73. What is a game theory model for laziness?

It’s 8:00 in the evening and my house is a mess. I have two decisions to make: I can clean the house, or I cannot clean the house. I could also watch movies, or I could not watch movies.

Now I have two different sort of payoffs: my lazy self, who really likes watching movies, and my productive self, who really likes getting things done.

I have four options: I could not clean the house and watch movies. I could not the clean the house and not watch movies. Or I could clean the house and watch movies. Or I could clean the house and not watch movies.

Let’s look at the payoffs for each option.

  • If I watch movies and I don’t clean the house, that makes the lazy part of me happy. 10 points for her. My productive self likes the movie a bit too and is very distracted from feeling guilty, so she gets a payoff of 1 point.
  • If I don’t watch movies and I don’t clean the house (just sit around doing nothing), my lazy self isn’t happy (0 points). And my productive self feels guilty (-5 points).
  • Now let’s say I clean the house and I try to watch movies. My lazy self is sort of happy, but distracted (5 points), and my productive self isn’t very happy because her attention is being pulled in two different directions (0 points).
  • And finally, I clean the house without watching movies. My productive self feels really good (20 points), but my lazy self is indifferent (0 points).
 Don’t clean the houseClean the house
Watch movies(10,1)(5,0)
Don’t watch movies(0,-5)(0,20)
(Lazy self, productive self).

So what decision would I make?

Well, my lazy self always wants to watch movies. That’s a dominant strategy. So I’m going to turn on a movie no matter what.

So when a movie is on, I would rather get totally distracted by the movie than try to split my focus and watch the movie and try to clean up at the same point. So the equilibrium is that I watch movie and I don’t do anything.

I really would rather clean up the house and not watch a movie—I get a much bigger payoff. But a lot of times, that’s not what happens.

If I want to change my behavior, I need to change my payoffs.

So what could I do to change the game?

Well, if I listen to audiobooks or music, then my lazy self can have a higher payoff when I’m cleaning the house. And if I make movies harder to get, then there isn’t as big of an incentive to watch movies.

And if I have a guest coming over or some other motivation, there’s a much higher cost for not cleaning the house.

I’ve change the game:

 Don’t clean the houseClean the house
Watch movies(8,-10)(4,0)
Listen to audiobooks(5,0)(5,20)

In this second game, I want to clean the house and listen to audiobooks. It’s a much better game with better payoffs.

Game theory can be really helpful to try to figure out why we are making the decisions we are and how to change that decisions so that we are happier and following our values better.

(Thanks to Ashley Hodgson—her videos inspired this post.)

Categorized as Questions

72. Who is the audience for my life?

I watch YouTube videos or social media posts and people often share their lives to specific audiences: a group of friends and followers who have similar interests. Some people have rather large audiences; some of them are quite small.

If I were to teach a writing class, I would emphasize the importance of knowing the audience you are writing to. In this blog, I’m writing for myself and for a few family members and friends who drop by and read it. That means I have a lot of flexibility to say whatever I want. But writing to a specific, focused audience leads to better writing. For example, when you write a resume, you have to think of the people who will be looking at a resume–and then you have a much better chance of getting a job.

So many aspects of life have audiences. I am my own audience, often, having to live with myself, watching myself, and remember what I did. But my husband, my children, my extended family–they are often the audience of my life. My audience can include neighbors and friends and coworkers. Sometimes I think of ancestors and angels as my audience too.

And God is always there, watching.

I know there is this idea that you dance like no one is watching. But recognizing an audience makes living so much more intentional, and can help bring focus, purpose, and motivation for everything you do.

My main audience is my Heavenly Father, myself, and my children. My children are with me more than anyone else. They are watching; what message do I want to give to them?

When I have an audience, I can perform for them, reaching to be my best self and helping them in the process.

Categorized as Questions

71. How do I discover false beliefs?

If you believe something, you believe it is true. But there are many things that I believe are true which are actually false.

I cannot believe something is true and also believe it is false. (Though I have some doubts about that statement, since while it sounds quite reasonable, I often act as if I believe something is true when in further reflection, I would assert that I was in error.)

But, if I belief something, I believe it is true. And if I believe it is true, then how can I come to know that it is, in reality, false?

