Willpower Instinct by Kelly McGonigal – Book Notes


Introduction –p3
Ch. 1: I will, I won’t, I want: What willpower is and why it matters –p4
Ch. 2: The willpower instinct: Your body was born to resist cheesecake –p7
Ch. 3: Too tired to resist: Why self-control is like a muscle –p12
Ch. 4: License to sin: Why being good gives us permission to be bad –p17
Ch. 5: The brain’s big lie: Why we mistake wanting for happiness –p24
Ch. 6: What the heck: How feeling bad leads to giving in –p31
Ch. 7: Putting the future on sale: The economics of instant gratification –p36
Ch. 8: Infected! Why willpower is contagious –p42
Ch. 9: Don’t read this chapter: The limits of “I won’t” power –p49
Ch. 10: Final thoughts –p55
Toolbox Summary –p56
New Current Research –p59


“The intelligent want self-control; children want candy.” –Rumi (pg. i)




(*The asterisk (*) symbol in parenthesis will indicate my insights and are not part of the text)

-APA says Americans’ lack of willpower is the main reason they don’t meet their goals. P1
-The two ways to choose are impulsively and consciously. P1
-Incorrect willpower beliefs cause unneeded stress. P2
-To have self-control you must know how you fail. P3
-People who think they have the most willpower are the most likely to lose control when tempted. Those who think they are the best at multitasking are the most distractible. This is the Dunning-Kruger effect, overestimating abilities. It’s most prominent in people who have the least skill; those with a test score in the 12th percentile would on average estimate themselves to be in the 62nd percentile. P4
– “Your craving for chocolate is not so different from a smoker’s craving for a cigarette, or a shopaholic’s craving to spend. How you talk yourself out of exercising is not so different from how someone else justifies not opening the past-due bills, and another person puts off studying for one more night.” P7

Ch. 1: I will, I won’t, I want: What willpower is and why it matters

-Willpower isn’t just about what you will and won’t do, but about remembering what you really want. These may be termed “will power”, “won’t power”, and “want power”. These are what separate humans from animals. P10
-3 core human instincts to beware of are appetite, aggression, and sex. P11
-The more you control your attention, emotions, and actions, the more health, happiness, long lasting satisfying relationships, money, stress coping, conflict coping, career advancement, and adversity coping ability you will have. P12
-Self-control is a better predictor of academic success than intelligence; a better predictor of leadership than charisma, a better predictor of marital longevity than empathy. P12
-The prefrontal cortex is the area of the brain which does self-control. Proportionately compared to other species, humans have the largest prefrontal cortex. P12-13
-The right side of the brain is associated with “won’t power”, the left side is associated with “will power”, the front is associated with “want power” p13
-The prefrontal cortex is the bias pushing us to do the harder things. P13
-The more rapidly your cells fire in the “want power” zone of the brain, the stronger your self-control. P14
-Phineas Gage lost his prefrontal cortex of the brain in an accident, and though he was known for being an outstanding citizen before, he became a debase and profane man after the accident, and unable to follow through on goals. P14-15
-Being drunk, sleep deprived, or distracted, all inhibit the prefrontal cortex and have similar negative effects. P16
-Anciently people needed extra fat to ensure survival, hence our tongues crave sugar, but in our abundant society this has now become a hindrance to beware. P17
-An inner section of our brain deals with impulsiveness. Name your impulsive self to help you recognize when it, rather than the self-control section of your brain, is taking over. Names for this impulsive brain could be “the procrastinator” or “the critic” or “the cookie monster” etc. p18
-You need the inner “impulsive” brain. One person had that area injured, and they lost the ability to feel fear and disgust. This resulted in them frequently over-eating and being sexually promiscuous, much more than prior to the injury. P19 (*This is not to suggest that persons with brain injury should always not be unaccountable for their actions.)
-The brain can treat a high price tag on an item which we otherwise would have loved like a punch in the stomach. This helps us survive. P20
-To have willpower, we must be aware of what we are doing and why we are doing it. Otherwise, the brain reverts to what is easiest. Recognize the first sign of craving, and what that will lead you to do. Consider how that if you give in today you’re more likely to give in tomorrow. Most of our choices are made on autopilot, so we must go out of our way to remember the consequences of our actions. P20
-When asked to guess how many food related choices people made in a day, most people guessed 14. But when they carefully tracked their food related choices, the average was 227. This shows that most of our decision making is unconscious. P21
-People who are distracted are more likely to give in to temptations, acting on impulse instead of goals. Students trying to remember a telephone number are 50 percent more likely to choose chocolate cake over fruit at a snack cart. Distracted shoppers are more likely to buy things not on their shopping lists. P21
-Beware of distractions keeping you away from your goal. For example, if you plan to go to the gym after work, plan so things are in order for you to accomplish your goal, like packing your bag in advance, timing dinner to not get in the way, etc. Imagine yourself making excuses for not doing your goal and plan your day so those high-risk situations happen less. P21-22
-One person had addiction to being on her cell phone to look at emails. She set a goal to only look at her phone once an hour. She would subconsciously get her phone out often without realizing it. She learned she looked at her phone to relieve tension more so than to get information. She also learned that looking at her phone wasn’t a lasting solution for relieving her tension. When she learned to catch herself when reaching into her pocket, she made progress. P22-23
-Consider a challenging situation and problems likely to occur (thoughts or feelings which could trigger you into a ‘willpower failure’). Notice how you talk yourself into giving in in those situations. P23
-Contrary to the theory of the brain only being able to deteriorate over time, when you work at a brain power, it improves. Work on concentration, math, etc. daily, and the brain gets better at those things. This also works for negative things, like becoming an increasingly worrying person. P23-24
-The brain remodels itself based on what you ask it to do. Those who juggle develop more gray matter in regions of the brain that track moving objects. P24
-Areas of the brain can grow more connected to each other so they can share information more quickly. People who play memory games 25 minutes per day develop more connectivity between brain regions important for attention and memory. P24
-The brain can increase in willpower. You might try practicing resistance by planting temptations around your home like candy jars. P24
-Meditation improves self-control, attention, focus, stress management, impulse control, and self-awareness. Do this regularly and your brain will develop more gray matter in the prefrontal cortex. P24
-3 hours of meditation leads to more self-control and attention. 11 hours or 8 weeks of daily practice shows brain improvement. These strengthen brain connections between areas of focus and controlling impulses. P25
-Meditation increases blood flow to the brain the same way that exercise increases blood flow to muscles. The brain is a muscle which can grow when trained. P25
(*Is increased blood to brain unique to meditation or does the same hold true for any strain on the brain like academics?)
-Focus on your breath for 5 minutes and stress decreases, and power to do our goals increases. P25
-3 steps for focusing on breathing: 1. Sit still and stay put 2. Turn your attention to breath 3. Notice how it feels to breathe and notice how the mind wanders P26
-During breath meditation, saying inhale exhale increases self-awareness, as does thinking about the various parts of your body. P26
-During breath meditation, refocusing on breath when the mind wanders empowers the prefrontal cortex and quiets the stress and craving areas of the brain. P26
-During meditation, sit with crossed legs or feet flat on floor p26
– Meditation makes willpower stronger because you feel urges to move yet you remain still. P26
-It’s better to do a little daily than a lot in the future. Try meditation 5 minutes a day, then jump to 10 a day, and go back to 5 if 10 is too hard. P26-27
-If you can’t clear your mind and totally focus during meditation it’s ok because the point is to practice refocusing, so that during the day you’ll refocus more. P27
-Some things are hard for you. Ask yourself what makes them hard. P28
-Compare your two selves to each other (the impulsive self vs the in-control self). See what each want. P28
-Try keeping track for a day the decisions you made regarding your willpower struggle. P29


Ch. 2: The willpower instinct: Your body was born to resist cheesecake


-When tempted, we think we will break down if we don’t give in. p30
-Sometimes the correct question isn’t “what was I thinking?” but “what was my body doing?” because self-control involves physiology, not just psychology. P31
-Learn to control your physiology so your psychology can have a chance at winning the willpower battle. You can train the body to stay in this resistant calm state. P31
-When threatened, your body sees danger then sends that information to the amygdala which is the alarm system. This is in the middle of the brain as a central location, so it can send alerts to other areas effectively. Brain signals trigger the “fight or flight” response (an energy-management instinct). Stress hormones are released from adrenal glands. Energy (fat and sugar) is released to the blood stream from the liver. Lungs pump more to circulate more oxygen. The heart beats faster to send the energy in the blood to the muscles so they can fight or run. While the body is doing this, the brain refocuses your attention on the threat to ensure your safety via limiting the prefrontal cortex by a chemical change. The override of prefrontal cortex gives a person courage to fight, and a simple fast plan of escape. P32-33
-When we see a reward, the brain releases dopamine which influences your attention and action. P34
-When we see a sugar or fat food, our blood sugar drops to avoid an overdose of sugar. This makes us shaky and irritated which further heightens our craving. P34
-We used to run from external enemies, now the battle is within ourselves, choosing not to enter dangerous situations rather than being compelled to escape danger. When tempted, turn your attention inward. P35 (* But sometimes running from things still works.)
-Suzanne Segerstrom shows that there is a “pause and plan” instinct, the opposite of the “fight or flight” instinct. P35-36
-The “pause and plan” instinct starts when we notice an internal conflict (unlike “fight or flight”, which is triggered by external threat) p36
-Internal conflict makes the brain and body slow down to help you control your impulses. P36
-The “pause and plan” instinct redirects energy from our body to our mind (again, opposite of fight or flight). You breathe deeply instead of hyperventilating, you relax instead of tensing. This doesn’t paralyze but allows time for thought so we are in control. P37
-Heart variability is a sign of good health. Inhaling increases heartrate (preparing for action from sympathetic nervous system), exhaling decreases heartrate (relaxing and healing from parasympathetic nervous system). When angry or anxious, our heart rate increases and stays that way (the variability decreases). When calm, the rate lowers, and the variability increases. P38
-Heart variability increases when we resist temptation. P38
-Those with higher heart rate variability are less likely to give in to temptation, better focused, delay gratification better, are less likely to give up even when they receive critical feedback, and cope with stress better. P39
-Alcoholics whose heart rate variability increases when they drink are more likely to stay sober; those whose decreases when they drink have greater risk of relapse. P39
-Plant based unprocessed foods, spiritual practice, quality time with friends, sleep, and meditation help, increase heart variability. Junk food, poor air quality, chronic pain and illness all decrease it. p39
-Anxiety, anger, depression, and loneliness are associated with low heartrate variability. P39
-Slowing breathing increases heart rate variability and activates the prefrontal cortex. P40
-Try slowing your breath to 4 to 6 breaths per minute (15 seconds/breath). A few minutes of this and you’ll have calmer and more ability to confront cravings or challenges. P40
-It’s better to slow your breathing before you encounter a challenge. P40
-Don’t hold your breath that increases stress. Slowing the exhale down is where most people are comfortable in decreasing their breathing rate. Pursing the lips can be helpful. P40
-Heart rate variability steadily increases as breathing rate drops below 12/minute. P40
-A study showed that a daily 20-minute practice of slowed breathing increased heart rate variability and reduced cravings and depression among adults recovering from substance abuse and posttraumatic stress disorder. It’s also shown to de-stress cops, customer service operators, and stock traders. p40
-This phone app helps to slow breathing: “Breath Pacer”
-This state-of-the-art heart rate variability monitor will help to slow breathing: “EM Wave Personal Stress Reliever”. P40
-Slowed breathing can help you get through when you’ve not had enough sleep. P41
-Willpower benefits of physical exercise are immediate. P42
-A group of people who didn’t do physical exercise were given 2-month free gym passes. Over these two months, they went to the gym once a week for the first month, and up to 3 times per week for the second month. Without being asked to, they used less caffeine, less alcohol, had better attention span, more ability to ignore distractions, ate less junk food, ate more healthy food, spend less time watching TV, more time studying, less impulsive purchases, saved more money, procrastinated less, and weren’t late to appointments as much. P42
-15 minutes on a treadmill reduces cravings for chocolate, cigarettes, etc. p42
-Long term exercise is as powerful of an antidepressant as Prozac. P42-43
-Exercise increases heart variability. P43
-The brains of new exercisers show more brain cells (gray matter) and more communication between brain cells (white matter insulation). P43
-Exercise and meditation make the brain bigger and faster. P43
-When you ask, “how much exercise do I need to do?” We respond, “How much are you willing to do?” The point is to do all you can, setting a realistic goal you can achieve. P43
-Exercise can include anything you reasonably enjoy (gardening, walking, dancing, yoga, team sports, swimming, playing with kids or pets, enthusiastic housecleaning, window shopping (Doing at least some exercise is better than no exercise)), but you must answer no to these questions: 1. Are you sitting, standing still, or lying down? 2. Are you eating junk food while you do it? p43
-Only 11% of Americans currently meet the recommended guidelines for physical exercise. P43
-Scientists are calling exercising outside “green exercise”. 5 minutes outside will decrease stress, improve mood, enhance focus, and boost self-control. When it comes to green exercise, shorter bursts have a more powerful effect on mood than longer workouts. Low intensity exercise has better immediate benefits than high intensity exercise. You might try stretching outside, running with kids outside, walking around the block listening to music you enjoy, working in the garden, etc. p44
-One man found motivation to use his treadmill by taping a “Willpower” label over the calorie counter. He didn’t care about calories; he just knew that exercise increases willpower! He used to think exercise was a waste of time, but found it gave back more than he put into it, enabling him to handle difficult meetings and long hours. P45
-Exercise is something that restores, not drains, your energy and willpower. P45
-If you’re going on less than 6 hours of sleep each night, you probably don’t remember what it’s like to have your full willpower. P45
-Being mildly but chronically sleep deprived makes you more susceptible to stress, cravings, loss of emotional control, loss of attention focus, loss of goal-oriented energy, and temptation. P45
-Sleep deprivation makes absorbing glucose into cells more difficult, thus you’re under fueled and exhausted. This means even when people turn to sweets and caffeine to help them stay awake, it doesn’t work well because even that can’t be absorbed well in the sleep deprived state. P46
-When you have little energy from being sleep deprived, your body will use what energy it has on your biological needs. This means there may not be any left for your higher functioning of self-control. P46
-Sleep researchers call being sleep deprived “mild prefrontal dysfunction”. P46
-The effects of sleep deprivation to the brain are like being intoxicated. P46
-A single night of sleep deprivation can leave the areas of brain for willpower and the areas for basic needs disconnected from each other, resulting in overreaction to everyday stress. The body gets stuck in fight or flight, which means high stress hormones and decreased heart variability. P46
-Sleep deprivation is reversible. Catch up on sleep, and your brain will be normal again (no more prefrontal cortex impairment). P46
-5 minutes of breath-focus meditation a day helped recovering addicts fall asleep. This added an hour to their night’s sleep which significantly reduced the risk of relapse into drug use. P47
-A single good night’s sleep restores brain function to an optimal level. P47
-Getting enough sleep early in the week can build a reserve that counteracts sleep deprivation later in the week. P47
-it’s the number of consecutive hours you spend awake that matters most. So, taking a short nap can restore focus and self-control even when you didn’t get much sleep the night before. P47
-Some people don’t get enough sleep because they stay up late. When it’s late, things can seem more urgent than they really are. They become hooked on doing “one more thing” before sleep. Focus on not doing distractive things rather than focusing on sleeping. This is a “won’t power” challenge, not a “willpower” challenge. Consider what you are saying “yes” to instead of sleep. This applies in other areas, if you can’t find the time for something important, look at what you can eliminate rather than trying to squeeze everything in and failing at the higher priority tasks. P48
-Too much self-control takes away needed energy for digestion, reproduction, healing injuries, and fighting off illness. Too much self-control can thus lead to infertility, heart disease, diabetes, chronic back pain, and increases susceptibility to flu and cold. Being in control of everything is too big a burden for our biology. We need time to recover from the exertion of self-control. Choose your willpower battles since you can’t win them all. P49
-Relaxing daily even a few minutes increases heart variability, causes repair, increases mental focus, increases pain endurance, reduces stress hormones, and reduces oxidative damage to bodies (caused by intensive workouts). P50
-When we say relax, we’re not referring to TV, alcohol, or excessive eating. We speak of physical and mental rest which induces “physiological relaxation response” of slowing breath and heart rate and lowering of blood pressure and release of muscle tension. P50
-Use this to recover from chronic stress: Lie on your back with a pillow under the knees or some other comfortable position; if you feel tension in a certain part of your body, clench that part, if hands make a fist then let go, or if face, scrunch face then relax it; lay there for 10 minutes enjoying how you have nothing to do except breath. Set an alarm if you’re afraid of falling asleep. P50
-Willpower isn’t a unique gift, but something everyone can access. P51
-Stress drains willpower. We think stress helps; thus, we do things like putting something off until last minute, or excessive self-criticism; this may work short term, but long term it only burns you out. p51
-American adults get 2 hours less sleep per night than the average in 1960. This is one reason for soaring obesity. Obesity is much higher among those who sleep less than 6 hours per night. The lack of sleep disrupts how the brain and body use energy which creates obesity. P52-53
-Sleep deprivation leads to issues mimicking ADHD attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder. Children’s’ sleep patterns usually mirror their parents’, despite their need for more sleep than their parents. This is contributing greatly to the rising amount of diagnosis of ADHD. P53


