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More Rational Resolutions

31 December 2013

From The Wall Street Journal:

Can “goal factoring” help you keep your New Year’s resolution to hit the gym every day in 2014?

“Goal factoring,” a method of designing better plans, is one of the techniques taught by the Center for Applied Rationality, which hosts three-day workshops that teach attendees how to use science-based approaches to achieve goals. A November workshop in Ossining, N.Y., instructed 23 participants on how thinking about one’s future self as a different person can help goal-setting and why building up an “emotional library” of associations can reduce procrastination.

CFAR, a Berkeley, Calif.-based nonprofit, is prominent in the growing “rationality movement,” which explores the science of optimized decision-making.

. . . .

Very smart people often make irrational decisions, says University of Toronto psychologist Keith Stanovich. This leads to, say, physicians choosing less effective medical treatments or governments spending millions on unneeded projects. In 2013, Dr. Stanovich received a $1 million grant from the John Templeton Foundation to develop a rigorous “rationality quotient” test similar to an IQ test.

. . . .

For individuals, the odd secret of rationality is its reliance on emotions, proponents say. “People are always really surprised at how much time we spend at the workshops talking about our feelings,” says CFAR President Julia Galef, who has a statistics degree from Columbia University. “Rationality isn’t about getting rid of emotions, but analyzing them and taking them into consideration when making decisions,” she says.

. . . .

Similarly, goal factoring can help determine whether shelling out $40 a month at the YMCA is the best way to get in shape. This involves mapping out the motivations (health, stress relief, weight loss) behind doing something (going to the gym), and questioning whether there is a more effective way to achieve the same things. Goal factoring could lead a person to realize that, given time and interests, an hour on the treadmill is unrealistic, but a weekly soccer tournament with friends is doable.

Other lessons include “structured procrastination.” The idea is that if you’re going to procrastinate, you might as well procrastinate by doing something that works toward another goal—for example, procrastinate on starting a work project by watching a TED talk you’ve been meaning to catch or starting a book you’ve wanted to read.

Link to the rest at The Wall Street Journal (Link may expire)

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One Comments to “More Rational Resolutions”

  1. I’m a huge practitioner of “structured procrastination”. It’s the only way I get anything done. At least it’s not a computer game…

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