This is wonderful.
This is wonderful.
Grading papers as foot-washing, courtesy of Jamie (alias Dr. Most-Gladly).
+ + +
Thought on this one: Why do I always seem to encounter the insights that might have helped me make sense of and/or endure some difficult task, long after I have put that task long behind me, probably for good? I had to do some grading of papers as a TA a few times, and I did it back then with the expectation of a working life spent doing things like grading papers, among other things.
But I haven't put grading behind entirely, right, what with the whole homeschooling thing? Still doing it?
Not even close. Grading your own child's papers, or the papers of a friend's child whom you know well, is NOT the same because the intimacy of critiquing lacks the discomfort, that sensation of boundary-crossing. I am supposed to help my child grow up, navigate the requirements of adulthood, which here are communicating like a thinking person in a thinking world, and sending the correct social signals. I am authorized by human sociobiology itself to perform such tasks for my children (and, I believe, for the other children in other family groups close to me). Bathing your own child, however grimy, isn't even close to foot-washing. Hey, mothers, if you've done time in the volunteer nursery -- isn't there a REALLY SIGNIFICANT difference between changing your own child's diaper and changing someone else's child's diaper? Admit it. Your own kid's poop doesn't stink quite as badly.
The essence of foot-washing is that it violates a boundary we would all prefer not to violate. It knocks down an imaginary wall that we put there for our own protection against a number of uncomfortable truths: the sort of truths that are common to human beings. There is something in it that reminds me of the confessional (as it should). There is something in it that reminds me of Snowden's terrible secret in Catch-22.
I wonder if Jamie might find some irony in the discomfort of critiquing existing alongside the imposter syndrome -- the collection of all such critiquing is the way imposter syndrome is communicated from teacher to student, in a sort of intellectual laying-on-of-hands. (Personally, I would be a little bit concerned for a budding academic who entirely lacked that sense of uncomfortable self-awareness. It's a useful faculty, if it can be channelled.)
It might be a little funny to think of such a thing in the banality of grading papers, but I think there is a lot to be said for the comparison. Someone did it for you, and now you're to turn around and do it for others. It's thoroughly uncomfortable for everyone involved, but it has to be gotten through and everyone is the better for it, even when nobody's very well-practiced at the task. It requires the will overcoming the reluctance that persists, for a good natural reason, in our nature. And the will has its own reasons -- not wholly natural ones -- why it is good and right that it should prevail.
The first essay at this link is an introduction to general chemistry, written entirely of English words derived from Germanic roots. There are no Latinate roots, and no Latinate prefixes or suffixes either.
I have a great love of both chemistry and of language, and the essay delighted me. In particular, I loved all the creative neologisms created to substitute for words such as "atom," "chemistry," and even "periodic table:"
For most of its being, mankind did not know what things are made of, but could only guess. With the growth of worldken, we began to learn, and today we have a beholding of stuff and work that watching bears out, both in the workstead and in daily life.
The underlying kinds of stuff are the *firststuffs*, which link together in sundry ways to give rise to the rest. Formerly we knew of ninety-two firststuffs, from waterstuff, the lightest and barest, to ymirstuff, the heaviest. Now we have made more, such as aegirstuff and helstuff.
The firststuffs have their being as motes called *unclefts*. These are mightly small; one seedweight of waterstuff holds a tale of them like unto two followed by twenty-two naughts. Most unclefts link together to make what are called *bulkbits*. Thus, the waterstuff bulkbit bestands of two waterstuff unclefts, the sourstuff bulkbit of two sourstuff unclefts, and so on. (Some kinds, such as sunstuff, keep alone; others, such as iron, cling together in ices when in the fast standing; and there are yet more yokeways.)
...Coming back to the uncleft itself, the heavier it is, the more neitherbits as well as firstbits in its kernel. Indeed, soon the tale of neitherbits is the greater. Unclefts with the same tale of firstbits but unlike tales of neitherbits are called *samesteads*.
