Bad day contingency Dojo

Origi­nal post: http://​​bear­lamp.com.au/​​dojo-bad-day-con­tin­gency-plan/​​


The fol­low­ing is an ex­er­cise I com­posed to be run at the Less­wrong Syd­ney do­jos. It took an hour and a half but could prob­a­bly be done faster with some adap­ta­tions that I have in­cluded in these in­struc­tions. In re­gards to what are the do­jos?

I quote Eliezer in the pref­ace of Ra­tion­al­ity: From AI to Zom­bies when he says:

It was a mis­take that I didn’t write my two years of blog posts with the in­ten­tion of helping peo­ple do bet­ter in their ev­ery­day lives. I wrote it with the in­ten­tion of helping peo­ple solve big, difficult, im­por­tant prob­lems, and I chose im­pres­sive-sound­ing, ab­stract prob­lems as my ex­am­ples. In ret­ro­spect, this was the sec­ond-largest mis­take in my ap­proach.
It ties in to the first-largest mis­take in my writ­ing, which was that I didn’t re­al­ise that the big prob­lem in learn­ing this valuable way of think­ing was figur­ing out how to prac­tice it, not know­ing the the­ory. I didn’t re­al­ise that part was the pri­or­ity; and re­gard­ing this I can only say “Oops” and “Duh.” Yes, some­times those big is­sues re­ally are big and re­ally are im­por­tant; but that doesn’t change the ba­sic truth that to mas­ter skills you need to prac­tice them and it’s harder to prac­tice on things that are fur­ther away.

Less­wrong is a global move­ment of ra­tio­nal­ity. And with that in mind, the Do­jos are our at­tempt in Syd­ney to be work­ing on the ac­tual prac­ti­cal stuff. Work­ing on the per­sonal prob­lems and literal im­ple­men­ta­tion of The plans af­ter they un­dergo first con­tact with the en­emy. You can join us through our meetup group, face­book group and as ad­ver­tised on less­wrong.


Below is the in­struc­tions for the Dojo. I can’t em­pha­sise enough the pro­cess of ac­tu­ally do­ing and not just read­ing.

If you in­tend to par­ti­ci­pate, grab some pa­per or a blank doc­u­ment and stop for a few min­utes to make the lists. Then check your an­swers against ours. If you don’t do the ex­er­cise—don’t fool your­self into think­ing you have this skill un­der your belt. Just ac­cept that you didn’t re­ally “learn” this one. you kinda said, “that’s great I wish I could find the time to get healthy” Or “If only I was the type of per­son who did things.”. If this is es­pe­cially difficult for you, that’s okay. It is difficult for all of us. I be­lieve in you!

Good luck.


Every­one has bad days. Each of us will have var­i­ous ex­pe­riences deal­ing with differ­ent causes and/​or di­ag­nos­ing, solv­ing and re­solv­ing the causes of “bad-days”

With that in mind I want to do a few sets of dis­cus­sions on fac­tors of a bad day.

Part 1: Set a timer for 3 min­utes—Make a list of things bad for state of mind, or things you have no­ticed cause trou­ble for you. {as a group each per­son shares one} Re­view the hints list as a group:

  • rou­tine meds/​sup­ple­ments (sup­posed to take)

  • have you taken some­thing to cause a bad state? (things you should not take)

  • sleep

  • exercise

  • shower

  • Sun­light (in­de­pen­dent of bright light)

  • talk to a hu­man in the last X hours

  • talk to too many hu­mans in the last X hours

  • Fresh air

  • Did I eat in the last X hours

  • drink in the last X hours

  • Am I in pain? Phys­i­cal or emotional

  • Phys­i­cal dis­com­fort, weather, loud noise, bright lights, bad smells

  • Feel un­safe in my sur­round­ings?

  • Do I know why I’m in a bad mood, or not feel­ing well emo­tion­ally? (re­mem­ber do not dis­miss or judge any an­swer)

  • When did you last do some­thing fun?

