Friday, March 27, 2015

Your eyes and your imagination

You cannot depend on your eyes when your imagination is out of focus.
Mark Twain

Battling Temptation

Many parents and teenagers, while in a cold, rational, Dr. Jekyll state, tend to believe that the mere promise of abstinence – commonly known as “Just say no” – is sufficient protection against sexually transmitted diseases and unwanted pregnancies.

A better strategy for those who want to guarantee that teenagers avoid sex, is to teach teenagers that they must walk away from the fire of passion before they are close enough to be drawn in. Accepting this advice might not be easy, but our results suggest that it is easier for them to fight temptation before it arises than after it has started to lure them in. In other words, avoiding temptation altogether is easier than overcoming it.

Either we can teach them how to say no before any temptation takes hold, and before a situation becomes impossible to resist; or alternatively, we can get them prepared to deal with the consequences of saying yes in the heat of passion.

One thing is sure: if we don’t teach our young people how to deal with sex when they are half out of their minds, we are not only fooling them; we’re fooling ourselves as well. Whatever lessons we teach them, we need to help them understand that they will react differently when they are calm and cold from when their hormones are raging at fever pitch (and of course the same also applies to our own behavior).

Dan Ariely
Predictably Irrational

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Your Greater Goal

We often imagine that we generally operate by some kind of plan, that we have goals we are trying to reach. But we’re usually fooling ourselves; what we have are not goals but wishes. Our emotions infect us with hazy desire; we want fame, success, security – something large and abstract.

Clear long-term objectives give direction to all of your actions, large and small. Important decisions became easier to make. If some glittering prospect threatens to seduce you from your goal, you will know to resist it You can tell when to sacrifice a pawn, even lose a battle, if it serves your eventual purpose.

Robert Greene
The 33 Strategies of War

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Atheists and Religious People

You can find very moral atheists and very immoral religious people. Both groups haven't come to terms with their belief systems.

False Starts

It is important to distinguish between a real new beginning in someone’s life and a simple defensive reaction to an ending. Each may exert strain on a relationship, but the new beginning must be honored. The defensive reaction is simply a new way of perpetuating the old situation and needs to be considered as such.

Unfortunately, there is no psychological test you can take at such times. It is often difficult to be sure whether some path leads forward or back, and it may be necessary to follow it for a little way to be sure. But there are two signs that are worth looking for before you start. The first is the reaction of people who know you well: not whether they approve or disapprove, but whether they see what you propose to do as something new or simply a replay of an old pattern. The second indication comes from the transition process itself: Have you really moved through endings into the neutral zone and found there the beginning you now want to follow is this “beginning” a way of avoiding an ending or aborting the neutral zone experience?

William Bridges

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Hambugers and Rats

Most people who die in car crashes have eaten a hamburger less than a week before the tragic event cuts their lives short. Does this mean eating hamburgers cause traffic accidents? Nope. A connection between the two events has to be established before you can unfurl and plant the “cause and effect” flag.

That's why, when it comes to medical issues, there needs to be numerous studies pointing in the same direction. Studies with mixed results suggest there could be other causes at work besides the one we are investigating.

Consider this. Rich people may live longer because they have access to better health care. Do they live longer because they are rich? Well, sort of. That's what gives them access to the better health care.

The whole cause/effect thing gets especially confusing when things happen around the same time frame. We have a natural desire to tie them together with a big bow. Remember the saying about “trouble coming in three’s”? When we begin looking for groups of three, we tend to remember those times when our hypothesis was confirmed. We think it’s true because we don’t notice or simply discount situations when life didn’t fit with our triplet theory.

Stephen Goforth

Monday, March 23, 2015

All you got

You better not compromise yourself. It’s all you got
Janis Joplin

Somewhere between boredom and anxiety

A comfortable routine can turn on us, leaving our creativity stifled, dulling us to other possibilities. We become lethargic, sleep-walking through life, and boredom soon nips at our heels.

At the other end of the experience spectrum, we have those bungee-jumping thrill seekers we know. Tired of sexual escapades and rock climbing, they sometimes self-medicate to starve off boredom. Drugs can stimulate many feelings: euphoria, depression, anxiety, even fear. But none induce boredom (though some, like cocaine, can leave the user with a devastating boredom, after the drug has done its thing). Sex, food, drugs and gambling each stimulate the same dopamine reward pathway in the brain.

