The subtle art of not giving a fuck

The subtle art of not giving a fuck

Om een fijn leven te leiden is het belangrijk om alleen waarde te geven aan de dingen die er echt toe doen en belangrijk zijn.

Als je iets positiefs persé wilt ervaren is dat automatisch een negatieve ervaring; Een negatieve ervaring accepteren is daarmee automatisch positief.

Hoe meer je hopeloos probeert om sexy en gewild te zijn, des te lelijker ga je jezelf zien, onafhankelijk van je echte uiterlijke kenmerken.

Hoe meer je hopeloos probeert om gelukkig en geliefd te zijn, hoe eenzamer en banger je wordt, onafhankelijk van de mensen om je heen.

Hoe meer je spiritueel enlightened probeert te zijn, hoe egoïstischer je wordt door het proberen daar te komen.

Alles wat er toe doet in het leven bereik je door de negatieve afhankelijke ervaring door te staan. Elke poging te ontsnappen werkt tegen je.

Leer hoe je focus en prioriteit in je gedachten effectief kunt aanbrengen. Hoe je kunt kiezen wat er echt voor je toe doet en wat er niet toe doet op basis van je secuur gekozen persoonlijke waarden.

Zeg FUCK IT tegen alle niet belangrijke dingen in het leven.

Het punt is niet om weg te komen van de shit zooi, maar het punt is om de shit te vinden die je leuk vind om jezelf mee bezig te houden.

Wat de meeste mensen hun ‘levens problemen’ noemen zijn vaak de bij effecten van het feit dat je eigenlijk niet heel veel belangrijks hebt om je druk over te maken.

Pijn hebben is de natuur zijn manier om verandering aan te zwengelen.

De emotionele pijn van afwijzing of mislukking leert ons hoe we kunnen voorkomen dat we dezelfde fouten in de toekomst maken.

De oplossing voor een probleem is enkel het creëren van een nieuw probleem. Maar dat is een probleem dat minder vervelend is en daarmee groei je.

Je wordt gelukkig door het oplossen van problemen. Om gelukkig te zijn moeten we problemen hebben om op te lossen. Problemen oplossen is moeilijk en voelt vaak verkeerd.

Blame and denial give us a quick high: a way to temporarily escape our problems.

Nobody who is actually happy has to stand in front of a mirror and tell himself that he’s happy.

If you feel crappy it’s because your brain is telling you that there’s a problem that’s unaddressed or unresolved.

Negative emotions are a call to action.

Positive emotions, on the other hand, are rewards for taking the proper action.

Just because something feels good doesn’t mean it is good. Just because something feels bad doesn’t mean it is bad. Emotions are merely signposts or suggestions. Make a habit of questioning them.

People overidentify with their emotions. “I was really mad; I couldn’t help it.”

Emotional intuition, without the aid of reason to keep it in line, sucks.

Happiness requires struggle. It grows from problems.

I was in love with the result, but I wasn’t in love with the process. And because of that, I failed at it. The common cultural narratives would tell me that I gave up on my dream. The truth is, I thought I wanted something, but it turns out I didn’t. End of story.

There’s no such thing as a personal problem. If you’ve got a problem, chances are millions of other people have had it in the past.

The easier and more problem-free our lives become, the more we seem to feel entitled for them to get even better.

Entitlement is linked to mass-media-driven exceptionalism.

Exceptional information drives us to feel insecure, so we feel the need to compensate through entitlement and addiction, feel the need to be more extreme, more radical, and more self-assured to get noticed or even matter.

Technology has solved old economic problems by giving us new psychological problems.

If the worst thing you can be is in the middle of the bell curve, it then becomes better to be at the extreme low end, because at least there you’re still special and deserve attention: the most miserable, or the most oppressed, or the most victimized.

The rare people who do become truly exceptional at something do so because they’re obsessed with improvement, which stems from an unerring belief that they are, in fact, not that great at all. It’s anti-entitlement.

The vast majority of your life will be boring and not noteworthy, and that’s okay.

Acceptance of your own mundane existence will free you to accomplish what you truly wish to accomplish, without judgment or lofty expectations.

Self-awareness is like an onion. There are multiple layers to it:

The first layer is a simple understanding of one’s emotions.

We all have blind spots.

The second layer is an ability to ask why we feel certain emotions.

Why do you feel angry? Is it because you failed to achieve some goal?

Why do you feel lethargic and uninspired? Is it because you don’t think you’re good enough?

Understand the root cause of the emotions that overwhelm you.

The third layer is our personal values.

Why do I consider this to be success/failure?

How am I choosing to measure myself?

By what standard am I judging myself and everyone around me?

If what we value is poorly chosen, then everything will be out of whack.

Everything we think and feel about a situation ultimately comes back to how valuable we perceive it to be.

In the long run, completing a marathon makes us happier than eating a chocolate cake.

In retrospect, the years of struggle will strike you as the most beautiful.

Good values are

1) reality-based

2) socially constructive

3) immediate and controllable.

Bad values are

1) superstitious

2) socially destructive

3) not immediate or controllable.

The difference between a problem being painful or being powerful is a sense that we chose it,

If you’re miserable in your current situation,

it’s because you feel like some part of it is outside your control – that there’s a problem you have no ability to solve, a problem that was somehow thrust upon you without your choosing.

William James decided to conduct a little experiment. Spend one year believing that he was 100 percent responsible for everything that occurred in his life, no matter what. During this period, he would do everything in his power to change his circumstances, no matter the likelihood of failure. James would later refer to his little experiment as his “rebirth,” and would credit it with everything that he later accomplished in his life.

We are responsible for everything in our lives. We always control how we interpret what happens to us, as well as how we respond.

Fault is past tense. Responsibility is present tense. Fault results from choices that have already been made. Responsibility results from the choices you’re currently making,

Outrage is like a lot of other things that feel good but over time devour us from the inside out.

Change is as simple as choosing to give a fuck about something else. It really is that simple. It’s just not easy.

Throughout my life, I’ve been flat-out wrong about myself, others, society, culture, the world, the universe – everything. And I hope that will continue to be the case for the rest of my life.

When we learn we go from wrong to slightly less wrong, without actually ever reaching truth or perfection.

Personal growth can actually be quite scientific.

