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Guide on Willpower and GTD (Getting Things Done)

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Guide on Willpower and GTD (Getting Things Done) Richard Zen 12/15/13 3:20 PM
RE: Guide on Willpower and GTD (Getting Things Done) sawfoot _ 12/16/13 7:50 AM
RE: Guide on Willpower and GTD (Getting Things Done) Richard Zen 12/16/13 8:19 AM
RE: Guide on Willpower and GTD (Getting Things Done) Jenny 1/17/14 10:57 PM
RE: Guide on Willpower and GTD (Getting Things Done) (D Z) Dhru Val 1/18/14 9:13 AM
RE: Guide on Willpower and GTD (Getting Things Done) Richard Zen 1/18/14 11:58 AM
RE: Guide on Willpower and GTD (Getting Things Done) Yuliya Yakhontova 1/18/14 4:48 PM
RE: Guide on Willpower and GTD (Getting Things Done) Richard Zen 1/19/14 10:31 AM
RE: Guide on Willpower and GTD (Getting Things Done) Andrew Mayer 1/19/14 1:14 AM
RE: Guide on Willpower and GTD (Getting Things Done) Richard Zen 1/19/14 10:28 AM
RE: Guide on Willpower and GTD (Getting Things Done) Yuliya Yakhontova 1/19/14 7:46 PM
RE: Guide on Willpower and GTD (Getting Things Done) Richard Zen 2/2/14 8:10 PM
RE: Guide on Willpower and GTD (Getting Things Done) Richard Zen 2/17/14 11:02 AM
RE: Guide on Willpower and GTD (Getting Things Done) George S. Lteif 4/17/14 4:19 AM
RE: Guide on Willpower and GTD (Getting Things Done) Richard Zen 4/17/14 7:07 PM
RE: Guide on Willpower and GTD (Getting Things Done) Colleen Peltomaa 7/5/14 12:49 AM
RE: Guide on Willpower and GTD (Getting Things Done) Richard Zen 7/5/14 1:12 AM
RE: Guide on Willpower and GTD (Getting Things Done) Richard Zen 6/29/14 8:21 PM
RE: Guide on Willpower and GTD (Getting Things Done) Richard Zen 11/19/14 12:09 PM
RE: Guide on Willpower and GTD (Getting Things Done) Richard Zen 4/26/15 1:01 PM
Many of us want to get things done and change habits and often many of us think the use of meditation is part of the solution. I’ve seen lots of connections between the meditation and conventional ways of using willpower and decided to put them together in a web of connections that people can pick and choose to use what works for themselves and discard what doesn’t work for them. A little warning from an article by Kenneth Folk:

Why meditation is not a productivity tool

In a recent WIRED Magazine article about meditation in San Francisco and Silicon Valley, Noah Shachtman writes that some tech folks consider meditation a productivity tool. If you’ve read the article, you might even have come away with the impression that I share that view. I don’t.

It’s not that I have anything against the idea; I think it would be wonderful if meditation boosted productivity. I just don’t have any reason to believe that it does so with any consistency. For some people, the enhanced focus and creativity that often comes from training the mind through meditation might translate into Getting Shit Done (GSD). For others, greater intimacy with their bodies and the inner workings of their minds might result in Getting Less Shit Done (GLSD?) as they reconsider what is most important in their lives. Having discussed this with a fair number of meditators over the last 30 years or so, my sense is that one outcome is about as likely as the other.


So depending on your goals and interests the following can be used with meditation practice more or less because meditation by itself will probably not be enough. A variety of approaches will help to nudge you in the direction you want.

The main organization of this information will be the book Willpower - 12 tools by Frank Martela, PhD. I will include some of Daniel Ingram’s insights on Magick and the Brahmaviharas, self-discipline advice from Martin Seligman’s Flourish, and Getting Things Done by David Allen. All these references have more detail and can be read in more depth to gather more information as you need it.

Willpower - 12 Tools by Frank Martela, PhD

Getting Things Done - David Allen

Flourish - Martin Seligman

Willpower is the ability to make sure you do the right thing.

Doing the right thing involves different tools. If you are motivated to do the right thing a lot of the tools can be skipped. If you are not motivated you need to strengthen the willpower muscle, improve the attitude, build the right habits, and design a supportive environment.