I could learn from arguments, from experience, and experimentation. I could learn from evidence from the outside world, or from reasonable deduction in my own mind. I do not need proof to change my beliefs; I just need some amount of persuasion.

But sometimes truth and error are hard to discover, because the whole way I perceive the world is not necessarily accurate. My own thoughts and mind serve as a filter.

There was a car that Dillon owned that I believed was blue and he believed to be brown; we went and found a picture of it to resolve our dispute. But on seeing the picture, Dillon still believed that it was brown and I still believed that it was blue.

So sometimes our perception of truth and error and beliefs are so complicated that it is in fact extremely difficult to say what is true and what is false, and to change our beliefs to be more accurate to what actually is.

But I do think there are things that are true and there are things that are false, and even if my beliefs will never be incredibly accurate, I do want them to be more accurate than they were yesterday.

Categorized as Questions

70. How do I clean my bathroom?

  • Sweep floor/shake out bath mat
  • Put toilet bowl cleaner into toilets
  • Rub vinegar onto any hard water stains and let it soak
  • Clean out toothbrushes/toothpaste storage
  • Spray mirrors with window cleaner
  • Spray sinks, toilets, tub, shower with multi-purpose cleaner
  • Wipe off mirrors
  • Wipe off sink/vanity/faucets
  • Wipe out shower/tub
  • Wipe down toilets
  • Wipe down flooring
  • Empty trash
  • Scrub any buildup and stubborn spots as needed
  • Organize as needed
Categorized as Questions

69. What is the reason of your hope?

But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear.

1 Peter 3:15

My reasons for hope today:

  • I need healing and comfort in hard times, and I have felt that the comforting voice of the Spirit.
  • I believe that I can be a better person today than I was before because of Jesus Christ, because I already have changed and improved.
  • I find inspiration, answers, and peace when I focus on the treasures of heaven.
  • The scriptures bring me answers and guidance in my life.
  • The Lord provides for me in his own time and in his own way, but I can see his hand in the tender mercies that do come.
Categorized as Questions

68. Does money really matter?

The unexpected happened today: I got in a car crash. It was sort of horrible, but I’m lucky. No one got hurt. Everyone was nice.

It was inconvenient and it will definitely be expensive, right when we’ve used most of our funds for home renovation expenses. Money problems can be overwhelming and stressful.

But I kept repeating to myself that everything that happened today could be fixed by money. And in a few years, I won’t even notice that we spent that money.

Money seems so weird sometimes. Sometimes you have to work so hard to get it. Sometimes you don’t work at all and the magic of stock returns can suddenly give you thousands of dollars that you didn’t have before.

So money does matter, because we need it to pay for things. But money is only good for that.

Categorized as Questions

67. How do I get out of my own head?

I spend so much time stuck inside my head, worried about my own thoughts, and if I just took some of that energy and moved it outward, to live in my life instead of being trapped in my mind, I would be a lot happier.

I worry so much about the future and the past, about doing the right thing later or about regrets about not doing the right thing beforehand.

But today just exists right now. And I need to step outside my own head, get back to living.

Life hurts sometimes, and I do make mistakes, and I don’t live a perfect life. There are days full of problems and days when it’s hard to feel like there is purpose in life.

But purpose doesn’t come from having the right goals or being in the right mindset. Purpose comes when I stand still and notice the things that are already happening around me.

My life is not an isolated painting that waits for me as I choose out the right paints and paint on my canvas. Time keeps charging on, and there is messy interference and the world is not what I want it to be.

So my life is not about figuring out what to do, but about being able to exist in all the things that are around me, and I can slowly influence them, gradually growing and shaping happiness into the corners of what life has created for me.

Categorized as Questions

66. What is opportunity cost?

In making any sort of decisions, it’s easy to look at the costs of choosing one thing or another. Getting a degree from a university might costs four years and tens of thousands of dollars. Renovating a home can costs hundreds of thousands of dollars and take a few years.

But in every decision, there is also an opportunity cost: by spending limited resources on one thing, you no longer have those resources to spend on something else.

What else could I do with that time and that money?

