Narrative Rationality: Be Mindful Of Your Self-Description

Pay attention to self-description: the story you tell yourself and about yourself. Cultivate productive habits that don’t require conscious decisions.

“It is a profoundly erroneous truism, repeated by all copy books and by eminent people when they are making speeches, that we should cultivate the habit of thinking of what we are doing. The precise opposite is the case. Civilization advances by extending the number of important operations which we can perform without thinking about them.”
Alfred North Whitehead in An Introduction to Mathematics

Tony Schwartz builds on this in “The Only Way to Get Important Things Done

The counterintuitive secret to getting things done is to make them more automatic, so they require less energy. It turns out we each have one reservoir of will and discipline, and it gets progressively depleted by any act of conscious self-regulation. […]

The proper role for your pre-frontal cortex is to decide what behavior you want to change, design the ritual you’ll undertake, and then get out of the way.  Indeed many great performers aren’t even consciously aware that’s what they’ve done. They’ve built their rituals intuitively.

Self-Description: The Story You Tell Yourself and About Yourself

I have blogged about the importance of monitoring the story that you tell yourself, suggesting in “Be Careful of How You Tell Yourself ‘The Story So Far’” that an entrepreneur who called himself stubborn and a frequently failing as “persevering and continuing to experiment.”

To be able to see yourself as persevering it’s useful to remember Eric Hoffer’s advice:

“Our achievements speak for themselves. What we have to keep track of are our failures, discouragements, and doubts. We tend to forget the past difficulties, the many false starts, and the painful groping. We see our past achievements as the end result of a clean forward thrust, and our present difficulties as signs of decline and decay.”

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