What Do I Have to Gain, And What Do I Stand to Lose?

With so many goals on my mind lately, it probably comes as no surprise that one of the books I’ve recently been reading is a pop psychology one by Heidi Grant Halvorson, pithily entitled “Succeed – How We Can Reach Our Goals.”

What I do like about it is that it’s an easy reading, almost-conversational-blog sprinkled-with-humor style summary of what appear to be fairly crunchy concepts in research, just distilled without having to wade through pages of jargon down to a level where a layperson can grasp the surface and make use of.

One of the more interesting summarized concepts was that a person can have a promotion or a prevention focus when it comes down to chasing goals.

Promotion-focused goals are thought about in terms of achievement and accomplishment. They are about doing something you would ideally like to do. In the language of economics, they are about maximizing gains (and avoiding missed opportunities).

Prevention-focused goals are thought about in terms of safety and danger. They are about fulfilling responsibilities, doing the things you feel you ought to do. In economic terms, they are about minimizing losses, trying to hang on to what you’ve got.

This goes a long way towards explaining my puzzlement at the odd sense of relief I get when successfully completing a raid boss, as contrasted by the elation I see other people experience.

When you set a goal for yourself and reach it, you feel good. That much is obvious. But what does “good” feel like?

When your goal is an achievement, a gain, you feel happy—joyful, cheerful, excited, or, in the vernacular of a typical teenager, totally stoked. It’s a high-energy kind of good feeling to reach a promotion goal.

It’s a very different kind of good to reach a prevention goal. When you are trying to be safe and secure, to avoid losing something, and you succeed, you feel relaxed—calm, at ease, peaceful. You breathe the sweet sigh of relief. This is a much more low-energy kind of good feeling, but not any less rewarding.

When I read the above paragraphs, I was amazed at just how right on the money it sounded.

Some of this subconscious choice of focus might be due to personality, or culture, or upbringing, but evidently I skew a lot more towards prevention where this is concerned.

(East Asians are enmeshed in a culture that revolves around saving face, it rubs off, even if you’d like to be optimistic and gain-focused. Singaporeans have the terms “kiasu” and “kiasi” – the Hokkien root word “kia” literally means “fear” or “afraid.”)

We could share the same goal of wanting to down the raid boss, but where someone else might be focused on the -gain-, on the prize and rewards and prestige and glory and satisfaction of a successful kill, my focus tends to end up on:

  • “I hope I’m not screwing up too badly, to the point that they kick me, cos that will mean more difficulty and obstacles in the path of Legendary armor collection” or;
  • “This group is not doing so well, we’re missing something, what are we missing, where is the flaw in the team that stands in our path of success, how can this flaw be fixed, either by the person responsible -is it possible to communicate this flaw without a drama blowout- or by me covering what’s missing.”
  • “What else can I be doing to ensure success? Am I making mistakes that I need to avoid or not do so much of? Am I fulfilling my roles and responsibilities in a raid without slipping up?”

Little wonder by the time a group I’m in first successfully downs a boss, I’m exhausted and relieved.

As for the opposite feeling, Halvorson had this to say:

The focus of your goal also determines the particular kind of bad you feel when things go wrong. In fact, Higgins first discovered the difference between promotion and prevention when he was trying to explain why some people reacted to their failures with anxiety, while others reacted by sinking into depression.

When you are going for gain, trying to accomplish something important to you, and you fail, you tend to feel sadness—dejected, depressed, despondent. As a teen might put it, totally bummed. It’s the low-energy kind of bad feeling—the kind that makes you want to lay on the couch all day with a bag of chips.

But failing to reach a prevention goal means danger, so in response you feel the high-energy kinds of bad feeling—anxiety, panic, nervousness, and fear. You freak out. Both kinds of feelings are awful, but very differently so.

Suddenly I understand why I ended up keyed up in a ball of nervous thwarted frustration in the early days, without the safety of a static group to fall back on.

I needed that safety, that ego defence of:

a) you have successfully killed all the bosses, ergo you do not suck,

b) you have a static group that can successfully kill all the bosses weekly, ergo your achievement plans are not threatened,

c) you have a respectable amount of face-saving legendary insights, sufficient to make Legendary Armor even if your raid group crumbles overnight (notice the urge to catastrophize)

From afar, it’s a little bit sad that my initial motivation seemed to stem more from a place of fear, of danger avoidance, rather than “fun” or gain-seeking.

