Ideal Life 7 - Truth telling makes life easy
Lying robs you of willpower
Last week I was listening to a podcast and found out something amazing. The podcast is The Huberman Lab episode where he interviews Dr. Anna Lembke. You should listen to the episode, and the podcast in general, it's brilliant.
They discuss dopamine and addiction. Dr. Lembke treats addiction. She mentions that a key factor in whether former addicts remain sober from their drug of choice is truth telling.
She noticed that people who remain sober are fanatical about telling the truth. They make constant efforts to never lie about anything.
Why is this?
Lying weakens the PreFrontal Cortex
Dr. Lembke says there is scientific research showing that lying weakens the Prefrontal Cortex. Conversely telling the truth strengthens it.
“A person with frontal cortex damage is like a car whose brakes do not work.” Dr. Robert Sapolsky
The PreFrontal Cortex (PFC) is the most human part of the brain. It's the neurological core of willpower. It what allows us to do what we believe we should do rather than what is easy and pleasant. It inhibits our base impulses in favor of rational decisions.
The PreFrontal Cortex is on when you abstain from eating the cookie. A strong PFC means your behaviour reflects your conscious decisions. You find it easy to change your behaviour, give up bad habits, take up good habits.
A weak PFC leaves you victim to temptation and instant gratification.
Tell the truth and you will have an easier life. You resist temptations and instant gratification in favor of pursuing your conscious goals.
Of course former addicts who strengthen their PFC are less likely to “fall off the wagon". They have more power to resist their cravings.
But this finding is important for everyone.
Most of our life is a struggle between what we consider we should do and what would bring us pleasure in the moment, between long term and short term, between rational decisions for our wellbeing and unconscious Paleolithic algorithms.
Modern problems come mostly from our inability to actually behave how we want to behave.
We procrastinate, drink, smoke, take drugs, chase highs, eat junk food, spend unnecessarily, worry, lose ourselves in our smartphones, and more.
Strengthening the PreFrontal Cortex helps with all of these. In effect it gives you more willpower. Resisting cravings and impulses is less difficult.
And it's achieved by simply telling the truth.
Tell the truth and life becomes easier.
Why? Because you get more conscious control over your behaviour.
Most behavior is unconscious, driven by ancient algorithms and habits. Willpower is the brute force method in which we try to change. But willpower is weak. If it was strong, we would have half the problems we do have. And I would have to write about other subjects.
Anything that makes willpower stronger is priceless. It has positive cascading effects on everything about your life.
This insight about truth-telling feels rather ironic.
We lie to make life temporarily easier. But it turns out to make it much harder in the long term.
In fact it's much easier to face the momentary discomfort and tell the truth.
Tell the truth and you will have an easy life because you will have more control over it. Lie a lot and you will likely become an addict.
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References and further reading on Physical Exercise:
Behave - by Robert Sapolsky