Replacing Fear

In this sequence I explore some of the ideas I've found most useful in understanding my motivations and the motivations of people around me. The most fundamental negative emotion which holds me (and, I expect, many other people) back is fear. But I think that it's possible for most people to dramatically reduce the amount of fear-driven motivation they experience, and replace it with much healthier excitement-based motivation.

This sequence describes how to do so. It's divided into three parts (each containing four posts). The first part introduces fear-based motivation, explains why I think it's so fundamental, and contrasts it with excitement-based motivation. The second part discusses how to overcome fear by building self-trust. The third focuses on how to cultivate excitement-based motivation, and some pitfalls to watch out for.

As a warning: I make many claims about psychology which I don’t defend in much detail, nor provide much evidence for. I’m primarily trying to convey my opinions rather than justify them; indeed, since they're mostly based on my own experiences, it'd be hard for me to rigorously justify them if I tried. And so you definitely shouldn’t take my word for any of this—but I think these ideas are important enough that it’s at least worth checking if they work for you (while remembering, of course, the law of equal and opposite advice: some people should be doing the exact opposite of what I recommend).

The biggest inspiration for this sequence was Nate Soares’ Replacing Guilt series. I think it's amazing, and know many people who have been inspired by it. There's significant overlap between this sequence and his, but also many differences. In particular, in the framework I outline in this sequence, guilt is just another example of fear-based motivation (and often far from the most salient one). Another big inspiration was Kaj Sotala's sequence on multiagent models of the mind, which first introduced me to many of the concepts I explore here.