It does help to explain why other people seem to get a lot more positive kicks out of raiding than me, though.

(That’s not to say I’m incapable of promotion-focused goals. I find I’m more able to focus on that kind of stuff -now-, after the “safety”/”avoid danger” bits are already resolved.

I’m more able to relax and look for gains and “fun” now that a lot less is “at stake” – even if the stakes only really existed in my head.)

The silver lining to this ever-so-slightly neurotic cloud is that prevention-minded pessimists like me are apparently very good at self-monitoring and future improvement. We can’t help but keep thinking of “what can be done better next time” and picking apart our mistakes like it’s the end of the world to commit one.

Optimists, on the other hand, are more liable to say, “well, it could have been worse if I had done this, or if that happened…” in order to make themselves feel better, which according to Halvorson, means they tend to blind themselves more to their own faults to protect their ego, and thus improve at a slower pace than worry-wart pessimists, if at all.

True, all the above is a simplification and a generalization. Optimists vs Pessismists or Promotion vs Prevention dichotomies don’t exist only in black or white terms.

In reality, a person can vary between being pessimistic and optimistic from one moment to another, or choose to be promotion-focused for goal A and prevention-focused for goal B, and it’s probably useful to be aware and consciously decide to do so.

But as a high-level concept, I thought it was fairly interesting to be able to categorize our tendencies to think along two major paths that way.

Two Steps Forward, One Step Back & The New Year’s Direction

In my zeal for New Year’s spring cleaning and re-ordering my life for the better, I opened a window that hasn’t been opened for the last ten years of living in this house.

The idea was to air out the place, improved ventilation and all that.

Also, I was proud of my herculean efforts cleaning out the window ledge, previously a location for accumulating convenient dusty junk piles, and removing chunks of grime from said window and wanted to keep looking out of it to celebrate.

Then it started raining.

The initial drizzle lulled me into complacency. A couple small drops on the ledge, nothing more, so I shrugged and went to enjoy my lunch.

I walked back into the room with a bunch of stuff in my arms, planning to have a good time sorting and arranging, only to discover an Olympic-sized swimming pool had now taken up residence on said window ledge.

Happily wading inside it, was a table lamp and my $800 Fujitsu Scansnap scanner.

*sigh*

I won’t bore you with the details. Suffice to say there was a great unloading of stuff in my arms on the floor, quick scrambling to shut off all electrical plugs, much rummaging for absorbent rags and dehydration effort implementation on various fronts.

The long and short of it is that my best laid plans for spending the weekend decluttering have now got to be pushed back at least 24 hours (and probably 48 hours would be safer) before I get to find out if I now have to buy myself a belated Christmas present of a newer model of Fujitsu Scansnap.

The shelving that I was -hoping- to sort things out on is now half-soaked and has been carted out to somewhat drier surroundings in the hope that it’ll dry out before mold decides it’s an optimal home.

The PC, thankfully, seems to have been shielded from the brunt of it by the valiant shelving’s sacrifice, but since there was a random scattering of raindrops across all the electrical plugs and wiring and the metal casing, I’m thinking it’ll be safer to give it at least a few hours of drying time.

So now the air conditioner is running, during an already fairly cold day (for the tropics, anyway,) in the hopes that it’ll speed up the dehumidifying process, and I’ve beaten a hasty retreat to the living room, sneezing frightfully with a nose that is fitfully protesting the sequential abuse of dust, mold spores and shivering cold temperatures, typing out this blog post on a laptop, for lack of anything better to do.

Well, it’s one way to get me back to blogging again, I suppose.

On a brighter note, I’ve discovered that serious full-fledged decluttering involving moving books, technological objects and shelving from room to room is pretty good beginner movement exercise for an overweight sedentary person, in that it provokes movement out of me and more importantly, feels more productive than engaging in repetitive motions for the sake of moving.

(If we liked moving to begin with, chances are we wouldn’t be overweight, so it does take a bit of mental gymnastics to find movement activities for a sedentary person that we like and can see ourselves doing repeatedly as a lifestyle change.)

