A heuristic is a “rule-of-thumb”, advice that helps an Artificial Intelligent program or human think and act more efficiently by directing thinking in an useful direction.
Some of these heuristics are age-old wisdom, bordering on cliche, but most are actually helpful.
If you want something done, do it yourself
Comment: Obviously true, and doing it is usually very good for your self esteem. A surprising amount of work can be done this way, and experts are not always necessary. However, there is a risk of becoming overworked if you try to do everything yourself – we all need other people after all.
Never procrastinate anything you can do right now
Comment: Very powerful. There are many things that can be fixed or solved with a minimum of effort, but are often pushed aside as unimportant. Unfortunately they won’t go away, and in time the feelings of guilt for not having done them will make you even less likely of fixing the problems.
When you have several things you could be doing and don’t know which to do: Just do any one of them!
Comments: If you cannot decide between two or more possibilities, then there is a good chance that the differences don’t matter. However, most people begin to hesitate in this kind of situation (Fredkin’s paradox). If you are conscious of this, you can just choose one choice randomly or according to some standard method.
Always assume that you will succeed
Comments: If you don’t expect to succeed in an endeavor, then you will not do your best and will not notice possible solutions, while if you feel that you will eventually succeed you will concentrate all your power at the problem. Of course, there is no point in attempting what you cannot do, a certain amount of self-knowledge is always needed.
If you can’t find a solution, change the rules.
Comment: Remember that there are no no-win scenarios.
If you cannot do anything about something, there is no point in worrying about it.
Comment: Worrying is stressful, and in most situations doesn’t accomplish anything – it just wastes energy. Instead of worrying about things, either do something about them or find ways around the problem. One useful idea is to write down your worries on slips of paper, and then put them away in a box. Regularly, once a week or so, you open the box and see what you can do about the worries that are still relevant.
Do not rely on conscious decisions for speed – Just Do It
Comments: The conscious mind is surprisingly slow, conscious choices and actions are delayed for a significant time (a reflex acts within some tens of milliseconds, an unconscious reaction to external stimuli circa 100 milliseconds and a conscious choice several seconds). The duty of the conscious mind is usually to inhibit rather than start action, and if you become too conscious of what you are doing in a tense situation you will hesitate or slow down.
It is a good idea to learn to rely on your non-conscious mind, since our conscious mind is slow and has very low bandwidth while the other systems in our brains have a tremendous capacity and actually do most of the real work anyway.
Don’t try to explain away your actions for yourself
Comment: While we often do things we do not want to explain our real motivations for before other people (out of fear of embarrassment, anger or loss of image), it is a bad idea to try to convince oneself that the motivation was anything different from what it was. It will only reduce your self-knowledge with deliberate misinformation, and it is often valuable to understand what motivations you have (even if you dislike them or would never admit them in public).
Listen to your intuition, but do not believe it unconditionally
Comments: Intuitive or emotional thinking, analogies, “gut feelings” or “flashes of inspiration” can sometimes give fantastic new insights or show problems from a new direction. Unfortunately such thinking isn’t always reliable, and quite often completely wrong! Such insights should never be accepted because you admire their beauty or they are intuitive, only because they fit with reality.
Luckily, there is a scientifically proven way to do itthat gives you the best chance of success.
Anyone who is trying to change their behavior without understanding this science needs to stop, now. Read up on the science. Learn to do it the more effective way.
Then, start again, with better strategies, and create the life you’ve always wanted.
Here’s the other thing you should know: behavior change is hard. Hard like algebra. You will work on it for “a while” before you get to that dream-life. What is “a while”? Years.
But that’s okay. The secret of self-development is that everybody has to work hard and put in a lot of work, if they want to achieve something great.
It just so happens that here at Fierce Gentleman we believe that every man is destined for greatness.
So, below we give you the keys to greatness: 10 scientific keys you need to change anything in your life.
Of course, information alone does not lead to life change. (That’s one of the keys.)
But never before has so much high-quality, scientifically-validated information been available for free, to anyone, to get their path started:
10 Scientific Keys to Change Any Behavior
Willpower is weak. Environmental influences are much more important than willpower. (1,2)
Information does not lead to action. Emotions lead to action. (Tweet this) This one is harder to back up with scientific studies, but it has long been my personal experience….over 8 years of studying both my own behavior, and the behavior of others who I’m trying to help. Information allows us to know in which direction we can go, but ultimately, emotions motivate us to take action. See also (2)
The Internet destroys your ability to focus. Unless you’re reading higher-level long-form articles, like this one. Read the book The Shallows by Nicholas Carr.
Facebook makes you unhappy. Delete your account (unless you’re using it for business.) (3)
Today’s processed foods are engineered to flood the reward centers of your brain, and potentially trigger food addictions that will wreck your health and wellbeing.Eat vegetables instead. (4,5)
Exercise makes your brain bigger. It also gives you more self-control, lifts depression, and stamps out anxiety. (6)
Meditation makes your brain bigger. It also gives you more self-control, lifts depression, and stamps out anxiety. (7)
Give up alcohol. The breakdown of alcohol in your body creates toxins that the body has to remove. It is also extra calories that will contribute to extra fat storage. The additional toxic load can make you sick. And drinking and driving or just being out around other drunk drivers can kill you. Give up alcohol. (1o)
Take time off work. Overwork drains your willpower and makes you stressed and sick. (Personal experience, common sense.)
