tidbit is very poetic but at the same time extremely practical.
I think about this kind of self-discipline during every workout or every late night I work on my online business. What’s cool is how you sum it up as more than discipline and rather a complete mindset strategy – a strategy of self-direction. Thanks.
You do a great job here of simplifying a constant struggle that we face daily and putting into somewhat of a mantra to live by. We all need to focus on our overall self direction. It’s not just the individual choices we need to look at but the sum of those choices as well.