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5 Reasons People Have Low Self-Confidence

Understanding the causes of low self-confidence is a first step in boosting it.

The most important thing to know about low self-confidence is that it is not your fault.

The factors that contribute to low self-confidence combine and interact differently for each person. Your genes, cultural background, childhood experiences, and other life circumstances all play a role. But don’t lose heart — although we can’t change the experiences in our past that shaped us, there is plenty we can do to alter our thoughts and expectations to gain more confidence.

Genes and Temperament

Some of what molds our self-confidence is built into our brains at birth. I mention these factors not to overwhelm you, but to let you know that you shouldn’t blame yourself for your self-image.

Studies have shown our genetic makeup affects the amount of certain confidence-boosting chemicals our brain can access. Serotonin, a neurotransmitter associated with happiness, and oxytocin, the “cuddle hormone,” can both be inhibited by certain genetic variations. Somewhere between 25 to 50 percent of the personality traits linked to confidence may be inherited.

Some aspects of our behavior also stem from our temperament. If you’re naturally more hesitant and watchful, especially in unfamiliar circumstances, you may have a tendency called “behavioral inhibition.” When you’re confronted with a situation, you stop and check to see if everything seems the way you expected it to be. If something appears awry, you’re likely to move away from the situation.

Behavioral inhibition is not all bad. We need some people in the world who don’t impulsively jump into every situation. If you’re a cautious and reserved person, self-confidence may have eluded you. But once you understand yourself and the tools in this book, you’ll be able to work with your temperament and not fight it.

Life Experiences

A number of individual experiences can lead to feeling completely unsure of yourself or even worthless. Here, I’ll discuss a few.

Trauma. Physical, sexual, and emotional abuse can all significantly affect our feelings of self-worth. If you find yourself replaying memories of abuse or otherwise feeling tormented by or ashamed of your experiences, please consider seeking treatment from a licensed clinician.


Parenting style. The way we were treated in our family of origin can affect us long after childhood. For instance, if you had a parent who constantly belittled you, compared you to others, or told you that you would never amount to anything, you likely carry those messages with you today. A parent’s struggles with mental health and substance abuse can also change your relationship with the world.

Bullying, harassment and humiliation. Childhood bullying can leave a mark on your confidence when it comes to looks, intellectual and athletic abilities, and other areas of your life. Humiliating experiences in adulthood, including workplace harassment or a peer group that disrespects or demeans you, can also make you less willing to speak up for yourself or pursue ambitious goals.


Gender, race, and sexual orientation. Scores of studies show women are socialized to worry more about how they’re perceived and, therefore, to take fewer risks. Racial and cultural background and sexual orientation can make a difference, too. If you’ve been on the receiving end of discrimination, you may have internalized some negative, untrue messages about your potential and whether you “belong.”

Misinformation

Lack of self-confidence can come from not knowing the “rules” of the confidence game. For example, if we think we have to feel confident in order to act confidently, we set ourselves up for failure.

Perfectionism is another form of faulty thinking that contributes to low self-confidence. If we believe we have to have something all figured out before we take action, those thoughts can keep us from doing the things we value. Even learning and understanding what confidence is and isn’t is a big step toward boosting it.

The World Around Us

Many media messages are designed to make us feel lacking. Companies that want to sell you products usually start by making you feel bad about yourself, often by introducing a “problem” with your body that you would never have noticed otherwise. (The movie Mean Girls memorably skewered this idea: The main character, new to American high-school culture after years of homeschooling in Africa, is bewildered when her new clique stands around a mirror criticizing themselves. “My hairline is so weird,” says one. “My nail beds suck!” proclaims another.)

Now that social media has become ubiquitous, the messages hit closer to home. It’s easy to believe that everyone around you has the perfect marriage, a dream career, and supermodel looks to boot. But remember: What people post online is heavily curated and edited. Everyone has bad days, self-doubt, and physical imperfections. They just don’t trot them out on Facebook!

     “One reason we struggle with insecurity: We’re comparing our behind-the-scenes to everyone else’s highlight reel.” —Steven Furtick

Anxiety and Depression

It’s common for anxiety and depression to go hand-in-hand with self-confidence issues. If you’ve already been diagnosed with an anxiety disorder or depression and are working with a therapist, you could bring in your workbook and perhaps go through it together. It’s brave of you to address your self-assurance stumbling blocks, and building confidence will also help you lessen anxiety and depression.

