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7 Important Lessons You Won’t Learn From Reading

7 Important Lessons You Won’t Learn From Reading

It is the biggest paradox that I have ever faced, but I found the the most important lessons you can’t learn from reading in a book.

Couple of weeks ago I finished my book from Brian Tracy, No Excuses!: The Power of Self-discipline. There was a clear sentence that stated:

“…life is a test that shows what’s hiding inside of us. Wisdom is grasped by loneliness, learning, and thinking, but the character is built only by connection between people, when we are forced to choose between different opportunities and temptations.”

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1. Wisdom

I experienced a few months of loneliness, and this sentence felt like putting lens on a visually impaired person. It’s an overall statement that proves how the wisest people are the loneliest ones. Being around people all the time can build your character because of opportunities and temptations, but being wise takes time in solitude and makes you wonder and answer all types of questions on various subjects.

My loneliness made me wise. It made me think on various questions so deep that I found the core of the subject I was wondering about. Character, however, is something that can’t be built without the pressure of opportunities.

“The older the wiser” refers to the idea that older people spend more and more time alone, and thus discover rooted core answers to life’s big questions.

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2. Character

Character is defined as “the mental and moral qualities distinctive to an individual.” It’s the “vacuum part” in the brain where we can’t upgrade it alone; we must build our character with support from people and by making choices.

Wisdom and character are both authentic. They take being alone and wise, and being around people and building character. Wisdom is between the lines—learning and thinking—and character is built by people, “The thing that can’t be learned by reading.

Character growth is the most important thing in the world. Our ability to gain the reputation of being a characteristic and authentic person is the biggest attainment in social and business life. Emerson said, “What you do speaks so loudly that I cannot hear what you say.”

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3. Decisions

Our important features, the things that make us the way we are today, are the overall collection of all our previous choices and decisions. Every time we chose wisely and authentically, we strengthened our character and we became better people. It also states the opposite: whenever we compromised, whenever we took the easier way, or when we behaved in a way we knew was inappropriate, we weakened our character and we undermined ourselves.

4. Control the pressure.

Only when we are under pressure, when we need to decide on one possibility from many, to live in accordance with moral values or to comprise them—we present our real character. Emerson said, “Keep your loyalty like something sacred.” There is nothing as sacred as our intellectual loyalty.

5. The ability to choose.

We are the “organism that chose.” We choose all the time, one way or another. With every choice, we show our true values and priorities. In every particular moment, we give attention to the things that are more important and more valuable to us than the things that are less valuable.

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The only way to frame ourselves is to exert the will in every situation when we are tempting to do the things that are easy and currently useful, and not the things that are authentic and essential. It may be hard to push the boundaries to the level that we need to crack the wall of “easy and currently useful” but once we do it, it will throw a rock out of our soul and we are able to strive for authentic and essential things more and more.

It is like a habit. “The more we do it, the less we think about doing it.” Smoking cigarettes is bad example of it.

6. Learn the “street school.”

Authentic would be to go out and build the thing that can’t be read. It’s called the “street school.” Wisdom is inevitable, but wisdom alone is not worth anything without the things learned from people. Wisdom and “the street school” form a perfect creation of human kind. Such examples would be Steve Jobs, Warren Buffet, Bill Gates.

7. Form the Virtues.

To seal the things that can’t be learned by reading, we must understand the virtues of one person: courage, compassion, generosity, moderation, persistence. Strengthen these virtues and become a man or woman of value.

Featured photo credit: Empty/Anthony via flickr.com

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Last Updated on July 17, 2019

The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain)

The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain)

What happens in our heads when we set goals?

Apparently a lot more than you’d think.

Goal setting isn’t quite so simple as deciding on the things you’d like to accomplish and working towards them.

According to the research of psychologists, neurologists, and other scientists, setting a goal invests ourselves into the target as if we’d already accomplished it. That is, by setting something as a goal, however small or large, however near or far in the future, a part of our brain believes that desired outcome is an essential part of who we are – setting up the conditions that drive us to work towards the goals to fulfill the brain’s self-image.

Apparently, the brain cannot distinguish between things we want and things we have. Neurologically, then, our brains treat the failure to achieve our goal the same way as it treats the loss of a valued possession. And up until the moment, the goal is achieved, we have failed to achieve it, setting up a constant tension that the brain seeks to resolve.