You also need to be aware of what your main goals are in life and what the right thing is. Lots of people have goals in their mind but to put it on paper or some other media in an organized manner and an easy way for you to get at them can relieve stress because your mind doesn't have to worry about remembering all of them. Completing and putting tasks behind you also reduces stress for the same reason - it's not on your mind. It's done.

Here's a list of what many people think are the right things to be done but are often incomplete and swim in our minds with worry, from Getting Things Done by David Allen:

Incompletion "Trigger" List

Moving these things out of your head and onto some organizing platform like the Pomodoro Technique or some app is up to you. Use a system you are likely to stick with.

Naturally these practices should be used for good. Don’t turn to the dark side! So many people use their willpower in nasty ways and that not need to be the case. A reminder of the Brahmaviharas would be helpful:

Daniel Ingram - Magick and the Brahmaviharas

  • Loving-Kindness (Metta): the natural well-wishing for one's self and all beings.
  • Compassion (Karuna): the natural wishing that the suffering of one's self and all beings will cease.
  • Sympathetic Joy (Mudita): the natural appreciation of the successes, good fortunes and joys of ourselves and all beings.
  • Equanimity (Upekkha): the feeling of peace that comes from realizing that all beings are the true heirs of their karma and that their well-being depends on their actions, and not on our wishes for them.


Daniel's link above has lots of details about concentration/magick that should be read in detail if you use jhanas to strengthen your intentions.

Consciousness plus intent produces magick. Anything that was produced by these two, even if present in the smallest way, is a magickal act or product.


Of great significance are also underlying abilities of the Agent performing the act. Very briefly:

The degree of Concentration skills will have a direct effect on the power behind the act, and this is particularly true for Unnatural Magick and Immediate Magick, though it applies to all other types as well. Most magickal practitioners greatly under appreciate the degree to which very strong Concentration skills open doors to experiences and abilities. A hyper-concentrated mind becomes malleable, pliable, bright, and jumps to the task with great facility. At a certain point in concentration, suddenly things just happen by merely inclining to them. You wish to draw a symbol in the air: there it is, trailing off your finger like syrup. You wish to visualize an image: it appears fully formed, luminous, extremely detailed and radiant. You wish to jump out of body off the cushion, suddenly you are out, just like that. You wish to have deep intuition into some situation, there it is. You wish to see past lives, there they are. Learning to concentrate well, which usually takes days to weeks of practice to set up properly, opens a universe of ability that those who have never really learned to concentrate and set up that way might occasional visit in spurts and flickers but otherwise will never know.

The Confidence of the Agent: never underestimate the ability of someone who truly believes they can succeed, or the degree to which a lack of confidence can scuttle an otherwise very well-set-up magickal act.

The level of Singlemindedness of the Agent. Having the sum total of one's attention, passion, and intent dedicated to one act is much more likely to result in stronger effects than the mind that is distracted or divided.

The Familiarity of the Agent with that specific act will also make it much easier: practicing an act makes it easier and easier, with some notable exceptions that are too complicated to detail here.


Motivation:

• Whenever it is possible, try to find a way to get excited about the thing you have to do, because that way it turns from an energy-draining activity into an activity that can actually give you energy.
• Just reminding yourself of the positive outcomes you are aiming for helps you to remember what makes you motivated for the activity.
• Before using your willpower to push you to do something, think if there’s a way to make that activity so interesting that you actually feel pulled to do it. Find a way to make your current activity more motivating, or find new activities that are more motivating for you, because it both gets you where you want to go – and you’ll have more fun while getting there.

The following book review “Meet your happy chemicals” has a good list of motivations for most humans. Creating and achieving those tasks that facilitate pleasant experiences will be naturally motivating. You will also be able to read the motivations of others quite clearly.

Meet your happy chemicals

The muscle:

• Willpower means your ability to make a conscious choice between two desires. Willpower is only needed when there is a conflict within you.
• The more you use your willpower the better you will get at it.
• The most common desires humans fight are related to eating, sleeping and drinking, followed by leisure, social contact, and usage of different media like TV/internet.
• As you use willpower throughout the day it gets depleted. Though ironically having an attitude that willpower doesn't get depleted can offset some of the tiredness.
• Use willpower to avoid temptations, rather than to survive them.

