Friday, December 14, 2012

Quick thoughts on directed willpower and self-control

Willpower is defined by Google as "the trait of resolutely controlling your own behavior". But what are the drivers of willpower? Mmmm.

I think it comes down to motivation, which in turn comes down to a combination of how much you want something and also how much effort you are willing to put in to get it:

- I would really like to be a ninja. I am not willing to put in any effort to become one. It is a fantasy. Therefore I will not become a ninja. I could learn a kick or two, but no more.
- I would very much like to become a qualified accountant. Quite a lot of effort is required to achieve this goal. I am willing to put in quite a lot of effort to achieve this goal. I will almost definitely become a qualified accountant.
- I would quite like an omelette for dinner. It doesn't require a lot of effort. I will have an omelette for dinner. It is not fantasy.

But effort is a tricky beast in most avenues in life, as effort alone doesn't always produce the desired results. Probabilities are also important and they are affected by innate ability as well as the external environment. Examples (not real):

- I would really like to become a successful trader. A lot of effort is required to achieve this goal. I am willing to put in a lot of effort to do achive this goal. I probably will not succeed because the market is largely random and most folk get washed out.
- I would really like to be a professional golfer. A lot of effort is required to achieve this goal. I am willing to put in a lot of effort to achieve this goal. I probably will not succeed because most people don't and I am not naturally very talented. Also, the percentage of successful professional golfers is very small. Success is contingent not just on my own abilities but it also depends on the skillset of the competition.
- I would really like to lose weight. A lot of effort is required to achieve this goal. I am willing to put in a lot of effort to achieve this goal. I probably will not succeed because them's the odds. If I put effort into my initial researches I can change the odds. Then I may succeed.

Without rambling on and turning this into a blessay, there are interesting follow on questions to be asked:
- What is your existing cost base? (think of cost in terms of time, cost, and physical, and mental exertion). Worth mentioning separately is the cost of maintenance.
- Do you have a healthy mix of goals? If you are directing much of your effort to a low probability outcome, are you aware of this. How do you get an edge?
- Where probabilities are important, it may be useful to increase "n" as much as possible so success eventually comes around. This is more relevant in small scale pursuits and competitions.
- Can you synergise your efforts by linking goals to the same cost structure?
- For many pursuits, failure is simply part of the overall iterative process of life. It is necessary to learning and adapting.
- How important is the end point, and how instructive and fulfilling is the journey along the way, even if the end goal is not achieved?

Self ramble over, I shall proceed downstairs to construct my omelette.



2 comments:

Christopher said...

Can you make me one while you're at it?

Riz said...

Eating the same again, along with 10 fish fingers...omelette, or "protein bomb-e-lette?" I will make one for you Jeeves...although as they don't travel so well as air freight, I'll have to do the right thing and gobble up that one too!