Category Archives: personal-development

Words to Be Aware Of

Wish. Try. Should. Deserve. These are four words that “lend them­selves to a cer­tain self-decep­tion”, says Dav­id Cain of Raptitude, and when you catch your­self using them you should take note, fig­ure out how the word is being used, and maybe try to change your per­spect­ive.

Why? Because, Cain says, these are ‘red flag’ words that often indic­ate that we’re being “pre­sump­tu­ous, simple-minded, or sneaky”. On using wish:

Not only is it use­less for chan­ging the cir­cum­stances, but it rein­forces the myth to which I’ve moment­ar­ily fallen prey: that my hap­pi­ness is depend­ent on my cir­cum­stances only and has noth­ing to do with my atti­tude. It’s a bit­ter little plea that life isn’t what I want it to be in this par­tic­u­lar moment, and a dead giveaway that I’m not pre­pared to do any­thing about it right now.

Wish­ing is a des­per­ate, self-defens­ive beha­vi­or. It gives you a little hit of relief from a real­ity you don’t want to deal with, but it sure doesn’t move things along.

Of course, in those moments, I’m too con­sumed by my fantas­ies to see that my atti­tude is usu­ally the biggest and most damning fea­ture of the present cir­cum­stances. If my atti­tude sucks, the cir­cum­stances suck. But acknow­ledging that would mean I have to be respons­ible for it, and it’s easi­er to instead wish for the cav­alry to appear on the hori­zon and save me.

There are obvi­ously prob­lems with this line of reas­on­ing (and Cain dis­cusses some of these in the post com­ments), but I like this gen­er­al idea and feel that we could all add a word or two to this list.

via The Browser

A Primer on Behaviour Change

Three neces­sary ele­ments must be present for a beha­viour to occur: Motiv­a­tion, Abil­ity, Trig­ger – and under­stand­ing this is fun­da­ment­al to under­stand­ing how to change beha­viour. That’s accord­ing to B.J. Fogg and his team at the Stan­ford Per­suas­ive Tech Lab, as described by their Beha­viour Mod­el.

To make beha­viour change easi­er the team iden­ti­fied the fif­teen ways that beha­viour can be changed, described each with pre­ci­sion, and related them to a spe­cif­ic “psy­cho­logy”. Togeth­er this inform­a­tion became the Beha­viour Grid:

Behaviour Grid

To use the beha­viour grid and to see the detailed inform­a­tion and advice for each beha­viour type, fol­low the neces­sary steps in the use­ful Beha­viour Wiz­ard tool or view the grid dir­ectly.

Our Self-Centered ‘Default’ Worldview: DFW’s Commencement Address

Recent talk of the cor­res­pond­ence bias (here) reminded me of pos­sibly the best com­mence­ment speech that I’ve not yet writ­ten about (and I’ve writ­ten about quite a few): Dav­id Foster Wallace’s com­mence­ment address to the gradu­ates of Kenyon Col­lege in 2005.

The speech, often cited as Wallace’s only pub­lic talk con­cern­ing his worldview, was adap­ted fol­low­ing his death into a book titled This Is Water: Some Thoughts, Delivered on a Sig­ni­fic­ant Occa­sion, About Liv­ing a Com­pas­sion­ate Life and is essen­tial read­ing for any­one inter­ested in per­son­al choice: the choice of think­ing and act­ing in a way con­trary to our self-centered “default” world­view.

Actu­ally, scrap that, it’s just essen­tial read­ing for every­one.

Because the traffic jams and crowded aisles and long check­out lines give me time to think, and if I don’t make a con­scious decision about how to think and what to pay atten­tion to, I’m gonna be pissed and miser­able every time I have to shop. Because my nat­ur­al default set­ting is the cer­tainty that situ­ations like this are really all about me. About MY hun­gri­ness and MY fatigue and MY desire to just get home, and it’s going to seem for all the world like every­body else is just in my way. And who are all these people in my way? And look at how repuls­ive most of them are, and how stu­pid and cow-like and dead-eyed and non­hu­man they seem in the check­out line, or at how annoy­ing and rude it is that people are talk­ing loudly on cell phones in the middle of the line. And look at how deeply and per­son­ally unfair this is. […]

If I choose to think this way in a store and on the free­way, fine. Lots of us do. Except think­ing this way tends to be so easy and auto­mat­ic that it doesn’t have to be a choice. It is my nat­ur­al default set­ting. It’s the auto­mat­ic way that I exper­i­ence the bor­ing, frus­trat­ing, crowded parts of adult life when I’m oper­at­ing on the auto­mat­ic, uncon­scious belief that I am the centre of the world, and that my imme­di­ate needs and feel­ings are what should determ­ine the world’s pri­or­it­ies.

To read the speech I recom­mend the ver­sion from More Intel­li­gent Life linked above as it is true to the speech as it was giv­en. If you prefer a slightly more edited read, The Wall Street Journ­al’s copy and The Guard­i­an’s copy may be more to your taste.

