Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Directed Attention Fatigue: Coping and Defeating

Probably the greatest intellectual problem I've faced in self-improvement over these past several years is dealing with the problem of Directed Attention Fatigue. Oh! I kick myself for not researching it sooner, for a gigantic problem it is!

Directed Attention Fatigue, I've recently learned, is the phenomenon where one's powers of concentration and/or focus are depleted, and are either inhibited, lessened, or even totally unavailable until a recovery period has passed.

For me, this has been nearly the number-one obstacle to my desired cognitive improvements. During my fiercest autodidact days I would concentrate so hard that I would arrive at the point I literally could not concentrate any more regardless of any acts of will. I viewed this as an accomplishment, as I have a hypothesis that the greatest mental growth occurs when you push yourself to exhaustion, much like how properly intense exercise (such as BODY BY SCIENCE) leaves the muscles sore. I analogize it as “pushing” one's walls – one's limits – further and further away by actually hitting it, by actually hitting limits.

The difficulty is that after I had accomplished the feat my concentration would, surprisingly, be gone for several days. If I picked up a book I was trying to study my eyes would quiver left and right, my vision would go blurry, and the mind blank. It was literally gone for the duration of the recovery period, and I was forced to take a break.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Seven Ways a Stopwatch Can Change You

A few posts ago I mentioned that a stopwatch is one of my most important self-improvement gadgets. For years I've not only used it for workouts, but also to speed myself up at my dish-washing jobs.

It wasn't until a few nights ago that I fathomed how comprehensively a stopwatch actually changes me. It isn't just a mere tool of speed, but something that actually affects the character: It changes your habits, motivation, potential, psychology. Aside from enhancing efficiency, I've found it actually changes me as a person.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Paying Attention to the Good Things

While writing an entry in my "Tell me everything you know" journal last night, I was completing the section where I write down the good things of the day, to feed my spirits, when it impressed me how unusually large the number of items I put down were. It was in great excess than what I can usually push myself to write.

Immediately I noticed there was a subtle, but still purposeful, shift in the methodology I had been using. In mulling over some disappointments with people who have let me down -- those who reciprocate little of the attention I've given them -- I realized that it's nonsensical to pay any sort of mental attention to those who offer no attention back, and from then on strived to shut those people out of my mind with the aid of click-tracking. It's not only focusing on negative things; it also shuts out awareness of the good things that are in my life, such as the friends I actually have who pay me good affections, but to whom I may not be reciprocating in equal value for my folly in focusing on the cold disappointments.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

For Those Aimless: Take Comfort in the Process

One angle I just realized in regards to my process for creating passion is that understanding the process of creating passion itself can alone be used as a stress-relief fallback.

Being aimless in life, not having major goals, is an extremely uncomfortable state to be in. Not only does one feel totally lost, one also feels an incertitude about the worth of each and any actions, and it's hard to feel secure in making any commitment without the security of knowing it fits into the major picture. Without major endpoints to drive your life towards, it feels impossible to be in control and achieve your happiness, and that extremely stressful to endure.

However, I'd like to emphasize that if you can summon the confidence that such a process as mine will certainly lead to a direction in due time, then consciously put those worries away and trust the process. Simply trust the process.

If the process gives no reason to be doubted, then it's fruitless to entertain and visualize worries and concerns, no? In such a state they're simply wasted mental energy that amounts to no worthy conclusions or action plans.

Thus, if you're presently aimless in life and simply don't know what to do with it, but do, on the other hand, know what's necessary to actually create a passion, whatever it may be, then simply act. It will be a certitude that you'll cultivate it along the way, and all you need to do is be sincere in your efforts and let things unfold as they may.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

In Praise of *Zen Pencils*

I feel really silly for not bringing up the website Zen Pencils sooner, for it's one of the greatest comics I've come across in a long time. (Thanks to Jason Stotts for bringing it to my attention. [Note: The link goes to an explicit website about the philosophy of sex.])