Psychologists tell us the cure for chronic tedium is not high-sensation thrills. Somewhere between boredom and anxiety there is a sweet spot called flow. An optimal level of arousal. As Dr. Richard Friedman writes:
Flow happens when a person’s skills and talent perfectly match the challenge of an activity: playing in the zone, where there is total and un-self-conscious absorption in the activity. Make the task too challenging and anxiety results; make it too easy and boredom emerges.

Flow get to the heart of fun. It’s not hard to see why the enforced tranquility of a Caribbean vacation could be a dreadful bore for a workaholic but bliss for a couch potato: temperament, as well as talent, have to match the activity or there is trouble in paradise.
Stephen Goforth

Friday, March 20, 2015

Youth and Immaturity

You are only young once, but you can stay immature indefinitely.
Flanders Dunbar


You lower your anxiety about uncertain by producing a number, then you “anchor” on it, like an object to hold on to in the middle of a vacuum.

Ask someone to provide you with the last four digits of his social security number. Then ask him to estimate the number of dentists in Manhattan. You will find that by making him aware of the four-digit number, you elicit an estimate that is correlated with it.

We use reference points in our heads, say sales projections, and start building beliefs around them because less mental effort is needed to compare an idea to a reference point than to evaluate it in the absolute. We cannot work without a point of reference.

So the introduction of a reference point in the forecaster’s mind will work wonders. This is no different from a starting point in a bargaining episode: you open with high number (“I want a million for this house” the bidder will answer “only eight-fifty” – the discussion will be determined by that initial level.

Nissim Taleb
The Black Swain

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Conserve Your Willpower: It Runs Out

Ever wonder why your resolve to hit the gym weakens after you’ve slogged through a soul-sapping day at work? It’s because willpower isn’t just some storybook concept; it’s a measurable form of mental energy that runs out as you use it, much like the gas in your car.

Roy Baumeister, a psychologist at Florida State University, calls this “ego depletion,” and he proved its existence by sitting students next to a plate of fresh-baked chocolate-chip cookies. Some were allowed to snack away, others ordered to abstain. Afterward, both groups were asked to complete difficult puzzles. The students who’d been forced to resist the cookies had so depleted their reserves of self-control that when faced with this new task, they quickly threw in the towel. The cookie eaters, on the other hand, had conserved their willpower and worked on the puzzles longer.

But there are ways to wield what scientists know about willpower to our advantage. Since it’s a finite resource, don’t spread yourself thin: Make one resolution rather than many. And if you manage to stick with it by, say, not smoking for a week, give your willpower a rest by indulging in a nice dinner. Another tactic is to outsource self-control. Get a gym buddy. Use to regulate your spending or to avoid distracting websites.

As John Tierney, coauthor with Baumeister of Willpower: Rediscovering the Greatest Human Strength explains, “People with the best self-control aren’t the ones who use it all day long. They’re people who structure their lives so they conserve it.” That way, you’ll be able to stockpile vast reserves for when you really need it.

Judy Dunn
Wired Magazine

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Work, Love, Dance

Work like you don’t need money. Love like you’ve never been hurt. Dance like nobody’s watching.

Selfishness and Self-love

If it is a virtue to love my neighbor as a human being, it must be a virtue and not a vice-to love myself since I am a human being too. There is no concept of man in which I myself am not included. A doctrine which proclaims such an exclusion proves itself to be intrinsically contradictory. The idea expressed in the Biblical “Love thy neighbor as thyself!” implies that respect for one’s own integrity and uniqueness, love for and understanding of one’s own self, can not be separated from respect for and love and understanding of another individual. The love for my own self is inseparably connected with the love for any other self.

The affirmation of one’s own life, happiness, growth, freedom, is rooted in one’s capacity to love, i.e., in care, respect, responsibility, and knowledge. If an individual is able to love productively, he loves himself too; if he can love only others, he can not love at all.

The selfish person.. can see nothing but himself; he judges everyone and everything from its usefulness to him; he is basically unable to love. Does not this prove that concern for others and concern for oneself are unavoidable alternatives? This would be so if selfishness and self-love were identical. But.. selfishness and self-love, far from being identical, are actually opposites.

Eric Fromm
Man for Himself

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Living on Past Victories

Never take it for granted that your past successes will continue into the future. Actually, your past successes are your biggest obstacle: every battle, every war, is different and you cannot assume what worked before will work today. You must cut yourself loose from the past and open your eyes to the present. Your tendency to fight the last war may lead to your final war.

Robert Green
The 33 Strategies of War

Monday, March 16, 2015

Real Joy

Winning is important to me, but what brings me real joy is the experience of being fully engaged in whatever I'm doing. - Phil Jackson