Cultivating Discipline–or is it Motivation?

Cultivating Discipline–or is it Motivation?

This post has been sitting as a draft for some time, which is a little ironic, considering the topic. I keep coming back to it, though, to incorporate new ideas as I talk to people and read. Informal research result: there is very little consensus about the difference (if any) between discipline and motivation and about how much control we have over them. What better place to start, then, than with two diametrically opposed perspectives? From there maybe we can come up with a useful synthesis that can help us answer some questions like: --Are some people just naturally more disciplined? And, as a follow up: What's the correct phrasing--"to be disciplined", "to exercise discipline", "to exhibit discipline", "to practice discipline"? --Can we increase our discipline? --What about motivation--is it just fickle inspiration that comes and goes on its own unintelligible schedule? First, a quick overview of the dichotomous arguments. One perspective is that motivation is useless (nsfw) and that discipline is what actually allows us to get...
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My Posture is Apalling

My Posture is Apalling

My posture is pretty dismal. When I’m cooking, I’ll notice that I’ve been holding my shoulders tight up by my ears for an unknown length of time. On my bike, I suddenly realize that I’m arching my lower back, hunching forward at the shoulders, and jutting my neck forward so that the weight of my head pulls on tendons and connective tissue that have better things to do. My jaw is on perma-clench. I devolve into a quarter-sitting, three-quarter slouching, chin tucked heap while reading in bed at night, and wake up with a stiff lower back. It’s abysmal. But there’s hope, even for twisted bone bags like me! The first step is realizing that there’s a problem, people. Much of our (I’m including you in this now, too) bad posture is the result of existing among chairs, desks, and tables that  entreat us to sit for hours on end. Smartphones, tablets, and laptops vie for our craned necks, and...
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Mason Jars FTW!

Mason Jars FTW!

Mason jars are many-splendored things, possibly one of the most useful hipster discoveries ever. We use them for all kinds of things around the house. If you visit Pinterest and type in “Mason jar”, you’ll be overwhelmed by the plethora of ways to employ these humble glass vessels. They can be transformed into lunchboxes, planters, candles, organizers, storage containers, and...candles. There are a lot of candle ideas for Mason jars on Pinterest. I understand they can be used for canning, too. While I still need to get organized around canning and preserving, we find plenty of uses for Mason jars that save us money and exposure to chemicals that lurk in lesser, petroleum-derived containers. When making homemade beef bone stock, I pour strained stock into quart or half-gallon Mason jars and then let it cool overnight in the fridge. Since they are made of tempered glass, they can take the heat of almost-boiling stock and not crack. We’ve brewed kombucha, sun tea,...
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75 Things to Do Other Than Watch TV

75 Things to Do Other Than Watch TV

I was once in the home of someone who works for Netflix. I loved that they had a canvas on the wall that said “Kill Your TV” in large letters. Surrounding this in smaller letters were ideas of things to do instead of watching TV. So instead of just grumbling to myself while the TV is on in my house tonight, I decided to channel (see what I did there?) that energy and fight the TV by making this list. And I decided to make it a longish list to challenge myself. I'm not saying never watch TV...OK, maybe I'm saying that a little bit. Occasionally, there are useful bits of information on TV. But it's always info you can get more efficiently--without ads--somewhere else. If you like watching movies and that adds something to your life, go for it. The list below is a list of alternatives to the default inactivity of so many. (Optional first step: Kill your TV.) Then: Workout--lift...
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Skepticism: A Follow Up

Skepticism: A Follow Up

I just read an article called "Skepticism About Skepticism" by Tania Lombrozo on the NPR website (via my friend Ryan Woods on Facebook). It’s a nice follow-up to the cynicism vs. skepticism post I wrote a couple of weeks back, and specifically addresses a key vulnerability (Ryan’s words) of skepticism: that it more often is used to reject unsupported claims than to search for claims that are well-supported. As Lombrozo puts it, “If the aim is to detect signal--and not merely to reject noise--then an educational win would require greater differentiation between warranted and unwarranted claims, not merely rejection of the unwarranted.” She also warns that if taken too far, skepticism can lead us to miss finding those well-supported claims that we should believe. This is the opposite intended effect, I would say, of a thorough skeptical approach. But certainly it is a blind spot--if we are constantly looking to question and reject, we might not spend much time on something that...
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The Way to an Easy Life

The Way to an Easy Life

Most lonely quotations--you know, the ones you see pop up on your social media feeds--are kind of like what Taylor Mali derided as “the wisdom of the bumper sticker”. Or they are trotted out every spring at graduations as advice. But these are used as if there are shortcuts for actually having to figure things out through experience. Either way, they are shorthand for a bigger idea, or philosophy, or worldview, but are separated from any context or constructive discussion. So they aren’t all that useful. But some quotes--quotes that summarize and resonate with actual life experience--are useful in maintaining discipline. And I came across one the other day that is a perfect example of this while listening to Tim Ferriss interview Jerzy Gregorek on his podcast: “Easy choices, hard life. Hard choices, easy life.” Jerzy is a poet, coach, and olympic weightlifter. Interesting guy. I've been repeating this quote to myself as a little reminder when I find myself considering taking the path of...
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Eating Offal-y Well: Pig Heart Edition

Eating Offal-y Well: Pig Heart Edition

Last fall, we found a box of kidneys, liver, hearts, and fat on the porch. Thankfully, each was frozen and neatly vacuum-sealed and labeled. This seriously reduced the likelihood that the organs were some sort of thinly veiled mafia-esque threat against us, and meant I could just pop them into the freezer until I was ready to cook them. In fact, it was a generous gift from our neighbors, who raised some pigs in their back yard last summer. We had mentioned to them that we’d use the organ meat and fat if they didn’t want it, and they passed it along free of charge. As it happened, I had just brought home quite a few turban and hubbard squashes from a farm up the street, so I left a box of them on the neighbors’ porch. his weekend I got around to cooking the heart, which is a great place to start when learning to cook and eat organ meat....
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