Ch. 3: Too tired to resist: Why self-control is like a muscle


-You only have so much willpower; those who resist in one area are more likely to give in in other areas. P56
-A concentration task doesn’t just lead to worse attention over time; it depletes physical strength. P57
(*Similarly, Joseph Smith taught that spiritual experiences are physically exhausting. Once Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon were receiving a vision which is now D&C 76, Sidney Rigdon looked worn out and slumped in his chair during the vision, Joseph was full of energy; Joseph said “Sidney is not as used to it as I am.” For more info about this experience, see https://rsc.byu.edu/archived/joseph-smith-prophet-and-seer/joseph-smith-and-vision-1832 )
-Because every act of willpower depletes willpower, using self-control can lead to losing control. P57
-if your brain and body need to pause to plan, you’re flexing your willpower muscle. Since you only have so much willpower, failing can be good since it shows us we have been making positive choices in lots of other areas of life, but it is also bad because we don’t want to always seek gratification whenever we start doing lots of good things. P58
(*Too much good becomes bad; in other words, part of being “good” is having balance.)
-Limit temptations at times you know you’ll be the most depleted. P58
-If you never seem to have enough time for your willpower challenge, schedule it for when you have the most strength, often in the mornings. P59
-One woman worked long days and never had time do so something she felt was important, so she put that thing to be first in the mornings before work. P59
-One experiment showed that lack of willpower can be from a tired brain. The study gave participants sugar or no sugar, those with sugar did better on willpower. Specifically, the more blood sugar dropped after a self-control task, the worse his performance on the next self-control task. This is like a runner whose legs get tired. P60 (*we need steady build-up to grow in power!)
-The amount of energy used up during acts of mental self-control is less than half a Tic Tac per minute. P61
-When the brain detects a drop in available energy, it saves what resources it has; it won’t approach using all available energy to have it there for emergency; the first things to go are those energy expensive mental tasks: resisting temptation, maintaining focus, controlling emotions. P62
-People who had a sugary drink made better choices than the people with a non-sugary drink when asked to get a small reward now or a large reward later. P63
-Diet soda contributes to hunger, overeating, and weight gain. This is because the sweet taste tricks the body into taking up glucose from the bloodstream in anticipation of a blood sugar spike. You’re left with less energy and less self-control, while your body and brain wonder what happened to the sugar rush they were promised. P63
-When we are very hungry, the brain shifts to a more risk-taking state to bring more chance of survival, to get us to go seek the food at greater peril than we would otherwise be willing to endure. P64
-Hungry people are more likely to make riskier investments, perhaps historically like starving people instinctively taking greater risks to get food; and more likely to cheat on their spouse, perhaps historically similar to an instinctive need to increase the population when there aren’t many people left, or a chance of mass starvation deaths of the current generation. P65 (*Obviously we can’t say “sorry I had no control I was hungry” and obviously despite instinct or history, we are still accountable to God for our choices, as were them of old.)
-A dose of sugar can give short term willpower boost in emergency, but long term of this (highly processed, high-fat, high-sugar) food leads to willpower crash, because in the long term, these sugar spikes and crashes can interfere with the body’s and brain’s ability to use sugar, which results in type 2 diabetes (high blood sugar but low energy; essentially the same thing as chronically low blood sugar, since it’s there but not being used). P65
-One reason that people with uncontrolled diabetes problems have lower self-control and deficits in prefrontal cortex function is the lack of sugar to the brain. P65
-When you think you don’t have time or money for healthy food, consider the difference it will make in your willpower and self-control. These differences will enable you to more than get back what you invested. P66
-Though exercising self-control is tiring, it builds that metaphorical muscle, which grows indeed. Your willpower can increase in capacity as you regularly use it. Even small willpower tasks help train this muscle, because it’s the habit of noticing what you are about to do and choosing to do the more difficult thing. P66-67
-Breakup your goal into chunks, like week 1: look at my closet; week 2: put clothes from the floor into a basket; week 3 put shirts on hangers and pants in drawer etc. etc.
-Those who breakup their goal into chunks and make progress on them will improve in other areas of their lives not related to their original goal. This is evidence that the muscle of willpower is getting strengthened and is thus naturally manifesting its new strength in other tasks seemingly unconsciously. P66
-Some small tasks which will increase overall willpower are improving posture, squeezing a handgrip daily to exhaustion, cutting back on sweets, saying yes instead of yeah, using your non-dominant hand to open doors and brush teeth, and keeping track of your spending. Once you’re making efforts in these areas, more important areas will be helped, such as taking care of our health, resisting temptation, feeling more control over our emotions, avoiding jealousy, avoiding aggression, etc. P66-67
-Sometimes an unimportant willpower challenge (like non-dominant hand activity) can help develop willpower when other methods don’t work, because it’s void of the internal conflict of good and evil which we associate with our challenges (and thus training without such a guilt cycle). This can be a crutch for us to become stronger as we take on more meaningful things. This is the muscle model of self-control, that even small or unrelated exercises can help the power grow for when its needed in related and large areas. P68-69
-To help you track your activities and improvements, looking at what you may not notice about your daily choices, see www.quantifiedself.com p68
-Leaving out a candy jar in a public place which you routinely resist can improve your self-control. Persist and it becomes easier. You will see that this doesn’t exhaust your willpower but energizes it. This doesn’t mean you can never eat candy, it only means you can NEVER take candy from that jar! Seeing the jar helps you remember your goal and drives you to exercise more often. Also, the feeling of resisting what’s in the jar can give you a sense of accomplishment. P69
-Obtain success in small willpower goals. This will set you up to take on the bigger things. P69
-Athletes can push beyond what seems to be their limit. Noakes studied what happens to endurance athletes under extreme conditions. They found no evidence for physiological failure happening within the muscles; instead, it appeared that the brain was telling the muscles to stop. The brain sees increased heartrate and rapidly depleting energy supply, and literally puts brakes on the body. The brain creates an overwhelming feeling of fatigue that has little to do with the muscles’ capacity to keep working. He says, “Fatigue should no longer be considered a physical event but rather a sensation or emotion.” Fatigue is only an early warning system. Extreme athletes routinely push past it when they have enough motivation. Scientists now say that willpower is like the muscles, that it can be pushed further than we think. Our beliefs of what we are capable of can determine whether we continue or stop. Don’t believe the mental fatigue. P70-72
– “The widely observed scientific finding that self-control is limited may reflect people’s beliefs about willpower, not their true physical and mental limits.” P72
-It is possible to over train; beware that you don’t run into REAL exhaustion. P73
-With the right incentives, the impossible becomes possible. Imagine for example a large amount of cash being offered you to do something you thought was impossible, like not eating a cookie.
-People also excel above the normal when they believe their acts are to go towards curing a disease or something. P73
-The promise that practice will make you better at something can give the needed motivation to do something. P74
-The misery of quitting a bad habit is only temporary. For example, quitting smoking is miserable for the first few days, but later it becomes our nature to say no to smoking. No one would quit smoking if they thought it was going to be as hard to not smoke a year from quitting as it is a day from quitting. Knowing that things will get easier with time gives the motivation to endure the temporary pain. P74
-To replenish willpower, answer these 3 “want-power” questions: 1. How will you benefit from succeeding at this (personal payoff)? 2. Who else will benefit? 3. Imagine that this will get easier if you’re willing to do what is difficult now. How will you feel about yourself if you succeed? Is some discomfort worth it if you know it’s only temporary? P74
-When you are most severely tempted, recall your biggest “want power”, the thing that gives you most strength. Match the level of temptation with level of resistance. Perhaps this motivator for you is a dream of a better future, or a fear of a terrible fate. P75
-Mothers want to be a better parent, but when they think of this they get more frustrated. A greater motivation they have is to enjoy being a parent! Yelling at kids out of frustration is to rebuke the kids, but also a rebuke of themselves as they feel like inadequate parents, and unwittingly take that frustration out on their kids. Reminding themselves they aren’t perfect parents doesn’t help their self-control. Staying calm will benefit the parent as much as the child. You must cope with the gap between the real and the ideal. Stop, breathe, enjoy your children, feel good about what you have given up to be a stay at home mother. When you don’t yell at your children, you in turn don’t yell at yourself. P75-76
(*I warn here that I’m not confident about the philosophy that reaction to anger in children means there is deep seated anger issues in ourselves which need therapy, or that to cope with our deep problems we need to bring up anger issues from decades ago. Such is a common theory among child behavior scientists today which is perhaps alluded to here. If we call a parent who gets angry at a child for severe disobedience or some anger expressed by the child a parent with unresolved anger problems, then we may as well blame God of the same, for we have read of the wrath of God. Since God becomes angry with his children at times and is perfect, then a parent whom is angry at his child at times isn’t necessarily dealing with unresolved issues which require therapy. The parent could merely be disciplining his child. This is not to suggest that parents have the right to be loose cannons with their children, this is to suggest that sometimes severe behaviors require severe chastisement. Even the Lord has said that there are times in which we must reprove with sharpness, but the Lord quickly reminds us that this must be followed by an increased outpouring of love, so that they know you are truly acting for the welfare of the child, rather than venting personal problems onto the child (D&C 121: 43-44). In a similar vein, I would warn that not all behaviors of children with a history of trauma are to be blamed on that trauma. Some think it enough to tell a tempering child, “I know you are acting this way because of your stress, but don’t worry, you are safe here.” This I think will rarely help the child. The child must learn that he is safe and must see from experience that his parents are not severe or over reacting to his misbehaviors, but we also recognize that the trauma does not define the child, and that each human is a son or daughter of God, with power to make correct choices, and power to recover from abuse. Sometimes professors of this field want to bring up the trauma of the child over and over making it something bigger than it was. Their trauma isn’t to be taken lightly, and the child needs much love and attachment, but all things are to be done in wisdom and order. We can and should expect good behavior from our children. This all fits within the ideal parenting of a traumatized child, but some go to one extreme or the other. When dealing with extremes, the Devil is usually the author. All this being said, let us certainly remember that the life of Jesus Christ was one of suffering rather than one of reviling (1 Ne 19:9). One of kindness and love more than one of revenge and un-tempered rigidity. We see in the Christ the image of a gentle shepherd (Isa. 40:11). Surely he came to save, not to condemn (John 3:17), and we are to follow the example of Jesus Christ (Matt. 4:19 reads “come follow me”; and as usual, the Book of Mormon comes in with an unmatched clarity of the words of Christ, reading “follow me, and do the things which ye have seen me do”; this flies in the face of a popular protestant belief that the commandments are not meant to be kept! Yes, we fall short and need the help of Christ, but oh, how we must repent, and keep the commandments or our soul shall not be saved!).)
-Sometimes rather than wanting to simply “be better”, try looking deeper at what you really want most, and go for that. This will lead to the better you which you seek. P76
-We must foresee our exhausted selves, and set up a way to best support them, not expecting our most ideal selves to always be the ones running the show. P79


