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Trajectory vs Position

One habit that I have found very disheartening is that of comparing myself to other people. I have a tendency to try to think of myself as being in the most favorable reference class* that makes any sense, and so then when I compare myself to other people, I naturally pick people from that reference class. Since I picked the nicest reference class in the first place, these comparisons usually don't work out well for me. I end up feeling depressed about my position in life, and it's very unproductive and unhelpful.

I have two strategies that I use to counteract this. The first is to try to think purely of myself in relation to myself, and not in relation to other people. Comparing myself to my past self is almost always a favorable one, and more helpful than favorable comparisons against other people, because it doesn't breed a superiority complex, and it demonstrates to myself that I can improve. So that's a better tactic.The other one that has helped me a great deal is thinking about myself in terms of trajectory instead of position. Focusing on position isn't actionable. It tells you that you're better than other people or positions you could be in, so you can rest on your laurels. It tells you that you're worse than different people, or alternate versions of yourself, but suggests no methods of improvement.

Thinking about your trajectory, on the other hand, changes all of that. If you're thinking about trajectory, you're not thinking about where you are currently, you're thinking about how your position is changing. So it doesn't matter if you're in a really bad situation, what matters is if your situation is improving or getting worse. And this lets you go meta, which is always a good thing: the second derivative, how how your situation is changing is changing.

This is really useful because, while the thing you actually care about is your position in life, you can't choose your position at any given moment. But you can, more or less, choose your trajectory. And your trajectory now determines your position later.

For instance, a few months ago I was in a really good position, but just sort of treading water. Not really improving or getting worse. Now I'm in a really similar position (that's what happens when you don't have a positive or negative trajectory, you're still in the same position later!), but I've started a new project (this blog), have two more projects that will be starting soon (National Novel Writing Month and a youtube channel), have made significant progress on two new games for my business, and am moving to Brooklyn in three weeks. My present situation hasn't changed much, but I'm setting myself up to have a lot more success in the future.

Using Specific Motivation to Reach Your Goals

On Tynan

One of the worst pitfalls of productivity is to decide that you're going to execute on something, work on it for some period of time, lose interest, and ultimately quit before you get meaningful results. This happens in obvious cases like writing a book or coding a project, but can also apply to things like learning a new skill or building a new habit.

The danger of this particular pitfall is that besides spending time on something that yields no, or little, results, you've also incurred a huge opportunity cost. The time, focus, and effort spent on that particular campaign could have been spent on something which you would have completed.

There are a lot of possible causes of this, but the biggest might be motivation. Achieving any serious goal requires pushing through some steep challenges, and raw motivation is often the force that can get you through those challenges.

Of particular importance is specific motivation. Some people are generally motivated, eager to grab life by the horns and succeed, but without specific motivation for individual projects, they are doomed to be enthusiastic dabblers. I know, because I've spent lots of time in this category.

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