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Action and habit (lesswrong.com)
164 points by te_platt on June 2, 2011 | hide | past | web | favorite | 17 comments



Watch your thoughts, for they become words.

Watch your words, for they become actions.

Watch your actions, for they become habits.

Watch your habits, for they become your character.

Watch your character, for it becomes your destiny.

Under the guise of being a piece of wisdom, this, to me, sounds like a healthy recipe for going insane. Watch your thoughts? Indeed. Might as well try to bite your own teeth.

The world becomes a lot more fun and easier to deal with once you stop trying to control everything and realise that things tend to work pretty much ok even if you don't keep a paranoid eye on them.

I much prefer the following Haiku:

Sitting silently,

Doing nothing

And the grass grows by itself.


> Sitting silently,

> Doing nothing

> And the grass grows by itself.

And you die of hunger because your crop field is full of grass.

Seriously, born in East Asia and had enough the Zen anti-industry crap, I much prefer Mobilis in Mobili.

Also don't forget the hilarious "If you sit by the river long enough, you will see the body of your enemy float by (子在川上曰:逝者如斯乎)" LMAO


In defense of a cheesy classroom poster, a better verb would be observe. You're (reasonably) interpreting "watch" as something like "control" ("Watch this prisoner."), but it can also mean simply to look at ("Watch the tide roll in.")

As the human default seems to be blind acceptance of every rationalization that appears in our minds, simply being more aware (by observation) that who you are is a process and not an immutable state can be a profound step.


I'd have picked 'consider' or 'contemplate' rather than 'watch.'

Apart from the Orwellian undertones, you can 'watch' something without even understanding it, much less influencing or controlling it.


metacognitive regulation is a skill that takes concerted effort to develop, but is verified by science to impact behavior. practices like cognitive behavioral therapy and buddhism take a similar approach to altering thought habits to influence actions.


Verified by science! Oh me oh my!

But how do we regulate our metacognitive regulation? And can we regulate that regulation? And ...

Biting your own teeth, indeed.


Well maybe things working out 'okay' is not good enough? Maybe not everyone has a good life already and actually wants or needs to change?

This advice is meant for people that want to change their destiny. It is good that you can be happy with who you are, but some people want to improve drastically, not just by a few minor character alignments over a few decades.


Isn't watching your thoughts a kind of meditation technique? One called mindfulness?

I've not done enough of it to be sure that it can be made to work for everyone in every situation, but it sure helps me with my day.

Catching yourself drifting in the direction you shouldn't be right now is what focus is all about, no?


This post is very insightful.

To break down what it says, and offer my own thoughts, often, the path to doing something at first challenging is: thought -> action -> habit, belief/better life or outcome.

Achievable steps is also key. Trying to rush the process and immediately reach the endpoint results in frustration.

So, "I want to learn to swim" => Spend 15 minutes practicing => Spend 15 minutes practicing 3 times a week... and so on, gradually ramping up is likely to work, while, "I want to learn to swim" => 3 practices weekly of 1 hour is likely to fail, in my experience.


Here's to hoping Eliezer is habitually setting aside time for writing more Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality.


Yes, we need to make him think more about that, so those thoughts can become words, and those words can become bytes, and those bytes can become words again, and then finally return to their thoughtful state in my amused mind :-)


Why is the post by "superasn" dead? It's topical, relevant, has useful information and is not rude or insulting.


Could it be a false positive triggered by an automated system that kills posts with improper capitalization by new accounts?


Quite Biblical. Paul says we are to be transformed through the renewing of our mind.


I find posts like this very annoying. As swombat points out, the claim that you should "watch your thoughts" leaves one wondering: how do I do that? The answer I assume I would get, were I to ask the author this question, is: "Just do it!" Of course, the author has conveniently left out details regarding what type of support he received from family/friends/coaches.

Anyway, that's exactly why this type of crap isn't useful.

To become excellent at a contingent skill (e.g. swimming, chess, math) you must surround yourself with excellent, honest people who care about you.

To become excellent at a trascendental skill (e.g. "strength," "bravery") you must isolate yourself and go very deep.

There is no other way.


That seems a bit harsh to me. Self motivation - both through thoughts and through actions - is a very necessary part of building habits. Outside motivation can be great too, but unlike self motivation it's not always available. Will the friends/family/coaches wake up at 5am to convince you not to sleep in? Even if they would, I'd rather be able to do it on my own.


>To become excellent at a contingent skill (e.g. swimming, chess, math) you must surround yourself with excellent, honest people who care about you.

>To become excellent at a trascendental skill (e.g. "strength," "bravery") you must isolate yourself and go very deep.

Isn't this reversed? It feels like it to me. Of course both internal and external methods apply to each.




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