Attitude:

• There is the role played by the right kind of attitude. The more you believe in yourself and in your willpower, the easier it is to fight urges.
• Motto: If you think you can, or if you think you can’t – you are probably right.

Environment:

• The best way to use your limited willpower resources is to change the situation so that you do not actually need willpower at all to do the right thing.
• So when facing a willpower challenge, ask yourself first, is there a way to tweak your habits or your environment so that you never have to face an open battle.
• The most energy efficient way to make sure you do the right thing is to live in an environment where doing the wrong thing is impossible. Eg. The way your home, office, desk, gym, and computer are arranged, and what behaviour the enable and prohibit.
• Your behaviour is molded by the people you spend time with. The happiness of your friends usually gives a good estimate of your own happiness, and the same goes for weight, political opinions, and other factors of your life.

Tools:

The tougher the challenge the more tools are needed.

Tool 1: Blood sugar: Eat well and sleep enough.

Tool 2: Effective resting.

• Schedule your activities according to your willpower level.
• Make strategic resting a part of your daily routine.
• Manage your energy, not your time.

Tool 3: Train your mind with the "Zorro Circle". Instead of trying to control everything at once, you can start by finding some corner that you feel you are able to control. Instead of cleaning the whole apartment, clean the kitchen table. When you master it, you conquer some new ground (kitchen floor?), and with increased confidence you can soon face challenges that seemed unimaginable a few months before.

Tool 4: Commit yourself fully to your target.

• Precommitment is an essential building block of strong will.

I also like the reminder from Seligman on the massive amount of time and persistence needed to achieve difficult goals:

GRIT and achievement

Elements of achievement:

• Skill X Effort = Achievement

1. Fast – The sheer speed of thought about a task reflects how much of that task is automatic; how much skill or knowledge relevant to the task a person has.
2. Slow – Unlike underlying skill or knowledge, the executive functions of planning, checking your work, calling up memories, and creativity are slow processes. The more knowledge and skill you have (acquired earlier by speed and deliberate practice), the more time you have left over to use your slow processes and, hence, the better the outcomes. (Planning, checking work, and creativity)
3. Rate of learning – The faster your rate of learning – and this is not the same factor as your sheer speed of thought about the task – the more knowledge you can accumulate for each unit of time that you work on the task.
4. Effort = time on task. The sheer time you spend on the task multiplies how much skill you have in achieving your goal. It also enters into the first factor: the more time spent on task, the more knowledge and skill will stick with you. The main character determinants of how much time you devote to the task are your self-discipline (GRIT).

Tool 5: Forgive yourself in order to learn from your mistakes.

Tool 6: Don’t fight or flee, instead pause and plan. The pausing [I would insert mindfulness] allows you to make choices based on reason instead of your gut.

Tool 7: Build the right habits

• Breaking in a new habit. Make a decision that you do something for the next two weeks, in order to break it into your system. [This fits in well with the 45 days approach in “Meet your happy chemicals”].
• Rerouting an existing habit. Reroute your brain into a new path. You might have been conditioned so that a certain trigger leads to certain desires and behaviours (eg. Beer -> smoking), and the task is to condition oneself anew so that the same trigger leads to a new desire.
• Delay gratification. A promise of future gratification has been shown to be a good way of abstaining from something in the present moment.
• Think anew your challenge – Perhaps your challenge is not about saying yes to bed at 11:30, but about saying no to the computer after eleven.

Tool 8: You get what you measure. Increasing your self-awareness increases your willpower. [Here I like the Pomodoro Technique]

Tool 9: Small steps, big rewards. Another crucial element is celebrating the small successes. Ambitious targets animate the ambitious parts of your mind. But what about the part of your mind, which is more animated by present pleasures than remote abstract accomplishments?

• Promise yourself concrete, tangible rewards, and you will notice that the more pleasure-oriented part of your mind also pushes you toward your target – instead of pulling you away from it. When the prior steps create some progress, succeeding steps often feel easier.

Tool 10: So whatever your temptation is, take a look at your environment and think: Is there a way to avoid it altogether?

• Subtle environmental cues can greatly influence what you end up doing. Creating software limits on time in the internet, limiting bank transactions etc can make it easier to avoid.
• Marketers know very well how to manipulate environmental cues with advertisements, supermarket designs. Getting hit with these environmental cues over and over again can weaken your willpower.

