Don’t Always Desire Your Desires

When we reflect on the many things that we could have, some will produce feelings of desire. But when we take an extra moment to reflect on these desires themselves, we find some to be undesirable. The desire to fit in with the crowd may be accompanied by a contrary desire to be unconcerned by what other people think. Or we might long to be reunited with an ex, but feel averse to having those feelings. When our desires and our desires about these desires come in conflict, how can we decide wh...
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Making Really Hard Decisions

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Suppose that you have to make a decision that will significantly alter the course of your life. For instance, imagine that you are trying to: decide whether to marry your boyfriend or girlfriend choose between two job offers in different fields decide whether to finish your PhD program or drop out pick between two cities that you're thinking of moving to These kinds of decisions can be excruciatingly hard, and people often waffle in an unpleasant state for months trying to choose wh...
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Wanting While Not Wanting

Why do people who hate that they overeat keep overeating? Why do people who know that their girlfriends or boyfriends are bad for them keep taking these girlfriends and boyfriends back? Why do so many people who want to go to the gym never actually bother to do it? These circumstances can be explained, at least partially, in terms of desires changing and conflicting with each other. What we want when we consciously reflect on a situation sometimes differs from what we want when we are actuall...
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Do We Know Why We Act?

Looking back on our decisions, we generally feel as though we can explain them. Why did we hire that candidate instead of this one? Because he was clearly more qualified for the job. Why did we go on a date with that person and not the other one? Because he or she seemed nicer. Why did we sentence that criminal to a harsher sentence than this other one? Because she committed a more damaging crime. If we are making our decisions for rational, well thought out reasons, we should be able to explain...
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If That Didn’t Solve Your Problems, Try Something Else

One of the big challenges to self-improvement is getting yourself to try a new strategy instead of the same thing over and over again. If you already experimented with calorie counting diets four times, only to gain the weight back after a few months, you'll be very likely to gain the weight back again next time you try this type of diet. If you tried to get yourself to exercise by buying a monthly gym membership, but barely used the gym in six months, the fact that you have a gym membership pro...
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