  • Spend 5 min­utes mak­ing a list of all the lit­tle things that are both­er­ing you (try not to solve them now, just make the list) (and if nec­es­sary make plans for the ones you can af­fect).

  • Also pos­si­bly dis­t­in­guish be­tween “why am I feel­ing bad” and “what can I do to feel less bad/​even though I feel bad” (e.g. if you’re stressed about up­com­ing event or fight you had last night, you might not be able to act on it but you can still do things now that will im­prove your state or at least get you be­ing pro­duc­tive)

at the bot­tom of the page:{our bonus list of bad things gen­er­ated in the dojo}

{As a group—were there any big ones we missed and dis­cus­sion about what we came up with}


Part 2: {set a timer 3 min­utes} Come up with a list of things that are good for your men­tal state

{Group dis­cus­sion—each share one}

{op­tional hints list} http://​​hap­pier­hu­man.com/​​how-to-be-happy/​​ {feel free to go through it as a group or glance at it or skip it}

{bonus good stuff list at the bot­tom}

{as a group dis­cus­sion—did we miss any big ones?}


Part 3: Pos­si­bly am­bigu­ous factors

Now that we have a list of good and a list of bad, we should build a list of pos­si­bly am­bigu­ous fac­tors that you can look out for. For ex­am­ple the weather, aller­gies, un­ex­pected events—i.e. a death or car ac­ci­dent. Set a timer 3 min­utes—am­bigu­ous fac­tors {as a group—each name one}

{Any big ones we missed} (dis­cus­sion)

{bonus am­bigu­ous list at the bot­tom}

Part 4: The im­por­tant parts

Now I want you to go through the list and come up with the top 5-10 (or as many as mat­ters) most rele­vant ones. From here on in it’s your list, no more shar­ing so it doesn’t mat­ter to any­one else what’s on it.

{Timer 2 min­utes}

Part 5: plan for where to keep the list so it’s most ac­cessible—so that on a bad day you can ac­cess the list and make use of it. Could be in an email draft, could be on your phone, could be a note some­where at home or in a note­book.

Timer 2 min­utes—come up with where you will be keep­ing the list that makes it most use­ful to you.

{dis­cus­sions of plans—in­clud­ing dou­ble check­ing of each other’s plans to make sure they seem like they are likely to work}

{as­sis­tance if any­one is stuck}

Some ideas:

  • notes app in phone

  • bed­room door poster

  • re­peat and memorize

  • “notic­ing” and ask­ing why, ru­mi­na­tion.

  • add to ex­ist­ing lists

{end of ex­er­cise and break time}


{bonus list of bad things}

  • supplements

  • pri­vate time

  • sun

  • exercise

  • stress (and too much re­spon­si­bil­ity)

  • sleep

  • alcohol

  • my mother (stress)

  • weather (cold)

  • body temperature

  • sick/​headache

  • pain

  • im­mi­nent deadlines

  • in­ter­per­sonal re­jec­tion (and the com­plex­ities of these)

  • when my wife is unhappy

  • overeating

  • miss­ing out on fun things

  • los­ing con­trol of my schedule

  • not hav­ing a schedule

  • over­think­ing past failure

  • avoid­ing things I should do

  • task switching

  • ac­cu­sa­tions/​misunderstandings

  • not stick­ing to good habits

  • be­ing confrontational

  • need so­cial time

  • bad news on the radio

  • obligation

  • fix­at­ing on bullshit

  • get­ting short with people

  • too much coffee

  • bad test mark

  • not con­tin­u­ing com­mu­ni­ca­tion (not know­ing what to say)

  • junk food

  • not be­ing “my­self” enough

  • break­ing good routines

  • cold show­ers in the morn­ing are bad

  • buy­ers remorse

  • sign up to bungee jump­ing (felt bad)

