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Literally everything is about taming the octopus.

Rabby

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I just wanted to mention this. Whenever I think about discipline and especially impulse control, I say "taming the octopus."

I call it that because the human brain is a lot like an octopus. No, really. It's always reaching out for things, stretching in several directions, holding on to something here while it moves its attention to that thing over there.

If you let it run wild, it's ruinous. But we have lots of traditional or recommended activities that are really no more than "taming the octopus."

Here are some examples:
  • Meditating to stop your mind from constantly wandering to "wanting" things and impulsively wasting time, shopping, etc.
  • Exercising control over impulse spending by following a budget, plan, savings routine, etc.
  • Fasting for all but a 2 hour period during the day to stop impulse eating.
  • Observing periods of silence to control wasteful, impulsive, or harmful speech.
  • Observing days of rest to reduce anxious, frenetic, wasteful activity.
  • Using business controls to avoid impulsive or useless spending, and busywork.
  • Limiting phone/email/facebook checking to certain times, or certain days, to avoid obsessing and task switching.
  • Using timers to divert your attention to a single activity, after which you can follow other impulses during a short break.
I could list these things forever, but the point is that they're the same abstract thing. You have an octopus in your head, and its tentacles are reaching for everything around you. To get any real work done, or to reach any goal, you have to tame the octopus, and learn to point those tentacles in one direction, doing one thing, for greater lengths of time.
 

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Rabby

Rabby

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Recent example of double-octopus-taming...

We were looking at what we buy, and noticed we bought more than we "should" on Amazon.

Not that it was causing financial trouble or anything. But really, do we want to invest that money, or spend it on every new model of hair barrette? Do we value empty space in the house, or bottles of every herbal supplement that claims to instantly solve some problem? Let's go with investing and empty space, and nix the barrettes and weird supplements.

So what to do? I said, "let's only buy from Amazon on Friday." Any other day, we just add things to the cart or the list. Now instead of two people's impulses costing money and creating clutter, we have a new control.

The impulse is separated from the gratification, and that makes a big difference. The octopus will overload you with information, clutter your house, and give you diabetes and chronic anxiety. You don't want to kill it because it's your octopus. But you need to tame it!
 
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Rabby

Rabby

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I just want to document here what I also said over here on this other thread. A great thread.

For anyone struggling with discipline, I recommend challenging your assumption of what the word means.

Some of us grew up thinking discipline is what happens when the grownups pull the switches down from the wall.

Or we think it's that painful moment at the end of a long run. We think it's gritting our teeth through something painful. But that is not discipline... it's just gritting our teeth through something painful.

The biggest feature of discipline is not following every impulse. That includes both active and inert impulses.

We choose our behavior, directing it by establishing a pattern of our choosing. Without establishing those patterns, we're at the mercy of, again, the octopus.

We'll follow every shiny object, every momentarily interesting thing, every potential mate, every potential business, every excuse to stay in bed, every distraction.

And by following everything, we'll get nowhere and do nothing.
 
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Rabby

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Reaching for facebook. Reaching for sugar. Reaching for alcohol. Reaching for possible-future-conversations that it can worry over. Reaching for entertainment. Reaching for a snack. Reaching for a smoke. Reaching, reaching, reaching. Reaching for all manner of distraction.

To tame the octopus, you have to teach it to be still.
 
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Rabby

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I like that as a metaphor for self acceptance ;). Nice thread btw! And interesting writing style.
Thank you :)

Excellent observation Rabby.
The subject is dealt with well in a book called The Chimp Paradox by Prof. Steven Peters. He refers to it as a chimp.
Sounds like a fun read, I will have to check it out!
 

ChrisV

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Literally Everything Is About Taming The Octopus.

I just wanted to mention this. Whenever I think about discipline and especially impulse control, I say "taming the octopus."
bump.

After many years of life, I've come to the same conclusion. And the data backs that up.

Great thread.
 

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