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Steps to Achievement: The Pitfalls, Costs, Requirements, and Timelines

I just posted a new article at Less Wrong - "Steps to Achievement: The Pitfalls, Costs, Requirements, and Timelines." This is a little bit longer and more dry than I write for my blog, but I think there's some very important things in here.

If you're interested in goals and achievement, there's quite a lot of meat here. I'm putting the full version up here and please feel very welcome to comment here on this topic, but also consider heading over to Less Wrong, grab a free account, and start participating there. As I described in "You Should Probably Study Rationality," it's a wonderful community.

Reply to: Humans Are Not Automatically Strategic

In "Humans Are Not Automatically Strategic," Anna Salamon outlined some ways that people could take action to be more successful and achieve goals, but do not:


On Tynan

There are different ways to solve problems. I've noticed that there's a continuum that these solutions rest on. On the left side are solutions that attack the symptoms of the problem. They're the easiest to implement quickly. On the other side are the solutions that attack the root of the problem, but are the hardest to implement.

Take weight loss. Going from left to right along the continuum, you'll find liposuction, lap band, eating disorders, following fad diets, eating packaged "health" foods and shakes, eating somewhat healthy food, and eating really healthy food. Most people would be able to think of all of those solutions to their weight problems, and might pick one along the continuum somewhere.

But there's actually one more solution, so far to the right on the continuum that most people wouldn't even think of it. For weight loss, that solution is to PREFER healthy food. A change in preference. Think about it-- if you LIKE healthy food more than you like unhealthy food, you will never gain weight again. Impossible, even if you don't exercise. More importantly, if you prefer healthy food, there's no stress associated with weight loss. You're just eating foods that you like. What's easier than that?

Changing your preference for food isn't easy, though. It's not like getting a lap band. To change your preference for food you have to learn a lot. What makes food healthy? What are the exceptions? You have to understand the biological impact that bad food has on the various systems of your body. That's the leverage that holds the preference in place. When you learn about how sugar abuses your pancreas, it's a little less appealing in your mind. You learn about how factory farms raise their animals, and that sort of meat is less appealing. Changing preferences is hard work, and it takes time and effort and energy, but it produces lasting change.

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