Do you connect with your future self?

Have you ever postponed your work to another day even when you are aware you are the one who is going to do it anyway? If you answered yes, it’s probably because you don’t consider your future self as yourself.

Let’s dwell into a little psychology for the matter. Hershfield HE’s research suggests that a lot of people tend to put their present selves ahead of future selves when making decisions that could affect their future significantly. This is the case for behavioural, financial and health decisions and many others too.

People often treat the future self as if it is in fact another person. On a general level, individuals make attributions about the future self in the same manner that they do for others, for example, by attributing the future self’s behavior to dispositional factors rather than situational ones, and to make decisions for the future self using a similar process that they use to make decisions for other individual.

The truth is that we are bad at predicting what effect our current actions — be it good or bad — will have on our future and blindly go through it in an impulse. That would explain many financial ruins (mainly retirees), heat-of-the-moment scuffles and passionate crimes.

If we spent a few seconds thinking about what that course of action will lead us into, maybe we won’t put ourselves in that situation. I guess that’s why we have the saying Look before you leap, to serve us a warning.

So, next time you think of postponing your work, assume you are assigning the work to a different person and imagine what their response would be when they are shoved more work without a valid reason. Most likely, an actual different person will not like what you are doing and why should your future self like it any better?

Inertia and procrastination vs Persistent starting

Procrastination is one big game killer for me. Slacker, procrastinator, lazy are some of the words that are used to describe me. I won’t deny that they are pretty accurate descriptions of me.

I always had a huge inertia towards work — can’t quickly get into a mind frame for doing work. Instead of doing school work, I spend time surfing through Internet, trawling around in social network sites, playing online games, contributing to open source communities and many other time wasting schemes.

Source: http://www.unconditionalresponsibility.com/procrastination

During one such time-wasting visit to the Internet, I picked up a neat little motivation tip — persistent starting — that helped me beat my inertia. Funnily enough, I found it on reddit, a place infamous for being a huge time sink. Let me quote Chyndonax’s comment for you:

It’s called persistent starting. Pick something you want to do but keep putting off. It can be anything. Tell yourself you’ll spend five minutes doing it and then quit after five minutes if you still don’t want to do it. After five minutes if you still want to quit then quit. No tricks or mind games. You won’t want to quit. What happens is the part of our brain that plans and carries out our day to day actions takes over our bodies and we just keep doing what we’re doing. Planning the next step, executing the current one. Autopilot in a way.

To put it simply, we start thinking about when we can start a task instead of thinking about when can finish it. This simple shift in mentality works wonders as you trick your mind to believing it has options and once you start on the task, that initial inertia against work is dealt with and you are now facing an inertia against not doing work. :-)

This motivation tip, persistent starting, was part of the book The Now Habit by Neil Fiore. I’m yet to read the book but am confident it will be worthwhile.

Hope you find this little tip useful for boosting your productivity.

The word “interesting”

Interesting is a colourless word. If I say something was interesting, it probably means I have nothing to really talk about it. It could mean I was barely impressed. It has joined the laundry list of words that give absolutely nothing away to the listeners. And yet, it’s been used all over the place, from describing a person and their character to commenting on a new film and what not. Frankly speaking, you can spot the word in places where one voices their opinions.

For what its worth, “interesting” could very well be a synonym for boring. It has been misused and overused to the point that the word has lost all of its true meaning. These days, it has been limited to just a filler word, the word you use to cover up the awkward pause as you try to think of something interesting to say to others.

Calvin calls it ‘interesting times’ but he doesn’t really mean it. Now, if only we had accurate words to exactly express what we feel. Oh wait.

As has been the case always, someone has already felt the same pain as mine, ranted about it and did a good job at it too. Let me present to you Rick Manelius’ “Interesting” is a Boring, Overused, and Lifeless Word:

It’s overused because it’s become a go-to filler word when we become too lazy to use something more precise. It’s misused because we often hide behind it instead of saying what we truly think and feel.

And that’s simply the truth. There are enough alternatives that can do a better job than what ‘interesting’ is doing. So maybe we should vow to stop using ‘interesting’ as much as possible and use words that are more revealing (not in a risque manner, mind you). That should be one neat trick for improving your vocabulary too!

Regrets

Regrets come in many flavours. From the lost aspirations to the broken relationships, from the silly ones to the life destroyers, people have plenty of things to regret about and reproach themselves. I’ve had (and still have) a fair share of them myself.

I regret not learning Hindi. I regret not getting actively involved in sports. I regret wasting time on online conversations when I could have spent that time working on my statistics homework (this particular one had very significant impact on my future career decisions). This list of regrets goes on.

Carrying these regrets was boggling me down and quite severely too. I constantly drifted into a pensive mode, evaluating my life choices and wondering where I would have been if I had paid a little more attention to statistic lessons.

It was James Altucher who saved me, my go to man for everything philosophical these days. He tells me regrets aren’t good for anything:

Don’t time travel into the past, roaming through the nuances as if they can change. Don’t bookmark pages you’ve already read. Today it starts all over again. Every tomorrow is determined by every today.

