Riikka Ajantaival

15 karmaJoined Oct 2021


As a psychologist myself, I fully support anyone engaging in longer therapeutic work.

My point for suggesting “lighter” options in this thread stems from the observation that many relatively healthy and functional people that might not be considering starting a full course of therapy would nevertheless benefit from discussing their practical, everyday challenges with an outsider. The topics, and therefore the most suitable person to discuss with, might vary.

One of the latest personal examples is a discussion with a colleague about my career directions. After a brief standard intro of my current thoughts, she happened to ask a few very insightful questions that helped me to completely cross off a few suboptimal options out of my considerations. Please note that I had put quite a lot of time into considering options myself and talking to my closest friends about them. I’m quite sure this particular discussion saved me a lot of time as I didn’t need to consider those options further, let alone take steps that might have sidetracked me from things that I’m much more passionate about.

It’s not a cure for all and here are some situations where such discussion might not be so beneficial:

  • the problems are more deep-rooted and require longer therapy
  • there are just too many interrelated things to be meaningfully considered in a short session
  • the person we’ve chosen to discuss with is not a very great fit to support us in a very useful way
  • using the available time for self-reflection, meditation or other private self-reflective practices might provide more value, especially if time otherwise spent in them is scarce

However, the more general point is to invest in your own self-development, in any way that one considers to have the best expected value in terms of future well-being and efficacy.

[End note: despite being a psychologist with a clinical background, I'm not currently providing nor planning to provide such coaching or therapy in private practice. So while the content of the comment is related to my work, I'm not advertising my own services nor anyone else's in particular.]

Unlike steering, this isn't about anticipating some particular future event or world-state. Instead, it's about rethinking/reforming the way the world operates and the way decisions are made. Instead of focusing on where the ship is headed, it's focused on who's running the ship.

I loved most of the post but felt somewhat concerned that the part quoted above is implicitly coupled with adopting a radical (simple) solution model that's criticised under the Mutiny section.

While I share the scepticism about the most common responses to or suggested solutions to the perceived need to rethink or reform the system and decision procedures, I would like much more EA's to focus on (and heavily invest in) finding better solutions to do so. 

While one might make a great contribution while directly steering or improving equity or rowing, the long term expected value is heavily influenced by the current system rules – especially in steering and equity.

Steering: If I’m focused on where the ship is headed, should I  aim to steer myself now to the best direction I can think of, or ensure that in the long run the boat can be steered by the people (a) most capable of doing so, (b) most aligned with the collectively most beneficial outcomes and (c) with the most accurate information possible?

Equity: Should I concentrate on distributing existing resources and making retrofits to make the world more just and fair, or trying to rethink (and eventually reshape) the generator functions that are creating the current imbalances?

I think our ship draws close to some major crossroads, such that navigating them could define the rest of our journey. If I’m right, focusing on rowing to the exclusion of steering is a real missed opportunity.

As we are likely to encounter multiple such major crossroads, I’d also suggest that focusing on steering without considering (even the very deep-rooted) incentives that systematically steer us away from desired goals and how they might be changed is a real missed opportunity.

I don't assume that you would disagree on this, especially as you mention being sympathetic to specific views, e.g. need to more dramatically distribute wealth. I would just highlight that rethinking how the world operates and how decisions are made could be done without attempting to dismantle the current system at all costs, and rather discussing and seeking ways to shift to a better system while minimizing harmful outcomes in the transition.

Let's not confuse genuine attempts to improve our long-term steering abilities with naive rebellion.

Hiring an outsider (e.g. a coach or a psychologist) to go through all relevant and most time consuming parts of your work / life. Just explaining each stream to an outsider is likely to help clarify your priorities, leave out less important ones and make sure you really are doing the most important things.

Also, hiring someone to support working on any addictive tendencies. Intentional and supported work to improve your self-directedness is likely to pay off.

These might not save time immediately but save a lot of time over the years.