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12 Rules for Cultivating Moral Virtue, An Antidote to Sin; Rule 6: Decisive Action Empty 12 Rules for Cultivating Moral Virtue, An Antidote to Sin; Rule 6: Decisive Action

September 1st 2020, 7:14 pm
Message reputation : 100% (2 votes)
There is a rather distinct difference between knowing what actions you ought to take, and actually following through on them. I almost feel uncomfortable writing about this topic because it is something I am rather terrible at. However, upon further introspection, it has become rather apparent to me why exactly I am so terrible at taking decisive action. So I would ask, not that you trust my insight on the basis that I am particularly good at this, but rather that you would trust my insight on the basis that I am intimately familiar with my own failures and the reasons behind them.

The key to taking decisive action is a recognition and confidence in your own agency as a person. In my meditations and prayer, I have discovered that at the root of my acts of procrastination, laziness, and cowardice, there is a profound lack of faith in my own sense of agency as it relates to my actions and circumstances. I, simply put, often refuse to accept or take responsibility for my own level of control over the situation. I think of a hundred reasons why not to do something. I tell myself it’s fine and that I’ll do it later, to the point at which deep down I don’t even trust the commitments I make to myself. I utterly loathe victimhood culture, yet at the same time my subconscious finds it so easy to interpret myself in a position of victimhood in many situations. And because of this, I often obscure my own motivation to act behind a self-defeating veil.

There are, I believe, a few methods by which one may combat this self-defeating attitude, one of which was written about and dubbed “the five second rule” by a motivational speaker named Mel Robbins. She advises that a person ought to at least begin to take action within five seconds of recognizing that they ought to do something, otherwise one’s motivation will quickly sour due to the demoralizing effects of their own psychology. Chances are, you can probably recall numerous instances where you realized you ought to do something, and the longer you were contemplating it, various anxieties connected to the action argued against it, or laziness and other tempting distractions began to draw you away from it, until finally you dropped the matter altogether. By contrast, once you begin to take action, it will more likely set you into a sort of motion whereby continuing the activity requires less willpower than the initial decision to begin with.

One might imagine the human being as possessing a particular kind of inertia in their action or inaction, where a person in motion will stay in motion unless sufficiently acted upon, and a person at rest will stay at rest unless sufficiently acted upon. To provide a mental image, imagine the human being as a large object to be moved, the human will as the force attempting to move it, and the demoralizing effects of stress, anxiety, and weariness as the reactive force of friction. Within physics it is generally the case that the coefficient of static friction is greater than the coefficient of kinetic friction, meaning that it takes a greater force to budge an object in contact with a surface than it does to keep said object in motion against that surface. In much the same way, the demoralizing psychology within a person contemplating whether or not to take action is likely to be a greater burden against the human will than the actual stress in the moment of performing the action. Continue to imagine that the surface the object rests upon is something akin to mud, and that the longer the object rests upon the surface, the deeper into the mud it will sink, and the more force will be required to bring it into motion. In much the same way, the longer the human being stays inert, the more their brain will manifest reasons for them to remain as such, and the greater the burden their will needs to overcome to set them in motion. The essence of the five second rule is to get that object moving before it sinks into the mud.

This is not, of course, to say that all impetus towards action should be seized upon within five seconds. Indeed sometimes the risen impetus towards action is demonstrably negative, the action itself genuinely requires more thinking through, or you are already engaged in another task that takes priority. What I am calling for is disciplined decisive behavior, not impulsive behavior, and so the five second rule, while useful, is a rule that must be executed alongside patience and prudence for the sake of proper action. It will not lend itself over to every situation, but I’m willing to bet that it lends itself over to way more situations than any of us actually apply it in.

Another piece of advice for cultivating a habit of decisive action is the practice of scheduling, of planning out certain tasks you know you ought to do and committing to them ahead of time. If practiced properly, such planning will aid in your alertness towards actions you ought to take, and give you a commitment ahead of time which you feel impelled to follow through on out of a sense of integrity and loyalty towards your commitments. One danger I would warn against, however, is overplanning, and I would do so for two reasons. The first of which is that you ought not to become a tyrant over yourself and put such harsh demands upon yourself that they embitter you against yourself, which can be rather demoralizing. Secondly, for your sense of loyalty towards your established commitments depends largely upon whether you placed any trust in them when you made them. By overplanning, you run the risk of making yourself a promise which is too large to properly keep, and thus you, not believing yourself when you made the commitment, are unlikely to hold yourself to proper account for the completion of that which was promised. Rather you should begin with promises you can reasonably expect yourself to manage which are themselves actual commitments, so that you may avoid tyrannizing yourself, letting yourself off too easy, or almost paradoxically finding a way to do both at once.

A second danger I would warn against as it regards planning is to avoid mistaking thought for action. When I was speaking with my therapist about my own laziness, he observed that I, as a “very cerebral person,” tend to subconsciously mistake thinking about doing something for the doing of the thing itself. In other words, when you have decided to do something ahead of time, you ought to consciously and deliberately recognize the fact that the task remains undone until you actually do it, rather than letting yourself off the hook for it just because you have decided to do it at some point. In this regard, the practice of alertness is one that is once again very crucial to the taking of decisive action.

