Jan 24

Procrastination: End It–You Won’t Regret It Later

Some thoughts from experts and other thinkers on the quest to end procrastination follow.

Psychologist Timothy A. Pychyl, on his procrastination-themed blog Don’t Delay, notes the response writer Caitlin Moran once gave when asked how she accomplishes so much. Her answer: “Caffeine, alcohol, and fear.” Pychyl: “Although we might all recognize and find amusement in Caitlin’s response…it’s not a recipe for health or well-being if it’s the only route to success. The long-term costs, or the potential costs (because predicting the future is not an exact science), are too high.”

How, then, does one actually end the problem of procrastination?

One of the top-rated books on this topic is actually Pychyl’s The Procrastinator’s Digest: A Concise Guide to Solving the Procrastination Puzzle (2010). How can we change our tendency to put things off until an indefinite later? Use Pychyl’s test, taken from one of his posts:

The next time you put off a task until tomorrow, telling yourself tomorrow (later) is better, then simply note the next day whether you now believe that tomorrow is better.  Chances are, it’s not. If anything you may feel more guilt and pressure related to the task at hand and yet not have any more motivation to do the task.

So, if the time to act is now, how do we find the motivation? One of my favorite quotes pertinent to this topic is David Campbell‘s “Discipline is remembering what you want.” When you remember what you truly want, the doing will follow.

Oliver Burkeman points out (“This Column Will Change Your Life“) that most ending-procrastination advisors put less emphasis on the doing part and more on creating the mood for accomplishing things. “Even in the depths of serious depression, as the author Julie Fast notes, being ‘unable to get out of bed’ in the morning really means, to get technical about it, being unable to feel like getting out of bed…” 

But what if you’re unable to feel like doing whatever it is you think you want to do? And what if that’s your pattern in general? And you’re so terrible at feeling like doing things, actually, that you believe you’re beyond help? Burkeman quotes Shoma Morita, the late Japanese therapist, who basically advises: stop the excuses and self-name-calling already.

‘Give up on yourself. Begin taking action now, while being neurotic or imperfect, or a procrastinator, or unhealthy, or lazy, or any other label by which you inaccurately describe yourself. Go ahead and be the best imperfect person you can be and get started on those things you want to accomplish before you die.’

When you get a chance– and/or feel like it– let me know how this works out.

Jun 28

“Mental Illness” As a Flawed Term

Most people think they know what the term “mental illness” is and what it evokes—but in fact it’s an oft-misunderstood and misused term unacceptable to many, depending on how it’s used. Health Partners:

Mental illness is a broad term. It doesn’t reflect what a person is actually dealing with. For example, if you say that someone has “cardiac issues,” that doesn’t really provide much information about what they’re going through. There are many different types of heart problems, and not all patients with cardiac problems have had a heart attack.

Similarly, not everyone with a mental health issue has been suicidal or depressed. There are many different mental health issues. And two people with the same clinical diagnosis can present very differently, too. So, to be respectful of people’s individual experiences, it’s important to use language that also acknowledges that mental illnesses are not all the same.

Many replacement words also may not work, depending on context. In addition to “nuts” and “crazy” (or “going crazy”) and “insane” several other slangy synonyms, among many others too numerous to mention, are “losing one’s mind,” “nervous breakdown,” and “going mad.” Although such terms are often used loosely, usually not intending harm, it’s important to recognize how and when we use them, as these words can feel stigmatizing and/or offensive.

Below are some pertinent quotes from well-known folks that involve “psycholanguage” (meaning “words about the psyche”):

Jane Wagner (The Search for Signs of Intelligent Life in the Universe and partner of Lily Tomlin): “See, the human mind is kind of like…a piñata. When it breaks open, there’s a lot of surprises inside. Once you get the piñata perspective, you see that losing your mind can be a peak experience.”

Bertrand Russell: “One of the symptoms of an approaching nervous breakdown is the belief that one’s work is terribly important.”

Fyodor Dostoevsky: “Deprived of meaningful work, men and women lose their reason for existence; they go stark, raving mad.”

Rodney Dangerfield: “My psychiatrist told me I was crazy and I said I want a second opinion. He said okay, you’re ugly too.”

Margot Kidder: “When I was crazy, I didn’t think of anything but being crazy.”

Albert Einstein: “A question that sometimes drives me hazy: am I or are the others crazy?”

Mark Twain: “When we remember we are all mad, the mysteries disappear and life stands explained.”

Sam Harris: “It is merely an accident of history that it is considered normal in our society to believe that the Creator of the universe can hear your thoughts while it is demonstrative of mental illness to believe that he is communicating with you by having the rain tap in Morse code on your bedroom window.”

Robert Anton Wilson: “Of course I’m crazy, but that doesn’t mean I’m wrong.”

Apr 26

How to Listen Better: Experts, Opinions, and Quotes

Below is advice from two contemporary books that tout learning how to listen better, plus info about the use of active listening and some humorous quotes.

I. You’re Not Listening: What You’re Missing and Why It Matters (2020) by Kate Murphy

One major reason we should listen to each other is that it connects us more closely with others, a phenomenon sorely lacking in society these days.

So, then, how do we learn to listen better? It is, after all, an acquired skill. Kirkus Reviews:

During a conversation, ‘you make yourself aware of and acknowledge distractions, then return to focus…She points out that one of the primary obstacles to listening is the assumption that we know what someone is going to say, which means, unfortunately, that we’re least likely to pay attention to the people closest to us, including spouses, children, and friends.

