SamB

Program Manager @ Rethink Wellbeing
36 karmaJoined Working (0-5 years)Seattle, WA, USA
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Participation
2

  • Attended an EAGx conference
  • Attended an EA Global conference

Comments
5

“If this seems like drifting from EA philosophy, I want to remind you of the key idea: Doing the best we can with the resources we have. The unspoken caveat is the resources we have within the social, political and legal constraints of the context we live in.” I have always been inclined to sacrifice some “effectiveness” to make EA more palatable (especially given that once people get “on board,” they are likely to become increasingly receptive to ideas that challenge their previous assumptions) and to use more effective tactics within “less effective” cause areas. This is the best-stated argument I’ve heard for this.

Amber, thank you for this thoughtful, vulnerable, and beautifully articulated comment. I think that both you and Jason are right on target. 

I’m the Mental Health Program Manager at Rethink Wellbeing, and I’d like to offer my perspective on framing the program as a way to increase productivity. My thoughts are my own, not an official RW statement, but I have given my colleagues a chance to review this message before sending it.

I agree that basing one’s self-worth on one’s productivity can be a recipe for poor mental health (and rarely is effective at increasing productivity!). I’m grateful for your sake that you were able to shift your own perspective and increase the balance and meaning in your life. I still have a long way to go in my own personal development here! 

Despite agreeing with you, there are several reasons why RW highlights productivity in some of our marketing materials.

  • Many members of the EA community who struggle with mental health problems are very motivated to increase their productivity (see, e.g., the EA mental health survey results, under “Topics people struggle with or would like to improve the most”), so emphasizing this as a possible benefit might encourage people to take care of themselves. 
  • Sometimes members of the EA community don’t feel like they “deserve” to engage in self-care for their own sake. If we note the possible benefit to others, it might alleviate some guilt about investing time in one’s own well-being. 
  • I believe that everyone in the world deserves access to a program like this one (or whatever tools for mental well-being are appropriate for them). But resources are limited. People in the EA community are no more or less deserving than others, but as Jason notes, we can justify prioritizing support to this community if there’s a multiplier effect because it allows them to do more good. Taking into account the productivity / impact increase is important for making strategic decisions when calculating the potential impact of such an intervention; plus, EA funders will want to see that RW is keeping its eye on productivity as an outcome metric. 

With all that said, because we agree that obsessing about impact is often harmful, we aren’t planning to emphasize productivity as a goal throughout the program. We are measuring it as one outcome, since it is a meaningful part of flourishing, even if just one; we also may briefly invite people to reflect on the effects of mental health on productivity if that is an effective source of motivation for them. But during the core of the program, we want to give people a chance to work on exactly this: the dysfunctional relationship they may have with productivity and impact, such as believing one needs to be productive, or close to perfect to be worthy.[1]

Talking about productivity is a way of getting people in the door by addressing a common core concern for EA community members. However, our model is that helping people increase their well-being, including developing a well-rounded life and engaging in self-care, should have a side effect of increasing their capacity to do good for others … without needing to focus on it or put any pressure on people. Rather, we hope to alleviate pressure. And participation in the program does not “obligate” people to do any particular EA work or change the world.

I expect that the team will continue to reflect on how to walk this tightrope in our marketing. It’s tough to get it right, because the messaging lands different ways with different people, so feedback like yours is incredibly valuable. Thank you.

  1. ^

    This won't be the only focus of the program; participants will be able to tailor it and apply the techniques they're learning to a variety of personal challenges. But we expect perfectionism, high standards, low self-esteem, and work-life balance to emerge as major themes. 

I would be very interested in being involved as well!

SamB
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I would be very interested in being involved as well!

Hi Iain! As you may have guessed, we've already filled the workshops for this week, but we'll certainly notify you if we decide to run any others (and we'll tell you when the applications open up for the 8-week program as well)!