Ch. 4: License to sin: Why being good gives us permission to be bad


-Often, we see people who look great that turn out to be some of the worse people. P81
– “Not every lapse of self-control reflects an actual loss of control. Sometimes we make a conscious choice to give in to temptation.” P82
-Studies show that if you say you’re in favor of high morals, you’re more likely to not have high morals in your actions. In other words, people feel good when they talk about how high their morals are to the point that they don’t really care about what they do. We can feel so good about rejecting bad things that we are not as vigilant when it comes time to do or not do a bad thing. P83-84
-Most of us are not striving for moral perfection, but are seeking to feel good enough, which then gives permission to do whatever is wanted after having reached the good enough bar. P83
– “When you do something good, you feel good about yourself. This means you’re more likely to trust your impulses- which often means giving yourself permission to do something bad.” One dangerously trusts their instinct without considering particularly the choice which is before them. P83-84
– “People who first remember a time when they acted generously give 60 percent less money to a charitable request than people who have not just recalled a past good deed.” P84
– “Managers of a manufacturing plant are less likely to take costly measures to reduce the plant’s pollution if they have recently recalled a time when they acted ethically.” P84
-Some people’s positions are a constant reminder to them about how virtuous they are, and this comfort leaves them more liable to fall, more prone to fall into err. They must be extra vigilant to not allow this good feeling from virtue allow them to get sloppy in their performance. The preacher must beware large moral misdeeds; the police man (*and the parent) must beware use of excessive force. P84
-Willpower is a struggle between virtue and vice. Moral licensing is when we tell ourselves that we deserve a little bad since we have been doing so much good. P84
-If you call yourself good when exercising and bad when not, you’re more likely to skip the gym tomorrow if you went today; call yourself good for working on a project in the morning and you’re less likely to work on it any more later that day. P85
-People often don’t have guilt when they do moral licensing. They tell themselves that it is deserved indulgence. We view self-indulgence as the best reward for virtue, so we forget our real goals. P85
-Moral licensing is rarely logical; the bad treat we give ourselves usually has nothing to do with the good thing we did. P85
-Someone who buys smart food is more likely to eat unhealthy food once they get home. P85 (*This is not to say, “don’t buy smart”, it’s to say that we feel reward for doing a good thing, and think we need to congratulate ourselves with indulgence.)
-When we think about doing something good, we are more likely to indulge in bad. For example, people were asked if they would rather teach children in a homeless center or improve the environment. After being posed this question, they were more likely to buy expensive clothing, even though they didn’t sign up for any service. Also, people who merely think about giving money to charity are more likely to spend money on themselves at the mall. P85
-We give ourselves credit for what we could have done but didn’t, like saying “I could have eaten the whole thing, but I only had 3 pieces!” This is lunacy. p85
-There is no careful accountant in our brain keeping control of how much good we have done and how much indulgence we have earned; rather, we trust the general feeling that we are good, so we go indulge. We look only for a gut response. We are not very careful about things. P86
-Psychologists studying moral reasoning say we make most judgments of right or wrong by having a gut response, and we only look to logic if we are forced to explain our feelings. P86
(*But sometimes the wisdom of God is foolishness unto man (1 Cor. 3:19; 2:14; 2 Ne. 33:2); and we act on the promptings of the Holy Ghost which come via thoughts and feelings (D&C 8). However, we are also instructed to take thought on matters rather than merely asking for things (D&C 9:7).)
-When you feel like a saint, the idea of self-indulgence doesn’t feel wrong, it feels right, and earned. P86
(* “He that exalted himself shall be abased, and he that abaseth himself shall be exalted.” (Luke 18:14). This concurs with the scientist that pride leads to destruction. The only way to be accepted before God is to continually rely on God, never taking a day off from being a servant of Christ, and never thinking yourself worthy of indulgence, for you never are. This is not to say that we should not have wholesome recreation.)
-If the only thing motivating your self-control is the desire to be a good enough person, you’re going to give in whenever you’re already feeling good about yourself. P86
-Moral licensing tricks us into acting against our best interests, convincing us that self-sabotage is a “treat”. This is lunacy. It excuses us for turning our “wants” into “should’s”. P86
-Some think we are motivated by guilt and shame, but really, we are motivated by getting what we want and avoiding what we don’t want. P86
-There is a side of our nature that resists being told what to do, so when we moralize everything like saying exercising is the right thing to do, we will do it less often. Rather, view the positive behavior (like exercising) as something that will help you meet your goals. So, separating moral dilemmas from things which are merely difficult will help us avoid the moral licensing trap. Don’t label yourself as good or bad based on whether you stick to a certain diet or wake at a certain hour, or other trivial things. These small things don’t carry the weight of sin or virtue, so demoralize them and rather focus on how they are merely tools to help us arrive where we want to be. P87
(*I suppose that if you root the rebellion out of your soul, the moralizing can work to your benefit, as we see later in this document, knowing that God has commanded a thing is a strong motivator.)
(*I think the small things can be more than mere tools; Elder Bednar said in notes to a conference address that we should pray for more commandments so we can get more blessings; some of God’s laws seem small, but none the less they are laws. Disobeying laws of God is the definition of sin. But it’s true that we can be less hard on ourselves at times and be benefitted by keeping the bigger picture in mind.)
-If you wish to reward yourself for doing something good, make the reward a harmless thing which is not going to sabotage your larger goals. P87
-One woman went to the gym three times a week to lose weight, but she knew how many calories she was burning, and translated those into more foods she could eat. She gained weight. “By thinking about exercising as earning food, Cheryl was undermining her goal to lose weight. To get out of this licensing trap, she needed to see exercise as a necessary step to achieving her goal, and healthier eating as a second, independent step she also had to take. They weren’t interchangeable “good” behaviors and succeeding at one didn’t license her to take it easier on the other.” P88
– “Don’t mistake a goal-supportive action for the goal itself. You aren’t off the hook just because you did one thing consistent with your goal. Notice if giving yourself credit for positive action makes you forget what your actual goal is.” P88
-Most people think that making progress on our goals leads us to more success, but it can easily lead to us reverting to self-sabotaging acts, thinking that we are better than we are. When we get a step forward, we take 2 steps back. Our progress temporarily satisfies, and thus silences, the higher self, so the lower self comes into action. P89
-A group of dieters was told they are doing well, another was told they aren’t doing well. Those who received positive compliment had 85% choosing a reward of chocolate, but those who weren’t given the positive compliment only 58% chose the chocolate reward instead of an apple reward. Similarly, students whom were made to feel good about the amount of time they had been studying were more likely to relax that evening. P89
-Making a to do list is satisfying, and we mistake those feelings for actual work, then slack off. P90
-Progress can tempt us to relax if we heed our feelings instead of remembering our goals. Progress is motivating if we look at it as evidence that we are committed to our goal, and willing to finish it. When people say, “How much progress have you made on your goal?” we slip backwards; but when people say, “how committed are you to your goal?” we go forwards with the goal. This shift of perspective allows us to say, “I did that because I wanted to,” not “I did that, great, now I can do what I really want!” p190-191
-A group was asked to remember the last time they resisted temptation. Then 70% of them took the next chance to indulge. But when they were asked why they resisted temptation, 69% resisted temptation. The memory of doing a good thing made people chose a “reward” of a bad thing. But pointing to the “why” of the good behavior was positive motivation. P91
-Just like how we use past righteousness to excuse current laziness/indulgences, we use future predicted goodness similarly. If you think you’ll go to the gym tomorrow, you’re more likely to overeat today. P91
-Healthy items on a restaurant menu can make you more likely to order unhealthy food. When McDonalds introduced a healthy item onto their menu, BigMac sales skyrocketed. P92
-Our mind gets excited about the opportunity to act of a goal, and mistakes that excitement with the excitement that comes from actually acting on a goal. P93
-People who thought they were in control of their food choices were more likely to order a very unhealthy thing when there was a healthy thing on the menu. P93
-We expect to make different choices tomorrow than we do today, seeing tomorrow as another opportunity to succeed at what we fail at today. P93
(*” Never let a day pass that you will have cause to say, I will do better tomorrow”. -Brigham Young)
-If people thought they would return to the restaurant next week, they would choose a bad food today, and plan on choosing a good food next time. People who were told they would get a treat today and next week were 83% likely to choose the cookie, but among those whom were told there would be no future treat just the treat today, only 57% of them chose the cookie. P94
-Students were told they would have another chance on something the following week, and 67% said they would do better next week, but only 36% did anything different the following week from what they did today. P94
-We live with a “borrowing credit” attitude about life! We sin/ignore our goals today, confident that we can repent tomorrow. There are more types of debt than financial! P94
-We wrongly predict that we will have much more time tomorrow than we do today. P94
-90% of exercise equipment people buy doesn’t get used. P94
-One group was asked “how many times will you exercise next month?” The other group was asked “In an ideal world, how many times will you exercise next month?” The two responses were the same. We have a hard time confessing our actual behavior rather than our ideal. Our view of the future fails to see the challenges of today. We put things off, confident that our future behavior will make up for it. P95
-Trying to get more realistic predictions, a group was asked “Please predict your realistic, not idealistic, amount of times you’ll go to the gym these next 2 weeks.” Predictions came in even higher than groups not asked to be clear about reality. The people came back 2 weeks later and reported doing less than they predicted. They were then asked to predict how much they would do in the following 2 weeks. They predicted that they would do even better than their first predictions. It’s as if they wanted to make up for the losses of their first unrealistic goal with an extra-unrealistic second goal, making up for an “unusually poor” first performance. P95-96
-Goals are pointless when we justify future as a reason for slacking today. P96
-Reduce variability in your behavior. Change the variability rather than changing the behavior. For example, smokers who must smoke the same amount each day gradually reduce more so than those who try and reduce today. Then they see the weight of 1 cigarette on their health, it being a cigarette that happens over and over and over. Instead of asking, “Do I want to eat this candy bar now?” ask “Do I want the consequences of eating a candy bar every afternoon for the next year?”; instead of asking “Would I rather do this today or tomorrow?” ask “Do I really want the consequences of always putting this off?” p96
-We tell ourselves it’s a good day or bad day based on what we have for breakfast. If we have a bad breakfast, we give ourselves permission to eat bad the rest of the day, saying that tomorrow will be a good day. P97
-One man who wanted to cut back on meat tried the good day bad day routine but failed. Then he tried a different thing: he was a vegetarian before dinner. He could eat meat for dinner, but not before then! So, he couldn’t justify a meat lunch from having a meatless breakfast, nor could he eat a lunch of meats while promising to have a dinner of broccoli. This ended his internal debate about when to do what. P97
-if you break your goal today, force yourself to break it for the next 7 days. This increases the weight of your choice and makes you less likely to cave in today. It highlights a truth that we are not stronger tomorrow than we are today, that the time to act is now. P98
-We have a deep desire to convince ourselves that what we want isn’t bad. We give the temptation moral-credentials, which allows us to indulge guilt free. P98
-The halo effect is when we see sides which make the main look good, like an attractive advertiser, or lettuce with our burger. We look for reasons to indulge, to justify. People who order a healthy main dish order less healthy sides and drinks and finish the meal with more calories than those who ordered the unhealthy main dish. P99
-People who see a plate of food with a burger on it, and another plate of food with a burger and lettuce on it, will estimate that the plate with the lettuce has 100 less calories. As if the lettuce magically made calories disappear! Those on diets are worst at this, though they should be the best at such estimations. The lettuce makes a glow/halo over the rest of the plate! P99
-Shoppers who buy chocolate for charity will justify themselves in eating more chocolate. P99
-We accept the designation of “healthy” on an entrée even if it has more calories than the other items. On average, the “healthy” labeled menu items have more calories. P99
(*Though let us note that there are other aspects of health than calorie count)
-We feel so good about saving money on groceries that we buy more than we need. P100
-There are magic words which get us to indulge like “fat-free” (when it has tons of sugar, etc.), “buy 1 get 1 free”, “all natural”, “organic”, “light”, “fair trade”, “for a good cause”, etc. Those who love the environment the most are the quickest to justify eating organic Oreo cookies since it’s not just healthier, it’s what the planet needs! When we love a certain cause, we are prone to be blind to these types of pitfalls. Rather than going by magic words, go by your goals. P101
-When we do something like “going green” (making environment friendly shopping decisions), we think we are wonderful, and justify doing bad in other areas. It can reduce guilt in this small area and lead us to justifying thing in large areas. It makes us think “I’ve done my part, now I can stop thinking about the problem.” P102-103
-Penalty policies like charging a tax for something leads a person to indulge freely now that the tax is paid and over with. They get rid of guilt by the payment. One example is a daycare center that charged money for picking up kids late. This option caused late pickups to increase. P103
(*Another example is the Catholic Church’s history of charging money to indulge in sins)
-When people pay extra money to help a cause there is no moral licensing effect. They see themselves as helpful and seek more ways to be helpful. Paying more to replace a harmful act is what we are talking about here. One example is paying 10% more each month on energy bills to use better sources of energy. P103-104
(*Another example is driving farther to shop at a store which is closed on Sunday’s to vote for God’s law with our dollars, and not be a part of people working on Sunday any more than we must. This book focuses on willpower challenges of physical health, personal finance, and environment, but there are many important areas not considered in the text which are applicable. The author doesn’t dare suggesting that we find ways to spend more time reading sacred texts, or more time feeding the poor. Most of the willpower challenges presented in this book are self-centered. Granted, if you become better at taking care of yourself, it can help you reach outward, but some more training in reaching outward could do worlds of good. To give the author some credit, she does touch on not yelling at your children, though mostly in the light of it being for your personal health. She also touches on paying towards good causes which is good, though when she says good causes, she is usually referring to the environment.)
– “We need to feel like the kind of person who wants to do the right thing. Moral licensing turns out to be, at its core, an identity crisis. We only reward ourselves for good behavior if we believe that who we really are is the self that wants to be bad. From this point of view, every act of self-control is a punishment, and only self-indulgence is a reward. But why must we see ourselves this way? Moving beyond the traps of moral licensing requires knowing that who we are is the self that wants the best for us and the self that wants to live in line with our core values. When this happens, we will no longer view the impulsive, lazy, or easily tempted self as the “real” us. We will no longer act like someone who must be bribed, tricked, or forced to pursue our goals, and then rewarded for making any effort at all.” P104
(*This must be a key to teaching children how to improve behaviors as well: making it about positive identity.)
– “Do you identify more with your impulses and desires, or with your long-term goals and values? When you think about your willpower challenge, do you feel like the kind of person who can succeed- or do you feel like you need to fundamentally suppress, improve, or change who you are?” p104
(*In other words, have you been born again yet? Have you changed who you are, or are you still the bad/wasteful/careless/unthoughtful/uncharitable creature? Are you dedicated to holiness, or still wavering with one foot in Babylon?)
– “Thinking in terms of “right” and “wrong” instead of remembering what we really want will trigger competing impulses and license self-sabotaging behavior. For change to stick, we need to identify with the goal itself, not the halo glow we get from being good.” P105
-Think about why you were good, not a about whether you deserve a reward. P106


