Notes to Self

Thoughts on psychology, spirituality and soft skill development for personal improvement


Facts of Life

"Learn all you can from the mistakes of others. You won't have time to make them all yourself." - Alfred Sheinwold

Katherine Nichole Deibel, a grad student at the University of Washington, states in her Deibel Rules of Life:

  1. You hold some responsibility for any event that occurs.
  2. No matter how hard you try, you will never see the invisible truck that will run you over in the street.
  3. You can fail yourself, but failing another is not permissible.
  4. If something you desire that others you love have is denied to you, do not hate that which you desire, but instead embrace your friends' having of it. Denying something to all is not the answer.
  5. Live. Then die. In that order. No exceptions.
  6. Talking to yourself is okay. Giving yourself the silent treatment because you're mad at yourself is not.
  7. Our imaginations house our future, our potential, and our ruin. Make sure your imaginary friends are not your enemies.
  8. You are not your parents.
  9. Saving some bread for the future will not work. You can only eat in the present.
  10. Just as cars should allow pedestrians to pass, so should the pedestrians occasionally allow cars to pass.
  11. Time is an illusion invented by the Swiss to sell watches.
  12. All views are important to hear because somewhere in the chorus of opinions is the single melody of truth.
  13. Buying a Brita water filter alone will not save the environment.
  14. Misunderstood words can still hurt once understanding is achieved.
  15. You are not the hero of some movie, novel, film or story. You're not the villain either. You are not even a supporting character for someone else. You just are.

Dr. Michael Juda, Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, believes:

  1. When you lose, don't lose the lesson.
  2. Follow the three R's: Respect for self, Respect for others and Responsibility for all your actions.
  3. Remember that not getting what you want is sometimes a wonderful stroke of luck.
  4. When you realize you've made a mistake, take immediate steps to correct it.
  5. Learn the rules so you know how to break them properly.
  6. Live a good, honorable life. Then when you get older and think back,you'll be able to enjoy it a second time.
  7. In disagreements with loved ones, deal only with the current situation. Don't bring up the past.
  8. Remember that the best relationship is one in which your love for each other exceeds your need for each other.
  9. A loving atmosphere in your home is the foundation for your life. Do all you can to create a tranquil, harmonious home.
  10. Remember that silence is sometimes the best answer.

Charles J. Sykes, author and educationalist wrote the article Some rules kids won't learn in school for the San Diego Union-Tribune. (This article is sometimes wrongly attributed to Bill Gates.) The following is a pared down version:

  1. Life is not fair; get used to it
  2. The real world won't care about your self-esteem. The world will expect you to accomplish something BEFORE you feel good about yourself.
  3. You will NOT make 40 thousand dollars a year right out of high school. You won't be a vice president with a car phone, until you earn both.
  4. If you think your teacher is tough, wait till you get a boss. When you screw up, he's not going to ask you how you feel about it.
  5. Flipping burgers is not beneath your dignity. Your grandparents had a different word for burger flipping; they called it opportunity.
  6. If you mess up, it's not your parents' fault, so don't whine about your mistakes, learn from them.
  7. Before you were born your parents weren't as boring as they are now. They got that way paying your bills, cleaning up your room and listening to you tell them how idealistic and cool you are. So before you save the rain forest from the parasites of your parent's generation, try cleaning your own room.
  8. Your school may have done away with winners and losers. Life hasn't. In some schools they have abolished failing grades; they'll give you as many times as you want to get the right answer. This doesn't bear the slightest resemblance to ANYTHING in real life.
  9. Life is not divided into semesters. You don't get summer off and very few employers are interested in helping you find yourself. Do that on your own time.
  10. Television is NOT real life. In real life people actually have to leave the coffee shop and go to jobs.
  11. Be nice to nerds. Chances are you'll end up working for one. We all could.
  12. Smoking does not make you look cool. It makes you look moronic. Ditto for "expressing yourself" with purple hair and/or pierced body parts.
  13. You are not immortal. If you are under the impression that living fast, dying young and leaving a beautiful corpse is romantic, you obviously haven't seen one of your peers at room temperature lately.
  14. Enjoy this while you can. Sure parents are a pain, school's a bother, and life is depressing. But someday you'll realize how wonderful it was to be a kid. Maybe you should start now.