Myths About Introverts

As intro­verts are a minority—a mere twenty-five per­cent of the population—there are many per­sist­ent mis­con­cep­tions about the intro­vert per­son­al­ity among the majority. After read­ing The Intro­vert Advant­age, Carl King decided to com­pile a list of myths about intro­verts, explain­ing why each mis­con­cep­tion is false:

  1. Intro­verts don’t like to talk.
  2. Intro­verts are shy.
  3. Intro­verts are rude.
  4. Intro­verts don’t like people.
  5. Intro­verts don’t like to go out in pub­lic.
  6. Intro­verts always want to be alone.
  7. Intro­verts are weird.
  8. Intro­verts are aloof nerds.
  9. Intro­verts don’t know how to relax and have fun.
  10. Intro­verts can fix them­selves and become Extro­verts.

The list itself is fairly obvi­ous and ped­es­tri­an, but it’s King’s short descrip­tions that are truly insight­ful. For example, here are the explan­a­tions for myths four, five and six:

Intro­verts intensely value the few friends they have. They can count their close friends on one hand. If you are lucky enough for an intro­vert to con­sider you a friend, you prob­ably have a loy­al ally for life. Once you have earned their respect as being a per­son of sub­stance, you’re in.

Intro­verts just don’t like to go out in pub­lic FOR AS LONG. They also like to avoid the com­plic­a­tions that are involved in pub­lic activ­it­ies. They take in data and exper­i­ences very quickly, and as a res­ult, don’t need to be there for long to “get it.” They’re ready to go home, recharge, and pro­cess it all. In fact, rechar­ging is abso­lutely cru­cial for Intro­verts.

Intro­verts are per­fectly com­fort­able with their own thoughts. They think a lot. They day­dream. They like to have prob­lems to work on, puzzles to solve. But they can also get incred­ibly lonely if they don’t have any­one to share their dis­cov­er­ies with. They crave an authen­t­ic and sin­cere con­nec­tion with ONE PERSON at a time.

via Link Banana

The Virtues of Rationality

The name Eliez­er Yudkowsky imme­di­ately con­jours in my mind the word ration­al­ity (thanks to his addict­ive piece of fan fiction, Harry Pot­ter and the Meth­ods of Ration­al­ity). On a recent vis­it to his site, this con­nec­tion has now be strengthened after I saw his excel­lent essay on the twelve vir­tues of ration­al­ity:

  1. Curi­os­ity: A burn­ing itch to know is high­er than a sol­emn vow to pur­sue truth.
  2. Relin­quish­ment: Do not flinch from exper­i­ences that might des­troy your beliefs.
  3. Light­ness: Sur­render to the truth as quickly as you can.
  4. Even­ness: You are not a hypo­thes­is, you are the judge. There­fore do not seek to argue for one side or anoth­er.
  5. Argu­ment: In argu­ment strive for exact hon­esty, for the sake of oth­ers and also your­self […]Do not think that fair­ness to all sides means bal­an­cing your­self evenly between pos­i­tions; truth is not handed out in equal por­tions before the start of a debate.
  6. Empir­i­cism: Always know which dif­fer­ence of exper­i­ence you argue about.
  7. Sim­pli­city: When you pro­fess a huge belief with many details, each addi­tion­al detail is anoth­er chance for the belief to be wrong.
  8. Humil­ity: To be humble is to take spe­cif­ic actions in anti­cip­a­tion of your own errors.
  9. Per­fec­tion­ism: The more errors you cor­rect in your­self, the more you notice.
  10. Pre­ci­sion: More can be said about a single apple than about all the apples in the world. The nar­row­est state­ments slice deep­est.
  11. Schol­ar­ship: Each field that you con­sume makes you lar­ger.
  12. The Void

I believe that the ninth vir­tue, per­fec­tion­ism, is the most eleg­ant and I implore you to read the full essay if only to read that descrip­tion in full (and, I guess, to dis­cov­er what The Void is). How­ever the elev­enth vir­tue of ration­al­ity, schol­ar­ship, almost per­fectly describes why I write here and may go some way to explain­ing my diverse read­ing habits:

Study many sci­ences and absorb their power as your own. Each field that you con­sume makes you lar­ger. If you swal­low enough sci­ences the gaps between them will dimin­ish and your know­ledge will become a uni­fied whole. If you are glut­ton­ous you will become vaster than moun­tains. It is espe­cially import­ant to eat math and sci­ence which impinges upon ration­al­ity: Evol­u­tion­ary psy­cho­logy, heur­ist­ics and biases, social psy­cho­logy, prob­ab­il­ity the­ory, decision the­ory. But these can­not be the only fields you study. The Art must have a pur­pose oth­er than itself, or it col­lapses into infin­ite recur­sion.