Our values are our hypotheses.

Our actions are the experiments.

The resulting emotions and thought patterns are our data.

There is no correct ideology. There is only what your experience has shown you to be right for you.

It’s easier to sit in a painful certainty that nobody would find you attractive, that nobody appreciates your talents, than to actually test those beliefs and find out for sure.

Be in constant search of doubt: about beliefs, feelings, or the future.

Being wrong opens us up to the possibility of change.

People five hundred years from now will laugh at us and our certainties today. They, too, will be wrong. Just less wrong than we were.

Uncertainty is the root of all progress and all growth.

The more something threatens your identity, the more you will avoid it. That law applies to both good and bad. Making a million dollars, or becoming a famous rock star, could threaten your identity.

“Finding yourself” can cement you into a strict role with unnecessary expectations, and close you off to potential and opportunities.

Don’t find yourself. Never know who you are.

Let go of the idea that “you” exist at all.

Don’t be special. Don’t be unique. Redefine your metrics in mundane and broad ways.

Questions that will help you breed a little more uncertainty in your life:

What if I’m wrong?

What would it mean if I were wrong?

Would being wrong create a better or a worse problem?

It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it.

If it’s down to me being screwed up, or everybody else being screwed up, it is far, far, far more likely that I’m the one who’s screwed up.

If it feels like it’s you versus the world, chances are it’s really just you versus yourself.

A metric for the value “honesty,” is never completely finished; it’s a problem that must continuously be reengaged.

“Buy a house and a nice car,” once achieved, has nothing left to give you.

The problem that drove you your entire adult life was just taken away from you.

Goals like buy a lake house, lose fifteen pounds – are limited in the amount of happiness they can produce in our lives. They may be helpful when pursuing quick, short-term benefits, but as guides for the overall trajectory of our life, they suck.

(On advice:) She feels so stuck that she ends up emailing a stranger on the Internet (me) and asking him an obvious question. From the outside, the answer is simple: just shut up and do it. But from the inside, from the perspective of each of these people, these questions feel impossibly complex. The problem here is pain. Asking a tutor out on a date is as simple as saying the words; risking intense embarrassment and rejection feels far more complicated.

If you’re stuck on a problem, don’t sit there and think about it; just start working on it. Even if you don’t know what you’re doing, the simple act of working on it will eventually cause the right ideas to show up in your head.

The only way to achieve meaning and a sense of importance in one’s life is through a rejection of alternatives, a narrowing of freedom, a choice of commitment to one place, one belief, or one person.

Russian frankness is unadulterated expression. Honesty in the truest sense of the word. Communication with no conditions, no strings attached, no ulterior motive, no sales job, no desperate attempt to be liked.

Travel shows you that another society can live with entirely different values and still function.

To build trust you have to be honest. That means when things suck, you say so openly.

There’s a certain level of joy and meaning that you reach in life only when you’ve spent decades investing in a single relationship, a single craft, a single career. And you cannot achieve those decades of investment without rejecting the alternatives.

We are defined by what we choose to reject.

The desire to avoid rejection at all costs, to avoid confrontation and conflict, is a deep valueless, pleasure-driven, and self-absorbed life.

Shakespeare wrote Romeo and Juliet not to celebrate romance, but rather to satirize it.

The difference between a healthy and an unhealthy relationship comes down to two things:

1) how well each person in the relationship accepts responsibility

2) the willingness of each person to both reject and be rejected by their partner.

It can be difficult for people to recognize the difference between doing something out of obligation and doing it voluntarily. So here’s a litmus test:

Ask yourself, “If I refused, how would the relationship change?”

Similarly, ask, “If my partner refused something I wanted, how would the relationship change?”

If the refusal would cause a blowout your relationship is conditional – based on superficial benefits received from one another, rather than on unconditional acceptance of each other.

When trust is destroyed, it can be rebuilt only if the following two steps happen:

1) the trust-breaker admits the true values that caused the breach and owns up to them

2) the trust-breaker builds a solid track record of improved behavior over time.

Commitment gives you freedom because you’re no longer distracted by the unimportant and frivolous.

Commitment gives you freedom because it hones your attention and focus, directing them toward what is most efficient at making you healthy and happy.

Commitment makes decision-making easier and removes any fear of missing out; knowing that what you already have is good enough, why would you ever stress about chasing more, more, more again?

Commitment allows you to focus intently on a few highly important goals and achieve a greater degree of success than you otherwise would.

Breadth of experience is necessary and desirable to go out there and discover what seems worth investing yourself in. But depth is where the gold is buried.

Ernest Becker book The Denial of Death: All of human civilization, he says, is basically a result of immortality projects that allow our conceptual self to live on way past the point of our physical death.

People declare themselves experts, entrepreneurs, inventors, innovators, mavericks, and coaches without any real-life experience, because they feel that they need to be great to be accepted in a world that broadcasts only the extraordinary.

Type:           highlight

Title:          The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck

Date created:   2016-11-17T19:25:31.771

Reference text:

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The desire for more positive experience is itself a negative experience. And, paradoxically, the acceptance of one’s negative experience is itself a positive experience.

Wanting positive experience is a negative experience; accepting negative experience is a positive experience. It’s what the philosopher Alan Watts used to refer to as “the backwards law”—the idea that the more you pursue feeling better all the time, the less satisfied you become, as pursuing something only reinforces the fact that you lack it in the first place. The more you desperately want to be rich, the more poor and unworthy you feel, regardless of how much money you actually make. The more you desperately want to be sexy and desired, the uglier you come to see yourself, regardless of your actual physical appearance. The more you desperately want to be happy and loved, the lonelier and more afraid you become, regardless of those who surround you. The more you want to be spiritually enlightened, the more self-centered and shallow you become in trying to get there.

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Because here’s another sneaky little truth about life. You can’t be an important and life-changing presence for some people without also being a joke and an embarrassment to others. You just can’t. Because there’s no such thing as a lack of adversity. It doesn’t exist. The old saying goes that no matter where you go, there you are. Well, the same is true for adversity and failure. No matter where you go, there’s a five-hundred-pound load of shit waiting for you. And that’s perfectly fine. The point isn’t to get away from the shit. The point is to find the shit you enjoy dealing with.

