Boredom

Once I’d worked through my emotions and I felt like a unified person, one thing that would come up quite often was boredom. Pretty much the only reliable things that worked on it were exercise and cooking. They didn’t work well. Working on my OS that was supposed to make me rich became boring. Doing the bare minimum to get it out and see if it sold seemed less like a compromise, but a lot of planned features started feeling like a waste of time. This wasn’t boredom as in playing video games to avoid pain, it was the restless, “I don’t know what to do to satisfy my true values” boredom.

My therapist suggested I try to sit with the boredom and learn what it was telling me, like I would do with emotions in normal meditation, even though boredom isn’t an emotion. This was useful, and mostly confirmed my suspicion that the boredom was a wake-up call from my true self, “what you are doing isn’t enough to satisfy my values/desires”.

I’d guess that exercise is something I value, and that the more core work on my startup was helping to address a sort-of-bottleneck to my goals, e.g. money, which was why they weren’t too boring. I’ve been pivoting into doing less boring things with my time.

One way to get stuck in performing the skills in Part II, is to say, “I dislike my job or my schoolwork, but I’ve spent too much time to give up now, or I don’t know what else I would do, it’s too big of a change”. No! If this is you, you can wait until you’re somewhat far along in Parts I and II before quitting. But you must eventually make the jump and quit, if you want the full-strength version of these skills. Because that boredom with your work is coming from the true you, and it is trying to tell you something. Sunk cost fallacy is really a fallacy.

It is fine if you can’t make the change because you have no savings. This is about doing what you want within whatever your constraints are. But if you find yourself saying “I can’t quit, I know I want to but I need the stability”, then you’re probably making a social excuse because you feel pressured to quit by a well-meaning person and want space. In that case, you should run away from everyone, so that nobody can pressure you, and meditate on it yourself until you figure out what your true self wants.

It is fine to say, “I have no idea how to achieve my true self’s values at all”, and spend half a week or whatever coming up with ideas and doing shallow investigations to help yourself figure out what you should do next. Do not let “quitting is a big change” be a reason to stop investigating.

If this exploration doesn’t yield any courses of action that feel worthwhile to you, you can take more time to explore your options in a dedicated way. You can also use exploitation of potential courses of action as a way to explore their value more—just stop exploiting them once it starts feeling boring and like you aren’t learning anything new.

Next post: Improving on Effective Altruism

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