...Most samesteads of every firststuff are unabiding. Their kernels break up, each at its own speed. This speed is written as the *half-life*, which is how long it takes half of any deal of the samestead thus to shift itself. The doing is known as *lightrotting*. It may happen fast or slowly, and in any of sundry ways, offhanging on the makeup of the kernel. A kernel may spit out two firstbits with two neitherbits, that is, a sunstuff kernel, thus leaping two steads back in the roundaround board and four weights back in heaviness. It may give off a bernstonebit from a neitherbit, which thereby becomes a firstbit and thrusts the uncleft one stead up in the board while keeping the same weight. It may give off a *forwardbit*, which is a mote with the same weight as a bernstonebit but a forward lading, and thereby spring one stead down in the board while keeping the same weight. Often, too, a mote is given off with neither lading nor heaviness, called the *weeneitherbit*. In much lightrotting, a mote of light with most short wavelength comes out as well.
The article was written by Poul Anderson. Enjoy. Two other essays (involving English words of Greek origin) follow.
If you are at all interested in male-female interaction culture of both the positive and negative variety, how to deal with social awkwardness of both the neurotypical and the Asperger's varieties, how to teach social rules to young people, scifi convention or geek culture, and the like: I would like to direct your attention to a rich and engaging discussion thread at Whatever, the blog of scifi author John Scalzi. (This isn't just about scifi conventions, so bear with me.)
The scifi/geek-con blogosphere has been buzzing somewhat about a perceived culture at conventions in which unwelcome sexual advances and other "creepiness" have perhaps been overly tolerated (I am qualifying with "perceived" and "perhaps" only because I am not a con-goer and cannot give a first-hand opinion of the scene). In response to an emailed query, "Any tips on how not to be a creeper?" Scalzi wrote a post entitled "An Incomplete Guide to Not Creeping," in which he suggested ten rules for interacting with people -- in general, not just at cons -- in order not to inadvertently transgress other people's personal boundaries. Here is a sampler from the middle of the pack:
4. Acknowledge that other people do not exist just for your amusement/interest/desire/use. Yes, I know. You know that. But oddly enough, there’s a difference between knowing it, and actually believing it — or understanding what it means in a larger social context. People go to conventions and social gatherings to meet other people, but not necessarily (or even remotely likely) for the purpose of meeting you. The woman who is wearing a steampunky corset to a convention is almost certainly wearing it in part to enjoy being seen in it and to have people enjoy seeing her in it — but she’s also almost certainly not wearing it for you. You are not the person she has been waiting for, the reason she’s there, or the purpose for her attendance. When you act like you are, or that she has (or should have) nothing else to do than be the object of your amusement/interest/desire/use, the likelihood that you will come across a complete creeper rises exponentially. It’s not an insult for someone else not to want to play that role for you. It’s not what they’re there for. So those are some overarching things to incorporate into your thinking. Here are some practical things. 5. Don’t touch. Seriously, man. You’re not eight, with the need to run your fingers over everything, nor do you lack voluntary control of your muscles. Keep your hands, arms, legs and everything else to yourself. This is not actually difficult. Here’s an idea: That person you want to touch? Put them in charge of the whole touch experience. That is, let them initiate any physical contact and let them set the pace of that contact when or if they do — and accept that that there’s a very excellent chance no touch is forthcoming. Do that when you meet them for the first time. Do that after you’ve met them 25 times. Do it just as a general rule. Also, friendly tip: If you do touch someone and they say “don’t touch me,” or otherwise make it clear that touching was not something you should have done, the correct response is: “I apologize. I am sorry I made you uncomfortable.” Then back the hell off, possibly to the next state over. 6. Give them space. Hey: Hold your arm straight out in front of your body. Where your fingertips are? That’s a nice minimum distance for someone you’re meeting or don’t know particularly well (it’s also not a bad distance for people you do know). Getting inside that space generally makes people uncomfortable, and why make people uncomfortable? That’s creepy. Also creepy: Sneaking up behind people and getting in close to them, or otherwise getting into their personal space without them being aware of it. If you’re in a crowded room and you need to scrunch in, back up when the option becomes available; don’t take it as an opportunity to linger inside that personal zone. Speaking of which:
4. Acknowledge that other people do not exist just for your amusement/interest/desire/use. Yes, I know. You know that. But oddly enough, there’s a difference between knowing it, and actually believing it — or understanding what it means in a larger social context. People go to conventions and social gatherings to meet other people, but not necessarily (or even remotely likely) for the purpose of meeting you. The woman who is wearing a steampunky corset to a convention is almost certainly wearing it in part to enjoy being seen in it and to have people enjoy seeing her in it — but she’s also almost certainly not wearing it for you. You are not the person she has been waiting for, the reason she’s there, or the purpose for her attendance. When you act like you are, or that she has (or should have) nothing else to do than be the object of your amusement/interest/desire/use, the likelihood that you will come across a complete creeper rises exponentially. It’s not an insult for someone else not to want to play that role for you. It’s not what they’re there for.