Katie Paine is an entrepreneur. The following, excerpts from her manifesto, are some of the things she believes to be true about life in general:

  1. Stay Fit: Staying Alive comes first – run, exercise, do something to keep yourself healthy.
  2. People are Important: Relationships are next. Without friends, you are nothing. A friend, or a connection extends your lifespan by a decade. Put your friends first. The pain of losing a friend is the worst you’ll ever experience. Spend time with the friends you have while you have them. They might be gone tomorrow or next week, you never know.
  3. Enjoy Life: No one ever lay on their death bed and wished they’d spent more time vacuuming, or at work, or asleep
  4. Be Yourself: Be who you are and see who is pleased, stop trying to make everyone happy. You can’t. Be true to your values, your beliefs, your vision, your soul. Nothing else matters.
  5. Everything happens for a reason.
  6. Care: After breathing, the most important thing in life is caring.
  7. Make a Difference: There are millions of people on the planet that just take up oxygen. Do you want to be one of them, or do you want to make a difference? You don’t have to make a difference on the whole while world. Make a difference in your community, in your family, in your neighborhood. It’s just as important.
  8. It’s okay to miss your friends, it preserves their memories.

Related » The Rules of Life
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Cognitive Therapy

"For there is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so." - William Shakespeare

An unhealthy self-esteem is often because of a warped self-identity which makes us more prone to stress, depression and anxiety. Cognitive therapy (also known as cognitive behavior therapy) is very effective in reducing depression and anxiety by providing us an amazing insight to all our actions and feelings. When applied consistently over a period, it also helps correct faulty perceptions about our personal identity thus increasing our self-esteem and making us more resilient.

What is Cognitive Therapy?

The basic premise of cognitive therapy is that your thoughts and attitudes - not external events - create your feelings.

basic principle of cognitive therapy

An example: You are waiting for a friend who is late. If you are feeling annoyed, you might be thinking, "He is always late and makes me wait." If you are worried, you might be thinking, "It's not like him to keep me waiting. I wonder what's wrong?" The event is the same - the friend is late, but depending on your thoughts your feelings will differ.

Another example: If you just read the above and thought, "It's some trick. This guy is playing with words and imaginary situations to fool me ...", you might be feeling angry. On the other hand, if you thought, "Wow. That's profound ... This means I can change my feelings by just changing my thought!", you might be feeling very excited.

Based on this premise, cognitive therapists believe that "distorted" thinking patterns causes depression and unhealthy anxiety. A "distortion" in a thought means that while the thought might seem very truthful and realistic, it is actually clouded by faulty perceptions and not factually correct. And hence, correcting these "cognitive distortions" (a "cognition" is simply a thought) can help a person cope better with depression and anxiety.

The ten cognitive distortions

  1. All-or-nothing thinking: All-or-nothing thoughts are characterized by absolutes. This distortion polarises a person's thinking into either extremes without any shades of grey. Perfectionist thoughts are often characterized by this distortion - they often feel if something is not perfect than it's a total failure.

  2. Overgeneralization: A single negative event is seen as a never ending pattern of failure or defeat. These thoughts are characterized by words such as "always" or "never". For example, when John had a romantic rejection he thought, "Girls just don't like me. I'll always be alone."

  3. Mental Filter: This is characterized by concentrating all efforts on a single negative details at the cost of other positive ones. Example: A teacher praises your essay a lot and adds in the end, "... but your handwriting is terrible, you really need to work on that." You obsess only on this negative comment for days, ignoring all the positive feedback you got.

  4. Discounting the positive: You reject all positive outcomes by insisting that they "don't matter". Example: A designer, you create a great piece of art and everyone praises you. You discount it by saying, "These people have no idea. Any designer could have done this". This distortion takes the joy out of life and makes you feel frustrated and inadequate.

  5. Jumping to conclusions: Without factual basis you assume things will go negatively. There are 2 formats of this distortion:

    Mind reading
    : Without any confirmation, you conclude that a person is reacting negatively to you. Example: "She must think I am idiot."

    Fortune telling
    : You predict a negative outcome; that "things will go bad". Example: Before an interview you might think, "I am going to mess this up and not get the job."

  6. Magnification / Minimization: "Making a mountain out of a molehill" characterizes this thought pattern. You might exaggerate the importance of your problems and shortcoming and / or minimize your plus points.

  7. Emotional reasoning: You assume your negative feelings reflect reality. Example: "I hate myself. This proves I am a rotten person." or "I feel angry. This means I am being treated unfairly."

