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Letter: New Year's Resolutions

Issue #7 of The Get Some Victory Newsletter went out on Sunday, on the topic of making smarter New Year's Resolutions.

Stefanie Zobus weighted in with a smart reply, and kindly agreed to let me share it here -

Hi Sebastian,

I’d like to add one more thing to what you said. Often times, the resolutions made for the next year are not thought through properly, are quickly and thoughtlessly made, for vague reasons one sometimes doesn’t care about that much, or isn’t aware one cares much. That’s a problem. If one doesn’t think very, very carefully about what really matters, what one wants (!!) to change, and –why- it’s easy to say.. oh well, it doesn’t matter that much anyway. So things aren’t followed through. One needs to know the reasons very concretely, and the consequences of not following through. Instant gratification (gotten by quitting the resolution) is much more powerful than a vague goal stored at some far-end corner of the mind, uttered out loud once or twice during New Years.


Letter: On Neuroplasticity and Habits

I had a wonderful correspondance with the always-insightful Stefanie Zobus - she's graciously allowed me to share it with you. Here's Stefanie -

Most people don’t fix their problems, but some do. You are reading Hacker News a lot, so I bet you get to read a lot of people quitting bad jobs and starting start-ups. Some people change, but they have to want to change, and they have to find the right way. There’s something interesting I found about that in a book I’m reading right now – apparently the mind plays a huge, huge role.

The book is called “Train your mind, change your brain” by Sharon Begley. It’s about neuroplasticity (and Buddhism). It talks a lot about how, no matter how old the brain is, it can still create new brain cells, thus it’s still changeable. It may be harder, but it certainly is possible. Then, it talks about, for example, how behavior, experiences and even thoughts can change the brain’s structure – the physical structure – and how all that is connected to how people are, behave, feel.

There are some interesting things like in cases of OCD (Obsessive-Compulsive-Disorder) – the feeling that something’s wrong and all that is apparently caused by some part of the brain firing too much. So, those OCD people were taught “mindfulness”, something like meditation, concentration on what they feel from a somewhat distanced viewpoint in the sense of just perceiving, letting it flow, not judging. At the same time they were also taught to view the obsessive-compulsive element they felt simply as some neurons firing bad. The result? They stopped feeling as if they were being controlled by the disorder, made good progress and all. Then the scientists put them into the brain scanner – and lo behold, the hyperactive firing of the brain area causing the disorder was muted in comparison to before. Interesting, interesting. (The scientists who did the experiments were neuroscientist Jeffrey Schwartz of the University of California-Los Angeles and his college Lewis Baxter.)

So what I want to say with that is… things like OCD are serious business, and if people can change that, adults can change that, I think they can also change other behavior. It’s a lot about seeing things right, and I suppose most never get there. (With seeing I don’t just mean theoretically getting it – i suppose I mean something like your intek). They need to find the right method, the right way to go about it. Those OCD people had tried many therapies before – those didn’t help, there was no progress. But then.... then, they found it, and consequently there was change.

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