This is part 18 of 30 of Hammertime. Click here for the intro.
Up until today, Hammertime focused on improving one’s ability to achieve one’s goals. The next two techniques, Goal Factoring and Internal Double Crux, are designed to figure out what goals to pursue. For the largest goals in life, you should be able to make a detached decision about whether they’re worth pursuing before you throw your all into them.
Day 18: Goal Factoring
Previously: Day 7, Aversion Factoring.
Goal Factoring is a CFAR technique for systematically figuring out all the subgoals and aversions you have around an action, and what to do about them. The basic algorithm:
- Pick an action. It can be something you already do.
- Factor the action into goals and aversions. Write down all the costs and aversions to pursuing the action, and continue to factor sub-goals until they feel like irreducible components.
- Brainstorm possible replacement actions. Try to design another action that achieves the goals better and reduces the costs and aversions. This action can be an upgrade of your current action, something else altogether, or even a combination of two or more actions. Make a new plan.
- Reality check. Imagine instituting your new plan. Decide if you’re satisfied. Also, decide if it’s feasible by Murphyjitsu.
This is already quite a complicated and useful beast. Three things to keep in mind:
Use a focusing check to find all the subgoals and aversions. If I say out loud, “The only reason I want to go to the gym is physical health,” I feel a curtain of discontent that reminds me physical attractiveness is also important. Remember that honesty and attention to detail are essential to finding aversions, and this applies to goals as well!
Goal factoring might solve the problem at any step. Writing down your true motivations can be enough to figure out the right course of action. About three months ago, I noticed that the main motivation for my video game addiction is “Prove to my parents that it’s possible to be successful without giving up video games.” Writing this down made it impossible to endorse this action any longer.
Prepare to accept all possible worlds. Keep an open mind going into Goal Factoring: you’re allowed to consider all the alternatives. You’re also allowed to keep doing what you’re currently doing afterwards. Try to release any attachment to the action itself beyond its instrumental value. Get a little worried if your main reason to do action X is to become the kind of person who does X, but at least write this down as an explicit sub-goal.
Exercise: pick an action or habit you want to pick up or drop, and set a Yoda Timer for 20 minutes to Goal Factor it.
Set a Yoda Timer to Goal Factor “do Hammertime.” Share your motivations and aversions.
Here's what I came up with goal factoring "do Hammertime:"
Goal: Feel like I’m “moving forward,” not just treading water
Goal: Improve health
Goal: Improve day-to-day life
Aversion: Not totally confident rationality/CFAR techniques are good self-improvement methods
Aversion: Partner is not a big fan of rationality, worried they won’t be supportive (They have in fact been supportive so far!)
Aversion: I’m not always good at sticking with things, worried I’ll drop it
Aversion: Concerned that this is actually entertainment, rather than beneficial self-improvement.
In general, I have been very happy with Hammertime so far. I do think my last aversion is the most salient - much of the progress I've made so far is on the little stuff rather than toward the really big stuff. But I'm hopeful that sticking with it and continuing to practice the techniques and work my way up the bug list will yield results.
In Goal Factoring, does goal = motivation = desired outcome?
I'll just copy whole tree from org-mode with deliberations on Hammertime factoring with minimal editing
Maybe this will be helpful to someone, and if someone gives me feedback - that could be helpful to me too. Maybe I'm missing something, maybe I'm not going deep enough?
(Is there a way to hide long part of the comment under a spoiler?)
Initial plan: set 60 minute timer for whole daily Hammertime session.
You'll notice that step 2 begins "factor the action," rather than "factor the goal." What this suggests to me pretty strongly is that this technique should be called "action factoring"; unfortunately Duncan has categorically rejected that name for a long time now. Curious if other people have thoughts on it; I think it's great.
Should we call prime factorization "number factorization" then? Is Goal Factoring "factor the goal" or "factor into goals"?