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Ideally, this tension is resolved by driving us towards accomplishment. In many cases, though, the brain simply responds to the loss, causing us to feel fear, anxiety, even anguish, depending on the value of the as-yet-unattained goal.

Love, Loss, Dopamine, and Our Dreams

The brains functions are carried out by a stew of chemicals called neurotransmitters. You’ve probably heard of serotonin, which plays a key role in our emotional life – most of the effective anti-depressant medications on the market are serotonin reuptake inhibitors, meaning they regulate serotonin levels in the brain leading to more stable moods.

Somewhat less well-known is another neurotransmitter, dopamine. Among other things, dopamine acts as a motivator, creating a sensation of pleasure when the brain is stimulated by achievement. Dopamine is also involved in maintaining attention – some forms of ADHD are linked to irregular responses to dopamine.[1]

So dopamine plays a key role in keeping us focused on our goals and motivating us to attain them, rewarding our attention and achievement by elevating our mood. That is, we feel good when we work towards our goals.

Dopamine is related to wanting – to desire. The attainment of the object of our desire releases dopamine into our brains and we feel good. Conversely, the frustration of our desires starves us of dopamine, causing anxiety and fear.

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One of the greatest desires is romantic love – the long-lasting, “till death do us part” kind. It’s no surprise, then, that romantic love is sustained, at least in part, through the constant flow of dopamine released in the presence – real or imagined – of our true love. Loss of romantic love cuts off that supply of dopamine, which is why it feels like you’re dying – your brain responds by triggering all sorts of anxiety-related responses.

Herein lies obsession, as we go to ever-increasing lengths in search of that dopamine reward. Stalking specialists warn against any kind of contact with a stalker, positive or negative, because any response at all triggers that reward mechanism. If you let the phone ring 50 times and finally pick up on the 51st ring to tell your stalker off, your stalker gets his or her reward, and learns that all s/he has to do is wait for the phone to ring 51 times.

Romantic love isn’t the only kind of desire that can create this kind of dopamine addiction, though – as Captain Ahab (from Moby Dick) knew well, any suitably important goal can become an obsession once the mind has established ownership.

The Neurology of Ownership

Ownership turns out to be about a lot more than just legal rights. When we own something, we invest a part of ourselves into it – it becomes an extension of ourselves.

In a famous experiment at Cornell University, researchers gave students school logo coffee mugs, and then offered to trade them chocolate bars for the mugs. Very few were willing to make the trade, no matter how much they professed to like chocolate. Big deal, right? Maybe they just really liked those mugs![2]

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But when they reversed the experiment, handing out chocolate and then offering to trade mugs for the candy, they found that now, few students were all that interested in the mugs. Apparently the key thing about the mugs or the chocolate wasn’t whether students valued whatever they had in their possession, but simply that they had it in their possession.

This phenomenon is called the “endowment effect”. In a nutshell, the endowment effect occurs when we take ownership of an object (or idea, or person); in becoming “ours” it becomes integrated with our sense of identity, making us reluctant to part with it (losing it is seen as a loss, which triggers that dopamine shut-off I discussed above).

Interestingly, researchers have found that the endowment effect doesn’t require actual ownership or even possession to come into play. In fact, it’s enough to have a reasonable expectation of future possession for us to start thinking of something as a part of us – as jilted lovers, gambling losers, and 7-year olds denied a toy at the store have all experienced.

The Upshot for Goal-Setters

So what does all this mean for would-be achievers?

On one hand, it’s a warning against setting unreasonable goals. The bigger the potential for positive growth a goal has, the more anxiety and stress your brain is going to create around it’s non-achievement.

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It also suggests that the common wisdom to limit your goals to a small number of reasonable, attainable objectives is good advice. The more goals you have, the more ends your brain thinks it “owns” and therefore the more grief and fear the absence of those ends is going to cause you.

On a more positive note, the fact that the brain rewards our attentiveness by releasing dopamine means that our brain is working with us to direct us to achievement. Paying attention to your goals feels good, encouraging us to spend more time doing it. This may be why outcome visualization — a favorite technique of self-help gurus involving imagining yourself having completed your objectives — has such a poor track record in clinical studies. It effectively tricks our brain into rewarding us for achieving our goals even though we haven’t done it yet!

But ultimately, our brain wants us to achieve our goals, so that it’s a sense of who we are that can be fulfilled. And that’s pretty good news!

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Featured photo credit: Alexa Williams via unsplash.com

Reference

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