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Happiness is a constant work-in-progress, because solving problems is a constant work-in-progress—the solutions to today’s problems will lay the foundation for tomorrow’s problems, and so on. True happiness occurs only when you find the problems you enjoy having and enjoy solving.

Sometimes those problems are simple: eating good food, traveling to some new place, winning at the new video game you just bought. Other times those problems are abstract and complicated: fixing your relationship with your mother, finding a career you can feel good about, developing better friendships.

Whatever your problems are, the concept is the same: solve problems; be happy. Unfortunately, for many people, life doesn’t feel that simple. That’s because they fuck things up in at least one of two ways:

1.   Denial. Some people deny that their problems exist in the first place. And because they deny reality, they must constantly delude or distract themselves from reality. This may make them feel good in the short term, but it leads to a life of insecurity, neuroticism, and emotional repression.

2.   Victim Mentality. Some choose to believe that there is nothing they can do to solve their problems, even when they in fact could. Victims seek to blame others for their problems or blame outside circumstances. This may make them feel better in the short term, but it leads to a life of anger, helplessness, and despair.

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Emotions evolved for one specific purpose: to help us live and reproduce a little bit better. That’s it. They’re feedback mechanisms telling us that something is either likely right or likely wrong for us—nothing more, nothing less.

Much as the pain of touching a hot stove teaches you not to touch it again, the sadness of being alone teaches you not to do the things that made you feel so alone again. Emotions are simply biological signals designed to nudge you in the direction of beneficial change

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The more interesting question is the pain. What is the pain that you want to sustain? That’s the hard question that matters, the question that will actually get you somewhere. It’s the question that can change a perspective, a life. It’s what makes me, me, and you, you. It’s what defines us and separates us and ultimately brings us together.

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For most of my adolescence and young adulthood, I fantasized about being a musician—a rock star, in particular. Any badass guitar song I heard, I would always close my eyes and envision myself up on stage, playing it to the screams of the crowd, people absolutely losing their minds to my sweet finger-noodling glory. This fantasy could keep me occupied for hours on end. For me, it was never a question of if I’d ever be up playing in front of screaming crowds, but when. I had it all planned out. I was simply biding my time before I could invest the proper amount of energy and effort into getting out there and making my mark. First I needed to finish school. Then I needed to make some extra money to buy gear. Then I needed to find enough free time to practice. Then I had to network and plan my first project. Then . . . and then nothing.

Despite my fantasizing about this for over half my lifetime, the reality never came to fruition. And it took me a long time and a lot of struggle to finally figure out why: I didn’t actually want it.

I was in love with the result—the image of me on stage, people cheering, me rocking out, pouring my heart into what I was playing—but I wasn’t in love with the process. And because of that, I failed at it. Repeatedly. Hell, I didn’t even try hard enough to fail at it. I hardly tried at all. The daily drudgery of practicing, the logistics of finding a group and rehearsing, the pain of finding gigs and actually getting people to show up and give a shit, the broken strings, the blown tube amp, hauling forty pounds of gear to and from rehearsals with no car. It’s a mountain of a dream and a mile-high climb to the top. And what it took me a long time to discover is that I didn’t like to climb much. I just liked to imagine the summit.

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But it also causes something else to happen. If we have problems that are unsolvable, our unconscious figures that we’re either uniquely special or uniquely defective in some way. That we’re somehow unlike everyone else and that the rules must be different for us.

Put simply: we become entitled.

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Most people correctly identify a person like Jimmy as a raging narcissistic ass-hat. That’s because he’s pretty blatant in his delusionally high self-regard. What most people don’t correctly identify as entitlement are those people who perpetually feel as though they’re inferior and unworthy of the world.

Because construing everything in life so as to make yourself out to be constantly victimized requires just as much selfishness as the opposite. It takes just as much energy and delusional self-aggrandizement to maintain the belief that one has insurmountable problems as that one has no problems at all.

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The truth is that there’s no such thing as a personal problem. If you’ve got a problem, chances are millions of other people have had it in the past, have it now, and are going to have it in the future. Likely people you know too. That doesn’t minimize the problem or mean that it shouldn’t hurt. It doesn’t mean you aren’t legitimately a victim in some circumstances.

It just means that you’re not special.

Often, it’s this realization—that you and your problems are actually not privileged in their severity or pain—that is the first and most important step toward solving them.

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This flood of extreme information has conditioned us to believe that exceptionalism is the new normal. And because we’re all quite average most of the time, the deluge of exceptional information drives us to feel pretty damn insecure and desperate, because clearly we are somehow not good enough. So more and more we feel the need to compensate through entitlement and addiction. We cope the only way we know how: either through self-aggrandizing or through other-aggrandizing.

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We all deserve greatness.

The fact that this statement is inherently contradictory—after all, if everyone were extraordinary, then by definition no one would be extraordinary—is missed by most people

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The third level is our personal values: Why do I consider this to be success/failure? How am I choosing to measure myself? By what standard am I judging myself and everyone around me?

This level, which takes constant questioning and effort, is incredibly difficult to reach. But it’s the most important, because our values determine the nature of our problems, and the nature of our problems determines the quality of our lives.

Values underlie everything we are and do. If what we value is unhelpful, if what we consider success/failure is poorly chosen, then everything based upon those values—the thoughts, the emotions, the day-to-day feelings—will all be out of whack. Everything we think and feel about a situation ultimately comes back to how valuable we perceive it to be.

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because we are apes, we instinctually measure ourselves against others and vie for status. The question is not whether we evaluate ourselves against others; rather, the question is by what standard do we measure ourselves?

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Shitty Values

There are a handful of common values that create really poor problems for people—problems that can hardly be solved. So let’s go over some of them quickly:

1.   Pleasure. Pleasure is great, but it’s a horrible value to prioritize your life around. Ask any drug addict how his pursuit of pleasure turned out. Ask an adulterer who shattered her family and lost her children whether pleasure ultimately made her happy. Ask a man who almost ate himself to death how pleasure helped him solve his problems.

Pleasure is a false god. Research shows that people who focus their energy on superficial pleasures end up more anxious, more emotionally unstable, and more depressed. Pleasure is the most superficial form of life satisfaction and therefore the easiest to obtain and the easiest to lose.

