Monday, January 23, 2012

Janathon 2012 Day 23: Willpower and Janathon

Janathon 2012 Day 23: Walk - 3 miles, Time - 55min, Weather - blustery, mainly grey
I don't know if Janathon is an exercise in willpower or not. Last year I got into the habit of going out each day for at least a minimal amount of exercise. For many months it was not difficult until at the beginning of November a huge weariness welled up inside of me and I lost all desire to continue. The ending certainly showed no will power but did the preceding days count for anything?
I don't know the answer but I do know that I have established a routine that allows Janathon to proceed without strain (the key is walking) and it doesn't feel as if I am being strong minded at all.  For me this is critical. If I feel I have to gird myself, tense every mental muscle, and be very strong minded - I inevitably fail. I do not have have confidence in an iron resolve and I am not implacable. However I get things done if I can engage my interest or imagination and ally them to a framework - they are my willpower substitutes.
I am thinking about this because of a slashing review by Will Self on a book about willpower. Such powerfully distilled disdain is always entertaining, except if you are the author. But I don't think he is wholey right. He spends quite a few words on mocking the idea that academic progress comes in finding ways to test well know ideas, not necessarily in the ideas themselves, but that is not ridiculous. Progress does come this way and sometimes it is hard to disentangle the simplest of ideas from its confounding factors (e.g the benefits of exercise). Also there is an idea that Self treats as a commonplace that is new to me: too much willpower in one area can weaken it in another. I had thought of it as an attribute not a finite resource.
I can't defend the book against the review though - I haven't read it and have no desire to do so.
What I do like in the review is the anecdote at the end about trying to get up from a chair. The way to do something is simply to do it and not wally around pretending. in Janathon terms that means getting out the door. No how complicated is that?

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