So those are some overarching things to incorporate into your thinking. Here are some practical things.
5. Don’t touch. Seriously, man. You’re not eight, with the need to run your fingers over everything, nor do you lack voluntary control of your muscles. Keep your hands, arms, legs and everything else to yourself. This is not actually difficult. Here’s an idea: That person you want to touch? Put them in charge of the whole touch experience. That is, let them initiate any physical contact and let them set the pace of that contact when or if they do — and accept that that there’s a very excellent chance no touch is forthcoming. Do that when you meet them for the first time. Do that after you’ve met them 25 times. Do it just as a general rule. Also, friendly tip: If you do touch someone and they say “don’t touch me,” or otherwise make it clear that touching was not something you should have done, the correct response is: “I apologize. I am sorry I made you uncomfortable.” Then back the hell off, possibly to the next state over.
6. Give them space. Hey: Hold your arm straight out in front of your body. Where your fingertips are? That’s a nice minimum distance for someone you’re meeting or don’t know particularly well (it’s also not a bad distance for people you do know). Getting inside that space generally makes people uncomfortable, and why make people uncomfortable? That’s creepy. Also creepy: Sneaking up behind people and getting in close to them, or otherwise getting into their personal space without them being aware of it. If you’re in a crowded room and you need to scrunch in, back up when the option becomes available; don’t take it as an opportunity to linger inside that personal zone. Speaking of which:
Go check it out, it is worth reading, and almost certainly worth showing to your teenagers.
Anyway, the post sprouted a very long and interesting discussion, which Mr. Scalzi has carefully moderated (meaning, he deleted egregious trolls and off-point material), so that pretty much the whole thread is worth reading -- note, this does NOT mean that I endorse every opinion expressed in the thread, just that the remaining discussion, while heated, is mainly respectful and thoughtful. Warning: the discussion may be triggering, as a few people describe past unpleasant experiences.
One of the sub-discussions that I found particularly interesting had to do with people making excuses for individuals who, in their mind, simply lacked the social skills to avoid being "mistaken" for a sexually aggressive creepy person. (Most of these alluded to or mentioned Asperger's syndrome, but others cited cultural differences as the cause.) There ensued a fairly lively debate about the agency of socially impaired individuals. I think the strongest voices came from people who live with and love someone who is so impaired, and who argued that in fact they still need to be held to the same standards of behavior as everyone else, because they are capable of doing so as long as they understand it is necessary.
Another good sub-thread had to do with the responsibility of assertive people (particularly men) to intervene, either as a bystander or especially when the creeper is one of their friends.
Scalzi followed it up with a "Tangential Personal Note" in which he described a personal experience struggling with the temptation to be a creep:
On the flip side of this, I noted that the rules I noted yesterday are ones that I use myself when I try not to come across as a creeper to people I’m meeting. I didn’t use a specific example of a time where I was concerned about being considered a weird, creepy dude because although I did have a story that applied, I hadn’t cleared it with the other person involved. But now she’s cleared it, and now I’ll use it.