Questions to Consider:

Which of the contributing factors described in this section resonate the most with you?

What specific experiences in your life do you think had the biggest negative effects on your self-confidence?

Next Steps:

1. Take this self-confidence quiz. Self-confidence begins with knowing yourself. You might also enjoy spending some time answering these questions designed to help increase your confidence level.

2. Learn why self-confidence is so important. Start here.

3. Avoid these self-confidence traps (“13 Things the Most Confident People You Know Never Do”).

4. Try these four proven approaches to increase your confidence level.

Adapted from The Self-Confidence Workbook: 
A Guide to Overcoming Self-Doubt and Improving Self-Esteem.
Copyright © 2018 by Barbara Markway and Celia Ampel.
 
About the Authors
Barbara Markway, Ph.D., is a clinical psychologist with over 20 years of experience. 
She is the author of four psychology books and has been featured in media nationwide.
 
In Print:
The Self Confidence Workbook: 
A Guide to Overcoming Self-Doubt and Improving Self-Esteem
Online: Dr. Markway online
  
Greg Markway, Ph.D., is a psychologist and has coauthored three books, including Painfully Shy.
In Print:
Painfully Shy: How to Overcome Social Anxiety and Reclaim Your Life
Dec 07, 2018
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How to Get What You Really Want

If you are like most people, you want to win the lottery, but you probably don’t buy tickets very often. You don’t need a psychologist to tell you the reason: You don’t expect to win. Given the odds of winning the lottery, that might seem like a reasonable conclusion. What is important to take away from this is that you take action based on what you expect, not what you want. What you want and what you expect are completely different.

An expectation is a belief about whether or not you are going to get what you want.

As a psychologist who studies how people create their futures, one of the things I’ve learned is that having an expectation that differs from what you want isn’t just the reason you don’t buy lottery tickets. It is the reason there are lots of things you want, but you can’t quite seem to attain them—losing that last five to 10 pounds, going for that dream job or relationship. It is the number one reason you stay stuck in life, because:

Expectation + Action = Creation of your life experiences.

I was working with a client recently—I’ll call her Amy. She was a gorgeous and successful woman, but she was also sort of shy, very self-deprecating—and she had a history of picking the wrong men.

Amy had recently gotten out of a bad marriage, worked on herself, and was ready to meet someone new, so she decided to try online dating. But she was having one bad date after the next. The men didn’t look like their pictures, they would forget their wallets, some of them didn’t show up at all…

One day, Amy came in and immediately burst into tears. “I had the most awful date of my life.”

How bad was he?

“He was amazing,” she said, “absolutely everything I’ve been looking for.”

But then she said, “I completely blew it, I was so certain that this was going to be another bad date and a waste of my time that I told him to meet me for coffee after my yoga class. I didn’t have time to shower so I showed up in my gym clothes, hot and sweaty, no make-up…and there he was…Mr. Immaculately Groomed, Tall, and Handsome, with a perfect smile.

“I was so mortified and self-conscious, I couldn’t even make eye contact. I just sat there staring at the floor and laughing nervously, until I told him I had to put more money in the parking meter—and then Ieft—without even saying good-bye.”

Amy acted on what she expected—another bad date—not what she wanted, which was to meet a great guy.

I wish I could say this kind of behavior was uncommon, but having been in practice for more than 12 years, one of the most common things I hear from people is: I want to change my life—but I don’t really believe that I can. I’ve seen people give up on marriages, health, and careers—give up on their entire lives—because they didn’t believe they could get what they wanted and so they weren’t willing to try.

There is probably something you want in your life right now but you are holding back because you don’t think you can attain it.

When you don’t act on what you expect, you take yourself out of the game. Buying the lottery ticket doesn’t guarantee winning, but not buying it guarantees losing.

You might wonder: Why do we do this?

Our brains work on the principle of anticipation.1 We constantly predict what we think is likely to happen before it ever occurs. If you are walking in a park and you hear a dog barking behind you and then turn around to see Bigfoot, you are going to be very surprised. As soon as you start to anticipate an event, you start to act and feel in ways that help you prepare for what you think is going to occur. If anyone has ever said to you, “We need to talk,” then you know exactly what I mean. When you prepare for something that hasn’t even happened yet, you participate in creating the outcome. In other words, you create the self-fulfilling prophecy.