Maximize neurotransmitters oxytocin, GABA and serotonin. Minimize activities that have you “chasing the dopamine dragon.” Activities that stimulate dopamine: shopping, gambling, pornography, binge eating. Activities that stimulate serotonin, oxytocin & GABA: getting a massage, swing in a hammock, spending time with loved ones, meditating, praying, listening to music, reading. (See The Willpower Instinct.)
We all know the uncomfortable feeling of anxiety. Our hearts race, our fingers sweat, and our breathing gets shallow and labored. We experience racing thoughts about a perceived threat that we think is too much to handle. That’s because our “fight or flight” response has kicked in, resulting in sympathetic arousal and a narrowing of attention and focus on avoiding the threat. We seem to be locked in that state, unable to focus on our daily chores or longer-term goals. As a Cognitive-Behavior Therapist with more than 15 years of experience, I have found a variety of techniques that I can teach my patients with anxiety disorders such as phobias, panic attacks, or chronic worry. Some are based on changing thoughts, others on changing behavior, and still others involve physiological responses. The more aspects of anxiety I can decrease, the lower the chance of relapse post-therapy. Below are six strategies that you can use to help your anxiety:
(1) Reevaluating the probability of the threatening event actually happening
Anxiety makes us feel threat is imminent yet most of the time what we worry about never happens. By recording our worries and how many came true, we can notice how much we overestimate the prospect of negative events.
Even if a bad event happened, we may still be able to handle it by using our coping skills and problem-solving abilities or by enlisting others to help. Although not pleasant, we could still survive encountering a spider, having a panic attack, or losing money. It’s important to realize that very few things are the end of the world.
(3) Using deep breathing and relaxation to calm down
By deliberately relaxing our muscles we begin to calm down so we can think clearly. If you practice this without a threat present at first, it can start to become automic and will be easier to use in the moment when you face a threat. Deep breathing engages the parasympathetic nervous system to put the brakes on sympathetic arousal.
(4) Becoming mindful of our own physical and mental reactions
The skill of mindfulness involves calmly observing our own reactions, including fear, without panic or feeling compelled to act. It is something that can be taught in therapy and improves with practice.
(5) Accepting the Fear and Committing to Living a Life Based on Core Values
Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) is an approach that encourages people to accept the inevitability of negative thoughts and feelings and not try to repress or control them. By directing attention away from the fear and back onto life tasks and valued goals, we can live a full life despite the fear.
Exposure is the most powerful technique for anxiety and it involves facing what we fear and staying in the situation long enough for the fear to habituate or go down, as it naturally does. Fear makes us avoid or run away, so our minds and bodies never learn that much of what we fear is not truly dangerous.
One of the biggest problems people face is the lack of discipline — they have goals or habits they want to achieve, but lack that discipline needed to stick with it.
Then we beat ourselves up about it. We feel crappy because we can’t stick with it.
And that leads to more failure, because we’re forming a mindset that we don’t have the necessary discipline.
Here’s what to do when you face a situation like this:
1. Forgive yourself. You aren’t perfect. No one is. Realize that beating yourself up will only make things worse. Take a few slow, deep breaths and let it go. Forgive yourself. And move on.
2. Realize that discipline is an illusion. While discipline is a common concept, it doesn’t actually exist. It’s not a thing you can actually do. Think about it: people say discipline is pushing yourself to do something you don’t want to do. But how do you do that? What skill is required? There isn’t a skill — it’s just forcing yourself to do something you don’t want to do. And that requires … some kind of motivation. Without motivation, you won’t be able to force yourself to do anything. So motivation is the key concept — and this is something that’s real, that you can actually learn how to do.
3. Focus on motivation. What’s your motivation for pursuing the goal or habit? How will you sustain the motivation when you struggle? Have very strong motivations for doing something, and write them down. Commit publicly. When things get tough, remind yourself of your motivation. Focus on it. It’ll pull you along — that’s more powerful than trying to focus on the push of discipline.
4. Make it easy. Discipline is tough because whatever the task or habit you’re trying to do is tough. Instead, make it easy. Remove barriers. Having a hard time exercising? Make it ridiculously easy, by only exercising for 5 minutes. What use is exercising for 5 minutes? You’re creating the habit, not getting yourself into shape overnight. The 5 minutes of exercise will have only a tiny impact on your health, but it makes exercise super easy. If you can do that 30 days in a row, you now have an exercise habit. Hate waking up early to go to the gym? Do it at home. Do it during lunch or after work.
5. Focus on enjoyment. It’s hard to push yourself — to have discipline — when you hate doing something. So find something enjoyable about the activity. If you don’t look forward to exercise, find some good music, or a workout partner who you can have a nice conversation with, or a peaceful setting in nature that is just beautiful. And focus on that enjoyable aspect. Hate doing your paperwork? Find a peaceful sanctuary where you can do the paperwork and enjoy yourself. Maybe have a nice cup of tea or coffee, play some nice music. And focus on the enjoyment.
6. Repeat. You’ll almost inevitably slip up sometime, no matter how good you are. Unfortunately, people often take this to mean they don’t have discipline, and they just beat themselves up and give up. Well, it’s just a bump in the road. Get up, dust yourself off, and get going again. Start from Step 1 and start all over.