Ch. 5: The Brain’s Big Lie: Why We Mistake Wanting for Happiness


-Experimenters got a rat to seek getting electrified. They put a chip in its brain in what is called “the reward system”. That part of the brain which was being shocked said “something good is about to happen”. They aren’t experiencing bliss, but mere hope/promise of bliss. So, the rats learned what they needed to do to get shocked, and they did it repeatedly. For example, the shock was delivered when the rat went in a desired direction, and another shock when it went further in that direction, so the experimenters could steer the rat like a joystick, having it go wherever they wanted. Another time, the rat was starved for 24 hours, then put in the middle of a tube with food on both ends, but before it got to the food, it was given the shock, and it stayed in place in hope of another shock rather than going to the food. In another example, the rats were placed on an electric grid which would burn their feet to walk on. Sensors were put on both ends of the grid, and the shock could be had at one end, then the other. So, the rats would run from end to end to get the shocks until their feet were so charred that they literally could go no further. When this was tried on humans, they likewise resisted food to continue with the shocks, and when the shocks were turned off, they continued to push the button which formerly delivered shocks 200 times before the experimenter insisted that they stop. They were showing signs of addiction and compulsion. This part of the brain is also triggered with TV ads, restaurant menus, catalogs, lottery tickets, etc. The brain becomes obsessed with “I want” to the point that it gets harder to say, “I won’t”. p107-111
(*Reminds me of the scripture promising that we can enjoy the words of eternal life in this world, and eternal life itself in the world to come (Moses 5:69))
-Dopamine is a neurotransmitter associated with anticipation (not pleasure). When we see opportunity for reward, the dopamine centers of the brain light up, and it motivates us to act to obtain the reward. Once we obtain the reward, the dopamine calms down, and other areas of the brain experience the joy of the reward. Examples of this include how Pavlov’s dogs would salivate when a bell rang even when they couldn’t see food for he taught them to associate the bell with the food. Another example is that they annihilated the entire dopamine system in a rat’s brain and it still grins when fed sugar, but doesn’t seek sugar, it won’t work for the treat. It likes the treat but doesn’t want it before it has it. The role of dopamine being gone, it doesn’t want things. So, the brain motivates us by the promise of reward. P112-113
-Dopamine comes flooding in when we encounter by sight, smell, or taste of high-fat or high-sugar food. This is to protect us from starving to death, but today being obese is more of an issue than that. P113
-Food companies specifically engineer their foods to trigger as much dopamine as possible. P113
-For much of human history, you weren’t going to see a naked person posing seductively for you unless the opportunity for mating was real. Now we have internet porn where the instinct to pursue every one of these sexual “opportunities” is how people end up addicted to X-rated websites, and victims of campaigns to sell products, like deodorant and pants, based on sexual advertising. P113-114 (*We recall an official Obama campaign add with a suggestive female appealing to the first-time voters in a seductive voice saying that the first person you vote for should be someone special, an obvious allusion to sex, see https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o6G3nwhPuR4&feature=share )
-Today we have texts emails and social media which are the equivalent to the shocked rats experiment of the 60’s. We can’t wait to look at our phones again and again in anticipation that someone might be seeking to communicate with or about us. We salivate when we hear the notifications that someone has messaged us, or that someone we know has messaged something. P114
– “[Technology] has a direct line into our brains, giving us constant jolts of dopamine. There are few things ever dreamed of, smoked, or injected that have as addictive an effect on our brains as technology.” P114
-Computer and video game designers intentionally manipulate the reward system to keep players hooked. Promise of the next level or big win could happen any time. P114
-Video game playing leads to a dopamine increase equivalent to amphetamine use; the dopamine rush is what makes both so addictive. Unpredictability of scoring or advancing keeps you glued in your seat. Some see this as incredible entertainment, others see it as exploiting. P115
-A 28-year-old died of heart failure after playing video games for 50 hours straight, refusing to eat or sleep. P115
-Video gaming can be as addicting as any drug p115
-You can tell what your dopamine triggers are by what gets you salivating, what captures your attention, what promise of reward compels you to seek satisfaction. P115
-Parkinson’s disease is caused by loss of dopamine-producing brain cells, causing slow movement, depression, and catatonia. They treat it with a drug L-dopa, which stimulates dopamine receptors to mimic dopamine. Patients with this drug easily get into obsessive behaviors from the flood of “dopamine” they haven’t seen in a long time, though they resolve in all cases as soon as they stop using the drug. Examples of what was happening are a 52-year-old developed a gambling habit who stayed at casinos 36 hours straight wasting his life savings whom also would use his leaf blower up to 6 hours at a time. Another person age 54 developed a sudden powerful craving for cookies crackers and pasta which kept her up late into the night binge-eating. One aged 49 had a sudden increased appetite for alcohol, food, and sex, which required his wife calling cops to get him to leave her alone. Again, all these issues resolved when they stopped using the drug. P116
-Erotic images make men more willing to spend money. P117
-Fantasizing about winning the lottery leads people to overeat. P117
-Big food companies use just the right combination of sugar, salt, and fat to drive our dopamine neurons. p117
-Lottery commercials show you how you could spend 1 million dollars. P117
-Grocery stores place the most tempting merchandise front and center, like free samples, which studies have shown to make shoppers hungrier and thirstier and put them into a reward seeking state of mind. When 21 food and nutrition experts were asked to predict what would happen with food samples in stores, 81% of them thought the customers would be less hungry, thirsty, and less reward seeking! This shows that even experts don’t know about this trick. P117-118
-Despite ability to increase the lure of many items at stores via samples etc., utilitarian items like oatmeal, soap, and paper, they were unable to alter perception of those things. P118
-Sampling things with sugar made people more interested in purchases which had nothing to do with what they ate, like travel, romantic films, spas, etc. Hence marketers give sweets at their sales pitches. P118
-Most people believe they are immune to advertisements. P118
-TV ads for snack foods make you more likely to go to the fridge, especially if you’re on a diet trying to have fewer snacks. P118
-The reward system of the brain responds to novelty and variety, being less responsive to familiar rewards, even ones you really enjoy. Many restaurants and clothing stores constantly create small variations to their products for this reason. P118 (*This is part of why people in a marriage need to continue to go on dates after marriage, to recreate the romance on a regular basis.)
-One price trick commonly used by Amazon and others is suggesting a ridiculously high retail price compared to the “low” price of their own. P119
-Time pressure and scarcity cues make the buyer much more inclined to purchase. P119
-Businesses manufacture smells to create desire. Smell is one of the fastest ways to trigger the promise of reward. As soon as we smell something, we start looking for its source. People walking by stores think what they smell is the product inside the store, but it’s a scent of enhanced chemicals designed to maximize the firing of dopamine neurons funneled onto the street via special vents.
-One leading company selling scents for stores is Scent Air at scentair.com. They have scents Fresh Linen, Birthday Cake, Mistletoe, Skunk, Dinosaur Breath, and Burning Rubber. This company brags about how its lured visitors into an ice cream parlor on the lower level of a hotel with a strategically placed aroma-delivery system flowing sugar cookie scent to the top of the stairs and waffle cone scent to the bottom, thus bringing them to an ice cream parlor on the 1st floor of the hotel. P120
-Unilever developed a motion-detecting ice cream vending machine which called out to people walking past encouraging them to eat the ice cream. P120
-Bloomingdale’s store used Baby Powder scent in the maternity department, Coconut scent in the swimsuit department, and lilac in the intimate apparel department. P120
-You may not consciously notice the scents released in stores, but they can influence you subconsciously in your shopping purchases. P120
-A hospital reduced its last-minute appointment cancelations by introducing Coconut Beach and Ocean fragrances into the waiting areas. P120
-A little promise of reward can be a powerful antidote to anxiety, and help people approach things they would rather avoid. P120
-A drug recovery program used a “fish bowl” lottery to encourage the addicts to pass drug tests. This worked better than guaranteed rates of pay for passing drug tests. People would rather have a chance at winning something big than a guarantee of winning something small. The drug recovery fish bowl worked like this: if they pass the drug test, they get to draw a slip out of a fish bowl. Half of the slips simply say, “good work, keep trying!” The other half have cash rewards from $1 to $100. 1 slip had the $100. The others with cash had from 1-20 dollars. 83% of who had access to the fishbowl passed all their drug tests, compared with 40% of the standard treatment group. When the intervention was over, the group which had access to the fish bowl was less likely to relapse than patients of the standard treatment even though there was no more fish bowl, no more continued promise of potential reward. P123
-The preference to possible large win over secure small win is also seen in people’s preference to playing the lottery over earning a guaranteed 2% interest in a savings account, and why lowest employees should be promised the opportunity to become CEO. P123
-For things you’ve been putting off because of their unpleasantness, associate them with a reward which creates the dopamine. P124
-One person dreaded cleaning a junk room and put on Christmas music scents and candles to remind her of the greatest reward of a Christmas morning. She then enjoyed working on the project in small bursts. P124
-Dopamine uses 2 methods to motivate, the carrot and the stick. AKA, the promise of reward, and the threat of what would happen if we choose not to act. When chocolate cravers see chocolate for example, they feel both pleasure and stress, and a sense of not being in control. They attribute the pleasure to the object, and the stress to not having it, but both come from the object. P125-126
-Most of us pay far more attention to the promise of feeling good than the actual feeling bad that accompanies dopamine-drive desire. If you give in to temptation, do you feel like you are responding to the promise of reward, or are you trying to relieve the anxiety? P126
-Think about how a so-called reward makes you feel, and you may be less likely to give in. Some things cause us to feel remorse after giving in. p127
-One lady shopped to feel good; she felt good on the way to the mall (the carrot), and she was happy while window shopping, but being inside the mall stores buying things caused anxiety (the stick). Making the purchase was more about RELIEVING STRESS than it was about being HAPPY! Of course, the stress could have been avoided all together since it started once inside the store, and she could have been finding real happiness! Then the drive home she was never as happy as the drive there. The dopamine used both the carrot and the stick to get her to seek the reward; used the carrot when she needed little persuasion and the stick when things got intense to ensure she would follow through. When she learned to not bring credit cards to avoid overspending and to focus on window shopping instead of buying, she was happier. P127
(*This seems to be why D&C 121 reads that there is a time and a place for “reproving betimes with sharpness”. Of course, it’s followed with increased love, but sometimes things are so critical that leaving it up to mere reward if you act isn’t enough, there needs to be threat of punishment. Positive reinforcement has shown to be more effective than a poor behavior punishment system, but it has its exceptions. We also wonder why God has at times communicated and used severe punishment for not obeying his laws. This is because of the weight of the seriousness of disobeying Him; He knows how hard it will become when we leave his ways, including natural results of mass suffering and tragedy. He wants us to avoid this, especially when it gets into weightier matters. Another scripture says that things which seem small to the understanding of men are large things to God and have massive effects (Alma 37:6). For example, we could view slight immodesty or other seemingly small violations of God’s standards as small and trivial, but God, having a more perfect knowledge of human psychology and real history, knows how these things can act like a small helm which leads a great ship to turn its course. We mistake things as unimportant when they are helms to our ships! The fear of God is the beginning of wisdom (Ps. 111:10). God’s ways are higher than our ways, and thus at times hard to understand based on our simple and carnal reasoning (Isa. 55:8-9). Everything in the laws of God is important. God doesn’t give commandments regarding trivial things. We can trust that if God has commanded or counseled us on a subject, that it is sufficiently important to heed his warning. President Ezra Benson put it this way, “When obedience ceases to be an irritant and becomes our quest, in that moment God will endow us with power.”. It’s also possible that more of the human brain is activated today than was active in days of old. The enlightenment, renaissance, etc., seem to manifest a flipping of a cultural switch in how we understood the world. The human brain is not fully activated, and I think it not strange to consider that God has endowed humans of different ages with different abilities and different challenges based on the circumstances of the times, and based on the portion of obedience among the people, etc. These are possible explanations for why God seemed harsher in days of old. Another explanation is that we are on the cusp of another outpouring of God’s wrath, which indeed we are! God is an unchangeable being (Moro. 8:18; D&C 20:17), Mormon 9:9-10; 3 Ne. 24:6; and the more perfect our knowledge of past present and future becomes, the more we will confess this truth.)
-We mistake the promise of reward for happiness itself. We experience intense focus, consistent seeking, willingness to work and suffer, all as evidence that we believe we pursue will make us happy. Promise of reward can even be powerful enough to get us to pursue things that don’t make us happy, and to consume things that bring us more misery than satisfaction. Because the pursuit of reward is dopamine’s main goal, it is never going to give you a “stop” signal, even when the experience does not live up to the promise! P127-128 (*Therefore Satan focuses so much on marketing his products, because even though they don’t bring happiness, they bring dopamine of pursuit! The pursuit however is vain! Like Isaiah says, they are like a thirsty man who dreams of drinking, then awakens to find he yet thirsts (Isa. 29:8)! Truly as the prophet said, “wickedness never was happiness” (Alma 41:10)! This is also the cycle of addiction he uses to manipulate us.)
-A movie theatre sold 14-day old stale soggy popcorn to customers per arrangement of dopamine researcher Wansink. People still bought and ate it instead of demanding their money back. They ate 60% the amount that people eat when it’s normal popcorn. They were following the dopamine telling them “theatre popcorn is always delicious” rather than listening to their taste buds telling them the contrary. P128
-Your biggest “I won’t” power challenge is likely something you think makes you happy, or would make you happy, if you could just get enough of it. Giving in to this at best will take away the anxiety that the promise of reward produces to make you want it more. But ultimately, you’re left frustrated, unsatisfied, disappointed, ashamed, tired, sick, or simply no happier than when you started. P128 (*the definition of “damned” is an inability to progress. We see the devil has cunning tools to damn us.)
– “When people pay close attention to the experience of their false rewards, the magical spell wears off. If you force your brain to reconcile what it expects from a reward- happiness, bliss, satisfaction, an end to sadness or stress- with what it experiences, your brain will eventually adjust its expectations.” P128
-“When overeaters slow down and really experience a food that usually triggers cravings and bingeing, they typically notice that the food looks and smells better than it tastes; even with the mouth and stomach full, the brain begs for more; their feelings of anxiety only increase as they eat more; sometimes they don’t even taste the food when they’re bingeing, because they’re eating so fast; and they feel worse physically and emotionally afterward than they did before…they had really believed that food was a source of happiness…people who practice this mindful-eating exercise develop greater self-control around food and have fewer episodes of binge-eating. Over time, they not only lose weight, but they also experience less stress, anxiety, and depression.” P1298-129
– “When we free ourselves from the false promise of reward, we often find that the thing we were seeking happiness from was the main source of our misery.” P129
-If you allow yourself to give in to a “treat” indulgence, do so slowly, seeing how it makes you feel. Most say they either have no satisfaction from it, or that they needed much less of the stuff than they usually use to reach their satisfaction. P129
-One might think of using a drug to eliminate dopamine, but though this would eliminate our wants, it would not be a worthwhile life. One man used lots of drugs for many years and one experience where his brain didn’t get oxygen left him without desire for drugs or anything else. Nothing was hopeful for him, nothing promised pleasure, and he was very depressed despite being sober. P129-131
-A person can be hooked on marijuana. P131
– “We live in a world of technology, advertisements, and 24-hour opportunities that leave us always wanting and rarely satisfied. If we are to have any self-control, we need to separate the real rewards that give our lives meaning from the false rewards that keep us distracted and addicted. Learning to make this distinction may be the best we can do.” P132
-The summary of the chapter is this: “Our brains mistake the promise of reward for a guarantee of happiness, so we chase satisfaction from things that do not deliver.” P132