And that’s exactly what I needed to hear. I don’t have to know and I don’t want to know how things could have shaped if I had done some things differently. They also tell me people are more likely to regret things they haven’t done as opposed to regretting things they actually have done.

http://xkcd.com/458

Today’s here and I should work on preventing any possible regrets that I might cause myself in the future. And I shall do just that by posting this.

So, go forth and live a happy life, free of regrets and be sure to cherish this new found freedom.

A month of blogging – NaBloPoMo

Heyo. This time last year I was prepping myself to give a try at cracking NaNoWriMo. NaNoWriMo is a novel writing exercise for the weak-hearted who don’t quite have the drive to get started on writing a novel without external motivation. I tried my hand at it and I failed miserably. Going through whatever work I wrote last year, I realised I have plenty of things to learn and figure before I sincerely start on writing a novel.

So I thought maybe I should take it a little easy this year around, read more novels, learn the art of telling stories and generally keep myself interested in writing. Which lead me to NaBloPoMo — the event which I hope will persuade me to continue writing regularly on a schedule, help me improve on generating and incubating ideas as well as hone my writing skills.

So here I am, promising to post once every day (starting with this one) for the whole of November — that would be 30 posts in just a month and hopefully will be the change that reinvigorates this blog and my interest in blogging and writing.

I’ll mostly write about topics that I hope are worth thinking about a little and maybe discuss with some of you if possible. Do stick around for the month and we’ll have a jolly good time together, surely.

The kind, cruel eyes

The kind eyes, the cruel eyes, kind and cruel –
The kind eyes make you warm and calm and
The cruel eyes steal your breath away,
Causing distraught and wreaking havoc at ease.

Explicit in its subtlety and irresistible deliberately,
The eyes that know why they exist. Purposeful eyes
Trained to lure the uninitiated into a cynical trance;
To suck the soul out of the hapless stuffings that remain.

The enigmatic hazel browns are rolling around,
Forcing me into a vocabulary enhancing session:
Elegant, exotic, exquisite and extraordinaire.

The kind, cruel eyes visit me in every dream and daydream,
Wanting to eat me alive, only me all too willing.
‘Stop doing this to yourself’ I hear myself begging me but
The mindless drone doesn’t care, stealing another glimpse.

The kind eyes, the cruel eyes, kind and cruel –
Cruel they may be as they tease and tantalise but
Kind enough not to leave me for dead,
Putting me in a deep slumber, finally at ease.

Generating ideas and some more

If you are thinking you need to be creative or inspired to generate beautiful ideas, you are in the wrong. Because ideas don’t quite work that way. In fact, it is the exact opposite.

Many ideas to bigger idea

Firstly, you generate some ideas. And then some more. Over time, you slowly grow your creative muscle and get better at it. It’s similar to learning how to juggle. You don’t just became a world-class juggler overnight without any practice.

Luckily for me, I had James Altucher to teach me the importance of generating ideas:

But WHENEVER I’ve been stuck on the floor I knew the only way to kick into action was to start building my idea muscle again. Because it is in those moments that my brain had become smaller, damaged, and my idea muscle had atrophied. And from that moment it takes six months (on average) to 100% change my life around.

And that was when I realized the naked truth about creating ideas and its real impact on one’s life. And be warned that it can change your life – for better or for worse.

Jotting ‘em down

Now I hope I have convinced you about the importance of generating ideas. But it doesn’t stop there. One of the (two) crucial bits people forget about ideas is getting them jotted down immediately and with vivid details.

Most people mistake their memory to be expertly good at remembering their ideas and they have unconsciously failed at the art of ideas right away. A good ideator (that’s a partially made up word :-)) is one who makes sure he has scribbled down his idea somewhere for future reference – no matter how bad the idea is – because he knows the value of ideas.

Ideas when on bed

The hardworking brain

Moving on, a lot of us get some of the smartest ideas right before we are about to fall asleep. It’s almost like our brain is doing it on purpose to taunt us. If you are lazy or imagine yourself to be able to remember the details of the idea when you wake up, you have lost it. The key thing to do is to keep a notepad nearly just for this worst-case scenario. Or you can use the notes app on your smartphone. Anything that works as long as you have jotted it down somewhere.

Ideas are social

If there is one secret most “creative” people have kept away from the plebians, it’s this. Ideas are insanely social. By that, I mean if you have one idea in mind, there is a very high likelihood of having many more ideas. And they grow so fast it is almost scary. But don’t be scared if you are jotting them as they visit you.

Sharing ideas

The other crucial bit people don’t realize about ideas is that sharing ideas is actually good and beneficial. I am going to let Seth Godin argue this point:

How dare we criticize an inventor or an author or a leader for, “stealing someone else’s ideas.” Ideas can’t be stolen, because ideas don’t get smaller when they’re shared, they get bigger.

Then again, there are two aspects of sharing: giving and receiving. Even as you contribute your ideas to the pool, you should also put effort in learning about others’ ideas. If you notice, “creative” people turn out to be one of the most vociferous readers out there. If you want an idea (ha!), here’s Steve Jobs’ reading list.

I guess it’s time to leave you on your journey of creating a thousand and one ideas. Good luck!

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