Back in 2006, at Readercon(!) I was wandering around the dealer’s room when I saw John Joseph Adams talking to a woman I didn’t know. I knew JJA very casually, so I went up to say hello. The woman he was speaking to was the art director of Shimmer Magazine and her name was Mary Robinette Kowal. JJA introduced the two of us, and Mary and I started chatting and within about five minutes I was aware that I was really intensely attracted to her, in a way that actually kind of spooked me and which I was sure was immediately and clearly obvious, and possibly immediately and obviously creepy.
So here’s what I did...
He goes into detail describing his conscious behavior intended to avoid making the woman uncomfortable, and then explains:
...I mention this for two purposes. One, to make the point that I think the guidelines I set out work (or at least work for me). Two, to make the point that saying that only certain types of men — ugly ones, aspie ones, socially sheltered ones, ones who aren’t going to pay attention to someone offering advice — have the potential to be creepers is kind of stupid. Hi there, I’m generally considered to be socialized, neurotypical and a decent guy. And oh my I had quite the potential to be a creeping assbag on Mary, among others. But I haven’t been, because I’m responsible for my own actions and I realize no one deserves to be creeped on by me even when the reptile portions of my brain are howling TAKE HER TAKE HER TAKE HER NOW. At the end of the day, as regards being a creepy assbag, it’s not about who you are, it’s about what you do.
Since Scalzi was married at the time, and says (in the comments) that he immediately came home and described the events to his wife, there's plenty of food for thought there about marriage and trust as well as about -- for want of a better term -- deliberate nondouchebaggery. The comments there are highly recommended as well.
What do you think about the posts? Is Scalzi's guide a good start? What tips would make it less "incomplete?"
Marc Barnes at Bad Catholic put up a post today in which he quoted a few lines from a poem by C. S. Lewis that I didn't know -- a poem that appeared to mock the idea that the modern world is falling into "paganism," on the grounds that paganism is much cooler and certainly manlier than whatever it is the modern world is falling into today. I thought my classics-loving 11-year-old would like it, so I went looking.
Cliche Came Out of Its Cage
by C. S. Lewis
You said 'The world is going back to Paganism'.
Oh bright Vision! I saw our dynasty in the bar of the House
Spill from their tumblers a libation to the Erinyes,
And Leavis with Lord Russell wreathed in flowers, heralded with flutes,
Leading white bulls to the cathedral of the solemn Muses
To pay where due the glory of their latest theorem.
Hestia's fire in every flat, rekindled, burned before
The Lardergods. Unmarried daughters with obedient hands
Tended it By the hearth the white-armd venerable mother
Domum servabat, lanam faciebat. at the hour
Of sacrifice their brothers came, silent, corrected, grave
Before their elders; on their downy cheeks easily the blush
Arose (it is the mark of freemen's children) as they trooped,
Gleaming with oil, demurely home from the palaestra or the dance.
Walk carefully, do not wake the envy of the happy gods,
Shun Hubris. The middle of the road, the middle sort of men,
Are best. Aidos surpasses gold. Reverence for the aged
Is wholesome as seasonable rain, and for a man to die
Defending the city in battle is a harmonious thing.
Thus with magistral hand the Puritan Sophrosune
Cooled and schooled and tempered our uneasy motions;
Heathendom came again, the circumspection and the holy fears ...
You said it. Did you mean it? Oh inordinate liar, stop.
Or did you mean another kind of heathenry?
Think, then, that under heaven-roof the little disc of the earth,
Fortified Midgard, lies encircled by the ravening Worm.