From an interview with the author on her Amazon page, here’s some helpful advice about curbing this tendency toward half-hearted listening:

A better response will come to you when you have taken in all that the other person has to say. Then, pause if you need to after the other person concludes to think about what you want to say. And if you’re still at a loss, it’s okay to say, ‘I don’t know what to say.’ You can also say, ‘I’d like to think about that,’ which conveys that you’re honoring what the other person said by taking time to think about it, while, at the same time, honoring that part of you that is uncertain or anxious and needs time to process. Better that, than responding in a way that is insensitive or misses the point.

II. Becoming Wise: An Inquiry into the Mystery and Art of Living (2016) by Krista Tippett

One key way to get wisdom? As stated to Paul Brandeis Raushenbush, Huffington Post: “Start with the attention you give to the words you speak…A corollary is (that) we become wise by asking better questions and being listeners, as well as speakers. As I say, generous listening is not about being quiet, it’s about being present. So there’s something about wisdom that knows the power of words and also knows the power of presence and of knowing when to speak is not the right thing.”

III. Active Listening

Neuroscientist Robert K. Cooper, co-author of Executive E.Q.“Many ‘active listening’ seminars are, in actuality, little more than a shallow theatrical exercise in appearing like you’re paying attention to another person. The requirements: Lean forward, make eye contact, nod, grunt, or murmur to demonstrate you’re awake and paying attention, and paraphrase something back every 30 seconds or so. As one executive I know wryly observed, many inhabitants of the local zoo could be trained to go through these motions, minus the paraphrasing.”

John Gottman, a marriage researcher, similarly pooh-poohs active listening. Although he once thought it worked, he eventually concluded his clients weren’t really helped by it.

In an interview with Randall C. Wyatt on psychotherapy.net, Gottman explained that the concept works better in therapeutic dialogue than in real-life dialogue. The difference? In therapy “…the client is paying, the therapist isn’t paying. Usually the client is complaining about somebody else, so it’s very easy for the therapist to say: ‘Oh, that’s terrible what you have to put up with, your mother is awful, or your husband, or whatever it is. I really understand how you feel.'”

IV . Humorous Quotes About Listening 

Fran Lebowitz, humorist: “The opposite of talking isn’t listening. The opposite of talking is waiting.”

Mark Twain, writer: “Most conversations are monologues in the presence of witnesses.”

Robert McCloskey, author: “I know that you believe you understand what you think I said, but I’m not sure you realize that what you heard is not what I meant.”

Aug 03

Worry (Selected Quotes): A Wasted Emotion

Worry is interest paid on trouble before it falls due. W.R. Inge

And some other pithy quotes about worry:

Karen Salmansohn: “Worrying is blurrying. It stops you from seeing clearly.”

Corrie Ten Boom: “Worrying is carrying tomorrow’s load with today’s strength– carrying two days at once. It is moving into tomorrow ahead of time. Worrying doesn’t empty tomorrow of its sorrow, it empties today of its strength.”

A.J. Cronin: “Worry never robs tomorrow of its sorrow, but only saps today of its strength.”

The Buffalo News: “Worry is like a rocking chair: It gives you something to do but never gets you anywhere.”

Voltaire: “The longer we dwell on our misfortunes, the greater is their power to harm us.”

Mark Twain: “I am an old man and have had a great many troubles, but most of them never happened.”

Eckhart Tolle: “What will be left of all the fearing and wanting associated with your problematic life situation that every day takes up most of your attention? A dash, one or two inches long, between the date of birth and date of death on your gravestone.”

Ana Monnar: “Whatever is going to happen will happen, whether we worry or not.”

Dalai Lama XIV: “If a problem is fixable, if a situation is such that you can do something about it, then there is no need to worry. If it’s not fixable, then there is no help in worrying. There is no benefit in worrying whatsoever.”

Max Lucado: “How can a person deal with anxiety? You might try what one fellow did. He worried so much that he decided to hire someone to do his worrying for him. He found a man who agreed to be his hired worrier for a salary of $200,000 per year. After the man accepted the job, his first question to his boss was, ‘Where are you going to get $200,000 per year?’ To which the man responded, ‘That’s your worry.’

Jul 10

Laughter in Therapy: Important Quotes That Support It

If laughter‘s so good for us, why is laughter in therapy—on either side of the process—sometimes regarded as bad? (Naturally, in questioning this I’m referring only to the healthy, not-hurtful kind of laughter.)

Some quotes by well-known folks who’ve appreciated laughter:

Mark Twain: When you laugh, your mind, body, and spirit change.

Madeleine L’EngleA good laugh heals a lot of hurts. 

Lord Byron: Always laugh when you can, it is cheap medicine. 

Bob Hope: I have seen what a laugh can do. It can transform almost unbearable tears into something bearable, even hopeful.

Victor Borge: Laughter is the shortest distance between two people

Lucy Maud Montgomery: Life is worth living as long as there’s a laugh in it.

Bob Newhart: Laughter gives us distance. It allows us to step back from an event, deal with it and then move on.

Ethel Barrymore: You grow up on the day you have your first real laugh at yourself.

William James: We don’t laugh because we’re happy – we’re happy because we laugh.

Robert Frost: If we couldn’t laugh we would all go insane.

And then there’s character Daryl Stone from my own novel Minding Therapy: “I shyly laugh, inwardly praying she won’t be one of those shrinks who would rid me of my favorite coping mechanism. Sure humor’s a defense – so what?”

LET’S BACK THIS UP WITH SOME RESEARCH

For further details about any of the following snippets, click on the corresponding resource link.

Melanie Winderlich, Discovery, reports scientific reasons why laughter is healthy: it decreases stress, helps coping skills, and boosts your social skills, among other things.

Gretchen Rubin, The Happiness Project: “Laughter is more than just a pleasurable activity…When people laugh together, they tend to talk and touch more and to make eye contact more frequently.”

Psychologist Ofer ZurThe Zur Instituteasserts that laughter in therapy is cathartic.