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brazil84 comments on New year's resolutions: Things worth considering for next year - Less Wrong

5 Post author: Elo 07 December 2015 12:09AM

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Comment author: brazil84 07 December 2015 01:17:00AM *  0 points [-]
Comment author: Elo 07 December 2015 03:47:29AM *  2 points [-]

It's complicated. And depends on the way those people treat your goals.


Scenario 1: you post on facebook "This month I want to lose 1kg, I am worried I can't do it - you guys should show me support". Your friends; being the best of rationalist friends; believe your instructions are thought out and planned. In the interest of complying with your request you get 17 likes and 10 comments of "wow awesome" and "you go man" and "that's the way to do it". Even longer ones of, "good planning will help you achieve your goals", and some guy saying how he lost 2 kilos in a month, so 1kg should be easy as cake.

when you read all the posts your brain goes "wow, lost weight like that", "earn't the adoration of my friends for doing the thing", I feel great! So you have a party, eat what you like, relax and enjoy that feeling. One month later you managed to gain a kilo not lose one.


Scenario 2: You post on facebook, "This month I want to lose 2kg (since last month wasn't so great). So all of you better hold me to that, and help me get there". In the interest of complying with you, all your rational friends post things like, "Yea right", "I'll believe it when I see it". "you couldn't do 1kg last month, what makes you think you can do it now?", "I predict he will lose one kilo but then put it back on again. haha", "you're so full of it. You want to lose weight; I expect to see you running with me at 8am 3 times a week". two weeks later someone posts to your wall, "hows the weight loss going? I think you failed already", and two people comment, "I bet he did", and "actually he did come running in the morning".

When you read all the posts your brain goes; "looks like I gotta prove it to them that I can do this, and hey this could be easy if they help me exercise". After two weeks you are starting to lose track of the initial momentum, the chocolate is starting to move to the front of the cupboard again. When you see the post on your wall you double down; throw out the chocolate so it's not in your temptation, and message the runner that you will be there tomorrow. After a month you actually did it, reporting back to your friends they actually congratulate you for your work; "my predictions were wrong; updating my beliefs", "congratulations", "teach me how you did it"..


Those scenarios were made up, but its designed to show that it depends entirely on the circumstances of your sharing your goals and the atmosphere in which you do it as well as how you treat the events surrounding sharing your goals.

Given that in scenario 2 asking for help yielded an exercise partner, and scenario 1 only yielded encouragement - there is a clear distinction between useful goal-sharing and less-useful goal sharing.

Yes; some goal sharing is ineffective; but some can be effective. Up to you whether you take the effective pathways or not.


addendum: treat people's goals the right way; not the wrong way. Make a prediction on what you think will happen then ask them critical questions. If something sounds unrealistic - gently prod them in the direction of being more realistic (emphasis on gentle). (relevant example) "what happens over the xmas silly season when there is going to be lots of food around - how will you avoid putting on weight?", "do you plan to exercise?", "what do you plan to do differently from last month?". DO NOT reward people for not achieving their goals.

Comment author: Calien 14 December 2015 07:06:51AM 0 points [-]

Scenario 2 sound like it would be bad for me as well as scenario 1. I'm fairly uncomfortable talking about weight goals with most people - it feels like it would be saying I'm too fat or something negative like that, so unless they've revealed a similar problem to me I don't go there. So in that situation I'd expect to feel insulted. It's not a failure mode that I fall into any more, but where I was expecting that scenario to go is "When you read all the posts your brain goes; yeah this is too hard, I feel bad, I want chocolate. And at the end of the month you've gained a kilo."

Might be gender-related. Women experiencing that sort of discussion to go in the direction of judging appearance along with a greater negative affect from being judged unattractive. Men experiencing it being treated as just another health-related goal and being less concerned with judgment if they admit failure.

It's possible that if I did made such a post and read those responses it would go better than that, but it would be anxiety-inducing for me to go about testing that. Tentative suggestion: sharing goals I feel like I "should" be achieving is bad, sharing goals I just want to achieve is variable but expected positive.

Comment author: Elo 14 December 2015 07:28:23AM 1 point [-]

there is probably a gender variability on this issue.

The paper seems to suggest a specific hypothesis as to why: your brain does the "I got all the congratulations, I must be done" process and this causes you to not try as hard on your goal. I don't know how true that theory is, but it seems reasonable.

I am keen for future research in the area.

Comment author: brazil84 07 December 2015 06:52:46AM 0 points [-]

It's complicated. And depends on the way those people treat your goals.

I would not be surprised if you were right to an extent, but I think in general the more careful thing to do is to maintain radio silence.

