Poverty mindset, perfectionism and having fun

2020, Jun 21    

I read a lot of Twitter every day, and my meta cognition kicks in and starts noticing why I’m going to Twitter.

When I play the Witcher, I feel this obsessive need to finish every single side quest and question mark on the map.

When I’m at a party, I feel the urge to talk to every single person.

At home on a Saturday night, even if my body desperately needs rest, I still tell myself I have to go out somehow (pre-Corona).

Underlying all of this is an anxiety that I am not optimizing to get the most out of life. Whatever is in front of me, I have to get the most joy out of it. In attempting to do so I invariably squeeze all the joy out of it.

FOMO, perfectionism and the pursuit of happiness are a terrible mix. They’re the torment of Tantalus. You are afraid of missing out on fun, since life is so short on it, so you try to arrange the ideal fun situation - everything is riding now on this situation being fun, fuck your other feelings, they’re not allowed to comment on how unfun this situation actually is - it’s a party, you’re supposed to have a good time. You walk away feeling even more exhausted and unhappy and most importantly - like you’re an unfun person. Even with all that effort put in, you couldn’t make something fun. Terrible.

I really enjoy this one story about Jesus feeding the multitude, which was re-told with kind of a rationalist re-telling in Pullman’s The Good Man Jesus and the Scoundrel Christ. Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal also has a rationalist re-telling of that fable which is ahem, a bit different.

The story is about unraveling poverty mindset. Everyone came with more than enough food for themselves, but everyone seemed like they had nothing. Once they saw Jesus was giving out what meager food he had, people gave their excess as well. There are resources that are hidden away, that we all could very easily open and access and give to each other and ourselves, we just have to see a bit of a sign that there’s more than enough coming our way.

This is why I have decided to deliberately waste time. It’s a signal to my subconscious that there’s plenty of time for everything. You can waste a weekend not meeting people. You can waste several hours writing a blog post that only a few people will read, you don’t need to optimize for impact, fun, or any metric at all. The silent observer in the back of my head who tallies all of these things measures how much stress to feel based on how much time is wasted, I think. If I deliberately waste some time, that observer chills out a bit.

The tough part is it is tempting to get back into the poverty mindset. There’s a real thrill I get out of planning and optimizing that served me at one point in my life. I even tend to romanticize the Saurya who was able to stretch a few dollars and resourcefulness into hours of fun and self-entertainment. Like a dog that chases a car and finally catches it, I am now lost in this world of more abundant resources - what do I do with this resource-optimizing module of my mind that I admire and value so much? Make an AirTable of my writing schedule of course.