Self mob loyalty

My cliff notes for “Productivity through self-loyalty“:

The tendency to act against your judgement or preferences (akrasia) is a thing. To heavily paraphrase several similar (but more nuanced than this) theories, it is as if our “true” desires are a voice trying to control mob of other desires within our brains. When we become fatigued or lose control of the mob, we procrastinate or are otherwise akratic.

To be highly productive in spite of this, like the author, doesn’t require an iron will or especially good command of the mob. “A problem isn’t solved until it’s solved automatically, without need for attention or willpower.” Relying on willpower is exhausting, requires constant effort and success, and is doomed to failure eventually.

The trick is to get the mob on your side — the side of the voice of reason.

A trick that has worked for the author is to show the mob you’re on their side, so it knows you will meet its desires. Self-signal. Examine the desire: “Is this really what I need?” If the answer is yes, then do it. This tempers the mob’s demands by indulging what it truly needs.

Think of George Bailey and the mob in It’s A Wonderful Life. If the mob really truly demands its full account, reason with it, and if it still demands its full account, go ahead and pay it, and do so respectfully: We’re in this together should be your voice of reason’s attitude.

The mob understands the voice of reason is responsible for many good things, but won’t listen to it if it doesn’t feel the voice of reason is loyal to them. Thus, honor your true needs — your need for financial security, your mental health, and so on.

This results in a kind of “compassionate austerity”, indulging the parts of himself that need rest and relaxation, but only insofar as they need it; not overindulging. Reasoning respectfully with your inner mob reduces its demands on you out of their own compassion for you.

This works on a virtuous cycle of self-compassion, and is thus freeing of guilt. Cooperative austerity, when “we’re all in this together”, can feel “happy and warm”.

To channel this to productivity, ask yourself how much time off from productivity you really need, and give yourself that. Don’t be stingy — but give in to your own needs being mindful of their costs, especially opportunity cost of lost productivity. This will help you self-regulate to avoid over-indulging.

Often, when a part of me really needs a break, and throws up its hands feeling overwhelmed, its initial demands are unrealistic—”two weeks with no responsibilities!” So then I ask it again, with the demeanor of George Bailey, what it really needs to get by. And that part of me quickly remembers that all of me is in this together, and that I’m trying to do some very difficult things, and that all parts of me are constrained by scarce resources. Then the part that protested searches for what it really needs, the bare minimum, and it usually answers something like “I can get the rest I need in fifteen minutes.”

Being good to yourself consistently sets up a sustainable pattern of moderating your unproductive time.

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.

Self loyalty

My cliff notes for “Self-signaling the ability to do what you want“:

The sunk cost fallacy can lead us to failures like overeating, where if there’s too little prepared food left to save after we are full, we eat it all, without recognizing that the costs of the food are the same whether we overeat or throw away the leftovers.

Willpower based solutions to this kind of problem, being manual, are weak; better to create a new pattern that consistently lets us see what’s in our best interest. For the above example, pre-committing to save the leftovers, no matter how small, can be an effective pattern interrupt. This worked for Nate (the author) by giving what the side of him urging him to overeat really wanted — food storage to stave off fear of scarcity — thus aligning all of himself toward the same goal.

Failing with abandon — “I’ve already failed a little so I may as well fail all the way and enjoy it” — is related to signaling failures.

The technique I’m describing — self-signalling an ability to do the right thing even if it seems too late — can address this failure mode in general.

Failing a little is a self-signal that you can’t succeed. By stopping after you’ve failed a little, before failing with abandon, you can send a new self-signal: That you can stop and do the right thing, even when it might seem too late.

Consistent self loyalty — doing the right thing by yourself in these situations (for example, being loyalty to the part of you that values not wasting food, over judging looks from waiters and other social norms pressuring you not to take home small amounts)  — builds self-trust. This is a virtuous cycle that disarms the impulse to fail with abandon.

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.