Over its icy bastions faces of giant and troll
Look in, ready to invade it. The Wolf, admittedly, is bound;
But the bond wil1 break, the Beast run free. The weary gods,
Scarred with old wounds the one-eyed Odin, Tyr who has lost a hand,
Will limp to their stations for the Last defence. Make it your hope
To be counted worthy on that day to stand beside them;
For the end of man is to partake of their defeat and die
His second, final death in good company. The stupid, strong
Unteachable monsters are certain to be victorious at last,
And every man of decent blood is on the losing side.
Take as your model the tall women with yellow hair in plaits
Who walked back into burning houses to die with men,
Or him who as the death spear entered into his vitals
Made critical comments on its workmanship and aim.
Are these the Pagans you spoke of? Know your betters and crouch, dogs;
You that have Vichy water in your veins and worship the event
Your goddess History (whom your fathers called the strumpet Fortune).
Fun, isn't it?
Simcha has a great post today.
(Beginning to think I should just have a category called DIRECT LINKS TO SIMCHA FISHER AND MARK BARNES.)
A reader asks her,
I feel that I am a faithful Catholic- attend Mass, pray regularly, try to follow the Church in all things. But I fall short on this with one issue- I do disagree about the Church’s stance on homosexuality and gay marriage. My beloved sister is a lesbian...I cannot/ do not look at what my sister is doing as wrong. I’m happy she found someone she loves to spend her life with. I love her children, and I’m so happy that they exist. My sister and her partner are raising them wonderfully...
Sometimes conservative Catholic bloggers will talk about how they struggled with a Church teaching, but the post always ends with how they changed, and saw the light, and saw the truth and beauty in the Church’s teachings. But what are you supposed to do when that doesn’t happen?
There's more than one question wrapped up in that post, of course. Let me pick one excerpt from Simcha's answer:
Sometimes people think that the Church requires us all to be prophets with bullhorns, or prissy grand inquisitors — that the only way we can ally ourselves with the Church is to be thoroughly obnoxious.
Or perhaps we believe that believing something means feeling good about believing it. These ideas are actually very handy temptations, courtesy of the devil. They make excellent obstacles to obedience.
So what is the reader supposed to do? Certainly not shun or treat her sister, the partner, or the children with disdain; certainly not wish them misery, wish that they hadn’t been born. Certainly not pick over their house, hunting for evidence of degeneracy. Depending on the situation, the Church may or may not want the reader to even speak to the sister about her lifestyle, now that it’s so firmly established.
Read the whole thing. The main thrust of the post is that we are all dissenters about something or other, to one degree or another, and because of that this is really a universal problem of the human heart. If we value obedience --to legitimate authority within its legitimate sphere, of course -- sooner or later we must come up against some principle we haven't taken to heart. How do we deal with that? How do we recognize it?
But there's also another question here: The question of how faithful Catholics are to live in a world, and sometimes in families, with a broader definition of "marriage" than we can parrot back. It is still an open and vague one.
For the time being, the official work of the Church in this area is to work to preserve, one way or another, our freedom to assert what we believe to be true about it. The Church hasn't quite given up the hope that the larger culture can be steered back to an acceptance of something closer to that same truth.
Now, I don't wish to question the wisdom of this approach heavily, because I am not an expert in pastoral techniques of any kind, let alone large-scale culture-steering. Cynicism is a fault of mine.
But: I tend to believe that this particular horse has already left the barn, and that it was my fellow heterosexuals who drove it out foaming at the mouth. I think we are already in dire need for pastoral assistance in dealing charitably and truthfully with the world around us here. It is NOT easy, as Simcha's reader's situation (and countless others) demonstrate.
In many ways it's not new: Families everywhere have always hosted an endless stream of intra- and inter-familial messages along the lines of "If you do not take steps to demonstrate your approval of my actions, that is the same to me as a demonstration that you do not love me." If there is any difference now, it's that much more often the "approval" runs against values that transcend the merely cultural or habitual. We expect family members to get used to a "black sheep" who merely dressed embarrassingly unconventionally, or pursued a career different from the expected one, or joined the "wrong" political party, or married a person from a different class or ethnic group, or wanted to move too far away or stay too close to home. But -- and this is still a strong, widely held value in the United States -- it's entirely different to expect people to "get used to" being asked to deny, explicitly or implicitly, publically or privately, their religious beliefs.
