Volontà e Poetenza

Willpower: Rediscovering Our Greatest Strength by Roy F. Baumeister, John Tierney

Intelligenza e autocontrollo: le chiavi del successo…

… However you define success—a happy family, good friends, a satisfying career, robust health, financial security, the freedom to pursue your passions—it tends to be accompanied by a couple of qualities… intelligence and self-control…

Ma: mentre l’intelligenza è “rigida“, sull’autocontrollo è più facile agire…

… So far researchers still haven’t learned how to permanently increase intelligence. But they have discovered, or at least rediscovered, how to improve self-control…

Ai tempi di Darwin, in epoca vittoriana, il dominio delle emozioni era tutto…

… As Charles Darwin wrote in The Descent of Man, “The highest possible stage in moral culture is when we recognize that we ought to control our thoughts.” The Victorian notion of willpower would later fall out of favor…

Subentrò un certo scetticismo per queste pratiche, senonché, oggi, il laboratorio ha di nuovo portato fiducia: possiamo migliorarci…

… Baumeister himself started out as something of a skeptic. But then he observed willpower in the laboratory: how it gives people the strength to persevere, how they lose self-control as their willpower is depleted, how this mental energy is fueled by the glucose in the body’s bloodstream…

La volontà è come un muscolo: può essere allenato con frutto…

… willpower, like a muscle, becomes fatigued from overuse but can also be strengthened over the long term through exercise…

Allenare la volontà è forse il miglior investimento psicologico a nostra disposizione.

La mancanza di autocontrollo è la fonte di innumerevoli guai

… most major problems, personal and social, center on failure of self-control: compulsive spending and borrowing, impulsive violence, underachievement in school, procrastination at work, alcohol and drug abuse, unhealthy diet, lack of exercise, chronic anxiety, explosive anger…

Eppure la virtù è poco apprezzata: nessuno sogna di essere più controllato…

… Ask people to name their greatest personal strengths, and they’ll often credit themselves with honesty, kindness, humor, creativity, bravery, and other virtues—even modesty. But not self-control…

Il mondo d’oggi, con tutte le tentazioni che propone, sorride a chi sa controllarsi…

… People feel overwhelmed because there are more temptations than ever… Facebook, surfing gossip sites…

Ogni giorno è un “resistere, resistere, resistere“…

… The most commonly resisted desire in the beeper study was the urge to eat, followed by the urge to sleep, and then by the urge for leisure, like taking a break from work by doing a puzzle or game instead of writing a memo. Sexual urges were next on the list of most-resisted desires, a little ahead of urges for other kinds of interactions, like checking e-mail and social-networking sites, surfing the Web, listening to music, or watching television…

In altre epoche storiche erano altre le doti preminenti. Prendiamo il medioevo: forza fisica e lealtà erano le regine…

… During the Middle Ages, most people were peasants who put in long, dull days in the fields, frequently accompanied by prodigious amounts of ale. They weren’t angling for promotions at work or trying to climb the social ladder, so there wasn’t a premium on diligence (or a great need for sobriety)…

La comunità era tutto e quindi l’osservanza del rito diveniva l’asse portante. Pensiamo solo alla salvezza cristiana…

… In the medieval Catholic Church, salvation depended more on being part of the group and keeping up with the standard rituals than on heroic acts of willpower…

Illuminismo. La fede declina. I vittoriani si chiedono: che fare? È possibile salvaguardare l’etica (della volontà) anche in assenza di fede?…

… Many Victorians came to doubt religious principles on theoretical grounds, but they kept pretending to be faithful believers because they considered it their public duty to preserve morality…

Certe soluzioni vittoriane si prestano alla presa in giro. Il loro nemico più puntuto era un vero genio del motto…

Oscar Wilde’s philosophy: “I can resist everything except temptation.”…

Nacque l’espressione “forza di volontà“, era un modo per dare una fede anche agli atei…

… As Victorians fretted over moral decay and the social pathologies concentrated in cities, they looked for something more tangible than divine grace, some internal strength that could protect even an atheist. They began using the term willpower…

Il genio è pazienza“. Nacquero i libri di self-help…

… People sought to increase their store of it by following the exhortations of the Englishman Samuel Smiles in Self-Help, one of the most popular books…

Successo = Autonegazione

… explaining the success of everyone from Isaac Newton to Stonewall Jackson as the result of “self-denial” and “untiring perseverance.”…

***

Poi la forza di volontà andò fuori moda. Forse per colpa di certi eccessi vittoriani…

… The fascination with willpower ebbed in the twentieth century partly in reaction to the Victorians’ excesses…

Alcuni accusarono il senso del dovere di stare dietro le guerre dell’Occidente…

… The prolonged bloodshed of World War I seemed a consequence of too many stubborn gentlemen following their “duty” to senseless…

