本视频由The Great Courses Plus Courses赞助播出
This video is made possible by The Great Courses Plus.
Click a link in the description to get your free trial.
This is Odin, also known as the All-father.
He will become the wisest and most powerful
of the Norse gods, but not yet.
For now, he hangs from Yggdrasil,
the world tree that holds all nine worlds together,
with a spear lodged in his chest.
He will hang there for nine days, and nine nights,
on the border between life and death.
All the while, he peers down into the magical waters of the well below,
calling out for the godly knowledge of the runes.
Satisfied with his sacrifice, they emerge,
revealing to him their wisdom and bestowing him with great power.
Odin had given himself to himself.
Or, more specifically,
he sacrificed his present-self for his future-self.
It’s no coincidence
that he had to perform the greatest sacrifice for the greatest reward.
This story is, at the least, a metaphor for self-sacrifice or self-discipline.
And, it’s one that we have been telling for generations.
Humanity has held the virtue of self-control in such high regards
that it’s a staple in most religions and the moral of many myths.
In Christianity, the first sin – eating the forbidden fruit –
was a lapse in self-control.
In Greek mythology,
evil entered the world when Pandora could not control her curiosity
and opened the box.
This myth, in particular, has even entered our everyday language.
If I want you to avoid a temptation,
for fear of causing disastrous consequences,
I might warn you against”opening Pandora’s box”.
The elevation of this virtue to
religious and mythic proportions highlights a commonly
held belief: self-discipline plays a huge role
in leading you to your best future, as
in the case of Odin, or your worst one, as with Pandora.
If this is true, it seems like it would be great
if we could all have some more self-discipline.
But, what is self-discipline?
People often use the term to describe someone who makes
“good” long-term decisions by overcoming short-term temptations.
But, when you ask them how they overcome these short-term temptations,
they often invoke some sort of *will* or *willpower*.
What *will* actually means isn’t really obvious.
But, before we get to that,
let’s start at the beginning: the decision.
At any point in time,
you’re making a decision on how to act.
The difficulty arises when you have
to make a decision between what’s immediately gratifying
versus what is not gratifying now,
but will be in the future.
In other words, the difficulty lies in delaying gratification.
But, what causes you to not act impulsively?
The reason for any single decision you make is multivariate:
基因 激素 进化 社会环境
genes, hormones, evolution, social environment,
物理环境 过往经历 形势背景
physical environment,past experience, context of the situation,
and a multitude of other factors all play a role.
But, the most immediate cause of any
of your actions can be traced back to your brain activity.
When discussing self-discipline,
one of the best places to start is with the neurotransmitter dopamine.
In his book *Behave*,
Robert Sapolsky puts forth an example that clarifies at least one
of the primary roles of dopamine in our brains.
Let’s say that I take a monkey and stick him in a cage.
Now, I put a lever in there that,
if he pushes it 10 times, rewards him with a raisin.
Next, I turn on a light that comes
on before the lever enters the cage.
In other words,
the light signals that the lever will be entering the cage which, in turn,
signals that the monkey will be able to get a raisin.
As a result, the monkey learns to associate the cue (a light)
with the reward (a raisin).
Interestingly, the monkey will begin to release more dopamine
in response to the light than
he does when consuming his reward.
Contrary to popular belief,
*dopamine is about anticipation more than it is about reward*.
Certain cues in our environment hint
at a potential reward and dopamine starts to rise in anticipation.
*Dopamine is what gets us to take action with respect to a goal.*
So, how does this relate to self-discipline?
Let’s say that you’re deciding
between an immediate reward and a delayed reward.
When you think about the immediate reward,
dopamine is sent to certain parts of the brain known as limbic targets.
When you think of the delayed reward,
dopamine is sent to a different part of the brain known
as frontocortical targets.
If the part of the brain associated with delayed reward is more stimulated,
you’re more likely to delay gratification.
Again, dopamine plays a role in *driving* our action.
So, how does your brain decide how
much dopamine is sent to each part?
Again, this comes down to several complex factors such
过往经历 基因 激素
as past experiences, genes, hormones,
社会环境 物理环境 形势背景等等
social environment, physical environment, the context of the situation and so on.
the brains decision is affected by how pleasurable the reward is
and how much time it takes to get that reward.
Here’s an example to help you understand it intuitively.
Let’s say that I make you an offer:
you can have $ 100 today or $ 100 tomorrow.
The reward is the same but the time delay is greater in the second scenario.
You’ll probably take the $ 100 today
because there’s no point in waiting until tomorrow.
But, what if I said that you could get $ 100 today or $ 200 tomorrow?