And yet, pleasure is what’s marketed to us, twenty-four/seven. It’s what we fixate on. It’s what we use to numb and distract ourselves. But pleasure, while necessary in life (in certain doses), isn’t, by itself, sufficient.

Pleasure is not the cause of happiness; rather, it is the effect. If you get the other stuff right (the other values and metrics), then pleasure will naturally occur as a by-product.

2.   Material Success. Many people measure their self-worth based on how much money they make or what kind of car they drive or whether their front lawn is greener and prettier than the next-door neighbor’s.

Research shows that once one is able to provide for basic physical needs (food, shelter, and so on), the correlation between happiness and worldly success quickly approaches zero. So if you’re starving and living on the street in the middle of India, an extra ten thousand dollars a year would affect your happiness a lot. But if you’re sitting pretty in the middle class in a developed country, an extra ten thousand dollars per year won’t affect anything much—meaning that you’re killing yourself working overtime and weekends for basically nothing.

The other issue with overvaluing material success is the danger of prioritizing it over other values, such as honesty, nonviolence, and compassion. When people measure themselves not by their behavior, but by the status symbols they’re able to collect, then not only are they shallow, but they’re probably assholes as well.

3.   Always Being Right.Our brains are inefficient machines. We consistently make poor assumptions, misjudge probabilities, misremember facts, give in to cognitive biases, and make decisions based on our emotional whims. As humans, we’re wrong pretty much constantly, so if your metric for life success is to be right—well, you’re going to have a difficult time rationalizing all of the bullshit to yourself.

The fact is, people who base their self-worth on being right about everything prevent themselves from learning from their mistakes. They lack the ability to take on new perspectives and empathize with others. They close themselves off to new and important information.

It’s far more helpful to assume that you’re ignorant and don’t know a whole lot. This keeps you unattached to superstitious or poorly informed beliefs and promotes a constant state of learning and growth.

4.   Staying Positive. Then there are those who measure their lives by the ability to be positive about, well, pretty much everything. Lost your job? Great! That’s an opportunity to explore your passions. Husband cheated on you with your sister? Well, at least you’re learning what you really mean to the people around you. Child dying of throat cancer? At least you don’t have to pay for college anymore!

While there is something to be said for “staying on the sunny side of life,” the truth is, sometimes life sucks, and the healthiest thing you can do is admit it.

Denying negative emotions leads to experiencing deeper and more prolonged negative emotions and to emotional dysfunction. Constant positivity is a form of avoidance, not a valid solution to life’s problems—problems which, by the way, if you’re choosing the right values and metrics, should be invigorating you and motivating you.

It’s simple, really: things go wrong, people upset us, accidents happen. These things make us feel like shit. And that’s fine. Negative emotions are a necessary component of emotional health. To deny that negativity is to perpetuate problems rather than solve them.

The trick with negative emotions is to 1) express them in a socially acceptable and healthy manner and 2) express them in a way that aligns with your values. Simple example: A value of mine is nonviolence. Therefore, when I get mad at somebody, I express that anger, but I also make a point of not punching them in the face. Radical idea, I know. But the anger is not the problem. Anger is natural. Anger is a part of life. Anger is arguably quite healthy in many situations. (Remember, emotions are just feedback.)

See, it’s the punching people in the face that’s the problem. Not the anger. The anger is merely the messenger for my fist in your face. Don’t blame the messenger. Blame my fist (or your face).

When we force ourselves to stay positive at all times, we deny the existence of our life’s problems. And when we deny our problems, we rob ourselves of the chance to solve them and generate happiness. Problems add a sense of meaning and importance to our life. Thus to duck our problems is to lead a meaningless (even if supposedly pleasant) existence

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As Freud once said, “One day, in retrospect, the years of struggle will strike you as the most beautiful.”

This is why these values—pleasure, material success, always being right, staying positive—are poor ideals for a person’s life. Some of the greatest moments of one’s life are not pleasant, not successful, not known, and not positive.

The point is to nail down some good values and metrics, and pleasure and success will naturally emerge as a result. These things are side effects of good values. By themselves, they are empty highs.

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Defining Good and Bad Values

Good values are 1) reality-based, 2) socially constructive, and 3) immediate and controllable.

Bad values are 1) superstitious, 2) socially destructive, and 3) not immediate or controllable.

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Some examples of good, healthy values: honesty, innovation, vulnerability, standing up for oneself, standing up for others, self-respect, curiosity, charity, humility, creativity.

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Some examples of bad, unhealthy values: dominance through manipulation or violence, indiscriminate fucking, feeling good all the time, always being the center of attention, not being alone, being liked by everybody, being rich for the sake of being rich, sacrificing small animals to the pagan gods.

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When we have poor values—that is, poor standards we set for ourselves and others—we are essentially giving fucks about the things that don’t matter, things that in fact make our life worse. But when we choose better values, we are able to divert our fucks to something better—toward things that matter, things that improve the state of our well-being and that generate happiness, pleasure, and success as side effects.

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This, in a nutshell, is what “self-improvement” is really about: prioritizing better values, choosing better things to give a fuck about. Because when you give better fucks, you get better problems. And when you get better problems, you get a better life.

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When we feel that we’re choosing our problems, we feel empowered. When we feel that our problems are being forced upon us against our will, we feel victimized and miserable.

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Whether we consciously recognize it or not, we are always responsible for our experiences. It’s impossible not to be. Choosing to not consciously interpret events in our lives is still an interpretation of the events of our lives. Choosing to not respond to the events in our lives is still a response to the events in our lives. Even if you get run over by a clown car and pissed on by a busload of schoolchildren, it’s still your responsibility to interpret the meaning of the event and choose a response.

Whether we like it or not, we are always taking an active role in what’s occurring to and within us. We are always interpreting the meaning of every moment and every occurrence. We are always choosing the values by which we live and the metrics by which we measure everything that happens to us. Often the same event can be good or bad, depending on the metric we choose to use.

The point is, we are always choosing, whether we recognize it or not. Always.

It comes back to how, in reality, there is no such thing as not giving a single fuck. It’s impossible. We must all give a fuck about something. To not give a fuck about anything is still to give a fuck about something.