Gli intellettuali predicavano una vita più rilassata

Non si può negare che negli anni trenta furono i tedeschi i maggiori cultori della volontà. Chi non ricorda certi film simbolo…

… That theme would be embraced by the Nazis, whose rally in 1934 was featured in Leni Riefenstahl’s infamous propaganda film, The Triumph of the Will…

inoltre: il nuovo mondo del consumismo e della pubblicità non desiderava clienti troppo “volenterosi”…

… The decline of will didn’t seem like such a bad thing, and after the war there were other forces weakening it. As technology made goods cheaper and suburbanites richer, stimulating consumer demand became vital to the economy, and a sophisticated new advertising industry urged everyone to buy now. ..

Il nuovo obbiettivo non era più “resistere” ma sedurre gli altri…

… The new bestsellers were cheery works like Dale Carnegie’s How to Win Friends and Influence People and Norman Vincent Peale’s The Power of Positive Thinking. Carnegie spent eight pages instructing readers how to smile…

Il nuovo trend: “credici e lo avrai“…

… “The basic factor in psychology is the realizable wish,” Peale wrote. “The man who assumes success tends already to have success.” Napoleon Hill sold millions of copies of Think and Grow Rich by telling readers to decide how much money they wanted…

Anni sessanta: il piacere su tutto…

… Wheelis used Freudian terms in discussing the decline of the superego in Western society, but he was essentially talking about a weakening of willpower—and all this was before the baby boomers came of age in the 1960s with a countercultural mantra of “If it feels good, do it.”…

Anni settanta: la “me-generation“.

Paura di colpevolizzare. Se non devono esserci colpevoli, non devono esserci virtù, specie quelle che non dipendono dal talento, come la forza di volontà…

… Most social scientists look for causes of misbehavior outside the individual: poverty, relative deprivation, oppression, or other failures of the environment or the economic and political systems. Searching for external factors is often more comfortable for everyone, particularly for the many academics who worry that they risk the politically incorrect sin of “blaming the victim”…

***

Ma in certi ambienti l’autocontrollo ha sempre goduto di cattiva fama. Freud lo legava alla parte più torbida dell’inconscio…

… The very notion that people can consciously control themselves has traditionally been viewed suspiciously by psychologists. Freudians claimed that much of adult human behavior was the result of unconscious forces and processes…

Skinner lo liquidava come mero rafforzatore degli istinti…

… B. F. Skinner had little respect for the value of consciousness and other mental processes, except as needed to process reinforcement contingencies…

Il concetto di forza di volontà richiama quello di coscienza, e il concetto di coscienza fa paura in certi ambienti, mette in crisi lo stereotipo dell’uomo-animale…

… Some neuroscientists claim to have disproved its existence. Many philosophers refuse to use the term…

Ne abbiamo un’idea quando pensiamo che in certi ambienti giuridici si arriva a proporre l’eliminazione del concetto di responsabilità

… Recently, some scholars have even begun to argue that the legal system must be revamped to eliminate outdated notions of free will and responsibility…

***

Fu l’autostima a soppiantare l’autocontrollo: la libertà e la necessità di decidere da sé dava ansia ai bimbi, che avevano bisogno di autostima…

… Baumeister shared the general skepticism toward willpower when he started his career as a social psychologist in the 1970s at Princeton. His colleagues were then focusing not on self-control but on self-esteem… people with more confidence in their ability and their self-worth tended to be happier and more successful. So why not help everyone else succeed by finding ways to boost their confidence?…

Prima conseguenza: narcisismo.

Seconda conseguenza: non è detto che più autostima ci fa rendere al meglio…

… While international surveys showed that U.S. eighth-grade math students had exceptionally high confidence in their own abilities, on tests they scored far below Koreans, Japanese, and other students with less self-esteem…

Fu anche la sperimentazione a favorire il ritorno della forza di volontà…

… The resurrection of self-control wasn’t led by theorists, who were still convinced that willpower was a quaint Victorian myth. But when other psychologists went into the laboratory or the field, they kept happening on something that looked an awful lot like it…

Il “ritorno della volontà” fu accolto con un “lo sa anche mia nonna“. Ma il nuovo sapere era di natura sperimentale, qui stava la novità…

…. Progress generally comes not from theories but from someone finding a clever way to test a theory, as Walter Mischel did…

Chi non ricorda il test del marshmallow?

