Dealing with Serial Derailment

Continuing the discussion from My first experience of derailing… one hour before the deadline:

Sorry about your teacher. Death sucks. But trust me, Beeminder can help maintain sanity during personal-crisis situations.

Serial derailments are a sign that the goal isn’t a good fit (right now|never was|any more). In such cases, I find that its helpful to try one of these things:

  • stop beating myself up and consciously abandon the goal
  • deliberately take a long break, and set a reminder to reflect
  • ramp it up; set an aggressive slope for a month
  • change what data units I’m reporting (e.g. minutes vs pages vs sessions)

Taking an extreme position can help clarify the nature and priority of the goal. (Both of the proxy goal that you’re beeminding and the real-life goal that it’s approximating.)

If you go with the unit-changing option, you can either start a new goal, or pick a conversion rate and change all of history on the Terrifyingly Advanced settings page.

What we all have in common is the self-discipline to beemind important stuff, things that will matter to our future selves.


Wow, beautifully said. As an experiment I’m going to try tagging this #blogideas like so, for posts on the forum that would be great to turn into blog ideas. Note the link to @philip’s existing blog post about beeminding through personal crises, also recommended.

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Yeah, this is really well said. The truth I’m facing is that, far more than Beeminder, having to face my teacher and say “I didn’t practice this week” was what had been keeping me honest. Now that I don’t have a teacher, it feels harder and harder to find the time to do it. I don’t know whether the solution is to flatten my Beeminder goal so I don’t keep derailing, to find another teacher, to delete the goal entirely, or to try and muscle through on my own. Each possibility seems valid, but I can’t seem to choose between them. It’s certainly not a personal crisis, but it is a transition point, and right now I feel paralyzed at the crossroads, not knowing which road to go down.


Deleting the goal is not a valid option, it sounds like your mind wants to weasel you out of doing the work. :smile: You were using the goal before, which means that it was helpful to you. It is just that Beeminder was not enough to keep you motivated on it’s own.
It sounds like you need a new teacher.

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This is why you shouldn’t adjust your pledge after derailing, when you see you’re going to have to pay $810 if you derail next time you’re going to prioritize practicing.

I vote for dialling your road to zero and taking a break, this will give you a chance to see how it feels to not have to worry about doing any practice, maybe you’ll miss it, or maybe it will be a relief. Either way you will have more information to help make your decision.

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Doesn’t matter. Pick something and do it. It’s the action of changing a situation that clearly isn’t working that will cause that situation to be re-evaluated in new ways.

This isn’t about choosing the right road at the crossroads, it’s about choosing any road and getting back in motion. Odds are pretty good that you’ll figure out that you’ve chosen the ‘wrong’ road and backtrack but with new information (about this goal, about you, etc). Sitting down at the crossroads doesn’t seem to be working.

Left-field option: if idols work well for you, then you could carry on confessing to ‘your teacher’ that you haven’t practiced. If you imbue a (picture|email address|corner of the room|...) with power, it has the agency to be an effective accountability partner. Similarly, and perhaps more generally useful, you could try surrendering agency to your Beeminder graph and not consider derailing to be a possible option. Sometimes the rational economic choice is a downside of beeminding.


I think I’m gonna keep trying to practice at least once a week. I have a long gap between work gigs today and it’s a nice day out, so I think I’ll go to the park and tootle around on my sopranino for a while. My life got so much better when I started playing music regularly two years ago after a hiatus of half a decade. I don’t want to go back to the way things were before.

(Another alternative is to find other people to play with on a regular basis, which won’t cost money but will still keep me accountable. I was in a string quartet for a while, and it was awesome. I think I might have to look into that.)


Totally practiced in the park today and kept myself from derailing. I think this collective pep talk really helped me clarify what I wanted out of this goal. Thanks so much, everyone!


Getting involved with a group and committing to a schedule of playing together would certainly help you!


Now I am feeling all motivated to re-up my piano practicing goal! =D