Prompt 0:

Think about the way computer programmers talk about “bugs” in the program, or “feature requests” that would make a given app or game much better.  Bugs are things-that-are-bad: frustrations, irritations, frictions, problems.  Feature requests are things-that-could-be-great: opportunities, possibilities, new systems or abilities.

Write down as many “bugs” and “feature requests” as you can, for your own life.


Prompt 1:

A genie has offered to fix every bug you’ve written down, and to give you every feature you’ve requested, but then it will freeze your personality—you won’t be able to grow or add or improve anything else.

Hearing that, are there other things you’d like to write down, before the genie takes your list and works its magic?


Prompt 2:

Imagine someone you know well, like your father or your best friend or a longtime boss or colleague or mentor.  Choose someone specific, and really imagine them sitting right there beside you, looking over your shoulder, and reading your list.  You say to them, “Look!  That’s everything!” and they’re skeptical.  What things do they think you’ve forgotten, and should add?


Prompt 3:

Do a mental walkthrough of your day and/or week, starting from waking up on Monday and going step by step through all of your routines and all of the places you go, things you do, and people you interact with.  Look for snags or hiccups, as well as for exciting opportunities.  Be as thorough as you can—often, actually taking the day or week step by step will cause you to remember things you hadn’t thought of.


Prompt 4:

Take a nice, long, slow thinking pause for each of the following broad domains, one at a time (at least ten seconds and maybe as many as thirty):

  • Work/career
  • Education/learning/curiosity
  • Family
  • Money/finances
  • Exercise
  • Food/diet
  • Sleep
  • Scheduling and time management
  • Hobbies
  • Friends
  • Romance
  • Communication
  • Social interaction
  • Emotions
  • Boundaries


Prompt 5:

Now read this sentence, nice and slow, letting it percolate (maybe read it two or three times, or pause in the middle if it sparks thoughts, and then come back and read the rest).

For this last prompt, think of ways you want the world itself to be different, opportunities you haven’t seized (and what’s kept you from seizing them), problems you haven’t solved (and what makes them sticky), things you knew would go wrong (and then you didn’t do anything about it), times you’ve lost connections or dropped out of things (and then were sad about it), things you wish you’d said but didn’t, things you did say but regretted, places where you’ve never ever felt satisfied or okay, and anything you’d be embarrassed about if your heroes and idols and role models knew.


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This has probably been the most useful rationality technique for me. I think it should be mentioned that should be done before several other things, like resolve cycles?

(I've engaged with CFAR content for maybe 60 hours including practice, so slightly more than a workshop but less than instructors)

Moved it to its chronological position within the workshop schedule, which should help with that.  Thanks.

This is really good stuff.

A minor suggestion: the list in prompt 5 is so important, I suggest it should be in bullets rather than a single paragraph, and ideally people should spend at least a minute or two thinking about each one.

Are we supposed to keep writing bugs and feature requests on prompts 3-5? I don't think it would hurt, and I did write more, but I'm not sure if that's what's intended.

Yeah, in general when this activity is done in-person, people are writing/typing for the whole 15-25min, and each successive prompt is basically just another way to re-ask the same question. If the frame of "bugs and feature requests" starts to feel too [whatever], another way to think of it is to just keep writing down threads-to-pull-on.

Thanks! This post was really thought-provoking.

Ideas for other prompts that may be helpful:
- Say out loud or to yourself: "In my life everything is okay". Notice the emotions, objections and memories that come to mind.
- How do I see myself if I continue living like I do now? What do I love about the picture? What things would I want to add?

I am stuck at the prompt no. 1, because I am wondering whether it is possible to name all the wants once forever despite the complexity of human morality.

Thanks in advance for explanation.

Think pragmatically here. How do you anticipate this list is going to change you?
While much of LessWrong is dedicated to hypothetical truths, CFAR is more about iterative/adaptive truth/improvement.
Don't consider anything and everything. A threshold of hypotheticals prevent you from acting and making progress (I wish they expounded upon this in the prior post).
Just consider the limitations you anticipate that you'll actually be able to/actually want to resolve at some point.

Hopefully this gives you some direction.

Wow, thanks very much. Your post boosted my usage of this handbook rapidly from that day, I intensely enjoy doing these exercises, and I find them extremely helpful and effective. Thanks once again.