How to Turn The Wheels of Progress

In an insightful video titled Why Music Works  Alain de Button offers an implicit reminder of this humbling truth: each of us is nothing more than a vessel of biological chemical reactions. We are all physical entities animated by interactions of hormones, neurons and emotions.

This truth is easy to dismiss, given the demands of the modern world. The efficient method to keep productive, based on conventional productivity wisdom, is to subject our lives to perpetual propulsion using infinite reserves of inbuilt willpower. If you really want something, the wisdom goes, all you need do is discipline and control yourself, and what you want will be yours. Contrary to this notion of willpower being a limitless innate reservoir from which we can constantly draw to oil the wheels of progress in our lives, a study points to this reality: willpower is a depletive resource.

For resources such as food a lacking can be obvious. One can tell hunger apart from fill. And the method for its replenishment is ubiquitous. All that is required is the urge to say the words: I need to eat food. With willpower, it is different. The urge for its replenishment can be quite subtle and go unnoticed. Until activities as benign as getting out of bed in the morning become unbearable chores.

Willpower fueled traits like self-control and discipline are useful success predictors. Without them, important activities go undone. Brian Little, Bestselling author of Me, Myself and Us, highlights conscientiousness, an ability that depends on the application of willpower, as a useful success indicator. Though helpful what is helpful to keep in mind is that a resource like willpower requires intelligent application.

In the business of appreciating life the most valuable bit of knowledge, perhaps, comes from Timothy Ferriss in his 2007 Bestselling book Four Hour Work Week. He writes: "Effectiveness is doing the right things to get you closer to your goals". This bit of knowledge points to the importance of being attune to activities that distill value, some of which may have nothing in direct relation to important tasks at hand. Take, for example, an activity as useful as having breakfast, how easily do you neglect it, even with the awareness that it is an activity upon which an unfolding day rests?

We have, at any given moment, a confined array of resources. Our time, attention and willpower (allow us to) operate within limited parameters. The key to yielding valuable returns is being aware of these limitations and deploying a systematic approach to navigating around them. Remember, first and foremost, we are humans, vessels of biological chemical reactions.



Post Author: P. W. Uduk 

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Question of the week: How do you best spend your day, for optimal results? Please let me know in the comments. 

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