Tool 11: The 20 second rule. [From The Happiness Advantage book].

• Create temporary barriers to an old habit that last around 20 seconds. The mind goes towards the path of least resistance and in many cases 20 seconds of resistance is enough to stop you from continuing the old habit.

Tool 12: You are who you hang with.

• People around you give you ideas, values, and advice that influence your choices. The options you see as possible for yourself as regards career, for example, are much dependent on the role models in your neighborhood. You are all the time picking up cues about what is acceptable and what is not based on what you see other people doing. As a social animal, you have a compulsive need to “fit in” and prove yourselves, even to complete strangers.
• If you can recruit a support group with whom you can together aim towards the same goal, this could greatly increase your chance of success.

So good luck in getting things done in this life.

RE: Guide on Willpower and GTD (Getting Things Done)
Answer
12/16/13 7:50 AM as a reply to Richard Zen.
Tools:

Tool 13: Use software like Freedom or Leechblock to block time-wasting on-line forums....

RE: Guide on Willpower and GTD (Getting Things Done)
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12/16/13 8:19 AM as a reply to sawfoot _.
Cool that would fit perfectly with the Environment section. emoticon

RE: Guide on Willpower and GTD (Getting Things Done)
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1/17/14 10:57 PM as a reply to Richard Zen.
Thanks, Richard, for putting this all together in one place. The substitution method is working well for me with eating, and an added benefit is that it shows me that I can be less all-or-nothing in my evaluations. For example, maybe it would be better for me not to eat at all than to eat either an apple or a fistful of m&ms, but, now, if I see the candy in the kitchen at work and I walk over and eat an apple instead, I win! I'm making the relatively healthful choice without feeling deprivation, so I'm not using up much of my daily allotment of willpower. Moreover, the craving for the candy completely passes, and I learn that I do not have to be so all-or-nothing to make achievable improvements in my health.

Since I first read some of your recommended materials, I've also actually just flat out lost the craving to be on certain unproductive, unhealthy forums. I've substituted better forums and readings.

Yes, meditation should be the ultimate substitution, but one step at a time. . . .

The Zorro Circle tool is interesting, too. I've experienced good success with this sort of thing via ADD protocols. But one thing that always disrupts my Zorro Circle is the illusion that I need to carefully choose which corner to begin on. Actually, the choice can be nearly random, so long as it is relatively easy. Success breeds success.

RE: Guide on Willpower and GTD (Getting Things Done)
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1/18/14 9:13 AM as a reply to Richard Zen.
Some very good information in Richard's post.

This sort of thing has been my focus for the last year or so. And it does work very well.

But I think that insight / meditation does help quite a bit, for example here is a tool that has helped me a lot...

Tool: Change your identity

You need to develop an identity as if you already are the sort of person you would like to be. Then take actions to have reality match up to your identity.

For example, if you want to be fit, for instance. Start moving your identity towards that of a fit person. You eat the foods a fit person would eat. You enjoy the activities a fit person enjoys. You get some level of ego based gratification out of being a fit person etc.

If there is some understanding of things like no-self, and emptiness. There is a lot less clinging to old identity and a readiness to accept a new one.

The process involves replacing old unhealthy thought patterns, and dismantling negative emotional conditioning that you have picked up over your life.

The more traditional / slower way of doing this without meditation is via journaling or cognitive therapy.

But if you develop insight and concentration, you can catch old thought patterns as they occur and dismantle them. Then use that as a trigger to fabricate new useful thought patterns. It is also possible to fabricate a level of aversion via identity to things like harmful foods and substances.

A good dharma compatible purpose use for this is to develop an identity as someone who takes massive action and accomplishes great things for everyone's benefit.

Although the initial change takes some will power. Overtime the will power required is minimal, it just becomes who you are.

Without some understanding of annata and emptiness I suspect a this type of identity change would be much more difficult. Because of clinging to notions of a 'true' identity, resulting from sub-conscious belief in the inherency of thoughts and emotions.

RE: Guide on Willpower and GTD (Getting Things Done)
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1/18/14 11:58 AM as a reply to (D Z) Dhru Val.
Thanks! Really good advice.

