Self-help has gotten a bad name over the past few years and to be honest somewhat rightly so. This is partly due to the slow but steady decline of the popular myth of “becoming the best version of yourself” as though there is even such a thing as a “best version of you” or even a “self”. Add to this the horribly American way in which most self-help books are written, like how Dale Carnegie still seems to deem it necessary to market the book to you on page 60 in “How to win friends and influence people” with its endless anecdotes about the effectiveness of the techniques. And lastly, the general lack of any scientific underpinnings of the marketed techniques should be examples of why self help really isn’t very much of a Continental-European thing.
Nevertheless there certainly are techniques and habits that will improve happiness, productivity and health. And these can be used to help yourself so to speak. So what to call these handy tips for life? To avoid the bad name of the self-help industry I’ll just call it life improvement. However you won’t hear me marketing like Dale Carnegie, neither will I write long motivational monologues. You’ll just get the tools, the data and why they work, no pointless fluff.
Now before you read my incredible summaries of great books, and start using the tools I will point you towards you might want to now what my overarching vision is.
- Willpower is a resource that can run out and only replenishes slowly. However the rate of replenishment can be improved through training and your general health (dopamine sensitivity, testosterone levels etc)
- So we focus on slowly creating one good habit at a time and waiting with the next one until we have successfully implemented it for a minimum of 3 weeks.
- The goal is to create these habits in a way that the least amount of willpower is necessary which can be accomplished through “Ulysses pacts” like changing your environment, making a commitment once that locks you out for an extended period of time, doing one action immediately after another and more techniques that will be dealt with in a future blogpost.
- Most of your behaviour and instincts have been selected for through evolution, but the context of this evolution has (mostly) not been modernity, but rather some proto-agrarian village in the forests of Europe. And the goal is to find a way to have these instincts work for you as much as possible rather than constantly fighting them as you probably are doing right now.
- Community is important, very few men are islands. Most do better when regularly socializing with other people. Another use of community is telling people about your commitments, once failure disappoints someone you are much more inclined to push through. Lastly, success will probably increase your status within your community which is a good motivator.
- Having clearly defined goals and tracking their progress works. So keeping a journal, weekly log or habit tracking app keeps you on track.
- There is such a thing as enough, forever working to become better is not necessarily the goal. This cultist mentality of never ending self-improvement is mostly pointless. People with incomes above 85.000 Euro a year actually generally become less happy and more stressed as their income increases. And ask yourselves if you are in the top 10% strongest guys in your gym what extra benefit is there to hitting the top 5%? Usually the law of diminishing returns hit’s pretty hard and enough is enough.
- A stoic world-view is generally helpful, and mindfulness meditation is useful in creating and sustaining this mental architecture.
- Nothing in excess