0442 – insist on prioritizing

A few vomits ago I realized that sometimes I have to state things that seem incredibly obvious in order for me to grapple with them– because if they’re unstated, they sort of go under the radar, develop an ugh field around them and then I don’t quite act in accordance with those things– beliefs, principles, whatever. [1]

Now here’s another one of those really simple things, and it has to do with the dissonance I experience when more developed individuals seem confused when they talk to me about my own akrasia.

What happens is this– I have some stated priorities. I then do things that are unrelated to these priorities, and then get really unhappy and frustrated and anxious at the lack of progress I make on these priorities. This makes me feel incompetent, weak, irresponsible and so on, and my conditioned response is to run away, to hide, to avoid things and hope it’ll all blow over.

Why do I not work on the things that I have stated as my priorities? One problem is that “priority” in my head isn’t the same thing as “priority” in the heads of more developed individuals. It’s more of a weak, “yeah I’d kinda like to do that”. And because these priorities aren’t killer, important, make-or-break, it’s very easy for me to avoid or ignore them when they prove themselves to be difficult, hard, scary, boring, schleppy.

The problem and solution is clearer to me when I’m talking to individuals who are LESS developed than me. [2] The problem sometimes a lack of clarity about priorities. In the absence of priorities, I do whatever is comfortable, easy, whatever I _feel_ like doing. As I established in some earlier vomits, my feelings are often wrong and unreliable. So I have to work against my feelings. I have to do what is important to me, not what I randomly feel like doing when I’m not in peak state. I’ve been able to do this for my word vomits. Finishing my word vomits is a real priority to me, because I want to complete this project. And I’ve made it relatively easy to do. I have solved for adoption here.

Now I need to move on to doing this for everything else in my life. First I need to know what my priorities are. I’ve written those down in my workflowy. Then I need to know why these priorities are priorities, why they’re important, what’s the difference they’re going to make and what’s the outcome I’m denying if I don’t work on them. I need to eliminate or relegate things that are less important, so I can focus on things that are most critical. (Gall’s Law: Complex working systems are usually developed out of simple working systems– they rarely start working from being put together complex-ily.) Then I need to design the next steps for adoption.

I haven’t gotten to writing down the critical sentences that matters– that in the absence of clear priorities, randomness will kick me around into a life I do not choose. (Hadfield.) In the absence of priorities, if I just follow my feelings, I’ll have suboptimal hours, days, weeks, months, years, decades, life.

So the highest priority of all is the conviction that priorities matter. [3] I want to say that I believe this– all the motivational videos say it, all the successful people say it, people I admire say it. But the fact that I haven’t lived in accordance with this is evidence that I don’t _truly_ believe it, in a functional, executive sense. Why do I not truly, functionally believe that priorities matter? It’s neither a belief nor a disbelief, it’s just a sort of agnostic indifference. But the indifference is killing me. I need to take a side and double down on it. So we’re trying to install a belief here. And to install a belief you first have to try it on, in a way that’s simple. I’ve tried it on with regards to my vomits. I now need to try it on with regards to exercise, daily reviews, and work.

Is this where I’m usually stuck? Seems like it. Vomit is done, so I’ll start another.


[1] One of this realizations was– what I really want in life is to be powerful and significant. This might be my way of addressing my childhood issues of feeling incompetent, not good enough, irresponsible, unreliable, and so on. So I need to work on things that will make me more responsible, more reliable. I don’t do this because of vague fears and concerns. I worry that I won’t be able to grow into someone more responsible, that I’ll just screw up more things in the future. So this is a belief I need to dismantle, with constant practice and meditation and reassurances and so on.

[2] I don’t want to be presumptuous about what ‘developed’ means. I liked this definition from Ribbonfarm– that Intelligence is the ability to separate bullshit from information. I can detect other people’s bullshit, but I struggle to detect my own. So this is a constant battle and struggle– detecting my own bullshit.

[3] My brain generates some counterpoints to this, which I should be skeptical of because of evil rationalization. I will overthink and avoid doing the work. The way out of this is to treat this as an experiment. I have nothing to lose from running an experiment. Let’s experiment with focusing on priorities. If it turns out I was wrong, I can revert to my previous mode of thinking/being and be more comfortable and confident with that, because I’d have successfully falsified the alternative. But right now I’m running on really old data (that school = bad, and other old, corrupted BS like that). And I know that the status quo isn’t sustainable. So I need to try something different.

Just to quickly state the counterpoint– the sort of Zen / Alan Watts idea that you can’t force yourself to do things that you don’t want to do, that there’s no point making to-do lists and plans and all of those things. As Hunter Thompson said, you want the goals to fit the person, not the other way around. Well I think I’m trying to make my goals fit me. I think I’m trying to make my priorities reflect my own inner interests. Maybe once I’ve been running this program for a few months I’ll be able to internalize it without thinking. But for the time being, it’s clear that my feelings are often wrong and I shouldn’t navigate by them.

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