Because Amy was feeling anxious and ambivalent before her date, she acted on what she expected, not what she wanted. So she got what she expected—another bad date.

One of the reasons our expectations keep us so stuck is that we have the automatic tendency to use the past to predict the future. If you failed once you are likely to think that you might fail again. When you think of the past,2 the same parts of the brain activate as when you think of the future.

However, just because you use the past to make predictions doesn’t mean that your past is what is holding you back.

What was holding Amy back wasn’t her past. It was that she didn’t believe her future was going to be better than the past; and without that belief, she wasn’t able to create something better, even though an opportunity presented itself right in front of her.

expectations

If you’re aware of your expectations about a situation, then you have the ability to use your conscious mind to override automatic thinking and plan for a different outcome.

If Amy had planned for her date to go well, things may have turned out differently.

Your expectations about your ability to get what you want have a profound impact on your emotional well-being. A large part of our brain is dedicated to anticipating rewards.3

Rewards, to put it simply, are all the things you want, that make life worth living.

As J.R.R. Tolkien said: “A single dream is more powerful than a thousand realities.”

When you expect to get a reward, you feel positive emotions like happiness and joy. When you don’t think you are going to get what want, you feel disappointment, sadness, maybe even depression.

The larger the gap between what you expect and what you want,
the more distress you feel.

So, what do you do when what you want doesn’t match up with what you expect? There are only two ways to feel good in this situation:

You can give up wanting what you want—you can convince yourself that it isn’t worth the effort, that you didn’t really want it anyway.

Or, you can change your expectations to match up with what you want so that you can take consistent actions.

How do you do this? There are three steps that can help you begin to shift those expectations. Pause for a moment and imagine a future event that is coming up for you—it can be a goal you are trying to achieve, a work presentation, a holiday get together with your family…now:

  1.  Ask yourself: How is what I am expecting making me feel? If you are expecting something positive to happen, you will be feeling good about it and you can stop there. No need to fix positive emotions. But if you are expecting something you don’t want, then you are going to feel a negative emotion such as anxiety, fear, dread, or overwhelm. Those are signs you have some negative expectations about the situation.
  2.  Ask yourself: What would I like to have happen instead? This question identifies what you do want in the situation. What you want is often the very thing that you’re not expecting. Remember, you want to win the lottery, but you don’t expect to.
  3.  Ask yourself: What do I need to do to make what I want happen? When you are feeling a negative emotion about a situation in the future, it’s because you’re focused on what could go wrong and why it’s not going to turn out the way you want it to. You’re not generating thoughts or ideas about how to make it go right.

When you have a plan in front of you for how to get what you want, your assessment of the situation changes. You begin to see the possibility. This is where the shift happens: Every successful action you take towards that plan starts to change your expectations.

Some of you may be thinking, “I don’t expect this to work for me.”

Several years ago, I may not have believed that a simple process could make a difference in people’s lives either. But I was treating a very depressed patient, who I had been seeing for about six months. No matter what we tried, he made very little progress. One day, I asked him: “Where is the light at the end of the tunnel?” He looked at me with the blankest stare I had ever seen.

After that day I started to ask all of my patients this question and I was startled to find that most of them gave me the exact same look. They didn’t dare to dream about how their life could be different, because they didn’t think it was possible.

So I began focusing all of my work on helping my patients change their expectations so that they could find that light at the end of the tunnel.

Five years of research shows that changing your expectations can significantly improve your life,4,5 and I have witnessed some awe-inspiring transformations. The patient I mentioned earlier within a year had quit his dead-end job and started his own successful company. When you motivated yourself by what you want, change is possible.

In the words of Henry Ford, “Whether you think you can or think you can’t, you are right.”

Your past isn’t what defines who you are or where you are going. It’s your expectations of the future that limit you most. But here’s the good news: You can choose. You can choose to take action based on what you want. And when you do that, you give yourself the opportunity to step out of the past and create the life that you truly want to live.

This article is transcribed from my 2015 TEDx Peachtree talk in Atlanta. 