It’s more likely that you’ll be willing to wait,
if an extra $ 100 is pleasurable enough.
But, what if I said that if you wait
until tomorrow, you could get $ 101.
You’ll probably revert back to taking the $100 today.
Your brain does multiple calculations like this every time you decide.
It creates a sense of wanting or reward seeking based
on the speed and size of a reward.
So, how do you end up determining what rewards to seek?
To live life is to have desires.
The world fills you up with needs and wants,
inviting you to come and interact with it.
Every time you satisfy a desire,
you receive an internal reward and a belief forms about how you did it.
When that desire re-emerges,
your brain activates the corresponding belief circuitry and dopamine releases,
in anticipation of the reward,
which motivates you to repeat the same action as before.
In other words, you begin to form a habit.
With each repetition,
the neural pathway strengthens and you solidify the habit’s role as the solution to your desire.
Here’s the punchline:
habits mediate the relationship between an individual’s
desires and their environment.
To change the habit, the individual, the environment,
or both have to change,
and that’s why self-discipline is so hard.
We have little control over the biology that determines our desires.
According to Sapolsky,
individuals with ADHD have abnormal dopamine responses when thinking
about immediate rewards vs delayed ones:
they’re biased towards impulsive action.
Individuals who experience a childhood adversity
are more likely to have an underdeveloped frontal cortex,
making delayed gratificationmore difficult.
Eventually, we may be able to change an individuals biology using science,
but the morality and long-term consequences of this are questionable.
There is a part of our biology that *is* more malleable: the brain.
An individual can be changed with education.
As people learn more about the world,
they can test out new beliefs and reinforce new behaviors. But,
this leads me to the heart of the issue.
Self-discipline is much more of an environmental problem than it is an individual one.
While an individual can change their beliefs and behaviors through education,
the resources available for education are presented by the environment.
Furthermore, the habits an individual builds to meet their desires are,
in large part, a product of what’s available in the environment.
A study done by neuroscientist Carl Hart found
that when meth addicts were given a choice
between $5 and 50mg of meth,
the addicts took the $5 half of the time.
When he increased the value of the cash reward to $20, they almost never took the drug.
He found similar results with crack cocaine addicts.
Hart suggests that addicts are actually rational decision makers,
and will choose not to take a drug when there are “alternative reinforcers”.
It seems that drug habits are more likely
to be formed when individuals are in an environment
that offers no alternative or competing ways to meet their desires.
Bruce Alexander found similar results when he conducted his now-famous study: *Rat Park*.
Prior to Alexander’s study,
it was commonly believed that addiction was caused primarily by drugs.
When you take a drug, you get addicted.
That’s how the story went.
Alexander noticed that most drug-related studies occurring at the time placed rats in isolation.
He wondered if this played a role
in the rats deciding to take the drug.
It turns out that it did.
When rats were in isolation,
it wouldn’t be a surprise to see them consume a drug until they died.
But, when Alexander constructed a “Rat Park”
给老鼠提供了朋友 性伴侣 玩具等等
complete with friends, sexual partners, toys,
and so on, rats were much less likely to take the drugs.
Both of these studies present an interesting idea:
addiction is much less likely to occur
when you have greater access to alternative ways to meet your own desires.
In his *Meditations,* Marcus Aurelius said that,
We were born to work together like feet, hands and eyes,
like the two rows of teeth, upper and lower.
To obstruct each other is unnatural.
To feel anger at someone, to turn your back on him: these are unnatural.
People are a product of their environments a lot more than we like to think.
By acknowledging this, we can have more compassion
for one another but, more importantly,
we can begin helping one another.
By providing people with as many opportunities
as possible for learning and alternative ways to meet their needs,
we can eradicate the problem of self-discipline.
我最喜欢的一个学习的地方就是The Great Courses Plus网站
One of my favorite places to learn is The Great Courses Plus.
They’re giving all of our viewers a free trial
that gives you access to top-notch lectures and courses
from some of the best professors in the world.
They have a huge library of over 10000 videos about nearly anything you can think of,
科学 哲学 烹饪 摄影等等
science, philosophy, cooking and even photography.
If you enjoy this video,
I think you’ll enjoy the course called the scientific secrets for self-control
by psychology professor C. Nathan DeWal.
They offer several science based tips for improving self-control
so I highly recommend taking advantage of the offer
and checking it out if you’re interested in that.
You can get access to your free trial by going to thegreatcoursesplus.com/freedom
or clicking the link at the top of the description to take you over there.
As always, thanks for watching, and I’ll see you soon.
本视频由The Great Courses Plus Courses赞助播出