Finally, it is very important, once again, that you cultivate a respect for your own agency as a person. Avoid framing your life merely as things happening to you, and instead primarily consider your life as a consequence of your own decisions and actions. As tempting and gratifying as it may be in the moment to indulge in the reprieve of resignation to what you might consider a fate imposed upon you by the outside world, particularly in the adoption of a kind of victimhood mentality, what you are actually doing is regarding yourself as a mere object or prop, only to be moved or impelled into motion by sufficient external force. Instead you ought to recognize yourself as an agent, as an animating force that drives your actions and a not insignificant portion of your circumstances.

One of my favorite thinkers, Dr. Jordan B Peterson, has repeatedly made the statement “clean your room,” which has since become something of a meme on the internet. The idea behind that statement, however, is partly in an exercise of agency. That when you actually take responsibility for something almost entirely within your control, you can actually recognize the effects of your own actions, in contrast to the lack of effect complaining about politics or the current state of our society actually has. In the former instance you are engaging with your own capacity to make a difference, while in the latter you are usually doing little more than making yourself a victim, often with the delusion that you are somehow actually doing the former.

Many of the previously discussed practices for cultivating moral virtue are also particularly useful here. As discussed earlier when covering this practice, alertness to your responsibilities is essential, and honesty in your own commitment to said responsibilities is also very important, both of which impel you towards their fulfillment. A practice of delayed gratification is also helpful, as it lessens the compulsion of temptations which would otherwise draw you away from the task at hand, assuming they did not prevent you from commiting to the task to begin with. In the longer term, to properly form a habit of decisive action it is also paramount to exercise gratitude, to derive and hold onto a humble gratification in one’s accomplishments and their fruits (while, of course, avoiding falling into arrogance).

The practice of taking decisive action is, primarily, a practice meant to cultivate the virtues of fortitude. By habitually taking upon the stress and burden of labor, one builds their capacity for and the virtue of diligence. Likewise, in the repeated action of taking a leap of faith against a rather self-defeating psychology (vis a vis the five second rule), as well as conceptualizing and proving oneself as an active agent, one builds confidence in their own sense of agency manifested in the virtue of courage. One could also say the practice of decisive action has the secondary effect of aiding in the cultivation of prudence, as in action we find more circumstances in which we may exercise our judgment, as well as experience from which we may draw upon for our future judgments.

12 Rules for Cultivating Moral Virtue, An Antidote to Sin; Rule 6: Decisive Action Empty Re: 12 Rules for Cultivating Moral Virtue, An Antidote to Sin; Rule 6: Decisive Action

September 2nd 2020, 12:37 am
Agree with pretty much everything you wrote.

From spring of 2019 up until covid hit I was pretty much at full momentum, fueled by my innate masculine desire to achieve excellence and acquire power. I made a radical 180 change in my pursued major, and even landed a well-paid corporate internship in said field, using this drive and passion, in the span of a year.

Acquiring self-discipline is not an easy task for most people; otherwise the world would be a much nicer place. For me it started with extensive martial arts training as a child.

On my desk, I have several sticky notes of day-to-day and weekly task lists from months ago, most of which have lines crossed through as a sign of completion. I also have a larger paper with long-term goals for the next decade. That good habit has since stopped

Sadly, the "train" that I was fueling towards excellence has lost nearly all it's momentum, and is only creeping along the tracks. I hate the victim mentality, but will admit that Covid has been quite the obstacle. No more gym routine, extremely limited in-person networking opportunities, loss of former extracurricular activities involving other people, and online classes with the increasing probability that I may graduate without stepping foot on campus again, has worn me down.

I consider myself to be an introverted person, but much of my energy has come from the people I'm around. Networking is imperative for securing a decent job now that I'm at the tail-end of my college career, and is extremely limited atm. It is important to be around people who you can learn from and who you share similar ambitious goals with.

For the sake of my mental health, I "postponed' my short-term ambitions since, like, April, and have given into the unproductive habits I had successfully quit prior.

Currently my room is messy--Peterson was right about that--and my days are largely occupied by the internet, video games, junk-food, and the minimum required effort to perform sufficiently at these joke of online classes (which everyone is cheating on).

I feel like a helpless teenager again stuck in my parent's house with limited options. Had I not forced myself to mentally withdraw, the rapidly welling anger and frustration at the situation was making me impulsive, violent, and lose control--nothing good could have come of it. I hit the scram button to shut down the overheating nuclear reactor.

I think of this entire situation as a prison sentence. My release date is when things return to normal, or when I graduate and am free of those chains. I realize I choose to have nothing good come from this, and I am more or less "throwing away life".

To say something akin to Darth Maul's quote: I have waited soo long for this opportunity to thrive. I can wait a little longer.

Until then, Tame Impala

"To be Sith is to taste freedom, and to know victory"

I have tasted success. It is addicting. I will rebound from this.
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