Ch. 6: What the Heck: How Feeling Bad Leads to Giving In


(*Parents need to be careful which things they label as bad to their children because if something is merely a fun thing and not a bad thing, the child might find the fun thing, use it, then feel guilt, which triggers the “what the heck” syndrome, wherein they do bigger and worse thing which really are bad, in the name of giving up because they already “blew it.”)
-When sad, we look to the biggest dopamine releasers to feel better. P134
-We want to feel better and this is a healthy thing, but where we turn to feel better is important. P134
-The APA (American Psychological Association) found with a national survey that the most commonly used strategies to deal with stress are ineffective. 16% of who eat to reduce stress say it helps. Women craving chocolate report more guilt after eating it. The APA says the most effective strategies are exercising, playing sports, praying, attending a religious service, reading, listening to music, spending time with friends or family, getting a massage, going outside for a walk, meditating, doing yoga, spending time with a creative hobby. The least effective are gambling, shopping, smoking, drinking, eating, playing video games, surfing the internet, and watching TV or movies for more than 2 hours. P134-137
-Stress can cause you to give in to temptation. Frightening warnings about cigarettes make smokers want to smoke. Economic crisis can make people want to shop. Watching the news can make you fat. Smokers thinking about the dentist have extreme cravings to smoke. Binge-eaters crave sweets and fatty foods before giving a public speech. P135
-Stress and negative emotions of anger, sorrow, self-doubt, and anxiety, shift the brain into a reward seeking state. You crave whatever your brain associates with reward. Drug addicts turn to drugs, etc. Stress hormones from fight or flight also increase dopamine neuron excitability. Thus, when stressed, temptations become more tempting. P136
(*We become better or worse; the good get better, the bad get worse, this is the cycle; for those on the bad track it’s hard but they must break the cycle, for light cleaves to light, virtue to virtue, charity to charity, etc. These seek their own. D&C 88:40 reads “For intelligence cleaveth unto intelligence; wisdom receiveth wisdom; truth embraceth truth; virtue loveth virtue; light cleaveth unto light; mercy hath compassion on mercy and claimeth her own; justice continueth its course and claimeth its own; judgment goeth before the face of him who sitteth upon the throne and governeth and executeth all things.”. The religious man learns to get his fulfilment from God and turns to Him in times of crisis. The irreligious man turns to carnal things to get his “fulfilment” (or the hope of fulfillment), and thus farther from God. What we have learned to use as coping mechanisms is how we explain the phenomenon of people going through the same situation yet reacting very differently for better or worse.)
-Feeling bad made people want to eat cake more; even people who don’t like cake! P136
-Stress and dopamine lead us to revert to what the primitive brain sees as the gateway to bliss, those coping strategies which don’t work. People want to feel better NOW more than they want to resolve their problems with self-control! People worried about finances cope via shopping. Binge eaters ashamed of their weight eat more. Procrastinators procrastinate more. P136-137
– “The main difference between the strategies that work and the strategies that don’t [are that] rather than releasing dopamine and relying on the promise of reward, the real stress relievers boost mood-enhancing brain chemicals like serotonin and GABA, as well as the feel-good hormone oxytocin. They also help shut down the brain’s stress response, reduce stress hormones in the body, and induce the healing relaxation response. Because they aren’t exciting like the dopamine releasers, we tend to underestimate how good they will make us feel. And so, we forget about these strategies not because they don’t work but because when we’re stressed, our brains persistently mis-predict what will make us happy. This means that we’ll often talk ourselves out of doing the very thing that will actually make us feel better.” P138
-One woman made a voice recording to herself to play when she was tempted to give in to temptation. She made this recording after doing the right thing and seeing how good it felt. She used to go to yoga, but then got a more stressful job and just went home to drink wine and look at expensive houses for sale on the internet. She went back to yoga and wondered how she had talked herself out of going for 3 years. After the class, she made the recording to herself to play back, to remind herself how good it felt to do the right thing! P138-139 (*The right thing is more satisfying than the temptation; sometimes we think, “ah if only I could sin without getting in trouble.” When in reality, the natural consequence of sin is sorrow; it leaves us emptier than when we came!)
-On the news we hear about death every 30 seconds, which reminds us of our own mortality, subconsciously traumatizes us, and leaves us needing to heal the trauma right away. Therefore, companies sell their products on news channels which report on murder and terrorism non-stop. People thinking of their death will make longer shopping lists, be more willing to spend money on comfort foods, buy Rolex watches and luxury cars to feel strong and in control, etc. P139-140
(*One thing I noticed today was that I had to break from studies because I was listening to sad music, and I needed a break. it put me down so much that I had to totally change what I was doing instead of continuing studies with a mere change in music. It’s not that the sad music was bad; it was just sad, and hard to keep working on with such. I didn’t realize I had the need to rebuild to recover from the sad songs, but then when faced with the chance to watch some comedic films for a while; I jumped right on it without a second thought. This subconscious seeking of healing came from the trauma of the sad emotion. My soul recognized it even if my alert self didn’t see it coming.)
-(*On page 140, the author says people got mad at Obama for telling a truth that we cling to guns and religion when hard times come. The author is missing the point: the reason we were mad at Obama for saying this was not because we disagree that human nature increases its defense mechanisms when under stress, but we were mad because Obama was trying to bring down the first and second amendment, namely he was downplaying religion and the right to bear arms, making them seem like they’re out of date and unintelligent. Later the author says people also cling to credit cards cupcakes and cigarettes when hard times come, but Obama doesn’t care about that. Those behaviors are fine to him, the former (religion and firearms) are not. Obama is making religion and firearms into the same category as credit cards cupcakes and cigarettes, making them seem like trash. No one can doubt that this clever rhetorician has an anti-God anti-freedom anti-family agenda. So, author, you’ve in this instance, entirely missed the point, and condoned the enemy in your logical fallacy. How could you have possible failed to see this for what it is? This isn’t about whether someone is pro-Obama or not, this is about whether someone is pro-freedom and pro-God or not. Though its true people turn to guns and religion in hard times, the way he said it suggests that these things are irrational and overrated. In a similar way, the Devil often quotes scriptures (truth) in ways which lead people to sin. It’s also how a true statistic can be used manipulatively.)
-Even people acting out death triggers/traumatizes us, putting us in the reward seeking mode; one group of people watched a murder scene in a film, and the other group watched a movie scene about nature. Both groups were then given an opportunity to buy an insulated water bottle (useless). The group who watched the murder scene was 3x more likely to buy an insulated water bottle than the group who watched the nature scene. P140-141
-A 2009 study found that death warnings trigger stress and fear in smokers. This anxiety then triggers smokers’ default stress-relief strategy: smoking. This only makes sense when we understand how the brain works, the stress triggers cravings and makes dopamine neurons even more excited by any temptation in sight. When the smoker reads, “WARNING: Cigarettes cause cancer.” His brain says “oh no I could die! But don’t worry, have a smoke, that will help you feel better.” P141
-We don’t know yet if the terrorizing warnings on cigarettes will help people stop smoking. One thing in their favor is that these can help people not want to start smoking and can help smokers increase their intention to quit. P141
-If you continue to forget to do something you may be avoiding vulnerability it would bring. Do you fear this? If so, recognize it, because it’s easier to deal with motivations you’re aware of than those you aren’t aware of. P142
-The worse a person felt about how much they drank the night before, the more they would drink the next night. P144 (*Perhaps therefore they say, ‘the taller they stand the further they fall.’ It seems that a very good person is very depressed about doing a bad thing, and it consumes them, the thoughts that they, even they, could fall for such a thing. Then they question if what they had stood for so long, namely goodness, is really a possibility at all for them. They compromise at an exponential rate once this initial major disappointment sets in, unless there is an intervention which brings them back on course. Which shows them that they can overcome all things.)
-We feel so bad about a small lapse in our goals that we throw in the towel and say things like “What the heck, I already blew it, I might as well go all the way and really enjoy myself.” P144-145
-Dieters were set up to go on a scale rigged to be 5lbs over, and they reacted to being heavier than they thought by eating more. P144 (*Perhaps they said “I really AM fat! I guess it’s ok for me to act like a fat person.”)
-The most guilt inducing foods are 1. Candy and ice cream 2. Potato chips 3. Cake 4. Pastries 5. Fast food.
-Self-forgiveness can be the best way to improve. Dieters in a study had to eat a donut; half of them were given notes saying “don’t worry about it, everyone indulges sometimes, don’t be too hard on yourself”; the other half got no such note. Then they were to taste test candy. Those who had the self-forgiveness message ate half as much candy in the taste test phase. Many think that forgiving yourself leads to more indulgence, but it leads to more good choices. P146-147
-Some think that if they’re not hard on themselves they’ll never get anything done; they have the inner critic whom is very harsh on them; they recall their parents used commands and punishment, and they carry this on but more intense to themselves. It’s ok for parents to use command and punishment because the kids don’t have a fully developed prefrontal cortex and thus need more help to make choices than an adult. But adults should not treat themselves like children, and especially not like an abused child, over criticized by its parents. We should not say things like these to ourselves, “you’re so lazy! You can’t be trusted to keep your word! What’s the matter with you?” P147
– “Study after study shows that self-criticism is consistently associated with less motivation and worse self-control. It is also one of the single biggest predictors of depression, which drains both “I will” power and “I want” power. In contrast, self-compassion- being supportive and kind to yourself, especially in the face of stress and failure- is associated with more motivation and better self-control.” P148
-Students who forgave themselves for procrastinating for the first exam were less likely to procrastinate studying for the following exams. The less forgiveness, the longer the procrastination. P148
-The self-hating leaves us with the most urgent goal being to soothe those feelings, rather than having the urgent goal to be learning from your experience and learning from that mistake. So, the self-hating leads to comfort coping, often with negative methods. If you don’t use guilt and self-criticism, there’s nothing to escape. “Without the guilt and self-criticism, there’s nothing to escape. This means it’s easier to reflect on how the failure happened, and less tempting to repeat it.” P148-149
-Self-forgiveness, not self-guilt, increases our accountability, keeping us in check. Having self-compassion makes us more prone to take personal responsibility for the failure, makes us more open to feedback and advice from others, and makes us more likely to learn from the experience. P148
-Sometimes feeling guilt can be what leads us to make positive change in our lives. When we are at our lowest can be when we turn around.
-We don’t have to believe that we are the person who made the mistake, we can become a completely different person. P152
-Setting a resolution gives immediate relief and control, but if the resolution is unrealistic, it’s setting us up to fail, and won’t satisfy us. It’s like the reward seeking, the dopamine encouraging us even for unrealistic/non-working things. P152
-We make resolutions large enough to feel good, break them, and make them again when we again feel out of control and in need of hope. This strategy for change fails, it’s a strategy for feeling better, not change! P152
-Changing is harder than resolving to change, hence many people keep going in a cycle of resolutions without ever changing. Imagining ourselves changing is a drug we use to avoid real change. We use this imagining to fix our feelings, when what we really need to do is fix our behaviors. This cycle of imagining is like the rat who pressed the shock lever triggering his dopamine receptors over and over, thinking maybe this time the promised reward will finally come. You need hope and faith, but you also need action! P153 (*See book of James chapter 2 which says that “faith without works is dead”. James 2:18 JST is even more specific: “Therefore wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead and cannot save you?”)
-A little pessimism, call it “optimistic pessimism”, can help you succeed. People who predict how and when they might be tempted to break their vow increases the chances that they will keep a resolution. P154
-Discover what REALLY makes you feel better and give yourself permission to do those things. P154