Plans for the year ahead are pretty simple.

I won’t call them new year resolutions, as those seem traditionally broken or forgotten by April or so, but more of guiding principles to skew my life towards in 2016:

1. Pay more mindful attention towards health and exercise.

This cover things like trying to choose healthier foods when possible and enjoy indulgences in smaller proportions. Practice more mindful portion control, we know roughly how much we should be eating, it’s just ridiculously easy to over-eat because the bag of chips is there and we want the sensation of crunch while watching a show or whatever. Make an effort to move more, whenever the opportunity arises, just to get in the habit of -moving-.

2. Actively seek out a variety and novelty of experiences.

I’ve been noticing that I get depressed (or at least slow down, get apathetic or negative) every time I get into a rut and end up feeling like there’s nothing more to life than waking, going to work, eating, sleeping, rinse and repeat, with maybe some gaming in there from time to time.

To combat this, I think the first few words are important, I may need to be proactively looking to switch things up and keep myself focused on experiencing a whole bunch of different things. We’ll see how this works out in the year ahead.

3. Hoard less, use more.

It may be an odd slogan to coin, but I just finished a library book the other day (part of my branching-out-to-do-other-things-than-just-GW2 campaign) by Randy Frost, titled “Stuff: Compulsive Hoarding and the Meaning of Things.

It was a nice read and a bit of an eye-opener. I mean, sure, we’ve all seen the hoarding TV shows, gawked at the spectacle of extreme hoarding and probably gave thanks that our own homes have not quite descended to -that- level.

But I liked how the book explained that forced intervention usually don’t solve the underlying problem – something within the person that causes them to feel obliged to hoard, and elaborated on various reasons while not being judgmental (one interesting twist of perspective is that some hoarders are very adept at creating connections and imbuing meaning and uses to objects that most people would consider junk, and thus find it hard to throw anything away; or that some hoarders rely on objects to build up an almost encyclopedic memory of stories about each thing, a sort of tangible memory palace to fuel prodigious feats of memory, so asking them to throw stuff away is like asking them to discard their memories or parts of themselves…)

Hoarding, it seems, may also have a genetic basis. Which does jibe when I look around at my life and realize that one of my family members is likely to have at least a moderate hoarding problem (which makes discarding old furniture and bulky household items quite a challenge) and that I probably have a subclinical to mild hoarding one as well. (See the Clutter Image Ratings on the Amazon page, or the full PDF.)

Most of the house hovers around the 2 mark, with one or two rooms (a storeroom and the room inhabited by the family hoarder) at 5.

It’s unlikely said family hoarder is going to change, but at least said family hoarder respects room boundaries.

In the meantime, I have my eye on the rest of the rooms, the bulk of which is either my stuff or family-owned stuff and am motivated to change up some things about myself, if only to eliminate dust allergies, make future cleaning easier, and have rooms that look easier on the eye and -pleasant- to look at and enjoy.

The good news is that I haven’t been really acquiring new clutter for the past decade, having moved much of my life (and my hoarding tendencies) to the digital realm. Yeah, I have somewhat crazy MMO and Steam game collections. But hey, they don’t take up as large amounts of space!

(The “hoard less, use more” slogan also applies in a figurative sense to the digital hoard. I intend to play more of my Steam games and branch out this year. It’s time to use and enjoy what I’ve been stockpiling.)

The bulk of the clutter that has yet to be dealt with is old stuff and once gotten rid of, unlikely to ever come back in such volume. Definitely something to work on this year. Hopefully it doesn’t take up the whole year and I can spend more of the time -enjoying- the freed up space and actually -using- the things that I choose to value and keep.

The latter is a big motivator for me. While decluttering this month, I keep encountering stuff I’ve wanted to do, but “kept for later” (be it books to read, hobbies to take up, games to play, whatever.)

That stuff ends up buried under piles of other stuff, forgotten until unearthed.

It’s way past time to unearth it and enjoy it, before it rots or I pass on and end up leaving it for some other poor bastard to clean up.

GW2: Prioritizing Things To Do, Post-Heart of Thorns

wyvernvsfrogs

We’re about two weeks into the Heart of Thorns expansion. I guess now’s a time as good as any to finally come up for air.

