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Elo comments on Group rationality diary for June 22th - July 11th 2015 - Less Wrong

5 [deleted] 22 June 2015 11:29AM

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Comment author: Elo 30 June 2015 01:25:36AM *  2 points [-]

I would start with evaluating and defining/understanding your comfort zone. I think the best way to explain this is to use a worked example: "going to a bar"

Things about bars that put me outside my comfort zone:

  • Alcohol
  • loud noises
  • strangers
  • uncomfortable seats
  • public places
  • dim lights
  • not able to have valuable conversations with people
  • bad public transport so getting home is difficult
  • messes with my sleep cycle
  • being alone (not having friends there)
  • talking to strangers
  • pubs are expensive
  • fear of having bad conversations
  • fear of getting in a bar fight
  • don't care for sport on tv's around bars
  • don't like being near gambling machines in bars
  • don't like bar food
  • don't know what to wear
  • don't feel comfortable dancing
  • people smoking

This^ is a long list; not all of these apply to me, but each problem may have various solutions:

  • loud noises - wear earplugs, find a bar without loud music playing,
  • don't like bar food - eat elsewhere first
  • messes with sleep cycle - set alarms or systems that you follow, pre-committing to the decision to leave in time for your normal sleep schedule. Go to lunch-time bars, not lat night bars.
  • talking to strangers - take friends, make sure to go with them, ask friends to help you make more friends. etc.

Eventually most of these have a solution. At the end of running through your list of things, if you can't solve enough of them, or the solutions are not good enough, you can consider attacking the goal you set out to do.

Why do I want to go to a bar? Is there a better way to achieve that desire?

Reasons to go to a bar:

  • all my friends seem to like it
  • meet new people
  • my favourite band is playing
  • I like pub trivia etc.

These reasons have solutions of their own.

  • favourite band - see if they are playing at other venues.
  • meet new people - try meetups, try local groups.
  • friends like it - do other things with friends, i.e. dinner, board games evening. (get better friends/friends you share mutual interests with)

at the end of the thought exercise you should either be happy to do the thing, or happy preferring not doing the thing. These are the win-states of considering setting out to do X.

Does that make sense? Does that help? Perhaps you can ask for help (here on LW) in solving a comfort zone issue. Perhaps you don't have to do it. Message me directly if you need personal advice and you don't want it publicly visible.

Comment author: [deleted] 30 June 2015 02:42:31AM 0 points [-]

Hmmm, what is the advantage of this method over say, going to the bar, and getting over my fears

Comment author: Elo 30 June 2015 03:24:56AM 2 points [-]

Depends on what is limiting your comfort zone and whether that limit is reasonable or unreasonable. I can't say for your life whether a limit is reasonable or unreasonable, and to do so yourself might involve comparing your life to the lives of other people and evaluating whether you are fulfilled, happy or missing out on something that other people have.

For example - I am definitely missing out on sky-diving by not sky-diving, but I don't really feel like I want to do it. Personal choice and all; not really missing out on something by not being comfortable doing it.

A comfort zone has a purpose, as does stereotypes, social structures, religion, fear, disgust, pain, monogamy, straw man arguments, and many more.

To blindly fight existing systems is as bad as to follow them to the letter. I believe in questioning and evaluating before stepping forward. (System 2 over system 1 in this case - thinking over automated)

To take the bar example again: If the reason why I don't like bars is they are too loud; going to more bars may do several things:

  • cause hearing loss
  • cause me to be even more annoyed by loud bars
  • cause me to get used to it
  • cause me to be more often in an uncomfortable state of being possibly all at once.

If on the other hand I go in search of non-loud bars I can maintain a comfort zone of not too loud things while doing the task (going to a bar) its also a win-state, and I avoid the uncomfortable experience of gradually getting used to it.