A few months ago I attended a rationality workshop. Before going, I had no idea what I was getting myself into. I went just because the program was supposed to give me more insight into how my mind functioned. I was hoping it would make me a better thinker and problem solver.
The 3 days were AMAZING even though I felt like they focused too much on what was called “debugging”.
Debugging is a process of trying to “fix” and “solve” ALL your problems. The analogy they used was trying to “debug” a computer program to resolve errors in the code. For example, sometimes when a new version of windows is released, at first it may seem “buggy”, it doesn’t run smooth. So errors are then reported back to Microsoft and then computer programmers scour over the code looking for errors.
The goal of debugging is to make the program run perfectly!
During the workshop, the same principle was applied to human behavior! Essentially they emphasized trying to “debug” life to make it run smooth and perfect! Here are a list of what are considered “bugs” listed in the packet.
- Times when you feel a brief flash of annoyance or frustration.
- Times you feel conflicted, as if one part of you wants to do one thing and another part of you wants to do something else.
- Times when you need to exert willpower in order to do something.
- Things go differently from how you planned.
- You feel distracted rather than engaged in what you are doing.
- It takes a while to decide what to do.
- Anything else that feels non-ideal, or like something you might be interested in shifting but don’t know how.
- Things are going fine but you somehow you feel vaguely unsatisfied.
Many people there had huge lists of over 50 “bugs.” I had 3, and they weren’t really considered bugs according to the criteria.
The next step would be to breakdown your “bug” to a microscopic level to figure out why it isn’t happening using a bunch of analysis techniques.
“Hone in on the problem and figure out why you aren’t doing it.” was the purpose.
This well meaning habit sounds reasonable but it is potentially destructive
1. It puts you in the mindset of always looking for problems in you life. When you are constantly looking for whats wrong, you miss out on what is right!
2. It promotes the habit of trying to achieve perfection like a smoothly running computer program that follows the if – then statements. This is impossible! Your behaviors will never be perfect or even close to perfect. I think the problem originated from the analogy comparing human behavior to a computer function. There are a few similarities but over a million differences. A human mind will never function like a computer. This is absolutely impossible.
3. The process of looking for “bugs” means you will never be bug free! Looking for “bugs” makes things that were once OK now bugs. If I told you to come with a list of 100 problems everyday you could do it. Not because you actually have 100 problems but because you would make them up and think they are problems to get to 100.
4. It causes hardcore neurosis and a false sense of control. We do have a certain amount of control over ourselves and we can improve dramatically but, we are human. The more we try and control, the more we loss control in the forms of frustration and neurosis.
A much better alternative to trying to solve ALL your problems would be to look for ways to make your life a little easier and then focus most of your energy to capitalize on your opportunities!!
This forces you out of the problem focused mindset and into the mindset where you see nothing but opportunities.
Would you rather see your life in terms of 100 problems to fix OR see your life with 100 opportunities to pursue?