Ch. 7: Putting the Future on Sale: The Economics of Instant Gratification


-The way humans foresee the future makes them find excuses for instant gratification. We tell ourselves that in the future there will be opportunities a plenty, so we take what’s available right now and use it. In a study, chimps would wait longer for a bigger treat than humans; the humans ate the immediate offer, the chimps waited for the larger later offer; 72% of the time, chimps waited for the larger reward, and only 19% of the time the humans waited for the longer reward. When humans are trying their best, they are much more patient than any animal, but when it comes to these types of things, the human uses its powerful intellect to persuade itself that its ok to indulge now. Humans are said to be the only creature with a serious understanding of the future, but we see the future unclearly, which causes our immediate choices to often be skewed. P157-158
-Delay discounting means a thing is worth less the longer we must wait for it. Even small delays can dramatically lower the perceived value. We trade “peace” today for panic tomorrow. P158
-Ask yourself, “what future rewards do you put on sale each time you give in to temptation or procrastination?” “what is the immediate payoff for giving in?” “what is the long-term cost for giving in?” “is this a fair trade?” “what are you thinking and feeling that lets you put the future on sale?” p159
-Needing to wait 2 minutes to triple the size of a small treat, 80% had the smaller treat now instead of the delayed triple treat. This is “bounded rationality”. We’re rational in theory, but when real temptation comes, the brain shifts into reward-seeking mode to ensure we don’t “miss out” on the “opportunity”. Most people want to do the right thing but lose control in the face of temptation. P159
-Longstanding scarcity has trained us to accept whatever is immediately available so we survive. Today’s society has 20-year goals, etc., a thing perhaps quite different than what humans have been accustomed to when it comes to things like temporal resources historically. P160
-The immediate reward triggers the reward system of the brain which is dopamine induced. Future rewards trigger the prefrontal cortex. To delay gratification, the prefrontal cortex must cool off the promise of reward, which is difficult; we see its difficulty when we recall the rats searing their feet for dopamine, the man wasting his life’s savings on gambling for dopamine. Fortunately, temptation has a narrow window of opportunity; for temptation to overwhelm the prefrontal cortex, the reward must be available now, and for max effect, you need to see it. When you distance yourself from the temptation, the brain shifts back to the self-control system. For example, when people are told of a small reward now vs a big reward later, they chose the big reward later 3x as often when the small reward isn’t put right in front of them. When they saw the reward they acted on feelings, when it was more abstract, they acted on calculations. Also, people who put a candy bar inside a desk rather than on the desk are much less likely to eat it, it being easily accessed in both cases, but not constantly stimulating when inside the desk out of view. P160-161
-Wait 10 minutes before giving in to an immediate reward instead of a future reward. If in 10 minutes, you still think the immediate is better than the future, go ahead and have the immediate. But by the time you’ve waited 10 minutes, you may have changed your mind, because the brain calls a thing you must wait 10 minutes for as a future reward, not immediate. The brain then treats it differently, and the biology changes, giving you more power. P161
-Some studies say that quitting smoking could reverse damage to a smoker’s heart and lungs even in smokers who maintained a pack a day for decades. P162
-One man used the 10-minute delay rule to progress toward quitting smoking. He had smoked a pack a day for decades but made himself wait 10 minutes before smoking when he felt the urge to smoke. Once the 10 minutes had passed, he would allow himself to smoke. In the 10 minutes he would forget about smoking, or call his wife for support, or try to get inside a place he couldn’t smoke like an office or a store to make it harder to smoke. Sometimes he gave in and smoked after 10 minutes, but even saying “ok I’ll smoke but in 10 minutes” reduced much of the stress and panic which occurred at the flat-out “no”. He also eventually extended it to double, that if in 10 minutes he still wanted to smoke, he had to wait another 10 minutes before he could. Eventually this helped him cut down to ½ a pack a day, which helped him believe that he could quit. He was strengthening his self-control. P162-163
-People have different discount rates; different rates of how less worthwhile something is the farther out in the future it is; how long you’ll wait for something relates to long term health, popularity, GPA, SAT, chances of smoking gambling drug use and other addictions, likelihood to save for retirement, likelihood to wear a watch, procrastination, drunk driving, stress management, social life, academics, and prefrontal cortex function. P163-164
-People who learn to look away from temptation or put temptation out of their reach are the ones who successfully resist temptation. Those who stare at it give in. This was seen in the children marshmallow resistance test, seeing if they would choose 1 now or 2 in 15 minutes. P163
-People usually keep the first reward they are offered. If you give a check for 100$ which is good in 90 days, but then offer them a 50$ check that is good today, they keep the first. But the opposite is true, if you give them a 50$ check that is good today, then offer them a 100$ check that is good in 90 days, they choose the first. P165
-We don’t like to lose what we already have. Losing 50$ makes us more unhappy than winning 50$ makes us happy. P165
-We count delayed gratification as a loss, therefore we are willing to accept smaller rewards now instead of larger ones later. P165
-We tell these excuses to ourselves to choose immediate over future reward: “I can really use the money.” “Who knows if the future reward will still exist by then.” P165
-Things we can tell ourselves to help us choose the future reward are like this: “That will buy twice as many groceries.” “I will need the money then just as much as I need it now.” P165
-Future reward discounting drops dramatically when people consider the future reward first. P165
-When you feel like giving in to an immediate reward at the detriment to your future goals, imagine yourself as already having the best future reward, and ask yourself if you would be willing to give up that lifestyle for this current fleeting thing. P165
-One person photoshopped a picture of themselves onto a person in the position they sought; it was to remind them how much they wanted that position, and to make it more real. This picture was referred to in difficult times. P166
-In 1519, Hernan Cortez de Monroy y Pizarro went to Mexico to steal gold. They would fight the Aztecs there. The enemy was intimidating and strong. Cortez ordered his officers to burn their ships (the ships of Cortez) so they would have no option to retreat. He gave them no choice but to go forward. P167
-A nation who pre-commits itself by a policy of immediate and escalated retaliation makes its threats more credible than a nation that expresses reluctance to retaliate. P167
-The rational self and the tempted self are in a war, each with very different goals. Rational self sets a course, tempted self seeks to leave it last minute. Tempted self should be viewed as an unpredictable and unreliable enemy, and we must take steps to predict and constrain that self as if it were another person. We must see their weaknesses and find a way to bind them. (say behavioral economists George Ainslie and Thomas Schelling). P167
(*Ainslie has 3 books, “Thinking about Addiction: Hyperbolic Discounting and Responsible Agency” 2001, “Breakdown of Will” 2009, “Picoeconomics” 1992; Schelling also has several books on human behavior and war strategy)
-One person avoided distraction by destroying the internet capacity on his computer and deleting all irrelevant programs thereon. P168
– “Freedom” (macfreedom.com) is a program which allows you to turn your computer’s internet access off for a predetermined period. P168
-“Anti-Social” (anti-social.cc) is a program which will selectively keep you off social networks and email. P168
– “ProcrasDonate” (procrasdonate.com) is a program which bills you for every hour you spend on time-wasting websites and donates the money to charity. P168
-CapturedDiscipline is a vault safe of solid-steel which can be locked for anywhere from 2 minutes to 99 hours. You could put sweets or credit cards in them etc. p168
-Some gyms can charge you more money for days you don’t show up than for regular attendance. P168
– Stickk.com is a website where you can take bets on whether you’ll gain weight, donate money to a charity if you don’t meet your predetermined goals, add a tax to the immediate reward (perhaps to an organization you don’t support to make failure more painful). P169
-Make yourself a healthy lunch to bring to work before you find yourself salivating in front of a fast food restaurant. P169
-Don’t carry credit cards with you when shopping, and only bring as much cash as you intend to spend. P169
-Set your alarm clock across the room so you must get out of bed to turn it off. P169
– (*There are many books about the downside of caffeine and how to stop using it and energize in healthy ways.)
-One of the biggest challenges for recovering drug addicts is holding on to their money. Many of them don’t have bank accounts. P170
-Have someone to be accountable to. Meet with them or phone to evaluate and encourage each other. This might become even more effective if more than 2 persons are involved. P171
(*while it may be hard to meet with someone, perhaps communicate by texts with a message saying “yes” or “no” at the end of the day which tells the other person if you did your goal as planned that day. Each participant sends the other an outline of the week based on their plan.)
-Recovering addicts can enroll in a program called ATM (Advisor-Teller Money Manager Intervention) wherein a manager has control of their finances, helps them make a budget, and only gives them their money for planned purchases. For unplanned purchases which aren’t in line with the goals, the client must fill out a formal request, and the manager can put a 48 hour hold on the client receiving his money. The manager may also put a 48 hour hold on finances if he suspects the client to be intoxicated or high. The client can be rewarded with more of their money as they stake steps toward recovery like looking for a job, attending rehabilitation meetings, and passing weekly drug tests. This program not only helps addicts with money, but with substance abuse, because they learn to see time and rewards in a different way, and they lower their future reward discount rate. P170-171
-A predictable human error is that we see our future self as a different person from our present self. The future self gets pushed back further and further, and we find our same selves making decisions today as yesterday. We burden our future selves with present selves’ decisions. P171-173
-Students were asked to do an unpleasant thing in the name of science. Some were told it had to be done immediately, others were told it had to be done next semester. Those who had to do it immediately did half as much as they assigned their future selves to do. Students asked to assign amounts of time others should spend in the project gave their peers even more time than they assigned their future selves. P173
-A “deus ex machina” is a Greek tragedy plot device wherein a god descends from above and solves the unsolvable problem at hand. Often, we think of our future selves in this way, and put off what we must do, thinking that they (or someone else) will show up and save us. P173-174
(*Indeed, Christ will come and save us, but from things we can’t save ourselves from. The rest is up to us! “But who may abide the day of his coming? And who shall stand when he appeareth? For he is like a refiner’s fire…” (Malachi 3:2). We must ourselves BECOME Saviors on Mount Zion (Obadiah 1:21)!)
-If we put something off because we are afraid of it, it will become a worse situation. If we are to take on the scary thing which we have been putting off, we must admit that there is no future version of ourselves whom will feel differently about this than our present selves. P174
-We feel different about the future because when we think of our future selves, we use the same areas of the brain as we would to think of a different person. We see ourselves in future events, it’s as though we are imagining not ourselves, but another person. The less active the brain’s self-reflection system when we think of our future selves, the more likely we are to not care about our future selves, and give in to immediate gratification. P175-176
-One person used the future-self bias to raise money. They asked donors to increase their monthly donation, but not starting until 3 months from now. When people were asked to increase in this way, they did so 32% more so than the group which was asked to increase monthly donations starting today. P176
-People are living longer but retiring at the same age, not financially prepared for the extra years. 2/3 of baby boomers have not saved enough money to maintain their standard of living in retirement. A 2010 survey found that 34% of Americans had no retirement savings including 53% of those under age 33, and 22% of those 65 and older. P177
(*This not saving for retirement is especially true when you consider that no one is having any children these days (new average in developed nations being 1.9 children per family). Your children were seen as who would take care of you when you couldn’t any longer take care of yourself, but now no one even has that. It can also be expressed in other venues than financial: a person lives for today and forgets about tomorrow in other ways too; like neglecting to worship God until a crisis occurs, or neglecting time with your spouse and children until crisis occurs, or neglecting the pursuit of knowledge, considering it a thing of naught so long as it brings you no financial reward; I stress this, that we are an economically brained society, whom insists that the solutions for all of life’s problems are financial. We have forgotten the lessons of history which teach otherwise! Industry is good and divine, but not at the cost of other higher priorities.)
-One reason people don’t save for retirement is they see it as putting away money for a stranger. P177
-The more people associate their present selves with their 20 year from now selves, the more money they save for retirement, and the less credit card debt they accrue. P177
-Students whom looked at images of what they would look like in the future were twice as likely to hypothetically budget money toward retirement. P178
-When you know your future self, you’re most likely to be your best self now. P178
-Persons who have low “future self continuity” (not associating their current selves with their future selves), seem to ignore the consequences of their actions. P179
-Imagining the future helps delay gratification. Your brain takes the consequences for present actions more seriously when you think about your future self, even a few weeks ahead. You don’t even need to think about the future rewards of delaying gratification, just think of the future, this itself works. P179
-at FutureMe.org, you can write an email to yourself which will be delivered to your email at a set future time. What would your future self thank you for committing to today? What do you think the future you will be like? Even briefly contemplating such a letter will make you feel more connected to your future self. P180
-In a study, lazy people were measured by imagining their future selves. One group of people were asked to imagine their hoped-for future selves, another group was asked to imagine the future selves facing the health consequences of their present choices, and a 3rd group was not asked to imagine any future self at all. The two groups who imagined the future both became more physically active. The 3rd group who didn’t imagine the future didn’t change. P180
-We often think of the benefits of putting off immediate gratification to save for the future, but some people are obsessed with putting off pleasure in the name of work, virtue, or future happiness. This leads to disappointment and unhappiness in the long run, just like too much instant gratification would. These people can change by looking at the present celebration as an investment, a needed thing to restore themselves for work. They might also consider the regret they would have in the future for not celebrating. P181


