My little contribution to Doctors without Borders

It’s always an honour and a privilege to be a moderator in a Stack Exchange site. Every December, the company offers to make a $100 donation to a charity of our choice on the behalf of us moderators. It’s a touching gesture and one that I am proud to be a part of.

Some of you may remember my donation to Wikimedia foundation back in 2013 and I regret to admit that I missed the donation offer email in 2014 amid my inbox flooding. But no such thing shall happen again and I remembered to stay on top of my inbox this time around.

I made up my mind to choose Doctors Without Borders because of their selfless act of service, who don’t mind putting themselves in risky zones just to do what they love doing the most — helping people, regardless of their political stance.

Such compassionate people have to be encouraged and I will use this opportunity to do exactly that. So, thank you selfless doctors of Médecins Sans Frontières for your contributions to the humanity and thank you Stack Exchange for making me feel good about myself.

Read more about Stack Exchange giving back this year.

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.