The real question is, What are we choosing to give a fuck about? What values are we choosing to base our actions on? What metrics are we choosing to use to measure our life? And are those good choices—good values and good metrics?

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The more we choose to accept responsibility in our lives, the more power we will exercise over our lives. Accepting responsibility for our problems is thus the first step to solving them

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Here’s one way to think about the distinction between the two concepts. Fault is past tense. Responsibility is present tense. Fault results from choices that have already been made. Responsibility results from the choices you’re currently making, every second of every day. You are choosing to read this. You are choosing to think about the concepts. You are choosing to accept or reject the concepts. It may be my fault that you think my ideas are lame, but you are responsible for coming to your own conclusions. It’s not your fault that I chose to write this sentence, but you are still responsible for choosing to read it (or not).

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We all love to take responsibility for success and happiness. Hell, we often fight over who gets to be responsible for success and happiness. But taking responsibility for our problems is far more important, because that’s where the real learning comes from. That’s where the real-life improvement comes from. To simply blame others is only to hurt yourself

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I see life in the same terms. We all get dealt cards. Some of us get better cards than others. And while it’s easy to get hung up on our cards, and feel we got screwed over, the real game lies in the choices we make with those cards, the risks we decide to take, and the consequences we choose to live with. People who consistently make the best choices in the situations they’re given are the ones who eventually come out ahead in poker, just as in life. And it’s not necessarily the people with the best cards

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Whether they choose to seek psychiatric treatment, undergo therapy, or do nothing, the choice is ultimately theirs to make. There are those who suffer through bad childhoods. There are those who are abused and violated and screwed over, physically, emotionally, financially. They are not to blame for their problems and their hindrances, but they are still responsible—always responsible—to move on despite their problems and to make the best choices they can, given their circumstances.

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We should prioritize values of being honest, fostering transparency, and welcoming doubt over the values of being right, feeling good, and getting revenge. These “democratic” values are harder to maintain amidst the constant noise of a networked world. But we must accept the responsibility and nurture them regardless. The future stability of our political systems may depend on it.

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You are already choosing, in every moment of every day, what to give a fuck about, so change is as simple as choosing to give a fuck about something else.

It really is that simple. It’s just not easy.

It’s not easy because you’re going to feel like a loser, a fraud, a dumbass at first. You’re going to be nervous. You’re going to freak out. You may get pissed off at your wife or your friends or your father in the process. These are all side effects of changing your values, of changing the fucks you’re giving. But they are inevitable.

It’s simple but really, really hard.

Let’s look at some of these side effects. You’re going to feel uncertain; I guarantee it. “Should I really give this up? Is this the right thing to do?” Giving up a value you’ve depended on for years is going to feel disorienting, as if you don’t really know right from wrong anymore. This is hard, but it’s normal.

Next, you’ll feel like a failure. You’ve spent half your life measuring yourself by that old value, so when you change your priorities, change your metrics, and stop behaving in the same way, you’ll fail to meet that old, trusted metric and thus immediately feel like some sort of fraud or nobody. This is also normal and also uncomfortable.

And certainly you will weather rejections. Many of the relationships in your life were built around the values you’ve been keeping, so the moment you change those values—the moment you decide that studying is more important than partying, that getting married and having a family is more important than rampant sex, that working a job you believe in is more important than money—your turnaround will reverberate out through your relationships, and many of them will blow up in your face. This too is normal and this too will be uncomfortable

=== === ===

We shouldn’t seek to find the ultimate “right” answer for ourselves, but rather, we should seek to chip away at the ways that we’re wrong today so that we can be a little less wrong tomorrow

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Beliefs of this sort—that I’m not attractive enough, so why bother; or that my boss is an asshole, so why bother—are designed to give us moderate comfort now by mortgaging greater happiness and success later on. They’re terrible long-term strategies, yet we cling to them because we assume we’re right, because we assume we already know what’s supposed to happen. In other words, we assume we know how the story ends.

Certainty is the enemy of growth. Nothing is for certain until it has already happened—and even then, it’s still debatable. That’s why accepting the inevitable imperfections of our values is necessary for any growth to take place.

Instead of striving for certainty, we should be in constant search of doubt: doubt about our own beliefs, doubt about our own feelings, doubt about what the future may hold for us unless we get out there and create it for ourselves. Instead of looking to be right all the time, we should be looking for how we’re wrong all the time. Because we are.

Being wrong opens us up to the possibility of change. Being wrong brings the opportunity for growth. It means not cutting your arm open to cure a cold or splashing dog piss on your face to look young again. It means not thinking “mediocre” is a vegetable, and not being afraid to care about things.

=== === ===

The result of all this? Most of our beliefs are wrong. Or, to be more exact, all beliefs are wrong—some are just less wrong than others. The human mind is a jumble of inaccuracy. And while this may make you uncomfortable, it’s an incredibly important concept to accept, as we’ll see.

=== === ===

There’s a lot of conventional wisdom out there telling you to “trust yourself,” to “go with your gut,” and all sorts of other pleasant-sounding clichés.

But perhaps the answer is to trust yourself less. After all, if our hearts and minds are so unreliable, maybe we should be questioning our own intentions and motivations more. If we’re all wrong, all the time, then isn’t self-skepticism and the rigorous challenging of our own beliefs and assumptions the only logical route to progress?

This may sound scary and self-destructive. But it’s actually quite the opposite. It’s not only the safer option, but it’s liberating as well.

=== === ===

You can keep pursuing that special someone you’re “supposed” to be with, but with each rebuffed advance and each lonely night, you only begin to question more and more what you’re doing wrong.

And it’s in these moments of insecurity, of deep despair, that we become susceptible to an insidious entitlement: believing that we deserve to cheat a little to get our way, that other people deserve to be punished, that we deserve to take what we want, and sometimes violently.

It’s the backwards law again: the more you try to be certain about something, the more uncertain and insecure you will feel.

But the converse is true as well: the more you embrace being uncertain and not knowing, the more comfortable you will feel in knowing what you don’t know.

=== === ===

Uncertainty is the root of all progress and all growth. As the old adage goes, the man who believes he knows everything learns nothing. We cannot learn anything without first not knowing something. The more we admit we do not know, the more opportunities we gain to learn.