Not only does an education cost years and money; it also costs the opportunity to do something else with those years and money. You could get a job instead, and spend money on investments.

With a renovation, you could spend the money on buying a new house or just live with what you have and go to Disneyland a lot.

Often, we don’t consider opportunity costs when we make decisions, both large and small. Instead of thinking what something will cost or possible how it could benefit, we also have to consider alternatives that might cost less or lead to more benefits.

The opportunity cost of pursuing a career in writing includes the income made if you instead decide to be an engineer.

The opportunity cost of spending 20 hours a week maintaining a perfect house is the satisfaction you could have if you spent that time volunteering instead.

Look not just at how much something costs, but what the alternatives are as well.

Categorized as Questions

65. How do I help those who are struggling with their faith?

I think that the basis of all knowledge is faith, so we always have more faith than we realize: we have faith in our teachers, in the articles we read, in the videos we watch, in the words of others. We have faith in science and math. We have faith that the sun will rise and that our lives will turn out okay.

But when it comes to spiritual faith, sometimes we all struggle to believe.

Faith is a choice. None of our knowledge is certain; some of it is just more widely accepted. And when we believe something that isn’t widely accepted, it can be harder to make that choice.

I have struggled at times in my life. How do we help those in the middle of a struggle? Here are some thoughts:

  • Listen without lecturing. Sometimes people just want to be heard and validated. They don’t need advice; they just need to talk.
  • Take the time to ask questions. You don’t have to avoid hard conversations. You can instead ask caring and kind questions to people. Sometime it’s really easy to hide what you are struggling with, but you don’t really want to. When someone shows concern, that can help open up opportunities for growth and connection.
  • Be present, and be okay with discomfort. Sometimes you don’t know what to say and you don’t know what to do. But you don’t turn your back on people. You maintain friendships and you show up even if you feel a bit uncomfortable.
  • Respect other people’s choices. People are going to make different choices And that’s good. Let people go through their own journeys, and try to be understanding and kind.
  • Don’t condemn. While it may seem that someone has made a wrong choice, it might not be that way from a different perspective.
  • Provide helpful resources. For people you are close to, who are searching for truth, it can be helpful to share the words or movies or sounds or images that have inspired you.
  • Share personal experiences. Maybe those experiences aren’t necessarily inspirational or perfect or whatever, but giving a bit of our imperfect selves can help people through their own journey.
  • Love more. Fill relationships with love, with genuine concern for another person and with respect for them. It is better to love than to be right.

And we shouldn’t treat people differently just because they are struggling with something that we don’t know how to deal with, whether that is a struggle with their faith or any other struggle in their life. Show up. Be present. You’re going to make mistakes and say the wrong things, but you can’t say and do the right thing if you aren’t there.

Categorized as Questions

64. What can I delete in my life?

I recently sat and created a career plan. Then, a few days later, I deleted half of it.

I really want to keep my projects. But many of them are not essential, and they often distract me from the projects that are more essential.

I’m in sort of a weird place this year: I’m planning on applying to graduate school, but I currently don’t have a job. I have 10 hours a week where my youngest is in preschool; the other three kids are in school full-time.

I thought I might get a job, but it hasn’t felt right for me right now. So what do I do with my time?

Well, I am working on this book. And I’ve been working on it for a long time. And I am working on a home renovation. I’ve been working on that for a long time too.

But instead of continuing working on the ongoing projects that are more essential, I managed to come up with more and more projects that didn’t matter as much. (My ideas included creating a new website, taking online classes, and making videos.)

So I’m trying to delete the nonessential and focus instead on the projects and the parts of my life that I can’t give up: take care of my children, improve my marriage, serve others, learn new things, and work on my home and my book.

I read recently that someone had a life philosophy of saying yes to everything until they were completely swamped, then they could say no. What a horrible philosophy–that would lead to burnout, wasted time and energy, and missed opportunities. It’s hard not to cram my life full of everything; but it’s already full enough with just the essential.

It’s can be much better to focus a light and make it coherent (that’s what a laser does) than to shine light in all directions. I do need to focus my life, make it coherent, and stop wasting my time on pursuits that fracture my time and energy with that which has little worth.

Categorized as Questions