The purpose of the website, for the most part, is to take well-know sayings and quotes and to symbolize them through the drawings in the comics, thereby making it much clearer as to what the ideas mean in reality. That is, put to actual practice. Even if you find a well-known quote you've heard before you may find it resonates much more strongly.

Last night I took the time to purvey the entire archives to date, and I can hardly find a thing wrong with any of the comics. The majority of them are overwhelmingly good and effective.

I thoroughly recommend it for it's an excellent source of spiritual fuel and motivation.

There's too many good ones for me to establish a short list of links, but if I had to choose one, I'd choose the below, for it represents so strongly that we are the measure of our actions. I made it my desktop wallpaper too, for a daily reminder:

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Justification for Occasional Laziness (and Better Methods for It)

Recently I read an interesting article the importance of downtime, citing great men like Warren Buffett, postulating that their downtime could be a major element in how they've become so great. You know, for the usual reasons, such as the brain building itself up from sleep and whatnot.

That resonated with me because it pointed out a flawed effort I used to make during intense study, in that I refused to offer myself sufficient recreation after I exerted myself. I would be so adamant on chasing my goals, being disciplined, and always wringing myself for progress that I would burn out and linger in many areas, sometimes writing articles full of foolish errors I could have avoided, or having my vision go blurry every time I attempted to concentrate.

I still think that such intense effort -- to the point of getting those side-effects -- is admirable, for it means you hit your absolute limit, wherein, after your repair, your abilities will vastly expanded. The greatest leaps in my abilities have occurred through such intensity. It might be unpleasant to work yourself to the point of such utter exhaustion, but give yourself the thumbs up if you do!

However, this article wisens me up to know that when you reach such a point you should really grant yourself a great expanse of recreation, otherwise you won't have sufficient time to repair yourself, such as through sleep and playtime, in order to experience those new levels of performance. This is why, for example, you should have rest days in between intense muscle-building workouts: The fatigued muscles simply need days to repair themselves, otherwise performance goes down and progress is halted.

The same applies to the brain, for all mental activities.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

A Kind of Power in a Stopwatch

Stopwatch by Wouterhagens of Wikipedia CommonsNow that I've spoken about using a sports tally counter, I'm getting myself all enthused about self-improvement gadgetry, and am recalling all the aides that helped me so much. It's restoring much needed interest, for I realize I was actually foolish to cease habits of using certain gadgets that have proven their worth so many years ago.

For example, the simple stopwatch.

Years ago, I discovered that using a stopwatch in the right contexts was a great psychological motivation tool. Having gotten my first job at a restaurant, I wanted to improve my speed, and I got a stopwatch so I could set precise records in certain tasks.

What kind of practice you'd want to set up, if you wanted to try it, will vary with interest, of course, but for me back then, I went through the pains of setting up a word document to record my times at work. I would set a definite start and end to a task, such as mopping a certain section of the floor, utilize my stopwatch, and record my time.

The most intriguing effect is that it causes a surge of motivation to flood me whenever I used it. Activating it, it became very emotionally real that time was passing and there was a recorded document stating how well I should perform at the task, and I would erupt in a flurry to meet or beat my record. "Working fast" feels totally different when you formally time yourself.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Tally Counting to Personal Change

Tally Counters by Wesha of Wikipedia CommonsAfter years of procrastinating on it, I'm finally getting myself a sports tally counter, that clicker device used to count. Oh, it'll help with so many self-improvement goals! I've used other things like putting tally marks in a notepad or transferring pennies from one pocket to another, but this will make the practice the smoothest possible.

The device may not look that valuable, but, using the right method, it can be an outrageously potent self-improvement aid, and I've always been extremely pleased by what a great help it is.

In short, my love for this technique is that it uses awareness to crush unwanted habits. What I do is define the perimeters of a habit I'm trying to get rid of, and whenever I notice a violation I take note of that incident, such as by putting that slash in a notepad, transferring a penny, or soon to be clicking that counter. With absolute consistency, it's shocking how fast a habit changes.