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There’s a certain comfort that comes with knowing how you fit in the world. Anything that shakes up that comfort—even if it could potentially make your life better—is inherently scary.

=== === ===

This is why people are often so afraid of success—for the exact same reason they’re afraid of failure: it threatens who they believe themselves to be.

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I say don’t find yourself. I say never know who you are. Because that’s what keeps you striving and discovering. And it forces you to remain humble in your judgments and accepting of the differences in others.

=== === ===

I have both some good news and some bad news for you: there is little that is unique or special about your problems. That’s why letting go is so liberating.

There’s a kind of self-absorption that comes with fear based on an irrational certainty. When you assume that your plane is the one that’s going to crash, or that your project idea is the stupid one everyone is going to laugh at, or that you’re the one everyone is going to choose to mock or ignore, you’re implicitly telling yourself, “I’m the exception; I’m unlike everybody else; I’m different and special.”

=== === ===

As a general rule, we’re all the world’s worst observers of ourselves. When we’re angry, or jealous, or upset, we’re oftentimes the last ones to figure it out. And the only way to figure it out is to put cracks in our armor of certainty by consistently questioning how wrong we might be about ourselves.

=== === ===

if it’s down to me being screwed up, or everybody else being screwed up, it is far, far, far more likely that I’m the one who’s screwed up. I have learned this from experience. I have been the asshole acting out based on my own insecurities and flawed certainties more times than I can count. It’s not pretty.

That’s not to say there aren’t certain ways in which most people are screwed up. And that’s not to say that there aren’t times when you’ll be more right than most other people.

That’s simply reality: if it feels like it’s you versus the world, chances are it’s really just you versus yourself.

=== === ===

Improvement at anything is based on thousands of tiny failures, and the magnitude of your success is based on how many times you’ve failed at something. If someone is better than you at something, then it’s likely because she has failed at it more than you have. If someone is worse than you, it’s likely because he hasn’t been through all of the painful learning experiences you have

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And then we have all the mass media that constantly expose us to stellar success after success, while not showing us the thousands of hours of dull practice and tedium that were required to achieve that success.

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This confines us and stifles us. We can be truly successful only at something we’re willing to fail at. If we’re unwilling to fail, then we’re unwilling to succeed.

=== === ===

For many of us, our proudest achievements come in the face of the greatest adversity. Our pain often makes us stronger, more resilient, more grounded. Many cancer survivors, for example, report feeling stronger and more grateful after winning their battle to survive. Many military personnel report a mental resilience gained from withstanding the dangerous environments of being in a war zone.

=== === ===

Because I failed to separate what I felt from what was, I was incapable of stepping outside myself and seeing the world for what it was: a simple place where two people can walk up to each other at any time and speak

=== === ===

Learn to sustain the pain you’ve chosen. When you choose a new value, you are choosing to introduce a new form of pain into your life. Relish it. Savor it. Welcome it with open arms. Then act despite it.

I won’t lie: this is going to feel impossibly hard at first. But you can start simple. You’re going to feel as though you don’t know what to do. But we’ve discussed this: you don’t know anything. Even when you think you do, you really don’t know what the fuck you’re doing. So really, what is there to lose?

=== === ===

Make it a goal to listen to someone’s problem and give some of your time to helping that person. Just do it once. Or promise yourself that you will assume that you are the root of your problems next time you get upset. Just try on the idea and see how it feels.

That’s often all that’s necessary to get the snowball rolling, the action needed to inspire the motivation to keep going. You can become your own source of inspiration. You can become your own source of motivation. Action is always within reach. And with simply doing something as your only metric for success—well, then even failure pushes you forward

=== === ===

Freedom grants the opportunity for greater meaning, but by itself there is nothing necessarily meaningful about it. Ultimately, the only way to achieve meaning and a sense of importance in one’s life is through a rejection of alternatives, a narrowing of freedom, a choice of commitment to one place, one belief, or (gulp) one person.

=== === ===

As an extension of our positivity/consumer culture, many of us have been “indoctrinated” with the belief that we should try to be as inherently accepting and affirmative as possible. This is a cornerstone of many of the so-called positive thinking books: open yourself up to opportunities, be accepting, say yes to everything and everyone, and so on.

But we need to reject something. Otherwise, we stand for nothing. If nothing is better or more desirable than anything else, then we are empty and our life is meaningless. We are without values and therefore live our life without any purpose.

The avoidance of rejection (both giving and receiving it) is often sold to us as a way to make ourselves feel better. But avoiding rejection gives us short-term pleasure by making us rudderless and directionless in the long term.

To truly appreciate something, you must confine yourself to it. There’s a certain level of joy and meaning that you reach in life only when you’ve spent decades investing in a single relationship, a single craft, a single career. And you cannot achieve those decades of investment without rejecting the alternatives.

=== === ===

The desire to avoid rejection at all costs, to avoid confrontation and conflict, the desire to attempt to accept everything equally and to make everything cohere and harmonize, is a deep and subtle form of entitlement. Entitled people, because they feel as though they deserve to feel great all the time, avoid rejecting anything because doing so might make them or someone else feel bad. And because they refuse to reject anything, they live a valueless, pleasure-driven, and self-absorbed life. All they give a fuck about is sustaining the high a little bit longer, to avoid the inevitable failures of their life, to pretend the suffering away.

Rejection is an important and crucial life skill. Nobody wants to be stuck in a relationship that isn’t making them happy. Nobody wants to be stuck in a business doing work they hate and don’t believe in. Nobody wants to feel that they can’t say what they really mean.

Yet people choose these things. All the time.

Honesty is a natural human craving. But part of having honesty in our lives is becoming comfortable with saying and hearing the word “no.” In this way, rejection actually makes our relationships better and our emotional lives healthier.

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If your partner is going to make a sacrifice for you, it needs to because he or she genuinely wants to, not because you’ve manipulated the sacrifice through anger or guilt. Acts of love are valid only if they’re performed without conditions or expectations.

=== === ===

Without conflict, there can be no trust. Conflict exists to show us who is there for us unconditionally and who is just there for the benefits. No one trusts a yes-man. If Disappointment Panda were here, he’d tell you that the pain in our relationship is necessary to cement our trust in each other and produce greater intimacy.

