My Interview With Lindsey Stutheit of Ditching Dumb

Recently, I had the pleasure of doing an interview with Lindsey Stutheit of Ditching Dumb. I thoroughly enjoyed the interview  as she asked some great questions about willpower, goals and finding inspiration!

Here is a transcript of the interview:

1. What do you feel is the biggest factor in accomplishing goals?

Patience. Our anatomy is wired for slow, measurable and consistent progress that builds over time. Those who accomplish their goals understand that it will take months or years in order to accomplish anything great and have the patience to persevere through that.

2. In your opinion, why is willpower such a struggle for millennials in particular?

Millennials have grown up in the "Everyone Gets a Trophy" era. This did wonders for our confidence and self-esteem, but little for our value of work ethic

With this emphasis on building our self-esteem, we lost sight of the value of building our self-control. Self-control – or willpower – is like a muscle. It can be strengthened over time with practice. Because we didn’t grow up working on it the same way previous generations did, we have a much bigger struggle with it in our adult lives.

3. What is the easiest thing people can do to push through a weak moment?

Put things off for 10 minutes. It sounds strange, but usually a "weak moment" is characterized by a rush of a chemical called dopamine which activates our brain's reward center. This skews our judgment to want short-term rewards like tempting food, a cigarette, or make an impulse-purchase.

Research has proven that simply putting the decision of whether or not to indulge off for 10 minutes is enough to clear the mind of dopamine. Although you may still want to indulge afterward, you will be thinking a lot more clearly about the decision without the influence of dopamine.

4. What is one media-based misconception on accomplishing things that drives you crazy?

Anything that is about the "quick-fix". The "30-day diet", "8-week abs", etc. Like I mentioned in the first question, our brains and bodies are literally wired to adapt to small changes and consistent, slow progress.

Any time that we go against this natural inclination, we are going against the grain of our own anatomy and are doomed to fail. Which is why New Year's Resolutions rarely work, and short-term diets never stick.

5. Is there something you wish you would have changed sooner in your own life?

Embracing boredom. There are a lot of hours of pursuing a long-term goal that are simply boring. It can be boring on a treadmill, it can be boring reading materials for work, and it can be boring choosing a salad for dinner over pizza. But many of us mistake this boredom for a lack of passion or purpose to the activity. "Because it's boring working out, I must not have any athletic talent or ability, so why try?" 

Personally, I came across a lot of psychology textbooks that were really boring in my early days and mistook that as "I must not have a passion for psychology". Rather than seeing them as a necessary foundation for all of the more exciting things I would learn later on. This set me back several years as I tried other fields like software development and marketing before coming back to psychology.

6. Are you working on a habit right now and how is it going?

I actually recently came across some studies that showed some of the downsides to trying to create habits. A habit is something that you do without thinking and it is inflexible. Making it difficult to adjust it to the inevitable curveballs that life throws at you.

For example, if you have a habit of waking up at 6am and going to the gym, what do you do when you have an office party the night before? Most people would end up sleeping in and skipping the gym altogether. Leaving them even worse off because they’re vulnerable to what’s called the “what-the-hell” effect in which one slip leads to a all-out binge.

I prefer to use “daily commitments” because they are intentional and flexible. In the case above, the person would be committed to going to the gym every day regardless of time. She would adjust her schedule to sleep in and go to the gym in the evening rather than the morning because she’s not dependent on the routine. She would use her willpower to strengthen this commitment, rather than try to create the habit.

(For a full scientific explanation of habits and commitments, check out this article).

My personal daily commitment is writing 2,000 words per day in order to become a better writer and researcher. By sticking to that goal, it forces me to practice my writing skills and think outside of the box to do research on interesting topics. As well as making sure that every day I produce something of value.

7. What is one Rude Quote you use to "inspire" yourself or others?  

"I hated every minute of training, but I said, don't quit. Suffer now and live the rest of your life as a champion." - Muhammad Ali 

Whenever I hit those "boring" moments that I mentioned above, I think about this quote. Ali isn’t talking about believing in himself, or being the greatest. He's talking about the hard, painful work he had to put in. And doing that hard, painful work for months or years is worth it to live the life that you really want. 

Lindsey runs the site where she blogs about the hard truths of what it takes to change your life for the better. I'm an avid reader of her work and I highly recommend you check it out!