Don't we all get impatient with the bishops sometimes? I think we're long overdue for some real pastoral advice on how to live, and how to love others, in a world where regular denial of our religious beliefs is expected of us -- both through public economic acts and through ordinary social rituals.
It's love and truth. They are never in conflict -- not really. One without the other is impossible. But we ordinary, foolish humans can screw it up royally, trying to carry them both like a burden, and end up delivering neither.
Last week, the left half of the homeschooling-o-sphere exploded with discussion of this piece by Dana Goldstein entitled, "Liberals, Don't Homeschool Your Kids: Why Teaching Children At Home Violates Progressive Values."
I know, my conservative homeschooling readers might be going "W00t! Bring it on!" but as you can imagine, it contains a lot of stupid. Homeschooling is a symptom of being rich and white and privileged, we have a duty to keep our children in public schools because we believe in public education, lefty homeschoolers preach sound social values but... you can imagine how well this was received ... don't practice them.
There is an absolutely fantastic piece in response to this today, called "An Open Letter to Dana Goldstein," by Stephanie Baselice.
What is a Liberal Homeschooler? Am I, for you, merely the assumed opposite of a Fundamentalist Christian Libertarian Dominionist Homeschooler? Do you imagine we are a group essentially just like the women at your office, or the last cocktail party you attended, except we are nursing toddlers in the park with our older children readingMark Twain and Philip Pullman nearby? What exactly leads you to presume that your idea of “liberal values” is one that the entirety of non fundamentalist attachment parenting unschoolers would share? Just because we are not raising revolutionaries for God’s Christian Army does not mean we agree with you about the meaning, let alone the value, of public education.
In my personal experience, you are right about some things. Home school families are indeed diversifying as a group. I live in an area where the home school community spans the spectrum from those who want to ensure that their God-fearing children are not sullied by exposure to science to those Dragon Mamas who want to make certain their offspring get into Stanford. Yet there are a wide range of perspectives somewhere between those poles, or somewhere else altogether. Many are families whose children for one reason or another did not thrive in the school system. Many have children with mild to moderate ADD, ADHD, Aspergers or OCD.
There are indeed those parents who prefer to spend family time together, perhaps running a family farm or traveling instead of attending school. There are Homeschoolers of Color who feel their children will be ill served in a public school system which tracks them towards low achievement (many of the Moms I know who meet that criteria are former public school teachers). Plenty of homeschool families I know personally live at or near the poverty line, making lifestyle choices from the bedrock of their values. Choices which involve significant financial sacrifice.
This is my favorite line:
...You do not own the cause of progress. And the liberal tradition of fighting for public schools is a particular expression of values, not a value in itself.
... because failure to distinguish between values, and a particular expression of values, is a really common error. For people both on the right and the left.
Another great insight:
When I worked in finance, pre-child days, I had been a registered assistant for an investment adviser. I was seriously underpaid. The number one question we got from couples under 50 was “Our family is so stressed and exhausted…is there some possible way one of us can stay home? ”. My job was to take in all their financial data, and put it together so we could analyze their situation and present financial options. Unless Mrs. Client was an attorney or a physician, or had a job she deeply loved and did not want to leave, I saw the math prove over and over again that these families would be better off financially if Mom stayed home.
Mothers, even highly educated ones, seemed often to bring in just enough money to put these families in a higher tax bracket. Usually two income households lock themselves structurally into this problem by buying more house than they really need—an expense that has recently become all to clear to families struggling with layoffs in the economic crisis. Granted, the families I was working with were usually well to do. But the same problems apply broadly to our whole society. Our lifestyle choices and our incomes are interdependent, not unidirectional. The values perpetuated by consumer culture lead us to view accomplishment in terms of income. It has long been possible to purchase status. If one lets go of that wheel, and is willing to live with less, according to different values, other economic possibilities can and do open up....