=== === ===

I use the example of cheating in a romantic relationship, but this process applies to a breach in any relationship. When trust is destroyed, it can be rebuilt only if the following two steps happen: 1) the trust-breaker admits the true values that caused the breach and owns up to them, and 2) the trust-breaker builds a solid track record of improved behavior over time. Without the first step, there should be no attempt at reconciliation in the first place.

Trust is like a china plate. If you break it once, with some care and attention you can put it back together again. But if you break it again, it splits into even more pieces and it takes far longer to piece together again. If you break it more and more times, eventually it shatters to the point where it’s impossible to restore. There are too many broken pieces, and too much dust.

=== === ===

You are great. Already. Whether you realize it or not. Whether anybody else realizes it or not. And it’s not because you launched an iPhone app, or finished school a year early, or bought yourself a sweet-ass boat. These things do not define greatness.

You are already great because in the face of endless confusion and certain death, you continue to choose what to give a fuck about and what not to. This mere fact, this simple optioning for your own values in life, already makes you beautiful, already makes you successful, and already makes you loved. Even if you don’t realize it. Even if you’re sleeping in a gutter and starving.

=== === ===

But these were side effects of a deeper, more primary lesson. And the primary lesson was this: there is nothing to be afraid of. Ever. And reminding myself of my own death repeatedly over the years—whether it be through meditation, through reading philosophy, or through doing crazy shit like standing on a cliff in South Africa—is the only thing that has helped me hold this realization front and center in my mind. This acceptance of my death, this understanding of my own fragility, has made everything easier—untangling my addictions, identifying and confronting my own entitlement, accepting responsibility for my own problems—suffering through my fears and uncertainties, accepting my failures and embracing rejections—it has all been made lighter by the thought of my own death. The more I peer into the darkness, the brighter life gets, the quieter the world becomes, and the less unconscious resistance I feel to, well, anything.

=== === ===

Summary on “The Power of Habit” by Charles Duhigg – Part 3

This is the last par (part 3) of the summary about the book “The Power of Habit” by Charless Duhigg. In this last part I will summarise the third act of the book, including an overall summary of the steps involved to get to. Please refer to the first part or the second part if you want to find out what this is all about.

Part 3:

Habits can be changed pro-actively, so there is always the choice to do something about them. The most important thing is that you create the will to believe in something, from where change will automatically follow. One of the most important methods to come to that belief is by changing your habits. If you want to do something for the first time it will require a lot of effort on your part. When you repeat the process on a consistent basis it will slowly become a habit, which in turn will be requiring less effort every time it is done until the point it will be done on autopilot. It will even come to a point where it can be done without consciousness.

From the moment we choose who we want to be, we will start growing to that path. A really nice analogy to illustrate this example is a paper which is folded a certain way. From that point on every time you try to fold that paper again it will most of the time fold back to the old fold lines. The real power of habit for me was seeing that: habits are what you choose them to be. So just start with believing in what you want to be, and the change will follow in the form of a new habit.

William James:

In the past there was a psychiatrist who was not feeling well himself. He was not sure about (his) life, and was contemplating committing suicide. The good psychiatrist he was though, he first wanted to see for a year if he really wanted to end his life. This was done by writing down every day in his diary how he was always in control of his own actions. By writing this down, he was starting to change his own beliefs and so he started to see how free will is a choice for everyone to make. This way he could not blame anyone for not being happy, but himself.

Read: The principles of psychology – William James

The framework to change habits:

  1. Identify the habit
  2. Experiment with the rewards
  3. Isolate the cue
  4. Come up with a plan

1 – Identify the habit

The base of the habit loop consists of a cue, routine and reward. To discover your own habits and to dissect them into the above steps first of all identify all components of the habit loop. In most of the cases you seek to change the routine of the loop. For example the writer of the book at one specific moment every day went to the cafeteria and bought a cookie. This made him gain weight so he decided to break this habit.

He wanted to stop this bad habit, but it was difficult. On willpower alone he could not do it, so he analysed all the steps involved. So he asked himself a couple of questions: What is the cue: was I hungry, was it boredom or was it because of low blood-sugar? After that he tried finding out what the reward was: the change of scenery, the cookie itself or maybe the distraction from work? To find this out he had to do some experiments:

2 – Experimenting with rewards
It is difficult to find out what is really the thing the habit loops reward. In an earlier example Febreze added a parfum to his up until then scentless cleaning spray. But by adding the scent to the product, people were actually believing they cleaned something and got a sort of reward when smelling the nice scent after cleaning. But the reward can be anything of course, so you have to try a lot of things to make sure you find out what the real reward is for you. This can be done by changing the reward of a certain habit loop every day for a couple of days. You want to find out the underlying cause, so in the cookie example the author tried the following: getting away from his desk, eat something else like an apple and so on.

A useful thing to do is to write down everything that pops into your mind after getting a specific reward. So just dot down everything that comes to mind, this could be emotions, random thoughts or even reflection on your feelings. Then set an alarm for 15 minutes and when the buzzer goes off just think to yourself if you would still like a cookie for example. This way you know if the chosen reward was satisfying. The capturing of your thoughts is a moment of attention. And of course it can be used to recapture the moment, if you later want to see how you felt.

3 –  Isolate the cue
The next step is one of the most difficult things to find out, because the cue is hard to identify. What you can do is every time you feel the need to do something, write down a couple of things:
Emotional state
Other people
Action before
If you write down those things you find it more easy to identify a pattern. This pattern will become visible automatically if above steps are done correctly. In the cookie example it became clear to the author that he always did want a cookie at a certain time. In step 2 it became already clear he was not hungry, so by writing down the things a couple of days he found out it was the need for a temporary distraction. So having a chat with someone in the office between 3 and 4 was the solution.

4 – Come up with a plan
The last step is to have a plan ready for the habit, so you can change the routine and still get the reward you seem to be looking for. To change this we have to make choices instead of doing everything automatically (as this is how it works when having a habit).

So in the cookie example the author set an alarm at 3:30 and when reminded he walked to a friend and chatted a bit. In the beginning this was hard, and costed a lot of effort for him. After a while it started to become more of a habit to do this instead of going to the cafeteria. The good feeling he got whenever it worked out and he didn’t bought a cookie was priceless. However it still did go wrong sometimes, but those times were getting less frequent. After a month or so, the alarm was not needed anymore and he started to go all by himself to talk to someone. This was the plan for him.

