But Prieur also makes a good point about what he terms "self-driving":
I must be in the top one percent. When I was a kid, it was nothing for me to save my Halloween candy so long that I ended up throwing it out. But I'm also thinking of something Chuck wrote in an email a while back: that the ability to not do what you feel like, which we might call self-restraint, is completely different from the ability to make yourself do what you don't feel like, which we might call self-driving. That's something I've always struggled with. When I was in high school I would actually slap myself in the face, hard, to build the self-driving skill to enable me to do my homework. It took me years to train myself to wash dishes instantly instead of letting them build up in the sink. And the reason I haven't built a cabin yet is that too many of the steps feel more difficult than driving a dull knife through my eyeball.
Now that I think about it, my whole life path follows from very high self-restraint and low self-driving: I've "dropped out" because it's easier for me to be extremely frugal than go to a job every day. I've been mostly single because it's easier for me to go without sex than do all the stuff you normally have to do to get it. And I sometimes get in conflicts with people because I want them to tell me exactly what they want me to do, because I need that communication to motivate me, and they want me to do stuff without being told.
You could argue that both self-restraint and self-driving are coping mechanisms for a society that's badly out of tune with human nature. If we were nomadic forager-hunters, it would make sense to eat everything in front of us and store the excess as fat, rather than carry it with us or count on greater abundance in an unpredictable future. Delayed gratification only becomes valuable in a world with permanent settlements and stable economies. And self-driving would be unnecessary in a society built out of tasks that we find intrinsically enjoyable.
via Ran Prieur, on May 12, 2009.
Andrew Sullivan had a slightly different response: "We all need nuns in childhood. They fuck you up but they make you smart."