This is not to say that fathers cannot do the job of care giving, or that Mothers cannot provide adequately for families. There are all sorts of ways to structure families. I know many families where the parents both work part time to support homeschooling, or where Dads stay home with kids while Mom works. Some of the non traditional families are gay. Yes, extended breastfeeding does indeed create a prevalence of very traditional looking stay-at-home Moms in the AP and homeschool communities. But this is more a response to the way the consumer society and nuclear family is structured than anything else. Most Moms I know would ideally work part time and spend lots of time at home with their little ones. In a tribal situation, there is extended family and lots of help with the work of raising a family. My homeschooling group has come to be almost a tribe to me. We help each other. All the time. Because that is how we wish to live. Relationships have replaced the need for revenue in many areas of my life.
Read the whole thing. As I've said time and time again, one of the greatest things about homeschooling is the way it brings into agreement people from across the political spectrum. Liberal and conservative homeschoolers often have more in common than they have separating them.
A year or two ago I found out through FB that several women who had been high school classmates, and whom I hadn't seen or spoken to since graduation, were homeschooling their kids. We had a few brief exchanges, and it was fun to discover that we had that in common, especially in the cases where we hadn't had much in common at all when we were in high school.
That's a little preamble to pointing out this Tumblr site that Anne H, who went to high school with me, put together. Have fun reading Homeschool Ryan Gosling.
I was talking to Mark this evening about trying to nail down the general principles of behavioral change -- not the list of "handy weight loss tips," but the general principles that I've followed to choose my new, permanent habits and to make them stick.
All right, I'm fessing up: I've been tossing around the idea of putting these disconnected eating-and-exercise blog posts into a longer and more organized form. What I'm not yet sure about is focus: gluttony? personal change in general? willpower defeating? straight-up weight loss?
Anyway, I was amused tonight to encounter this article from the NYT's John Tierney, "Be It Resolved," which is very much like the sort of thing I was envisioning writing.
IT’S still early in 2012, so let’s be optimistic. Let’s assume you have made a New Year’s resolution and have not yet broken it. Based on studies of past resolutions, here are some uplifting predictions:
1) Whatever you hope for this year — to lose weight, to exercise more, to spend less money — you’re much more likely to make improvements than someone who hasn’t made a formal resolution.
2) If you can make it through the rest of January, you have a good chance of lasting a lot longer.
3) With a few relatively painless strategies and new digital tools, you can significantly boost your odds of success.
Now for a not-so-uplifting prediction: Most people are not going to keep their resolutions all year long. They’ll start out with the best of intentions but the worst of strategies, expecting that they’ll somehow find the willpower to resist temptation after temptation. By the end of January, a third will have broken their resolutions, and by July more than half will have lapsed.
They’ll fail because they’ll eventually run out of willpower, which social scientists no longer regard as simply a metaphor. They’ve recently reported that willpower is a real form of mental energy, powered by glucose in the bloodstream, which is used up as you exert self-control.
Well, that explains a lot. Dieting is hard because low blood sugar depletes your willpower!
But this is the paragraph in the article that really resonated with me (emphasis mine):
One of their newest studies, published last month in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, tracked people’s reactions to temptations throughout the day. The study, led by Wilhelm Hofmann of the University of Chicago, showed that the people with the best self-control, paradoxically, are the ones who use their willpower less often. Instead of fending off one urge after another, these people set up their lives to minimize temptations. They play offense, not defense, using their willpower in advance so that they avoid crises, conserve their energy and outsource as much self-control as they can.
This. This. A thousand times this. Using willpower sucks, so you have to exert it in advance. So much of what worked for me is about this very principle.
The article goes on to give a somewhat outlandish anecdote and then from it derives some strategies that ring very true to me:
I will have to spend some time thinking about this -- but maybe the first step is to read the book about willpower that is referenced in the article.