Belief that pain is the unit of effort

Source: alkjash on LessWrong

With this belief, the injunction “actually try” means “put yourself in as much pain as you can handle.” Similarly, “she’s trying her best” translates to “she’s really hurting right now.”

People with this belief optimize for the appearance of suffering. Wait until you meet someone for whom telling them about opportunities actively hurts them, because you’ve just created another knife they feel pressured to cut themselves with.


  1. If it hurts, you’re probably doing it wrong. That’s just bad form.
    1. So much of this applies to the physical (e.g. working out) why don’t we apply this to our emotional and mental selves?
  2. You’re not trying your best if you’re not happy.

Motivation in Hard Times John in vlogbrothers

”[worked fuelled by resentment and pain] may burn bright, but it also burns dirty”

Oxcart model of pain

Pain is caused by an unwanted difference in the direction in your life from what you want it to be.

Thus, if your life constantly wiggles and deviates between being aligned and not aligned with what you want it to be, it will cause you a lot of pain.

It’s like trying to move a cart across a bumpy road. No matter how you try pushing it from the back, it will always snag or get bumped off course and it is up to the pusher in the back to try to course correct the cart to be back on track. This requires constant attention and effort to ensure the direction is right.

However, if you are instead pulling the cart from the front, you find that the cart may move around more moment-to-moment, but guiding the cart to the final destination requires much less active effort.

The difference in these two cases is that the goal is at two different levels. One tries to course correct constantly, ensuring that both the position and direction of the cart is right, whereas the other only cares about the direction.

The implication of this is that the higher level of abstraction you think about your own goals at, the less day-to-day interruptions and disruptions will actually cause you pain or suffering.


The bigger question then is: how does one figure out the right direction to head in is? What are the right goals at each level of abstraction?

You can only start to effectively pathfind when you look up from pushing the cart and start observe what others around you are doing and what people have done in the past. In part, this is why being informed about history is important; avoid what has stopped others’ carts in their tracks.

Of course, everyone has a slightly different life path, but the general direction can still serve to be useful. Enough iterations of the OODA loop will mean that you develop your own taste about what directions feel right to you.