References
Bar, Moshe. Predictions of the Brain. 2011.Oxford University Press, USA.
Schacter, D and Addis, D. 2007. The cognitive neuroscience of constructive memory: remembering the past and imagining the future. Philosophical transactions – Royal Society. Biological sciences, 362 (1481), p. 773-786.
Sescousse, G., Caldú, X., Segura, B., and Dreher, J. 2013. Processing of primary and secondary rewards: A quantitative meta-analysis and review of human functional neuroimaging studies. Neuroscience & Biobehavioral Reviews, 37 (4), p. 681–696.
Vilhauer, J., et al. 2012. Treating Major Depression by Creating Positive Expectations for the Future: A pilot study for the effectiveness of Future Directed Therapy (FDT) on Symptom Severity and Quality of Life. CNS Neuroscience and Therapeutics. p. 1-8.
Vilhauer, J.S., et al. 2013. Improving quality of life for patients with major depressive disorder by increasing hope and positive expectations with future directed therapy (FDT). Innovations in clinical neuroscience, 10 (3): p. 12.
Dr. Jennice Vilhauer is the director of the Outpatient Psychotherapy Treatment Program at Emory Healthcare, the developer of Future Directed Therapy, and the author of Think Forward to Thrive: How to Use the Mind’s Power of Anticipation to Transcend Your Past and Transform Your Life.

by Jennice Vilhauer Ph.D.
Living Forward
How to Get What You Really Want
Changing your outlook and overcoming self-fulfilling prophecies.

Jennice Vilhauer, Ph.D., is the director of Emory Healthcare’s Outpatient Psychotherapy Program and an assistant professor in the School of Medicine at Emory University. She was formerly the director of psychology training at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center and an assistant clinical professor at the University of California, Los Angeles. She completed her undergraduate training in psychology at UCLA and her graduate training at Fordham University, followed by postdoctoral training at Columbia University. She is the developer of Future Directed Therapy and the author of Think Forward to Thrive: How to Use the Mind’s Power of Anticipation to Transcend Your Past and Transform Your Life.

Dec 18, 2015


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The Surprising Key to Increasing Your Willpower

Research into the unexpected impact of pride on our self-discipline.

Your emotions play a significant role in your behavior. Being aware of those emotions, and how they influence your choices, can help you take steps to improve your self-discipline.

When you’re feeling bored with a project, for example, you may be less productive. You may stare off into space and grow distracted by just about everything going on around you.

On the other hand, when you feel excited about a project, you may be able to sit down and accomplish your task with intense focus. It’s much easier to exercise willpower—and tune out potential distractions—when you’re happy.

While there has been a lot of research into the link between emotion and self-control, a new study published in the Journal of Consumer Research (link is external) examined the specific role pride plays in self-discipline.

Through a series of experiments, researchers concluded that under certain circumstances, pride increases self-control. But in other circumstances, pride gives people a license to indulge. The difference in whether pride increased or decreased self-control depended on the source of participants’ pride.

Pride boosted self-control when participants didn’t have a previously established self-control goal. Their pride stemmed from feeling good about who they are. If however, participants were already working toward a goal, pride led to self-destructive behavior. Their pride resulted from what they did.

positivity

What It Means for You

The more pride you feel about your accomplishments toward your goal, the less likely you are to exercise self-control. Telling yourself, “I’ve done a great job already,” gives you permission to reward yourself. Ironically, even pride over your ability to demonstrate self-control decreases your will.

If you were dining out with a friend, and out of the blue your friend says, “Wow, you look like you’ve lost weight,” your feelings of pride could very well lead you to order a healthy meal. If however, you’d set a goal to lose 20 pounds a month ago, that same compliment could decrease your self-control. Your pride may cause you to think, “I’ve done well eating healthy and my hard work shows. I deserve a burger and fries today.”

Of course, none of this is to suggest that you shouldn’t establish goals that require self-discipline. Instead, be mindful of the ways your emotions can increase or decrease your motivation to stay on track.

How to Use Pride to Your Advantage

Self-discipline may come easily to you in some areas of your life. Perhaps you’ve successfully turned exercise into a daily habit. Or maybe you stick to your monthly budget with incredible perseverance. But there may also be one or two areas in which you just can’t seem to get your behavior under control.