RE: Guide on Willpower and GTD (Getting Things Done)
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1/18/14 4:48 PM as a reply to Richard Zen.
Thanks a lot for posting this!
Recently I've been spending enormous amounts of time trying to figure out the way to ultimate will-power and how it is related to meditation and vs. versa.

RE: Guide on Willpower and GTD (Getting Things Done)
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1/19/14 1:14 AM as a reply to Richard Zen.
In my experience it is Tool 5 that probably undermines the practice of so many people looking to achieve. Being equanimous with a period of failure, and accepting that you cannot know when success will come, is one of the best tools I have developed for success over the last few years. It is also one of the greatest values for personal achievement that can be strengthened with meditation and mindfulness.

I call it "just sitting with it". Everything worth doing has a period where you seem trapped in failure. You know other people have achieved something, and you know that *you* haven't. You may have read everything you can, modeled the techniques of others successfully, but still aren't getting the results that you see others have. It's easy to see yourself as a failure, or that it somehow isn't achievable by you. The "trick" is recognizing that the lock you're attempting to open isn't one that doesn't have a key, or that you need a magical lockpick. It's entirely possible that you do have the key, but simply don't understand how or where the it fits into the lock! IE, you don't have the experience you need.

Failure is what will alert you that you have to try again, either more skillfully, or with a different effort based on what you've learned from your previous effort.

There is, in my experience, nothing more powerful that sitting with your failure while attempting to continue to reach your goal. And despite the pain and shame that can come with that, you must not only continue to try, but you must also do it with vulnerability, creativity, and a willingness to keep failing until you succeed. A corollary to that is that sometimes success does not give you the result you were expecting, and you must redefine success and/or goals based on your experience.

RE: Guide on Willpower and GTD (Getting Things Done)
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1/19/14 10:28 AM as a reply to Andrew Mayer.
I had a similar experience in that I was dealing with academic failure and I had to push myself further. It was really hard but I ended up passing the exam with flying colours. I was in self-judgement mode and had to let it go. I just thought "you know what, it's okay if I fail, but I'm curious to see how far I can go with my studies". By making it into a science experiment where I could ACCEPT failure I could improve myself and just stay with it. Waiting for the exam results was more of a "let's just see what happens". Performance does not = self-worth

When I got a good result my brain went into chemical rewards to the point of enormous distraction but while waiting for the results I fretted less about it because I knew I did as much as I could. When you know you did as much as you could there's solace. If you procrastinated or put together an inferior strategy and should have been obvious then there's more guilt.

solace

comfort or consolation in a time of distress or sadness.

RE: Guide on Willpower and GTD (Getting Things Done)
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1/19/14 10:31 AM as a reply to Yuliya Yakhontova.
Yuliya Yakhontova:
Thanks a lot for posting this!
Recently I've been spending enormous amounts of time trying to figure out the way to ultimate will-power and how it is related to meditation and vs. versa.


Don't forget that, there is always cortisol involved in any work and you can still burn-out. Rest is necessary.

RE: Guide on Willpower and GTD (Getting Things Done)
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1/19/14 7:46 PM as a reply to Andrew Mayer.
Andrew Mayer:
In my experience it is Tool 5 that probably undermines the practice of so many people looking to achieve. Being equanimous with a period of failure, and accepting that you cannot know when success will come, is one of the best tools I have developed for success over the last few years. It is also one of the greatest values for personal achievement that can be strengthened with meditation and mindfulness.

I call it "just sitting with it". Everything worth doing has a period where you seem trapped in failure. You know other people have achieved something, and you know that *you* haven't. You may have read everything you can, modeled the techniques of others successfully, but still aren't getting the results that you see others have. It's easy to see yourself as a failure, or that it somehow isn't achievable by you. The "trick" is recognizing that the lock you're attempting to open isn't one that doesn't have a key, or that you need a magical lockpick. It's entirely possible that you do have the key, but simply don't understand how or where the it fits into the lock! IE, you don't have the experience you need.

Failure is what will alert you that you have to try again, either more skillfully, or with a different effort based on what you've learned from your previous effort.

