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103: Reader Mailbag (XI)

Your responses re: knowledge ≠ action.

Jeremy Finch
Jeremy Finch
4 min read
103: Reader Mailbag (XI)

Two weeks ago, I asked :

What's the difference between knowing that something is good for you, and being able to implement that thing consistently?

What do you know is good for you, but still struggle to do?

I got some great replies!

Here's what you said :

Sitting too long without a good walk / stretch.

I'd do better with more frequent breaks.


It's just awkward and inconvenient to do so many times during the day.

Going for long walks, especially during the colder seasons.

Exercise and a healthy diet.

But the activation energy to get started on this routine gets larger each passing day.

Weekly planning, task lists, action plans etc.

Once I do these things, the momentum just rolls through. But it's getting that inertia going that's so difficult.

1. Exercises.  Why struggle?  Laziness, lack of motivation, procrastination, there's always tomorrow.

2. Going to bed early.  Why not?  There is always one more thing to do before bedtime.  I won't do it if I wait till tomorrow.  Quite the opposite of procrastination that I listed above.

3. Not eating too much sweets!  The biggest struggle.  Cannot give in to temptation.

Our brain is a pattern maker and repeater. Thinking traps are one pattern. We have a lot of them!

Changing those patterns is energetically / cognitively expensive.

It's easy to do what we 'know' to be right when we feel motivated. But how do we behave when motivation is lacking?

This is where discipline comes into play. Discipline can only exist when motivation is absent. Similar to how you can only be brave in the face of fear. Discipline is holding your grand goals above your present feelings.

In my experience, the best way to learn discipline is by changing the stories we tell ourselves about ourselves.

Sometimes I think I don’t do the things that I know are good for me (meditating, running regularly, having boundaries and not feeling guilty about them etc) because of a fear that I’ll do the thing and I still won’t feel better.

There’s a way in which retaining that good thing as a possibility, rather than a reality, gives us a sense of hope (“oh, I’ll do that later and will feel so much better”). Of course, we forget that 'later' is just another version of the moment we find ourselves in now.

Sometimes I also think that deep down we don’t feel worthy of positive change.

I think about the push-pull between short term self interest and longer term joy. I once read it described as "how you treat your future self".

Doing things for your future self is rewarding but the present self is more... present. So it can convince you to screw over your future self.

When you're young, the structure of [ work now / train now / learn now etc ] is imposed on you. Discipline is a function of the system.

Kids can eat candy all day with not much consequence or take a month off of PE class but a 35 year old could have lifelong consequences. The 35 year old can blow off those things so easily, while a 12 year old is usually locked into the rigid schedule and improvement plan ("but I don't waaaaana go to soccer practice!").

As a kid, you imagine growing up and not having to do any of the crap you are made to do. But when you grow up, you're paying $$ for fitness trackers and trainers to get you out of your xbox sofa pit. The freedom to not have to impose your own discipline was maybe better.

* a freed bird stares through the window at it's old cage, longingly  

It shows how a part of the human condition is tied up in patterns, structure, cycles etc. Our individuality-focused era puts a lot of pressure on us to constantly choose the most fulfilling thing that is also the best for us.

But that choosing is work.

And there's so many easy ways to choose the worse, easier things.

Great replies, as always.

Thanks for the mail!

The original prompt :

101: Season III
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