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We Have Met the Enemy

We Have Met the Enemy: Self-Control in an Age of ExcessWe Have Met the Enemy: Self-Control in an Age of Excess by Daniel Akst
My notes from reading are below:
My rating: 3 of 5 stars


A meandering exploration of self-control and the many ways it can impact our happiness and health among other aspects of our lives. While the general theme of each chapter is cohesive the book overall doesn't hold together, in particular I felt the book was missing a compelling final chapter that drew the various facets of self-control together.



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6: Studies of teenagers have found that self-disciplines is a much better predicator of academic performance than IQ ...
12: ... first-order desires, to describe the grab bag of appetites and longings that seem to best us without conscious intervention. ... those essential desires that you actually prefer - we'll call second-order desires.
14: ... self-control doesn't mean, in my book, is mindless self-sacrifice or knee-jerk self-denial.
18: ... roughly one-third of all U.S. deaths are attributable to just three behaviors: smoking, inactivity, and a lousy diet.
21: This myopic way of choosing is sometimes called melioration; ...
26: ... too many calories lowers brain-derived neurotrophic factor, a protein importnat for the brain's development.
28: In America, states with the highest rates of gun ownership have higher rates of suicide, ...
30: A low flow of serotonin in to the prefrontal cortex - the section of brain most important for self-control - seems to increase impulsivity, break down inhibition, and raise the odds that you'll take your own life.
34: ... precommitment, because we use them to constrain ourselves in advance against the foreseeable strength of some future desires.
38: ...; some evidence suggests that people are happier with choices that are irrevocable, ...
49: ... the TV habit may offer short-run pleasure at the expense of long-term malaise."
63: ... "paradox of thrift" - was that if people saved too much, everyone would be poorer, because a lack of spending can kill the economy.
72: Anomie means lacking clear norms, standards, or ideals.
77: Lonely people have a harder time concentrating (attention management is a key element of self-control), ...
82: ... enkrateia, which means roughly "self-command."
84: ... sophrosyne, which means something like temperance or self-mastery.
86: ... akrasia simply meant a lack of self-command, so that your desires run away with you contrary to the dictates of reason.
93: ... asthenia, which means, roughly, weakness. The weak person does what is bad in full knowledge of what is good, ...
93-94: ... propeteia, or impetuosity, ... acts without even thinking of whether he does good or ill.
153: Modern life simply requires an unnatural degree of self-control, and one of its side effects is self-control fatigue.
156: ... prefrontal cortex is the seat of our supervisory functions as well as our ability to conceive of the future.
169: ... women have more self-control than men.
181: ... "matching law" ... animals (including us) acting freely will spend their time doing things in direct proportion to the relative value they get from each.
191: ... driven biologically to place inordinate value on immediate rewards. ... hyperbolic discounting - ...
196: Low self-control, by the way, predicts not just criminality but also victimization.
196: ... when it comes to self-control, heredity probably accounts for 60 to 75 percent.
209: Addiction, it seems, is at least to some extent voluntary - ...
217: Procrastination is a ruse. We know what's really going on, but we want badly to be fooled.
220: ... if guilt means feeling bad about what you do, shame means feeling bad about what you are.
224: A small daily task, if it be really daily, will beat the labours of a spasmodic Hercules."
241: ... our preference for lesser, sooner objects over larger later ones - will lead us to pursue our own short-run interests in ways that are damaging to ourselves and our society.
264: "Being our better selves is biologically costly."

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