Here are some strategies for using pride to your advantage:

  • Be aware of your emotions. Recognize how you’re feeling, and how those feelings influence your thoughts and behavior. Self-awareness is key to self-control.
  • Remind yourself that it’s OK to feel pride. Feeling pride about your achievements isn’t bad; it’s what you do with those feelings that matters.
  • Don’t allow pride to turn into overconfidence. Recognize how your prideful feelings may cause you to start thinking you’ve earned the right to overindulge.
  • Make a list of all the reasons why you should stay on track. Write down all the reasons why you should stick to your goals. When you’re low on willpower, reread the list. That should help balance your emotions with logic.

Pride in who you are, not what you’ve accomplished, is the key to self-discipline.

Amy Morin     Sep 28, 2015

Source: AmyMorinLCSW.com
Amy Morin is a keynote speaker, psychotherapist, and the author of 13 Things Mentally Strong People Don’t Do (link is external), a bestselling book that is being translated into more than 20 languages. 


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14 Lies Your Mind Tells You to Prevent Life Changes

25 June 2015

The mind is a wonderful thing.

It’s also a complete liar that constantly tries to convince us not to take actions we know are good for us, and stops many great changes in our lives.

I’ve had to learn to watch these rationalizations and excuses very carefully, in order to make the changes I’ve made in my life: a healthier diet, regular exercise, meditation, minimalism, writing daily, getting out of debt, quitting smoking, and so on.

If I hadn’t learned these excuses, and how to counter them, I would never have stuck to these changes. In fact, I failed many times before 2005 (when I started changing my life), because these excuses had complete power over me.

Let’s expose the cowardly mind’s excuses and rationalizations once and for all.

First, the main principle: the mind wants comfort, and is afraid of discomfort and change. The mind is used to its comfort cocoon, and anytime we try to push beyond that comfort zone very far or for very long, the mind tries desperately to get back into the cocoon. At any cost, including our long-term health and happiness.

OK, with that in mind, let’s go into the excuses:

1. I can’t do it.

It seems too hard, so we think we can’t stick to the change. We don’t believe in ourselves. This can be countered from the fact that many other people no more capable than us have done it. For example, Oprah ran a marathon a little before I started training for my first marathon, and so I told myself, “If Oprah can do it, so can I!” I was right.

2. He/she can do it, but that doesn’t apply to me.

Just because someone else can do it, doesn’t mean we can, right? We look for reasons they can do it but we can’t — maybe he can be a minimalist because he has no kids, or is a freelancer rather than someone with a real job. Maybe she’s way, way fitter than I am, so she can run a marathon. Maybe she doesn’t have all the obligations I have, or has a supportive spouse, or doesn’t have a crippling health condition. OK, fine, it’s easy to find excuses: but look at all the other people who have worse obstacles than you who’ve done it. I have 6 kids and still managed to change a lot of things in my life. Stories abound of people with disabilities or illnesses who overcame their obstacles to achieve amazing things. Your obstacles can be overcome.

3. I need my ___.

Fill in the blank: I need my coffee, my cheese, my soda, my TV shows, my car, my shoe collection … these are things we convince ourselves we can’t live without, so we can’t make a change like becoming vegan or eating healthier or unschooling our kids or simplifying our lives or going car-free. And I’ve made these excuses myself, but they all turned out to be lies. I didn’t need any of that. The only things you really need are basic food, water, clothing, shelter, and other people for social needs. Everything else is not a real need.

4. Life is meant to be enjoyed.

Sure, I agree with this statement (as many of us would) but the problem is this is used to justify all kinds of crappy behavior. Might as well scarf down those Doritos and Twinkies, because hey, life is meant to be enjoyed, right? No. You can do without junk food and still enjoy life. You can exercise and enjoy it. You can give up pretty much anything and still enjoy life, if you learn to see almost any activity as enjoyable.

5. I need comfort.

This might also be true, but we can push ourselves into more discomfort than we let ourselves believe. We can be a bit cold, instead of needing to be at the perfect comfortable temperature. We can do hard exercise, instead of needing to lay around on the couch. We can write that thing we’ve been procrastinating on — it might be hard, but we can push through that. When our minds seek comfort, don’t let them run — push a little bit outside the comfort zone, and begin to be OK with a bit of discomfort.

