Like many people here, I think a lot about how to become more awesome. I'm fairly optimistic about my chances, because I can clearly remember times in the past when I was less awesome than I am now-- not necessarily less rational, but less productive and with fewer relevant skills.1
So I've been thinking about what changes I believe have most improved my effectiveness, changes which have caused me to learn many useful things and/or greatly increased my productive capacity. I found the list interesting:
- Getting into a comfortable, highly supportive relationship: it has tremendously decreased my level of anxiety, improved my motivation to maintain a basic level of functioning, and increased my reserve capacity.
- Finding enjoyable, appropriately challenging but low-stress work. Work forces me to get out of the house and interact with other humans, keeps me away from harmful behaviors like playing video games for hours, provides mental stimulation, and boosts my self-worth. Since I work as a math tutor, it's also been great practice at teaching, doing math, and the kind of general personhood skills that fall under the heading of Professionalism.
- Attempting very difficult things at which I was highly motivated to succeed (but was not necessarily successful). These are the times when I've learned the most.
- Limiting my own access to time-wasters by using LeechBlock and being commited to a schedule(LW is certainly on the list of time-wasters).
Things which are notably not on the list:
- Therapy. If you have found therapy helpful, I'd really appreciate hearing exactly how you used it. It hasn't been worth a damn for me.
- ADD meds. (Depression meds were somewhat helpful when I was actually depressed, however.)
- Ambitious self-improvement projects undertaken alone, or without major consequences for failure (including but not limited to diets, exercise programs, and extensive programs of independent study3).
So how have you actually improved your own effectiveness?
1 Some of these less-awesome past versions of me suffered from clinical depression, but the last time I had a major episode of depression I was able to deal with it much more purposefully than in the past and still accomplish a large percentage of the shit I was supposed to be doing, so I think there has been improvement independent of my state of mental health.
2 Major consequences for failure seem to be very effective motivators, but since I want to undertake projects that are difficult enough to have a significant chance of failure, I would like these consequences to be highly motivating without being horribly costly, if possible. Ideas?
3 I have learned a lot from pleasure reading, but I'm not sure how much was actually useful, and since I've been reading for pleasure since I can remember there's no easy before-and-after comparison to make.