  8. "Should statements": You believe that things should be the way you hoped or expected. Example: "I shouldn't have scolded her." or "People should be nice to everyone." Should statements directed against yourself make you feel frustrated and guilty while those directed at other people make you feel frustrated and angry.

  9. Labeling: Another form of all-or-nothing thinking, you attach a negative label to yourself or others. Example: Instead of saying you made a mistake, you label yourself a "loser". You may also label others - "He is a SOB". Labeling makes you think that the problem is with persons character, rather than his / her attitude or belief.

  10. Personalization / Blame: Personalization is characterized by a tendency to hold yourself responsible for events that were beyond your control and leads to feelings of guilt, shame and inadequacy. Example: A child does something bad, and the mother thinks, "It's my fault, I am a bad mother." Blame is the opposite of personalization where you don't take any responsibility and blame other people. Example: "My girl friend is responsible for all the misery in our relationship."

Common misunderstanding about cognitive therapy

(Source: cognitive therapy myths)
  • Cognitive Therapy is all about changing your thinking, and does not involve behavioral change.
    Actually, Cognitive Therapy addresses your thinking, emotions, behaviors, and physiological symptoms (if applicable). Cognitive Therapy is called Cognitive Therapy because it is based on the premise that your underlying beliefs about yourself, others and the world influence the way you perceive situations, and prompt you to have certain thoughts, emotions, behavioral responses and physical symptoms.

  • Cognitive Therapy only deals with surface layer problems, and it does not do much to change the root of people’s problems.
    Cognitive Therapy treatment starts by addressing present problems as a way to help patients gradually change their underlying problems. Cognitive Therapists work with patients to analyze what's happening in a given situation, come up with alternative responses, experiment with implementing new ways of thinking and acting, and gradually begin to change their responses to situations. When patients see how their reactions, mood and other symptoms can improve once they begin viewing situations in a more realistic light, they gradually begin to chip away at their ‘deep-seated’ core beliefs.

Continued » Cognitive Therapy - 2

(This article is incomplete and a work in progress.)

How to Be Successful

"Many of life's failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up." - Thomas Alva Edison

What are the elusive secrets of success apart from the oft heard and less practiced 'hard work' and 'dedication'? Researchers have discovered that people who overcome impossible odds - discrimination, illness, personal grief and failure - and succeed have certain common personality traits. These characteristics of successful people include:

  1. Happiness as a habit: Sadness, anger and other sufferings come easy. But being happy is very tough. Successful people have a talent for enjoying life. They try to latch on to the everyday joy, however simple or small. If they can't have big victories, they accept small ones. Terrence Des Pres, a former Colgate University professor who studied the attitudes of Holocaust victims, calls this tenacious hold on life "a strength beyond hope".

  2. Flexibility to change: Accepting changes, and being flexible to them is necessary for success. Accepting changes means not abdicating ones responsibility and not blaming others for current circumstances. It means to look at change as an opportunity to learn and improve our skills.

  3. Tenacity: Don't give up. Trying won't make the problem go away, but it'll make it more bearable. Successful people ask "What do I do next?" rather than "Why Did I fail?" This helps in 2 ways - you don't get bogged down by your 'failure' and focusing on doing something else keeps you motivated to keep working.

  4. Reaching out to others: When faced with failure or overwhelming circumstances, successful people don't shut out others from their life. They readily ask for help when needed, and cherish the involvement. Duke university researchers have found that one of the best indicators of health, happiness and long life was the tendency to reach out to people beyond your immediate family.

  5. Living in the present: Don't wallow in self-pity or live in a fantasy world. Says author Fredrick Buechner in The Hungering Dark - "Not one of us can bring back yesterday or shape tomorrow".

  6. Having a dream: Goals give focus and can be incredibly motivating. Successful people don't shy away from dreaming and working on something 'seemingly impossible'.

  7. Thinking long term: Most people look for quick shortcuts to success and aren't ready to endure any short term pain. Successful people don't mind stepping out of their comfort zone and think long term.

  8. Interest to learn: Another common habit of successful people is the continuous desire to expand their knowledge - from books and, people they meet.

  9. Sense of urgency: Successful people don't procrastinate and prefer to be decisive and act quickly. They don't waste time because they value it highly.

  10. Mindset about success: The authors of Built to Last: Successful Habits of Visionary Companies say - " ... what appears to be constant is that the principles don't change over time. What defines these people's lives is their commitment to doing something that is meaningful to them."

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