6. I don’t know how.

This is also true, but you can learn. Start with a little at a time, and learn how to deal with this new change. Do some research online. Watch some videos. Ask people online how they dealt with it. This is easily overcome with a little effort and practice. In fact, if you do it now, and learn a little at a time, then you’ll be able to do away with this pesky excuse.

goals

 

7. I can do it later.

Sure, you can always do it later … but your later self will also feel the same way. Why should the later self be more disciplined than your current self? In fact, because you’re allowing yourself to slide now, you’re building a habit of procrastination and actually making is less likely that your future self will be more disciplined. Instead, do it now, unless there’s something more important that you need to do … don’t let yourself slide just because you don’t feel like it.

8. One time won’t hurt.

This is so tempting, because it’s kind of true — one time won’t hurt. Assuming, that is, that it’s only one time. One bite of chocolate cake, one missed workout, one time procrastinating instead of writing. Unfortunately, it’s never actually just one time. One time means your brain now knows it can get away with this excuse, and the next “one time” leads to another, until you’re not actually sticking to something. Make a rule: never ever believe the “one time” excuse. I did this with smoking (“Not One Puff Ever”) and it worked. If you’re going to allow yourself a bite or two of chocolate cake, decide beforehand and build it into your plan (“I will allow myself a fist-sized serving of sweets once every weekend”) and stick to that plan, rather than deciding on the fly, when your resistance is weak.

9. I don’t feel like it.

Well, true. You don’t feel like working hard. Who does? Letting the rule of “I’ll do it when feel like it” dictate your life means you’ll never write that book, never build that business, never create anything great, never have healthy habits. Create a plan that’s doable, and execute it. When the rationalizations like this come up, don’t believe them. Everyone is capable of doing a hard workout even when they’re not in the mood. Everyone can overcome their internal resistance.

10. I’m tired.

Yep, me too. I still did my heavy squat workout today. There is truth to needing rest, and resting when you need it (listen to your body) but this is usually the mind trying to weasel out of something uncomfortable. There’s a difference between being exhausted and needing some rest, and being the little tired we all feel every afternoon. Push through the latter.

11. I deserve a reward/break.

We all deserve that tasty treat, or a day off. I’m not saying you shouldn’t give yourself a reward or break. But if you make this rationalization your rule, you’ll always be on a break. You’ll always be giving yourself rewards, and never sticking to the original plan. Here’s what I do instead: I see sticking to my plan as the reward itself. Going on a run isn’t the thing I have to get through to get a reward — the run is the reward.

12. Wouldn’t it be nice to stop?

This again is our mind wanting to run from discomfort, and of course it’s true — it would be nice to stop if you’re pushing into a discomfort zone for too long. The thing is, the implication is that it would be better to stop, because it would be nice … but that’s a lie. It would be easier to stop, but often it’s better to continue pushing. This excuse almost beat me when I tried to run my 50-mile ultramarathon last December, because honestly it would have been much nicer to stop and not finish the race, especially in the last 10 miles or so. I pushed through, and found out I was tougher than I thought.

13. The result you’re going for isn’t important.

If you’re trying to run a marathon, this is phrased like, “It’s not that important that I finish this”. I’ve used this excuse for learning languages (it doesn’t matter if I learn this) or programming or any number of things I wanted to learn. I’ve used it for writing and exercise and eating healthy food. And while the result might not be that important, the truth is that the process is very important. If you stick with a process that will be better for you in the long run, then you will be better off. But if you let yourself go just because you are uncomfortable and at this moment care more for your comfort than the goal you set out for, you’ll have lots of problems. The goal isn’t important, but learning to stick to things when you’re uncomfortable is extremely important.

14. I’m afraid.

Now, this is the most honest excuse there is — most of us don’t want to admit we’re afraid to pursue something difficult. But it’s also a weaselly way out of discomfort — just because you’re afraid doesn’t mean you can’t do something. You can. I’ve done tons of things I’m afraid of — mostly creating things that I was worried I’d fail at. And while the fear sometimes came true — I didn’t do too well sometimes — the act of pushing through the fear was incredibly important and I learned a lot each time.

Awareness & Practice

I’ve used all of these excuses hundreds of times each, so don’t think I’ve overcome them all. And you can use them in the future too. There’s nothing wrong with giving in sometimes.