Ch. 8: Infected! Why willpower is contagious


-A 2010 report showed that poor fitness spread through the U.S. Air Force Academy like a disease. 3,487 cadets were tracked from high school to the academy. The least fit cadet brought down fitness levels of the others. The best way to predict the future health of a cadet was not his pre-academy fitness scores, but the fitness of the least fit cadet present. P184-185
-Both willpower failure and willpower success are contagious. P185
(*Therefore we want Zion, our own community of faithfulness, where the Savior may come, and the Devil cannot. We want to leave Babylon, and let her drink the fruits of her own labors!)
-The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention track obesity rates (among other things).
In 1990, no state had obesity above 15%.
In 1999, 18 states had an obesity rate between 20-24%, none reached 25%.
In 2009, only DC and Colorado had a rate lower than 20%, and 33 states had over 25%. P185
-People of Framingham have had their data tracked by the University of California, San Diego. They’ve tracked over 12,000 people, including their weight changes, social connections, etc. They found that obesity and other things like drug use, sleep deprivation, depression, and smoking, and quitting smoking, are contagious. When a friend became obese, their own risk for becoming obese increased by 171%. A woman whose sister became obese became 67% more likely to become obese. A man whose brother became obese, their chances were 45% more likely to become obese. These seem to spread (for better or worse) like germs, no one being totally immune. P186
-Mirror neurons in our brain oversee keeping track of what other people are thinking feeling and doing. They are located throughout the brain to help us understand the full range of other people’s experiences. If you pick something up with your right hand, mirror neurons in my right hand will activate, making a representation of what you are doing to try and figure out how and why you’re doing what you’re doing, and to predict what might happen next. If you cut your finger, mirror neurons in the pain regions of my brain will respond, and I will wince and immediately know what you are feeling. The experience of pain I would feel from your injury is so real to the brain that nerves in my spinal cord will attempt to suppress incoming pain signals from my own right hand, just as if I had cut my hand. If I see you eat candy, the mirror neurons in the reward system of my brain will be activated, even if I don’t like the candy myself, because I know it’s something which you find pleasure in. When our neurons see promise of reward in others, they want promise of reward in us. P187-188
(*This brings one to consider, oh the importance of having righteous friends! We see a person do something we don’t agree with and we feel their joy, and this eats away at our defenses until we start to do what they do!)
(*This also brings to consider the wonder of the Atonement of Christ, his knowing the pain of all mankind; perhaps this science is giving us a preview to how the Atonement of Christ was accomplished, perhaps Christ being a God had much greater mirror neurons, among other things, which allow him to know all, including experiences like childbearing, divorce, losing children, and other devastating things of life which he did not experience in day-to-day mortality. We know he suffered the pain of those things during the Atonement, and that there is nothing which we experience which he does not understand, which he has not experienced. We don’t know how this is, but we know it is.)
-Because of mirror neurons which detect movement in others and mimic them in ourselves, we subconsciously copy physical gestures and actions of others like one person crossing their arms then you do, or copying someone as they lean back, etc. This creates connection with each other. P188
-When smokers see someone on a film smoking, the subconsciously move their hands in the motion as though they were about the light a cigarette. P188
-Mirror neurons will mimic pain and emotion, one person’s mood can become your own quickly. TV sitcoms include laugh tracks to get you to laugh. You eat more when you’re in company. You buy more when in company. You gamble higher when you’ve watched someone else win. P189
-Some people get into smoking because people at work do it, and they want to be sociable, so they do it too. At first, they never do it on their own, but since the most convenient thing to do at work is to smoke, it becomes a habit, until they, like their coworkers, pitifully LIVE for their smoke breaks. P189-190
-We are natural mind readers, ever decoding social cues and actions. P190
-Students who read a story about another student who worked over spring break worked harder and faster to earn money in a laboratory task. P190-191
-Thinking about a friend who smokes marijuana makes you want to smoke it and thinking about a friend who doesn’t smoke it decreases one’s interest in smoking it. P191
(*seeing both sides of this shows that we are influencing others, like it or not. There are no neutral people. Your actions or lack thereof scream volumes about your beliefs.)
-You can’t catch someone else’s goal the same way as a flu virus; a non-smoker will not get nicotine craving when a friend smokes. But another person’s behavior can activate a goal in your mind that was not currently in charge of your choices. P191
-If the person you are with makes a bad choice, it can weigh in on you, and cancel out your desire to make a good choice. We have competing selves, the self who wants to do good, and the self who wants to do bad. So, the person you are with can tip the scale either way, overpowering the other part of you. P191
(*I would not suggest that this means that we are bound to fail if we are surrounded by wicked people, I would suggest agency always remains, but that those who choose to be in negative circles are much more likely to become negative, etc. Perhaps you at least subconsciously want to have a life like your friend, even though you technically disapprove of many of their behaviors; being around them lets you feel rebellious without having to feel personal guilt; then one day you give in, and you are your friend. This is not to say we don’t spend time with and befriend those who believe and act differently than ourselves, it’s to say that we must be aware of what we want at core, and be committed to principle, and never flirt with sin. Christ is the perfect example, he was meek (in control) among all types of persons, yet he affirmed to all his company time and again that His kingdom was not of this world! He enjoyed the solitude of the mountaintops where he could commune with God, His Father. There was no hypocrisy or deceit on His lips! He longed for the Kingdom of God, not for the pleasures of Babylon! His friendships were based on love and bringing others to the light, not based on brushing shoulders with sin for a second-hand smoke buzz, or to find reasons why it might be ok to switch to the dark side at least a little, even if only for the sake of “tolerance”. No, He was the Savior. His mission was to save.)
-If you are deeply committed to your goal, seeing someone else break that goal can be repulsive to you, and set your brain on high alert. Thus, in a way it strengthens your self-control, reminding you of how that behavior takes you away from where you want to be. This response being like an immune system reacting to things which threaten you. Daily spend time reflecting on your goals in the beginning of your day to remind yourself that you don’t want to trade your goals for the goals of others. P192
-When you see other people breaking rules, it makes you want to break rules, related and unrelated to the rule you saw being broken. For example, when a study set up people chaining their bikes to a fence near a no bikes sign, people were more likely to put their bikes next to it and were more likely to trespass at the fence. Another example: When people saw others put carts in spaces they weren’t designed to, they did likewise, and were more likely to litter. P192-193
-The 3 rules of how to get high ratings on reality television are drinking too much, picking a fight, and having sex with someone else’s boyfriend. P193
-We don’t need to see someone misbehave for it to affect us; like a lingering germ after a sick person has passed through, even seeing evidence of disobedience can influence us to misbehave. P193
-Thinking about someone with good self-control can increase your self-control. This can be more effective as you think of someone with good self-control whom is a family member or friend. P193
-A virus can spread from one contact with any carrier, but behavior is more so spread with friends, the relationship matters. Even the friend of a friend has more influence on you than someone whom you see daily whom you don’t like. P194
-The immune system attacks things which are foreign, which are “not us.” It doesn’t attack its own cells. This could explain why we get behaviors from people we know, or whom we associate as “with us”. When we see people we don’t associate with, we reject their ways, or attack those viruses not allowing them to be a part of us; but we see those whom are “with us”, and we don’t fight against them. P194
-We think about ourselves and those we love with the same part of the brain. Thinking of self and of mother are almost identical in the brain. This shows that who we are includes who we care about. In many ways we only know who we are through thinking about other people. This makes us very susceptive to tolerating choices of our friends / loved ones. And of course, tolerance leads to adoption. P194-195
-When people were asked why they conserve energy and help the environment, they said it was because they love the planet and want a better world for their grandkids and to save money. They said what others do about these things doesn’t influence their behaviors. But the only consistent predictor of someone’s actions in this was what they thought their neighbors were doing. P195-196
-Social proof is when we see the rest of our tribe doing something, which then convinces us that it’s a smart thing to do. This may be a survival tactic, like when a whole tribe would head east, we had better too, or we would starve alone, etc. p196
-One study put messages on people’s doors about the need to conserve energy and help the environment. Some of the door messages had encouragements like “help the earth” or “help your grandchildren” etc. But the only door messages which made a difference in people’s electricity bills were the ones which said “99% of people in your community reported turning off unnecessary lights to save energy.” P196
-Everyone thinks they are independent leaders, but most are followers. P197
-When you show people that God wants them to be healthy, as seen in Proverbs 23:20 (NIV) “Do not join those who drink too much wine or gorge themselves on meat.” and 2 Corinthians 7:1 (NIV) “Let us purify ourselves from everything that contaminates body and spirit, perfecting holiness out of reverence for God.”, it’s a more powerful motivation than a doctor’s order. Churches should thus teach their congregations of good health. P197-198 (*Mormons are probably the best at this when it comes to preaching physical health as a critical part of religion)
-Some college students were given information on how excessive drinking could damage the ability to think abstractly for 30 days, and other students were given illustrations of a loser who drinks with a warning that you could become like them. Those from the group whom were given the loser handout reported using 50% less alcohol in an anonymous survey taken 2 weeks later. Thus, we see that to discourage an unhealthy behavior, show them it is the habit of a group of people they never want to become. If you want them to do something good, show them it will get them into the best of societies. P198-199
-40% of Americans never exercise p200
-11% of Americans engage in vigorous exercise 5 times per week (that is the standard recommendation for health and weight loss). P200
-14% of adults eat the recommended 5 servings of fruits and vegetables a day. P200
-The average adult eats 100 pounds of sugar a year. P200
-Hearing statistics about how most people make bad choices leads you to say, “what a relief, I’m not the only one / oh I’m normal” rather than “I must change.” P200
-37% of clinically obese people don’t consider themselves obese and consider themselves at low lifetime risk for becoming obese. Now that so many are gaining weight, our internal standard of what is obese is changing, even though the medical standards remain the same. P200
(*I’ve fallen into a similar pitfall, I visited a doctor who told me I was 15 pounds overweight, and thus at increased risk for certain serious medical problems. In my head I merely said “so what, you’re 50 pounds overweight. It must not be so bad.” Of course, this line of logic won’t put me any less at risk for medical problems! What foolishness! We also consider this line of thinking: namely that God would not deny the majority from going to His place of dwelling after this life; while it’s true that all, be they good or evil, will see their creator upon dying (Alma 40:11), it is also true that the path to the highest heaven is a narrow one, whereas the path to other locations is wide and popular (Matt. 7:13). So, what then should we think of God, as a cruel person? No, for all will be blessed, but the highest blessings are not attainable by merely being in the majority or average, except in cases like the City of Enoch when everyone involved was very righteous, but even they had to be removed from most of the society! They were not a super-majority. Let it also be said that being in the mainstream of the Church leads to salvation, as Elder McConkie etc. have noted. We do not say to excuse sin, but to follow the simple instructions of the prophet.)
-If a person is better than average, and learns that, he will slouch toward the center, pooling himself back into the middle. For example, a person shown that they have a cheaper electric bill than most of his community started leaving more lights on, started turning up the thermostat, etc. p200
(*Therefore we must, sooner or later, physically move out of Babylon (D&C 133: 10-12, 14), or none of us will be saved! Therefore, Christ says his coming must be quickened lest even the very elect be lost! (Matt. 24:22; Mark 13:20) This is also why we aren’t to see ourselves as “good” (Mark 10:18, Luke 18:19). Rather, we are to see ourselves in a humble light, otherwise we will be abased (Luke 14:11).)
-The best predictor of weather a student will cheat is the amount he thinks others will cheat. Factors of how hard it is to cheat and weather he will be caught are secondary when compared to this. P200
-Most people overestimate the amount of cheating that goes on in filing tax returns, and the more they think this the more they cheat. When shown statistics of how more are honest with this than they thought, they improve themselves. P200-201
– “Do you ever tell yourself that your willpower challenge is no big deal, because it’s the norm? Do you remind yourself of all the people you know who share the habit? If so, you may want to challenge this perception. The best way to do this is to find the folks who share the behavior you aspire to. Look for a new “tribe” you could join. It could be a support group, a class, a local club, an online community, or even subscribing to a magazine that supports your goals. Surrounding yourself with people who share your commitment to your goals will make it feel like the norm.” p201
-When we see ourselves as being examined by others, it increases our diligence and success. Consider how people will be proud of you or ashamed of you. Social emotions are more powerful direct and quick motivators than rational arguments about long-term costs and benefits. P201-202
-We often see self-control as the triumph of reason over emotion; but what really is going on more often with self-control is the triumph of good emotion over bad emotion. Emotion is very motivating and has much to do with social status. P202
-In one place in Manhattan if you’re caught shoplifting from a grocery store you may be forced to pose for a photo with the item you tried to steal. It will be hung on a wall of shame near the store’s cash register, bearing your name address, and the description “Big Thief” p202
-The threat of being publicly known for the crime of purchasing sex was a bigger motivator to perpetrators to get them to stop than the threat of jail time, having their driver’s license suspended, or having a fine upwards of $1,000. P202
-Shame demotivates us, but the fear of shame does motivate us. This only goes so far. It can keep you from seeking a scandalous thing, but when faced with a scandalous thing, the bad feeling makes you more likely to give in. But have people consider how proud they would be of resisting temptation, and this will not only keep them from seeking scandalous things, but greatly improve their chances of resisting scandalous things they are faced with. p203
-One reason pride helps more than shame is because it takes your mind off the temptation. You think of the joy of righteousness rather than the pain of wickedness. When considering the wickedness, you think of the temptation, and allow it to have power by allowing it to be more present in your thoughts. P203-204
-Guilt decreases heart rate variability and decreases willpower reserve. Pride increases and sustains willpower reserve. P203
(*Pride here might be defined not as thinking you are better than others but thinking that you want to be an honest person, and want to be respectable in society, and that you care about what God and others think about your character. It is the pride which thinks of being better, so you can better serve others, not the pride that thinks of putting others down. Perhaps pride isn’t even the word that we should be using for this trait.)
-For pride to work we need to believe that others are watching and rooting for you and that we will have the opportunity to report our success to others. P204
-People are more likely to buy environment friendly products in public than online, since part of the reason they do it is for social status. P204
-We all need human approval, so put that to good use by thinking of someone who you respect whom would be happy about your good choice. Consider telling them. P204
-People who fail cause us to assume they are weak lazy stupid or selfish, and we justify ourselves in shaming and excluding them. But shame is both cruel and not a good way to motivate people. If shame were a good motivator, there would be no fat people. P205
-After people are socially excluded, they are less likely to resist temptation of fresh cookies, they give up sooner on a challenging assignment, and they become more easily distracted on a concentration task. P206
-When racial minorities are exposed to prejudice they have less self-control. Even merely bringing up discrimination will do this. Anytime we feel excluded or oppressed we feel more like giving in. p206
(*Is it a stretch to believe that this issue can be hyped up by persons with ulterior motives who don’t really care about racial equality to make people become aggressive? No.)
-One weight intervention program required a person to sign up with a friend or family member. They were required to do “support homework” which required having a healthy meal with that person once a week or calling that person on the phone to see how they are doing and encourage them. Among those who entered with another person, 66% maintained weight loss in a ten-month follow-up survey, compared to only 24% whom joined alone. P206
-To have a partner in your willpower goal, they don’t need to have the same goal as you. Just check in with each other. P206
-Get a group of people and compete together on a willpower challenge, who can be the first to finish a procrastinated task, who can save the most money in a month, etc. p206
-Have a person who can email you saying, “Did you do the thing you said you were going to do?” You don’t even have to know the person. Do this with them until the task becomes your nature and you don’t need the messages anymore. P207
-Everything you do is either a temptation or an inspiration to others. P207


