Goal Factoring

Link post

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:

  1. Pick an action. It can be something you already do.

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

Daily Challenge

Set a Yoda Timer to Goal Factor “do Hammertime.” Share your motivations and aversions.