The key is to learn whether they’re true, and see your pattern. Here’s what I’ve done:

  1. Notice the excuse. It has way more power if it works on you in the background.
  2. Try to have an answer for the excuse beforehand — anticipate it.
  3. If you give in, that’s OK, but recognize that you’re giving in to a lame excuse. Be aware of what you’re doing.
  4. After giving in, see what the results are. Are you happier? Is your life better? Was it worth it giving in to discomfort?
  5. Learn from those results. If you pushed through and are happy about it, remember that. If you gave in to excuses, and didn’t like the result, remember that.

If you consciously practice this process, you’ll get better at recognizing and not believing these lies. And then, bam, you’ve got your mind working for you instead of against you.

More on Self-Limiting Ideas
If you appreciated this discussion of self-limiting ideas, you’ll absolutely love Alan Watts’ The Book: On the Taboo Against Knowing Who You Are, which refutes what is perhaps the greatest self-limiting idea of all—the idea that you are nothing more than a separate ego in a sack of skin.

by Leo Babauta
Leo Babauta is a writer, runner, vegan, and the creator of Zen Habits.


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Singletasking: 6 Keys To A Peaceful, Productive and Prosperous Life

Do you attempt to accomplish more by doing several things at once? In our culture of multitaskers, you’re unquestionably not alone.

But here’s a news flash if you haven’t already heard: Multitasking doesn’t work. In fact, it decreases your productivity by as much as 40%. Additionally, it lowers your IQ and shrinks your brain — reducing density in the region responsible for cognitive and emotional control.

Singletask your way to success.

Skeptical? Don’t be. Acclaimed researchers and neuroscientists around the world, including those at Harvard, Stanford, and the University of London, have plenty of proof.

Likewise, consider the personal, economic, and social toll of distracted driving. According to a study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 31% of U.S. drivers ages 18-64 report they had read or sent text or email messages while driving within the last 30 days. Worse, a whopping 69% report they had talked on their cellphone.

So what’s our stressed-out society to do? Simple: singletask.

By singletasking you’ll be more productive and present. Plus like any other skill, singletasking can be learned or relearned over time. Soon enough you’ll be singletasking your way to success and sanity in your life, career, and relationships.

Here are six ways to get started:

1. Recognize that multitasking doesn’t exist.

Your brain is incapable of simultaneously processing separate streams of information from multiple tasks. That’s because there’s “interference” between the two tasks, says MIT’s Dr. Earl Miller. So, in actuality, multitasking is a myth. What you’re really doing is task-switching — moving rapidly and ineffectively between tasks.

multitasking

2. Develop a disciplined brain.

How often do you meet someone and instantly forget her name? Your mind was distracted, preoccupied with something else entirely. The inability to concentrate on a name or conversation is evidence of what I deem SBS — Scattered Brain Syndrome.

Singletasking isn’t only about getting things done. It’s also about developing focus and discipline. Living in the present will affect the very essence of everything that matters to you.

3. Create a distraction-free zone.

It’s up to you to control your environment — to “build fences” to keep potential distractions, such as noise and pop-ups, at bay. Rather than blame your technology or family, take control of your space and gadgets. For example, before a call with a loved one, close the door to the room you’re in, and mute all notification pings on your text messages and social media messaging.

4. Pick a place to park extraneous thoughts.

Singletasking doesn’t require you to discard distracting thoughts. Instead, it provides simple systems to set them aside until you can redirect your mind. One technique is to “park” other ideas in a designated spot, such as a notes page on your smartphone, and then quickly return to the current endeavor.

5. Do related tasks in clusters.

Does reading and replying to texts, emails, and social media messages lure you away from bigger, more important projects? Then practice clustertasking — a technique whereby you bunch related tasks into specific segments during the day. At the office, for instance, you could cluster your emailing to three segments daily — into arrival, lunch, and departure times.

6. Carve out regular quiet time.

In a noisy world with 24/7 news, you’re bombarded by distractions as, unfortunately, your brain becomes trained to avoid quiet reflection.

So next time you’re “busy” surfing the Web, ask yourself if you’re really just sidestepping solitude or introspection. And if that’s the case, resist that avoidance, and carve out a little time each day to be left alone with your thoughts.

Finally, singletasking obliges you to do one thing at a time, excluding any other demands at that moment. You can manage your next task after working on the existing one. You don’t have to complete every task all at once, just the current period of time dedicated to it. In other words, choose one task — and commit!


