What you can do versus what you want to do

My cliff notes for “Choose without suffering“, which builds directly on the previous post in this series:

Tolerification explains a lot of why humans become grumpy or frustrated: Cynicism and indignance are both pressure-relieving responses to situations where all options are bad.

These kinds of responses spend energy and don’t accomplish nothing of value — now that we’ve decided to avoid tolerification entirely, it is no longer an end in itself). Since our strategy for intrinsic motivation requires we “stare at the dark world” without tolerifying, then the very act of becoming frustration, as a pattern of behavior, is something to discard.

When given a choice between bad and worse, you need to be able to choose “bad”, without qualm.

— or maybe, frustration is useful in some situations: It can create pressure for us to find a third option. It can also socially signal that we need help, drawing others to our aid.

Indeed, when you’re offered the choice between bad and worse, the first thing to do is look for a third option and the second thing to do is ask for help.

But if you have to choose the “bad” option over “very bad”, suffering over it adds nothing. Minding the distinction between “bad” and “very bad” is a useful tool to avoid this suffering. When becoming frustrated, examine your options’ merits relative to each other. Even though all of your options may be bad, one of them will have the best outcome compared to the rest. Take it. Guilt or regret over choosing the best option is useless.

Also, be mindful of comparing what you can achieve to what you want to achieve. The former is actionable; the latter is not. Yearning for the latter, and the tension between it and what’s possible, creates needless suffering. So reframe to focus on what options you can choose.

This post is part of the thread: Replacing Guilt Cliffs Notes – an ongoing story on this site. View the thread timeline for more context on this post.

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