There is, in my experience, nothing more powerful that sitting with your failure while attempting to continue to reach your goal. And despite the pain and shame that can come with that, you must not only continue to try, but you must also do it with vulnerability, creativity, and a willingness to keep failing until you succeed. A corollary to that is that sometimes success does not give you the result you were expecting, and you must redefine success and/or goals based on your experience.


Really appreciate this insight, Andrew.

As well as your point about avoiding 'beating yourself into exhaustion', Richard.

RE: Guide on Willpower and GTD (Getting Things Done)
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2/2/14 8:10 PM as a reply to Richard Zen.

RE: Guide on Willpower and GTD (Getting Things Done)
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2/17/14 11:02 AM as a reply to Richard Zen.
CBT

RE: Guide on Willpower and GTD (Getting Things Done)
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4/17/14 4:19 AM as a reply to Richard Zen.
Thanks for sharing!!

RE: Guide on Willpower and GTD (Getting Things Done)
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4/17/14 7:07 PM as a reply to Richard Zen.
Something on perception I found in Wikipedia:

Construal levels

Thinking that is characterized by high construals will view goals and values in a global, abstract sense, whereas low level construals emphasize concrete, definitive ideas and categorizations. Different construal levels determine our activation of self-control in response to temptations. One technique for inducing high-level construals is asking an individual a series of “why?” questions that will lead to increasingly abstracted responses, whereas low-level construals are induced by “how?” questions leading to increasingly concrete answers. When taking an Implicit Association Test, people with induced high-level construals are significantly faster at associating temptations (such as candy bars) with “bad,” and healthy choices (such as apples) with “good” than those in the low-level condition. Further, higher-level construals also show a significantly increased likelihood of choosing an apple for snack over a candy bar. Without any conscious or active self-control efforts, temptations can be dampened by merely inducing high-level construals. It is suggested that the abstraction of high-level construals reminds people of their overall, lifelong values, such as a healthy lifestyle, which deemphasizes the current tempting situation.

RE: Guide on Willpower and GTD (Getting Things Done)
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6/29/14 8:21 PM as a reply to Richard Zen.

RE: Guide on Willpower and GTD (Getting Things Done)
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7/5/14 12:49 AM as a reply to Richard Zen.
Hello, Richard, the word "construals" was new to me, but I did study Latin, but I decided to look it up:


"Construal is a social psychological term that refers to the way in which (or the process of) people perceive, comprehend, and interpret the world around them. We all need to interpret the world around us so that we can make sense of the world and determine our own actions and judgements. For example, imagine you are walking down the street and in front of you someone stops, falls to the ground, grabs their chest, and starts to turn blue. You would begin to interpret this situation, running through all the possible explanations for this situation and the person's behavior. Is it a joke, are they choking, having a heart attack, is this an emergency, etc. This would be construal - your interpretation of the situation."

"con·strue  (kn-str)v. con·struedcon·stru·ingcon·struesv.tr.1. To adduce or explain the meaning of; interpret: construed my smile as assent. See Synonyms at explain.2. Grammara. To analyze the structure of (a clause or sentence).b. To use syntactically: The noun fish can be construed as singular or plural.3. To translate, especially aloud.v.intr.1. To analyze grammatical structure.2. To be subject to grammatical analysis.n. (knstr)An interpretation or translation.[Middle English construen, from Late Latin cnstruere, from Latin, to build; see construct.]"

Now I will go back and continue to read your posts, thank you.



RE: Guide on Willpower and GTD (Getting Things Done)
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7/5/14 1:12 AM as a reply to Colleen Peltomaa.
That's a good description.  If you just stay with details of objects (especially details that trigger likes and dislikes) you'll probably act on those low-level construals.  A high level construal will likely be values and goals so those reminders can keep you on track with them. 

Asking why is good but I like how the Dalai Lama gets us to look with more detail at the pros and cons of our desired objects so that the reaction is more realistic.  The amygdala is a little bipolar in that it likes things 100% and dislikes things 100%.  So for example when a person goes from OK behaviour to slightly bad behaviour then another person judging will flip between 100% liking of the person to 100% disliking instead of something more nuanced.

RE: Guide on Willpower and GTD (Getting Things Done)
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11/19/14 12:09 PM as a reply to Richard Zen.

RE: Guide on Willpower and GTD (Getting Things Done)
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4/26/15 1:01 PM as a reply to Richard Zen.