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5 Thoughts That Can Get You Through (Almost) Anything

Collected over a lifetime, advice to keep you moving forward. 

Post published by Meg Selig on May 06, 2015 in Changepower

I’ve been given a lot of advice in my life, some good, some bad, most forgettable, and some…outstanding. I’ve previously written about one unforgettable piece of “advice” (it wasn’t exactly advice) from my father. Now I’m adding 5 more nuggets to the list. The words of wisdom below are so concise and powerful that I find myself reciting them in my mind at least a few times a week. See if you feel the same way.

As I wrote down these 5 gems to share with you, I realized they all had some common elements. Maybe you’ll pick up a pattern as you read. If not, I’ll reveal it at the end.

1. “Do what makes you feel best about yourself.” 

A friend once gave me this advice. I took it to heart as a reminder to live up to my own values whenever possible. When your life is in sync with your values, you have peace of mind.

2. “Just do the best you can.”

The mother of a friend of mine gave her this advice. Thanks to this gem, my friend works hard but never feels compelled to be perfect. I’ve adopted this advice as one of my own personal mottoes.

bullseye

3. “Set your own standards and work up to them.”

This piece of advice, offered by my partner, reminds me to…well, first of all, HAVE some standards, and, second, work up to—or in some cases, down to—them. I’ve also learned that I don’t have to have high standards for everything, just the few things of vital importance to me.

4. “Do what makes sense to you.”

This advice, also from my partner, might be my favorite. For a lot of tasks, chores, and choices, there is no one right answer or one right way to go. “Do what makes sense to you” helps you cultivate judgment and problem-solving skills. Whether you are making a large or small decision, this motto can strengthen your unique ways of meeting life’s challenges.

5. “Welcome mistakes and learn from them.”

I learned this from life and from my psychology reading (with a particular nod to the research of Carol Dweck). When I was younger, I didn’t have the courage to take risks and bounce back from failure. I was too concerned with protecting my ego. As I’ve matured, I’ve learned that a mistake is just Reality’s way of teaching you something important. (But it’s up to you to figure out what that important thing might be.)

Did you pick up the common threads? All of these advice nuggets help you explore your own identity, rather than directly tell you what to do. This kind of advice strengthens the self and gives you confidence to make future decisions based on what you’ve learned has and hasn’t worked for you in the past. As Socrates said, “Know thyself.” This advice gives you the ways and means to do just that.


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What is Lateral Thinking?

Edward de Bono invented the term ‘lateral thinking’ in 1967. It was first written up in a book called “The Use of Lateral Thinking” (Jonathan Cape, London) – “New Think” (Basic Books, New York) – the two titles refer to the same book.

For many years now this has been acknowledged in the Oxford English Dictionary which is the final arbiter of the English Language.

There are several ways of defining lateral thinking, ranging from the technical to the illustrative.

1. “You cannot dig a hole in a different place by digging the same hole deeper”

This means that trying harder in the same direction may not be as useful as changing direction. Effort in the same direction (approach) will not necessarily succeed.

2. “Lateral Thinking is for changing concepts and perceptions”

With logic you start out with certain ingredients just as in playing chess you start out with given pieces. But what are those pieces? In most real life situations the pieces are not given, we just assume they are there. We assume certain perceptions, certain concepts and certain boundaries. Lateral thinking is concerned not with playing with the existing pieces but with seeking to change those very pieces. Lateral thinking is concerned with the perception part of thinking. This is where we organise the external world into the pieces we can then ‘process’.

3. “The brain as a self-organising information system forms asymmetric patterns. In such systems there is a mathematical need for moving across patterns. The tools and processes of lateral thinking are designed to achieve such ‘lateral’ movement. The tools are based on an understanding of self-organising information systems.”

This is a technical definition which depends on an understanding of self-organising information systems.

4. “In any self-organising system there is a need to escape from a local optimum in order to move towards a more global optimum. The techniques of lateral thinking, such as provocation, are designed to help that change.”

This is another technical definition. It is important because it also defines the mathematical need for creativity.

Lateral Thinking Is A Skill That Can Be Learned

This is an important point to understand. With the right training you can improve your ability to think laterally.

For details on the online Lateral Thinking Course entitled “de Bono’s Creativity” visit: http://www.debonotrainer.com