'bout a week ago, I had a great conversation with Sam Snyder. Sam is really, really, really smart. If you haven't been to his site, you should click over there and at least skim until you find something personally fascinating to you (and you will), and then you'll probably be a fan of his for life.
We covered a lot of ground talking. The first thing I made a note of was on reference points for exercise. We were talking why fitness is so enjoyable, such a good thing, but people often don't do it?
Sam said something really insightful - he said people's reference points for fitness are probably thinking about the hard part of starting, when you're getting going it, when you're not into the flow of it. When someone thinks exercise, they don't think about being engaged mind and body, feeling strong, feeling alive. They think about the beginning part where the body and bones and muscles feel creaky and it's hard to do.
I'm paraphrasing - I'm not even capturing the sentiment of it really well, it was a very sharp insight. The takeaway for me was, when thinking about exercise think about the height of enjoyable moments from it. Not the hassle, not the details, not the admin, not the pain. But the most enjoyable moments. Make that your reference point.
"Everything that goes on in the world can be reduced to cause and effect." We talked about tracing ways through cause and effect, and how you could have more predictive power if you did. Economic events, social events, wealth, and so on. We talked about some ways on how you model what was going to happen and make predictions. Fascinating stuff - Sam's playing on a really high mental level.
We talked about lots of good stuff - had a good chat on biochemistry and surgery and proteins and things like that. He's a really sharp guy. I do highly recommend Sam Snyder's site - note, there's a lot of information and references on there. I'd recommend on your first visit that you skim until you find something really valuable or fascinating to you, and I'm pretty sure you will. Great chatting with Sam, very very sharp insights.
I just spent some time reading Thomas Schelling's "Choice and Consequences" and I heartily recommend it. Here's a Google books link to the chapter I was reading, "The Intimate Contest for Self Command."
It's fascinating, and if you like LessWrong, rationality, understanding things, decision theories, figuring people and the world out - well, then I think you'd like Schelling. Actually, you'll probably be amazed with how much of his stuff you're already familiar with - he really established a heck of a lot modern thinking on game theory.
Allow me to depart from Schelling a moment, and talk of Sam Snyder. He's a very intelligent guy who has lots of intelligent thoughts. Here's a link to his website - there's massive amounts of data and references there, so I'd recommend you just skim his site if you go visit until you find something interesting. You'll probably find something interesting pretty quickly.
I got a chance to have a conversation with him a while back, and we covered immense amounts of ground. He introduced me to a concept I've been thinking about nonstop since learning it from him - reference points.
Now, he explained it very eloquently, and I'm afraid I'm going to mangle and not do justice to his explanation. But to make a long story really short, your reference points affect your motivation a lot.
In March of this year (2013), I came across an article at Harvard Business Review that has literally changed my life. It wasn't an immediate HUGE change, like some sort of life epiphany. No, it was a small change, but one that continues to work on me each day, like water smoothing out a rough stone.
The Article talked about a process called the Three Step Examen (little latin there for ya). The three steps are secondary to what the process really teaches though. It's an exercise on Mindfulness (yes, with a capitol "m"). It's about taking a few moments out of our busy lives and reflecting on the things that Matter (once again, yes, with a capitol "m").
Without further ado, I perform this mental exercise at least once a day, but typically twice.
Don't cheat yourself on these steps. Especially the first one. Be specific. Don't let gratitude fatigue set in (ex: I'm grateful for my job - what specific thing in your job are you grateful for? Come up with something new each time you do this exercise).