  • be­ing un­pro­duc­tive at work

  • some­thing on the mind

{bonus list of good things}

  • weather

  • ex­er­cise/​swim­ming, dancing

  • sex

  • big meals

  • supplements

  • sort­ing my spread­sheets → feel­ing on top of my tasks → con­gru­ence of purpose

  • when things work smoothly

  • cre­at­ing things → feed­back on completion

  • fasting

  • perfect weather

  • shower + bath

  • go for a walk

  • listen to nice music

  • good plan & fol­low­ing it

  • pet­ting a cat

  • weightlifting

  • girlfriend

  • play­ing instrument

  • feel­ing con­nected with someone

  • veg-out in bed

  • good podcast

  • danc­ing around the house

  • good book/​knowledge

  • meditating

  • a bal­anced day—a bit of ev­ery­thing “good day”

  • napping

  • solv­ing a problem

  • learn­ing knowl­edge/​skill

  • new ex­pe­riences + with other people

  • lack of re­spon­si­bil­ity and com­mit­ment → op­tion of impulsivity

  • na­ture ex­pe­rience (sun­sets, cool breeze)

  • dis­cov­er­ing nuance

  • progress feedback

  • humour

  • hyp­no­tised to be relaxed

  • 3 weeks stick­ing to diet and exercise

  • new idea—epiphany feeling

  • win­ning de­bate/​scor­ing a soc­cer goal

  • pro­duc­tive procrastination

  • con­sider past accomplishment

  • know­ing/​re­al­is­ing → feel­ing the realisation

  • when other peo­ple are re­ally organised

  • mak­ing some­one smile

  • mas­sage giv­ing and receiving

  • hugs

  • deep breathing

  • look­ing at clouds

  • play­ing with patterns

  • mak­ing oth­ers happy

  • good TV/​movie

  • get­ting paid

  • bal­ance so­cial/​alone time

  • flow

  • let­ting go/​de­cid­ing not to care

  • text chat

  • ly­ing on the floor sleep

{bonus am­bigu­ous list}

  • some foods

  • water

  • sleep (short can feel good en­dor­phins)

  • chem­i­cal smells (burn­ing plas­tic, dry­ing paint)

  • too much in­ter­net/​facebook

  • coffee buzz

  • conversations

  • helping people

  • humans

  • find­ing in­for­ma­tion (some­times a let down)

  • bal­ance dis­ci­pline/​freedom

  • see­ing family

  • junk TV/​movies

  • junk food

  • me­nial chores

  • fidgeting

  • paid work

  • part­ner time

  • cod­ing binge

  • be­ing alone

  • exercise

  • read­ing doc­u­men­ta­tion (some­times good, some­times ter­rible)

  • be­ing needed/​wanted

  • en­thu­si­asm → burnout

  • masturbation

  • alcohol

  • stick­ing to timetable

  • perform­ing be­low standard

  • sex

  • learn­ing new stuff

  • clubs

  • brain fog

  • break­ing the illu­sions of reality


Bonus notes [8/​2/​2019]:

For su­per­charg­ing the ex­er­cise I would be spend­ing 10-30 sec­onds on each thing, feel­ing what that state feels like and try­ing to no­tice any pat­terns of feel­ings and what causes them, then try­ing to figure out how I might im­ple­ment trig­ger ac­tion plans around them https://​​www.greater­wrong.com/​​posts/​​wJutA2czyFg6HbYoW/​​what-are-trig­ger-ac­tion-plans-taps

I’d also try to feel into the states of re­solved and go be­tween them (bro­ken/​solu­tion/​solved) and try to un­der­stand what it would feel like to cause that pat­tern, “when I feel bad, I do X and I feel bet­ter”.

sounds ob­vi­ous when phrased like that but the literal feel­ing-based ex­pe­rience that is done dur­ing the pro­cess is the tricky part.

This bonus ex­er­cise is mod­el­led off ther­apy.


Meta: this took an hour to write up and a few hours to gen­er­ate the ex­er­cise.

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