Ch. 9: Don’t read this chapter: The limits of “I won’t” power


-When asked to not think of something, it’s hard to not think of it, even if it’s a trivial thing. P209
-Leo Tolstoy was told by his brother when a child to sit in a corner until he could stop thinking about white bears. The brother returned much later to find him still sitting there. P209-210
-One man reported that at a Catholic seminary, they were warned to never ever think about sex, so they were constantly warning each other not to think about it, and thus they thought about it more while at the seminary than they would have out of it. p211
-Suppressing thoughts about someone you like while awake makes you more likely to dream about them at night, more so than intentionally thinking about them does. P211
-Romeo and Juliet are case in point of how forbidden love can become very strong. P211
-Wegner claims that the person trying hardest to not do a thing is the person most likely to do that thing. P211 (*But perhaps this is because they are predisposed to weakness in that area, which explains their increased attempts to avoid said behavior. I wonder if these studies were as random as they need to be to test the supposed claim; you would need to assign people things to try not to do rather than letting them pick themselves.)
-Part of the brain focuses on what you need to do (call it the operator), another part focuses on warning you of danger (call it the monitor). When we don’t have enough energy for the operator to do his part, the monitor will cause us to focus on the bad, and like a Shakespearian tragedy, by trying to prevent your downfall, you’re led straight to it. The monitor doesn’t run out of energy, it is constant. Neuroscientists have shown that the brain is constantly processing the forbidden content just outside of conscious awareness. P213
-When we repress a thought and thus it recurs, the recurrence leads us to believe that it must be an urgent, true message. This illustrates that thought suppression is not the best technique, or at least that it is insufficient alone. P213
-People are more likely to think of plane crashes as they are boarding a plane (especially if they have a fear of flying). Plane crash death probability is 1/14,000,000. Other diseases like nephritis or septicemia, 2 of the top 10 causes of death in the US, are not paid much attention to. P213
-One person had recurring suicidal thoughts. She learned that thoughts we try to get rid of can tend to do this, and this helped her see that she didn’t really want to die, which helped her progress. P214
-Give the monitor the job of monitoring the monitor; be aware of how you suppress things. P214
-The solution to ironic rebound (when the thought you tried to suppress keeps coming back) is to give in, let yourself express a thought you were trying to suppress, and thus it will be less likely to intrude into conscious awareness. Permission to think a thought decreases the likelihood of thinking it. Be willing to think what you think and feel what you feel, without necessarily believing it is true, and without feeling compelled to act on it. This helps anxiety, depression, food cravings, and addictions.
(*I don’t believe that this suggests that we let our thoughts dwell on non-working behaviors. Like President Boyd K. Packer put it, the bird may land on your head, but don’t let it make a nest there. Or like Elder Jeffrey R Holland put it, when a bad thought comes, don’t invite it to stay for tea. Perhaps this allowing yourself to think and feel has to do with recognizing what you are experiencing, identifying the thought or feeling as non-congruent with your beliefs, and tipping your hat to it as it walks by, instead of tripping all over it. Perhaps we could say to ourselves “yes a part of me would quite like that thing. But I can find even greater happiness in the path I’m on. Praise God for pleasure, and for leading me to the only path where it’s to be found in cups over flowing!” We might also praise God for the gift of bodies, and recall the reality of good and evil, and the embodiments thereof, Jesus Christ in the one hand and Satan on the other. That these are both real beings seeking to influence us with all the power they’re allowed to exercise upon us. We recall that God creates, and Satan imitates. After all, Jesus Christ has a body, but Satan has no body. Satan can’t have the joy of a body (the prophets have taught that this is the punishment he has received for all the bad he has done), so he tries to minimize our corporal joy by persuading us to do inappropriate things with our bodies, which are contrary to the laws of nature, which in turn bring the negative consequences of nature.)
-Thought suppression can negatively affect the body even if we think we are getting away with it. It can lead to increased heartrate, depression, and heighten symptoms of PTSD and OCD. P216
-When a person with extreme social anxiety is asked to think of something other than what they are anxious about, the system of attention control in the brain is under activated. It’s as though their operator portion of the brain is worn out, and they can’t help but rely on the monitor part of the brain. Thus, these persons are worse at controlling their thoughts than the average person. They have less power to push away their fears. P217
– “Traditional therapy for social anxiety disorder focuses on challenging thoughts like “There’s something wrong with me” to get rid of the anxiety. This only makes sense if you believe that trying not to think something works. Goldin takes a very different approach. He teaches social anxiety sufferers to observe and accept their thoughts and feelings- even the scary ones. The goal is not to get rid of the anxiety and self-doubt, but to develop a trust that they can handle these difficult thoughts and feelings.” When worries come, notice what you’re thinking, feel the worry in the body, then turn attention to breathing, etc. If worry persists, imagine those thoughts and feelings dissolving with the breath. Don’t fight with the worry, and it will naturally run its course. This technique has shown (based on fMRI brain scans) to decrease stress when compared to the former technique. P217-218
(*The author suggests on page 218 that we obtain freedom from getting rid of guilt, but we must not go too far with this. For example, when prophets cry repentance, we must not condemn their words in the name of living beneath our privileges (Alma 30:28).)
-When a thought comes up over and over, that is a sign that it is not a true thought. Shift your thinking to what you feel in your body; see if your breath rate has changed, or if your heartrate has changed, or if you feel different in your stomach, chest, throat, etc. Then shift your thinking to breathing feelings of exhaling and inhaling. If this doesn’t make the bad thoughts and feelings leave, consider those bad thoughts and feelings as clouds which your breath pushes away easily. “You don’t need to make the thought go away; just stay with the feeling of your breath. Notice that this technique is not the same thing as believing or ruminating over a thought. The opposite of thought suppression is accepting the presence of the thought- not believing it. You’re accepting that thoughts come and go, and that you can’t always control what thoughts come to mind. You don’t have to automatically accept the content of the thought.” Say, ‘Oh well, there’s that thought again- worries happen. That’s just the way the mind works, and it doesn’t necessarily mean anything.’ Don’t say ‘ah the thought again, it must be true, I’m terrible/hopeless/guilty/angry/jealous.’ P219-220
(*But just because bad thoughts happen, doesn’t mean we get complacent with them. We don’t just lounge around thinking about bad thoughts because ‘that’s the way the mind works.’ There are those whom have mastered their thoughts. These techniques seem to be for the novice as he trains unto the higher ways. The master doesn’t though suppress, he is in total control of interpretations, and sees through deceptions, and thus he experiences less cravings for evil. Ex-Smokers can get to where they aren’t triggered by being around other smokers. There is such a thing as healing, even from the deadliest things. And for those who struggle long term and are righteous but still plagued with some bad thoughts, they will finish their fight victorious in the resurrection, wherein all enemies shall be put under their feet, and they overcome all their foes.)
(*We don’t ignore evil, we fight it! We don’t fight evil by ignoring it, but only by facing it!)
(*But the idea that a recurring thought is not true, that could contradict the scripture saying that a revelation from God is a recurring thought, and the thing which is not true we will forget (D&C 8); perhaps the application of this principle from the author is to be considered thus: that there is a difference between a recurring thought, and a nagging thought which frustrates us and makes us angry. Surely no such thought would be of God. Surely the Devil is the author of pestering. God does not nag. God’s influence will send repeated messages to you, but they come when you are under the influence of the Spirit of God; that Spirit brings peace, not anxiety.)
-Rather than indulging in a bad thing to get rid of bad feelings/thoughts, let yourself grieve for your situation. Don’t just push the grief away, there is room for it. Beware trying to get rid of your feelings. Rather, it’s how you react to your feelings that counts. P221
(*This is not to suggest that we tolerate/welcome evil feelings, but that we deal with them in a way which will disable them, and enable us to conquer evil, for righteousness in thought word and deed are the highest goals (Mosiah 4:30).)
-One study showed that thought suppression (being told not to think about a certain thing) made people have only 9 thoughts about something compared to a group whom were told to freely think of the thing whom had 52 thoughts of it (they were all told to think out loud, and such was recorded). This made thought suppression seem great, but then the test of the item being in front of them came (opposed to the metaphysical exercise about the item preceding it), those who had done thought suppression indulged double the amount as those who had freely thought of it. The subject of this test was chocolate. For details on how the experiment was designed to be legitimate, see text. P222-223
-Dieters suppress thoughts about food more than non-dieters, and this makes dieters experience more food cravings than non-dieters, and more likely to binge-eat. P223
-A 2007 review of diets involving food-restriction or calorie-restriction said that there is little to no evidence for weight loss or health benefits of such dieting, and growing evidence of harmful effects of such. P223
-People who go on diets gain more weight overtime than people who start at the same weight but never diet. P224
-Yo-yo dieting raises blood pressure, raises unhealthy cholesterol levels, suppresses the immune system, and increases the risk of heart attack stroke and diabetes. P223
-Restricting food automatically increases cravings for it. P224
-Women not allowed to have chocolate for a given time ate double the amount of sweets in a test. P224
-When we crave foods, it’s not because our bodies crave the nutrients in them. If cravings were like this, we would crave fresh fruits and vegetables. But, as we see, people rather usually crave sweets, etc. Thus, we see that cravings are psychological want more than physiological need. p224
-People were given an assignment to carry but not eat chocolate for 2 days. There were 2 groups: one was told to, when tempted, to say “Let us debate this matter of weather I shall eat. I am not allowed to eat the chocolates, I don’t need one.” This was arguing with self or trying to distract one’s self. These people did poorer than the group whom was instructed to act thus to temptation, to say “I’m having cravings right now! This feels bad. But I don’t have to act on these thoughts and feelings.” This latter group performed perfectly. The former group had more cravings and stress. P225
-4 steps to resist temptation: 1. Notice that you are thinking about your temptation or feeling a craving. 2. Accept the thought or feeling without trying to immediately distract yourself or argue with it. Remind yourself of the thought rebound effect (that things we suppress rather than deal with can be increasingly hard to get rid of, becoming amplified). 3. Step back by realizing that thoughts and feelings aren’t always under your control, but you can choose whether to act on them. 4. Remember your goal. Remind yourself of whatever your commitment is. P226
-A very successful diet is a sort of non-diet; it involves the pursuit of health more so than a list of what you can’t have or do. Focus on what you should eat. Food can bring health and pleasure. Think of things you can do to improve your health like exercise. Rather than focusing on “I won’t”, focus on “I will”. With this type of diet, 2/3 of participants showed in a 16-month survey to have kept the weight off. P227
-The average dieter takes only 16 days to get back to where he was when he started his diet. P227
-Being flexible as to which foods you can have will give you more control and weight loss. P228
-Get the focus off your “I won’t” behavior by getting a new healthier habit to replace it, because most habits are to meet a need. P228
-Considering what you could be doing with your time rather than the bad thing you are tempted to do can be more motivating than merely avoiding the bad idea. Plan what you’ll do with your time, (* & meals, snacks, friends, dating, children, spouse, homework, etc.) P228
-Redefine your “I won’t” into an “I will”. This is more successful. For example, rather than say “I won’t be late” say “I will be early.” p228
– “Surf the urge” technique means to pay close attention to the urge, without trying to change it or get rid of it. Pay attention to what the craving makes you feel and think. Like a wave, it will increase in intensity, but will ultimately crash and dissolve. Ride the wave without fighting it or giving in to it. Many have found success with this. Those who used this technique to deal with smoking cravings, in addition to charting the number of times they smoked and how they felt, had 37% less than what they started with by the end of a week compared to a group whom didn’t use this technique. This technique helps people to deal with their feelings and thoughts in ways other than negative indulgence when they feel bad or stressed. P230-231
-Those who learn mindfulness, surfing the urge, and stress management techniques seem to do better with not using drugs than those from traditional substance-abuse recovery programs, as a 4-month follow-up showed. P231
-Surf the urge technique results in fewer cravings. P231
-Surf the urge technique is a skill which takes time to develop. Its essence is to feel something and not automatically give in. P232
(*This reminds me of what President Henry B Eyring has said, “I can’t be a perfect servant every hour, but I can try to give more effort than I thought I could. With that habit formed early on, I will be prepared for trials later.” (Preparation in the Priesthood: “I need your help”, Oct. 2011 Conf. Report))
-We think that cravings to do something need to be pursued lest they swell up inside of us and we burst like a volcano, but, these will pass, and you’ll be better off not having acted on them. P233
(*This is like the masturbation claim that it’s necessary because of semen “build-up”, but, when not in active use, the semen doesn’t build up, the body stop creating as much. The “let it go regularly or it will negatively affect you” argument is debunked!)


Ch. 10: Final thoughts

-We are multiple selves: the self who wants immediate gratification, and the self with a higher purpose. P237
-We were born to be tempted and born to resist. P237
-While it’s human to feel stressed scared and out of control, it’s also equally human to find the strength to be calm and in charge of our choices. P237
-Self-control is about understanding yourself more than about fundamentally changing yourself. Learn how to deal with the part of you that wants immediate gratification. P237
-The great secret of self-control is paying attention; train the mind to recognize when it’s making a choice instead of running on autopilot. Notice how you give yourself permission to procrastinate, or how you use good behavior to justify indulgence. P237
-The future you isn’t flawless and isn’t so different than the present you. P237
-Look for what influences around you shape your behavior. P237
-Notice when a craving comes! Recognize it, and remember what you really want, what really makes you feel better. P237


Toolbox Summary

-Exercise (immediately improves all areas of life like a wonder drug powerful as Prozac, increases willpower).
-Think about people who have strong will.
-Think about willpower experiments from this text, etc. (yes, this itself does improve willpower).
-Photoshop a picture of yourself onto a person in a position you wish to be in.
-Imagine yourself as already being what you want to become, then consider weather what you’re about to do is consistent with WHO YOU ARE.
– Wait 10 minutes before giving in to an immediate reward instead of a future reward. If in 10 minutes, you still think the immediate is better than the future, go ahead and have the immediate.
-Spend a few minutes at the beginning of the day thinking of your goals (helps you resist temptation).
-Put the tempting thing out of sight (it will lessen the brains attraction); distance yourself from it any way possible.
-Sign up for a weight loss program with a friend, and check in with them regularly for analysis and support.
-The best exercise plan is the one you’ll actually do.
-Relax (not TV staring or overeating, rather something that truly rests you as evidenced by drop of blood pressure and heart rate).
-When you think you can’t go further / hold out any longer, you can. Your brain tricks you.
-Not yelling at your kids is not yelling at yourself, and benefits everyone.
-Beware stores are trying to manipulate you.
-Beware thinking you’re awesome after some success or you’ll fall soon thereafter.
-When you want to reward yourself for good behavior, do so in a productive way, not in a way which self-sabotages. The real you is virtuous, not vile.
-Tomorrow won’t be easier than today, so start your goals now.
-Don’t let a side of salad allow you to forget your main course is unhealthy.
-Exercise is anything that you can say no to the following questions: 1. Are you sitting, standing still, or lying down? 2. Are you eating junk food while you do it?
– “Rewards”/splurges you think will leave you happier will usually leave you sadder.
-Leave credit cards at home when shopping.
-In your mind, separate the desire for something for the result of having that thing. To help, consider how you feel after participating in the thing you’re looking forward to. You’ll find often the pursuit is more thrilling than receiving what you pursue.
-There are 2 versions of you; label the bad/impulsive/wild/mean one (the one operating off the primitive brain instead of the prefrontal cortex); naming this part of you can help stop it from taking over. Some possible names could be “the procrastinator”, “the cookie monster”, “the critic”, etc.
-Mindful-eating (eat slowly and see how the food really tastes and how it makes you feel afterward).
-Candy bowl in the open to practice resistance.
-Consider each failure as one you must repeat every day for the next week.
-Decrease variability.
-“Dopamize” your dull tasks with a reward or music or scents.
-Beware of ‘magic words’ trying to sell you things.
-See yourself as the good you whose goals are a way of life not the bad you who wants to be rewarded with vice every time they have a successful episode in virtue.
-Beware dopamine triggers will make things more appealing than they are.
-Adequate sleep (under 6 hours is sleep deprived).
-Get sleep recently (it might not be how much sleep you get but how long since you had some sleep that makes the biggest difference).
-Preload sleep (sleep extra before an event which will require you to not get much sleep).
-Catch-up-sleep (can restore you back to normal).
-No cell phone light an hour before bed.
-Try thinking about breathing.
-Limit the amount of times you’ll look at phone notifications in a day.
-Stop and think for a few minutes before you make a choice which you could regret. If in 10 minutes you still think it’s a good idea, go for it.
-Catching yourself when your mind drifts (this helps you throughout the day to catch yourself when your mind is drifting from important topics).
-Avoid being distracted when you go shopping or you’ll buy extra stuff.
-Avoid distractions when eating or you’ll eat extra stuff.
-All temptations are intensified when you don’t have adequate sleep.
-You’ll improve in what you persist in, despite of age.
-Beware late nights which is when the brain often overemphasizes unimportant things as being more important than they are.
-Play memory games for 25 minutes a day (better memory and attention).
-Hold still while meditating (so as to learn you don’t need to follow every impulse).
-Live where there is clean air (to improve your heart rate variability).
-Breathe slowly, 10-15 seconds per breath, 6 breathes per minute.
-If you break your goal today, force yourself to break it for the next 7 days. This increases the weight of your choice and makes you less likely to cave in today. It highlights a truth that we are not stronger tomorrow than we are today, that the time to act is now.
-When you notice a craving, acknowledge it without immediately acting on it. “Alas, I’m craving this. That doesn’t mean I’m bad, and doesn’t mean I will do it, this just happens sometimes. This will pass soon. I will be happier from pursuing my goals than I would be in giving in to this thing. This craving is not in accordance with my true self. I’m feeling pain in my body which might be relieved from giving in to this craving, but that’s not true, I will just feel worse if I give in. There are other more truly pleasurable and lasting ways to satiate my real needs.”
-Consider each inhale and exhale of breath as wind which easily pushes away clouds of negative feelings and negative thoughts.


New Current Research


Compiled by Nate Richardson, June 2017


– In one study, people who worked out at 7 a.m. slept longer and had deeper sleep cycles than those who exercised at 1 p.m. or 7 p.m. (Effects of exercise timing on sleep architecture and nocturnal blood pressure in prehypertensive patients. Fairbrother, K., Cartner, B., Alley, J., et al. Vascular Health and Risk Management, 2014; 10: 691–698.)
-red fitness clothes; red increases excitement, energy levels, and circulation (Perception of the color red enhances the force and velocity of motor output. Elliot AJ, Aarts H. Emotion (Washington, D.C.), 2011, Aug.;11(2):1931-1516.)

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