Comment author: Elo 07 December 2015 07:59:53AM 2 points [-]

It's complicated again. Trouble is that you have the potential to miss out on opportunities. i.e. before I start a project in the electronics space, I mention it to my friends who are interested in electronics; they then have the opportunity to say, "Oh here's some information I found earlier" or "here let me help you with that"; in various ways that you don't get to take advantage of if you secretly hide all the things you do until they are done.

Comment author: [deleted] 07 December 2015 10:17:36AM 2 points [-]

You could compromise between the two, by telling friends who are genuinely supportive/helpful/motivating, but declining to broadcast.

Comment author: Elo 07 December 2015 11:07:58AM 1 point [-]

Most definitely; it's about knowing how/why these things happen and making the best of the effects.

Comment author: brazil84 07 December 2015 09:48:28AM -1 points [-]

It's complicated again. Trouble is that you have the potential to miss out on opportunities.

Sure, but that's true for anything. It's bad for your life expectancty to smoke cigarettes, but it's also possible that while you are out smoking a cigarette, the building you work in catches fire and collapses.

I will concede that there are exceptions to every general rule and situations where following the general rule works against you.

Comment author: Elo 07 December 2015 11:44:29AM *  0 points [-]

What we're really talking about is the balance of the two sides.

Given that:
sometimes goal sharing will be bad
sometimes goal sharing will be good

I am suggesting that the balance falls on a mix of:

  1. mostly good
  2. you make what you want out of it and there is no automatic win-state.

I assume you are suggesting:

  1. mostly bad
  2. hard to convert to a win-state when fighting your own brain chemistry.

This whole issue compounds when you consider the starting state of the person; whether sharing a goal is outside or inside a comfort zone (and easy or hard to do); and again - the environment in which the goal sharing happens.

I am pretty sure we can't get much further on convincing one another of a different state of balance... Especially without more evidence either way.

On top of that - we might genuinely be living in different states of the world where your world is more how you describe it and my world is more how I describe it.

Given that the last point might be true; Which state of the world would you rather live in?

Comment author: brazil84 07 December 2015 03:06:59PM *  0 points [-]

What we're really talking about is the balance of the two sides.

Given that: sometimes goal sharing will be bad sometimes goal sharing will be good

I am suggesting that the balance falls on a mix of: 1. mostly good 2. you make what you want out of it and there is no automatic win-state.

So it sounds like you are saying that, generally speaking, goal sharing is not counter-productive and is in fact beneficial. Is that right?

I am pretty sure we can't get much further on convincing one another of a different state of balance... Especially without more evidence either way.

Well what is the evidence which supports your position?

Comment author: Elo 07 December 2015 10:23:00PM -1 points [-]

goal sharing... is in fact beneficial.

yes.

https://www.ted.com/talks/derek_sivers_keep_your_goals_to_yourself/transcript?language=en#t-141000

At the end of the video: that link takes you to the timestamp. (its pretty much what I said above)

I have to admit I only read the first few paragraphs of the transcript earlier and only now went through the entire thing. Looks like your source agrees with me.

it depends entirely on the circumstances of your sharing your goals and the atmosphere in which you do it as well as how you treat the events surrounding sharing your goals.

I'd encourage a from first principles approach. where my early reasoning encompassed your initial ideas and went on to explain why that doesn't explain enough of the observation, and how to take advantage of a different state of the world..

See also: accountability partners. as a thing that happens a lot these days.

Comment author: brazil84 07 December 2015 11:49:07PM 0 points [-]

yes.

Ok.

Looks like your source agrees with me.

Not sure how you get that. Pretty clearly he is saying that in general it's better not to share your goals.

Anyway, please answer my question:

What is the evidence which supports your position?

Comment author: Elo 08 December 2015 12:56:42AM -1 points [-]

I quote from the last 40 seconds of the video:

So if this is true, what can we do? Well, you could resist the temptation to announce your goal. You can delay the gratification that the social acknowledgment brings, and you can understand that your mind mistakes the talking for the doing. But if you do need to talk about something, you can state it in a way that gives you no satisfaction, such as, "I really want to run this marathon, so I need to train five times a week and kick my ass if I don't, okay?"

Sounds like he says there is a way to share goals without getting the negative attributes.

Comment author: [deleted] 08 December 2015 07:02:27PM 1 point [-]

I (try to) maintain a two tier system where I tell advisers and people I know who will hold me accountable what my exact goals are, and maintain silence with everyone else.

In practice this gets a bit messy when E.G my mastermind group knows what company I'm building but my parents and girlfriend has no idea. It can be very hard to maintain this, and another strategy I've begun to adopt is being vague about my goals (e.g. "I've got some interested investment in a disruptive education idea and currently trying to work out the details" and tell people "I'll have more for you in a month or so". This seems to give them an incentive to follow up, and me an incentive to want to actually deliver so I can tell them what I'm actually up to.