The 64-bit client has worked wonders for me as a stopgap measure to stave off memory leak crashes (at last, upgrading to Windows 7 and a new computer with 16GB of RAM has been rewarded.)

On average, it chomps about 3-3.5 GB of RAM just doing normal things and goes up to about 4-4.5GB consumed during insanely packed meta events where a hundred players are in the vicinity, all sporting their own combination of wardrobe and dyes and particle effects.

Bright side, it doesn’t crash (at least, not yet, *touches wood*)

(I stress tested it the other day by walking into the Svanir Shaman Frozen Maw daily with full default graphics and name tags on. I figure, if it doesn’t freeze up and die then, it’s probably okay.)

Thus I get to see more of Heart of Thorns on a graphical setting beyond potato.

halfabreacher

Granted, it’s rather hard to frame a screenshot sans UI when you’re worried about getting randomly gibbed by a Mordrem sniper, a punisher, or *urgh* a stalker.

One thing I’ve noticed is that I’ve become rather relaxed about goals in the expansion.

A seasonal cadence of two weeks/four weeks lent a level of stress that encouraged me to grind out all the rewards I wanted “before it went away.” There was a “limited-time” pressure that was sometimes obvious and sometimes subconscious, which made me more prone to frustration and impatience.

Faced with a deluge of possible rewards to buy and skins to collect, one would think that I’d be freaking out right about now, but knowing its permanence (assuming the HoT zones stay unchanged reward-wise as long as Dry Top and Silverwastes has existed is likely a safe bet), I’ve been looking on most of it as a long term goal. The slow chase will likely last me another year, if not two, and I’m okay with that.

If anything, I’ve been confronted by that age-old lateral progression bugaboo that we veterans keep advising newbies about: “Help! I’ve reached X threshold, and there are so many things to do! What should I be doing first?!”

My usual naggy refrain to these folks is that beyond a certain point (ie. get exotic armor as a baseline, strive towards Ascended trinkets and more,) we can’t really tell you what to do next because it all depends on what you value and want to prioritize.

Like story? Like dungeons? Like shiny skins? Like gold? They all head down different roads.

Similarly, I look at Heart of Thorns and I’m like, “Masteries? AP achievments? Raids (be it prep for the closed ones, or open world ones?) Gold + Relaxation? (So many nodes to hit, so much money players are willing to spend *twitches compulsively*) Shinies? (Like chase a HoT skin collection, a core Tyria legendary, a core Tyria precursor, or prep for a Maguuma legendary?) So many collections? Aaahhh collect all the things? *falls over dizzy like Skritt in Tarir*”

So I decided to put my money where my mouth is and prioritize my own shit:

  • New Stuff
  • Raids (while new)
  • Harvest Nodes
  • AP
  • Certain shiny objects
  • Gold
  • Masteries
  • Collect all the things
  • Raids (when they’ve gotten old)

This totally non-scientific list was mostly ordered by just choosing two things at random, eg. “Chase AP or Harvest Nodes to Relax” or “Chase AP or Gold?” and deciding which one I valued more, or which I’d pick if I could only do one thing that day.

It’s a little fuzzy around the edges, because technically, harvesting nodes is my main gold stream, but given the amount of gold I’m liable to invest into chasing AP or if the gold had to come from other sources like chasing events or doing dungeons, then certainly I’d choose to focus on easier AP goals first.

Yet if you were to ask me if I’d prefer harvesting nodes to chasing AP, I’d only have to look at my still undone Golden Badges in the Silverwastes to tell you that I’ve been hitting all the nodes first over something like that. Eventually I’ll buckle down and shove that priority up a tad, but as a general guideline, the above list works for me.

New stuff goes without saying for me. I was camped out in Tangled Depths over two weekends and quite a number of weeknights trying to bring down the Chak Gerents (all four of them.)

potatogerent

It may be potato graphics, but this reward chest has never looked shinier.

tdhole

The end result of succeeding the meta was mostly a great big hole blasted through to Dragon’s Stand, a couple of crystallized cache chests and a strongbox made accessible. Plus a piece of Mistward something that’s presumably used for making Mistward armor, when I get around to it. (Probably around the time I finally get around to making a Revenant.)