Habits cannot be changed easily, but whenever you use the above framework it will be possible to change them! Sometimes you will have to do something different and try small changes, but in the end it will always be the above steps to guide you.

The above summary of the framework is also found on the official website of the book.

Summary on “The Power of Habit” by Charles Duhigg – Part 2

This is part 2 of the summary about the book “The Power of Habit” by Charless Duhigg. In this part I will try to describe what I have learned from the second part of the book.  If you want to read what this is all about, please refer to the first part of the summary.

Part 2:

Most of the time it is important to not try to make big changes to a habit. This is because changes are not easy if they overhaul the whole habit loop. It’s far easier just to change a little part of the routine, and thus making sure the habit actually changes over the long haul.

One of the most important things in life is willpower and self-discipline. Both are very important during the rest of your life and therefore if you can find a way to improve those qualities can be life changing. One of the best ways to improve those qualities is to create a habit that improves those qualities.

Another thing that helps changing a habit fast, is a good crisis! Whenever a crisis appears things are just more easy accepted by the people around you. Most of the time people hate changing or changes in general, but a crisis changes all! The main reason for this is that when a crisis appears it is really evident things need to change, and this makes people cooperate!

Als er verbeteringen moeten worden doorgevoerd maar de mensen willen er niet aan, dan kan een crisis heel goed helpen. Bij een crisis is het namelijk evident voor iedereen dat er iets moet veranderen. Dan willen mensen wel meedenken.

The marshmallow Example:

One of the most important experiments on behavioural science of the last century was a Stanford experiment about marshmallows. In this experiment kids were placed in a room with a marshmallow in front of them. If they managed to wait for 5 minutes without eating the marshmallow they would get another one. This is a prime example on delayed gratification, and how if successful can grant you a bigger reward.

The same kids from this experiment were tracked for years, and that led to some nice conclusions. For example the amount of time the kids could delay the gratification was directly from influence on the grades they got later in school.

The experiment also led to another conclusion and that was that you could learn to have better willpower! It is a learnable skill, the same as for example the training of a muscle will make it grow. The kids who could concentrate on other things besides the marshmallow could more easily delay their gratification. So by learning to recognise and use habits in your daily life, one could more easily delay gratification and train the willpower!

The analogy of willpower and a muscle also implies that willpower is something that is not endlessly available. So it can also run out if used to much. This was also tested in several experiments. Another experiment was that they followed a group of people who did not do any sports, and started sporting. The results from this were, that people were also having a better diet, smoked less cigarettes and more of the same stuff! The willpower they got from regular exercising helped grow the willpower muscle, and therefore got them to have better willpower in resisting other cravings.

To me the last part was one of the biggest discoveries in this part of the book. The sheer fact that willpower is a muscle, and acts in the same ways was sort of mind blowing. And if I looked back on my previous experiences indeed it seems to work that way. When doing lot’s of exercise things like eating healthier and drinking less are sort of getting easier in a way. First I thought this was due to the fact I just want to live healthier and therefore just did less of those bad habits. But after thinking about it, it is kind of a paradox, because if doing a lot of exercise you could eat more food anyway, without having problems. This is the real power of habit!

Summary on “The Power of Habit” by Charles Duhigg – Part 1

Last weThe Power of Habit book coverek during my holiday I have read the book: “The Power of Habit – Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business” by Charles Duhigg. The book is about finding out and changing our habits. In this blogpost I will try to summarise the most important thoughts I have extracted from this book.

Part 1:

How does a habit work:

When researchers examined how a habit works they found a loop containing the following 3 steps:

  • Cue – Something is triggered and the brain picks that trigger up, and makes itself go into autopilot mode.
  • Routine – The next step is the routine (being: physical, mental or emotional). This routine is the stuff you do during your habit.
  • Reward – The reward is the thing you get for doing a specific routine. This can be a happy feeling after working out for example.
the habit loop
The habit loop

After a specific reward the brain looks if this specific “habit loop” needs to be saved, because it serves a purpose. The main thing to get from the “habit loop” is that from the moment of the cue the brain is suspended, and goes into autopilot mode. Therefore making changes to a specific (most of the time) bad habit, is difficult!

Pepsodent example:

The book gives a lot of examples of how a habit loop works, and I want to tell you about one that made it most clear to me. The Pepsodent example. Pepsodent was a company that sold toothpaste in a time when almost nobody used toothpaste. People couldn’t care less because they were not aware of the health benefits a good set of teeth has.

Claude C. Hopkins was a brilliant man in advertising at the time, and he had already made a lot of money in the advertising industry. When someone approached him to help with the selling of toothpaste he went for it. In the end he managed to get people to use toothpaste daily just by identifying the “habit loop”.

He first made sure people were aware of the cue: plaque on their teeth. From there he created a routine: toothbrushing every day with (Pepsodent) toothpaste. And as the reward he promised people the enjoyment of having clean teeth without any plaque on it. After starting to advertise this knowledge to everyone in the U.S.A. people began to pick up on the toothbrushing habit and for many people it became a habit. Also the smart people at Pepsodent added a chemical that makes your mouth feel popping after the process of toothbrushing. This was purely to make the reward feel even more rewarding, and it worked. After a few years Pepsodent was in almost every household in the whole world.

Claude C. Hopkins wrote a book about his life, and it is recommended reading: “My Life in Advertising”

Nail biting example:

As a structural nail biter the following example also made me understand more of how negative habits can be conquered. And is also something I will be working on the coming period.

  • First of all find the cue of nail biting. By just having a pen and paper with you all day and counting the moments you have the need to bite on your nails you find out what cues you to do this.
  • After that you can create a new routine, as this is the actual problem of biting your nails of course. So when urged to want to bite of your nails just put your hands under your legs for example. Any thing other then biting your nails at this point works I guess.
  • After that just record on the same piece of paper whenever your urges to bite your nails were suppressed by the new routine you have set.

After keeping the above procedure in place for the next month or so, you will see that your habit of biting your nails will be vanished. You have replaced the routine with something new, and after a while the whole habit loop gets erased!