I bimbi che resistono alle tentazioni sanno come distrarsi e avranno più successo da iallito la prova?…

… He noticed that the children who had failed to wait for the extra marshmallow seemed to get in more trouble…

Voti scolastici e test del marshmallow…

… They found that the ones who had shown the most willpower at age four went on to get better grades and test scores…

Contro Freud: malnutrizione e patologie a parte, la vita infantile influenza poco quella adulta. È il carattere a fare la differenza…

… These were stunning results, because it’s quite rare for anything measured in early childhood to predict anything in adulthood at a statistically significant level. Indeed, this disconnect was one of the death blows against the Freudian psychoanalytic approach to psychology, which emphasized early childhood experiences as the foundation of adult personality…

La gran parte delle patologie sociali sono da imputare a caratteri malformati…

… “Self-regulation failure is the major social pathology of our time,” they concluded, pointing to the accumulating evidence of its contribution to high divorce rates, domestic violence, crime, and a host of other problems…

A scuola, poi, l’autocontrollo conta più dell’intelligenza…

… Self-control also proved to be a better predictor of college grades than the student’s IQ or SAT score. Although raw intelligence was obviously an advantage, the study showed that self-control was more important because it helped the students show up more reliably for classes, start their homework earlier, and spend more time working and less time watching television…

Sul lavoro chi sa controllarsi è più apprezzato da colleghi e dipendenti…

… In workplaces, managers scoring high in self-control were rated more favorably by their subordinates as well as by their peers…

***

Autocontrollo ed evoluzione: come e perché si sviluppa una simile facoltà?

L’autocontrollo richiede cervelli enormi. Autocontrollo e dimensioni del cervello sono correlati, spiegato un fattore si spiega anche l’altro.

L’uomo e i suoi lobi frontali, un pezzo unico…

… The human brain is distinguished by large and elaborate frontal lobes, giving us what was long assumed to be the crucial evolutionary advantage: the intelligence to solve problems in the environment….

Ma un cervello tanto grande consuma tanta energia. Bisogna mantenerlo…

… But big brains also require lots of energy. The adult human brain makes up 2 percent of the body but consumes more than 20 percent of its energy….

Primo tentativo di spiegare: teoria della banana, o teoria del cerchio: cervelli grandi per cercare banane e banane per mantenere cervelli grandi…

… One early explanation for the large brain involved bananas and other calorie-rich fruits. Animals that graze on grass don’t need to do a lot of thinking about where to find their next meal… A banana eater needs a bigger brain to remember where the ripe stuff is, and the brain could be powered by all the calories in the bananas, so the “fruit-seeking brain theory”…

La teoria fallisce. Robin Dunbar: nessun supporto per la teoria: dimensioni cervelll e alimentazione non sono correlati.

Teoria alternativa: teoria sociale

… Animals with bigger brains had larger and more complex social networks… Humans are the primates who have the largest frontal lobes because we have the largest social groups, and that’s apparently why we have the most need for self-control…

L’autocontrollo dà vantaggi privati ma la sua funzione è sociale

… We tend to think of willpower as a force for personal betterment—adhering to a diet, getting work done on time, going out to jog, quitting smoking—but that’s probably not the primary reason it evolved so fully in our ancestors…

L’autocontrollo serve a stare in modo ordinato in una gerarchia. Esempio: l’autocontrollo  medio nei primati non umani è di 20 minuti, il tempo del pasto del maschio alfa. Se non so trattenermi sono guai…

… For animals to survive in such a group without getting beaten up, they must restrain their urge to eat immediately… Experts surmise that the smartest nonhuman primates can mentally project perhaps twenty minutes into the future—long enough to let the alpha male eat, but not long enough for much planning beyond dinner…

Nell’uomo sorprende la capacità di generalizzare

One piece of cake won’t make you fat, and skipping one assignment won’t ruin your career. But in order to stay healthy and employed, you must treat (almost) every episode as a reflection of the general need to resist these temptations. That’s where conscious self-control comes in…

***

Oggi c’è la possibilità di coniugare scienza e morale vittoriana…

… We hope to combine the best of modern social science with some of the practical wisdom of the Victorians….

Il revival della volontà compare con modalità sempre diverse e sorprendenti

… We’ll explain why corporate leaders pay $20,000 a day to learn the secrets of the to-do list from a former karate instructor, and why Silicon Valley’s entrepreneurs are creating digital tools to promote nineteenth-century values…

***

La mente umana è sempre stata vista come un pc capace di processare info

… mind as if it were a little computer. These information models of the human mind generally ignored concepts like power or energy…

Ora sappiamo invece che tra le sue capacità fondamentali c’è anche quella di produrre energia.

Produrre energia è possibile: non è facile come sembra da certi libri self help e nemmeno crudele come fanno credere certi eccessi vittoriani…

… Acquiring self-control isn’t as magically simple as the techniques in modern self-help books, but neither does it have to be as grim as the Victorians made it out to be. Ultimately, self-control lets you relax because it removes stress and enables you to conserve willpower for the important challenges…

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