Once that succeeded once, it was like a great big load fell off my mind and I could start voluntarily choosing to ignore some raid sessions, knowing that more would be organized every day / every week. There would be time to accumulate the zone currency gradually. Now I could prioritize other things with my GW2 play time to catch up on other stuff.

Some of that involves getting more or less prepped for the impending *ugh* closed 10-man raids to hit GW2.

I’m still looking on that activity with a fair amount of dread – mostly because it’s hellish to try and match timezones and turn up at a regular schedule, plus there’s always that rejection feeling from an activity with such small number limits.

(Look at how guild missions have been complained about, when they inadvertently only reward 15 players, leaving the other… oh… 35 people who showed up feeling jipped? Or left repeating the same goddamn guild puzzle over and over until maybe most people get their reward, except a few that seem permanently glitched? Speaking of which, they really need to get around to fixing that. So bloody annoying. I was certainly never one who asked for them to make guild missions closed instances.)

Everyone’s also kinda dreading their reward scheme for raids – many because it seems like Anet’s reward adjustments feel like throwing darts at a dartboard while blindfolded, rather than following any sort of real plan.

Me, I’m bloody terrified that it’s going to be a one-way no-alternate-path “forcing” of players into their shiny new activity that they are so damn proud of and want to collect salty player tears on (What’s going on with that adversarial relationship anyway?)

Take the sudden account-binding of Nuhoch Hunting Stashes and fractal thingumies (I haven’t done fractals seriously post-expansion, I have no idea what’s been going on there.)

I had -thought- it was a clever way to provide players an alternate route to gaining currencies for activities they’d rather not prefer to engage in, while giving players who LIKE those activities an income stream from the players who hate it but want some of the rewards from that activity anyway. Meanwhile, the trade sinks gold via the TP. Win win, no?

No. Apparently, if you want Heart of Thorns zone currencies, you better just grit your teeth and grind events. Vice versa for fractals, though with all the bitterness coming from that front, it doesn’t exactly encourage me to do that activity until everything is given another look.

I don’t know.

My assumption is they’ll keep freaking iterating until they get it right, and we only need to wait until then, but damn, this iteration is SLOW.

In the meantime, I may as well do stuff that’s right in front of me, not get baited by a million and one design traps, and freak out only when there’s solid info to get grumpy about. (Like how I can’t actually prioritize a precursor rifle hunt because some poor bastard who wanted to do it first found out that bits of it were buggy and don’t work.)

One example of those things right in front of me is the revelation that I’m really most comfortable on my charr guardian as a main – I haven’t been playing any other character through Heart of Thorns for any long period of time – so I may as well take some small steps in getting him raid-ready. Like an Ascended greatsword and possibly a mace too – he already has an Ascended sword/focus and scepter/torch, but it’s been super-obvious that Heart of Thorns really really likes you to go AoE in certain scenarios… bottom line, guardian greatswords can do that and my nerfed (but pretty) Fiery Dragon Sword just can’t cut it.

I’ve a warrior and necromancer alt that also needs to be run through Heart of Thorns, and pushed towards raid-readiness, so that’s something to be doing too.

Considering that my warrior still hasn't finished the personal story, that's quite a bit of story chapters to go.

Considering that my warrior still hasn’t finished the personal story, that’s quite a bit of story chapters to go. It’s kinda nice to replay it all again, now that they’ve finally fixed the flow and put back the “greatest fear” arc, after leaving it broken for…how long?

Masteries, thankfully, I’ve knocked out most of the crucial ones, which leaves the nice-to-haves as a slow goal to work toward while doing other things.

Between that, attending open world raids, and maybe replaying the story for achievements, chasing mastery points and hero points for elite specs and harvesting all the things while the guild hall material demand is sending the economy into wild swings, I shouldn’t run out of still-viable things to do while waiting for fixes and iterations to the more egregious issues that have arisen, seemingly all over the game.

Looks like everyone, devs and players alike, will be quite busy until next year.

It's a bird! It's a plane! No, it's Darkwing Tigercharr!

It’s a bird! It’s a plane! No, it’s Darkwing Tigercharr! (God, I love the charr gliding animation. It’s like they’re pouncing on some mice below. Also, winged cats are awesome. Not very immersion-y, but eh, that boat sailed a long time ago. Still awesome.)