Tim Ferriss and my depleted ego

My friend Heath shared this Tim Ferris blog post with me the other day, called Understanding the Dangers of “Ego-Depletion”.  Its actually a guest post written by Dan Ariely, who is a professor of psychology and behavioral economics.

Ariely presents the idea that, basically, we can only make good decisions so many times, before we are too mentally exhausted to continue.  These “good decisions” are things that require will power, like skipping dessert or working on a less-than-exciting project.  Each decision requires a certain amount of effort, and when our lives are such that we are constantly making these often challenging or personally limiting decisions, after awhile our ego just gets depleted, and we fall flat on our face.

“Here’s the reason we make bad decisions: we use our self-control every time we force ourselves to make the good, reasonable decision, and that self-control, like other human capacities, is limited.”

Consider the typical dieter: He might make some rules for himself (or maybe his doctor made them) such as no sugar, no carbs, etc.  So for each meal of the day, he has to consciously try and make a good decision about what to eat.  Depending on how stressful his day was, he might be running on empty by dinner time and end up making a bad decision.  Or, maybe he’s done well for a week but is starting to lose momentum.  Consider Ariely’s question:

“From your own experience, are you more likely to finish half a pizza by yourself on a) Friday night after a long work week or b) Sunday evening after a restful weekend? The answer that most people will give, of course, is “a”. And in case you hadn’t noticed, it’s on stressful days that many of us give in to temptation and choose unhealthy options. The connection between exhaustion and the consumption of junk food is not just a figment of your imagination.”

Ariely then gives 6 easy rules to avoid caving under pressure (as well as a pretty realistic mock internal debate about food that I’m sure we’ve all had!)  He also sites some interesting studies that demonstrate participants’ wilting ability to focus, remember, and succeed at given tasks as their stress or distraction escalates.

Reading this article made me consider the things I do, and whether or not they are due to ego depletion.  I make a number of “bad decisions” on a daily basis (eating junk food, staying up late, procrastinating, etc), but I do these things so often that I have to wonder if they’re due the ego depletion or just a lack of motivation.  But then, what’s causing my lack of motivation?  Chances are, its ego depletion.  My day-to-day life isn’t particularly stressful – in fact, its pretty cushy – but I have underlying stresses that are with me at all times (student loans, getting a job, deciding if I want to move) which definitely put a tinted shade on the rest of my life.  Perhaps if I didn’t have those stresses, I would choose to eat salads more often, or get back into a routine of working out every day?  Ariely acknowledges that one can’t completely avoid stress and potential ego depletion, but calls upon the common saying “knowing is half the battle”.  And I for one am glad to have this new perspective on what might be causing the lack of motivation I’ve settled quite [un]comfortably into for the last few years.

Do you suffer from ego depletion?  Have you found ways to overcome it?

Joyce Meyer – Moving Beyond Worry and Anxiety

Watched another Joyce Meyer video today.

Joyce says, “You can choose your own thoughts; you don’t have to just think whatever falls in your head.  You can cast out wrong things and choose right things.”

That reminded me of something I saw on Twitter yesterday: @Leyla_N tweeted, “Thoughts come & go, you don’t have to believe them all. Choose empowering thoughts… take empowering actions.”

Its important to heed this advice because, as Joyce goes on to say, our thoughts are the place where worry really starts.

When faced with a problem, we can either worry or we can choose to trust God.

At this point in the video, Joyce said, “Worry, anxiety, reasoning – three major torments in our life.”  I don’t think I fully understand what she means there.  I really value reasoning as I think it can be an extremely powerful life guide.  Is she suggesting that we forfeit all reason in favor of complete trust in God?  Or was she simply saying that reasoning is one of our bigger problems – which I agree it is can be.  Reasoning is a powerful tool but too often in my own life I use it ultimately against myself.  I try and reason my way in or out of things rather than follow my heart or my intuition.  This goes hand in hand with over analyzing.  In fact, this is one of the tougher balances for me to achieve in my life.

Joyce uses the word “violent” in reference to how we should cast out our negative thoughts.   And I liked that because sometimes that’s how intense it needs to be!  To think to yourself “I’ll probably fail” or “I can’t”… is there any room for those thoughts in your mind?  There shouldn’t be.  And when you find yourself thinking them, you should cast them out with force.

I read a piece of advice awhile back (I think it was in Secrets of the Millionaire Mind by T. Harv Eker – which, by the way, is an excellent book and one that I think everyone – literally everyone – should read!) that relates to this.  It says that every time you have a negative thought, you should think (or even say aloud) “CANCEL.”  And the theory is that this will help you to break the habit of negativity.

Next in the video, Joyce talks about being passive – which has been a real topic of interest for my lately.  More and more I’m seeing how being passive is one of the worst things to do.  Its so inefficient – nothing gets done.  And when something does get done, its all you can do to hope it turned out how you would have wanted it.  Being passive means not taking control of your own life.  It involves sitting around, waiting, wishing.  And as Joyce says, it requires no backbone.  You think someone else should solve the problem.

Instead, Joyce suggests we be “aggressive against the enemy” (and here she’s referring to Satan, but we can also consider it to be any negative influence in our lives – such as my lack of motivation and passive behavior.)  Stand up for yourself – there doesn’t have to be someone to stand up against, just take action and make change and accomplish something.

Now she makes a distinction here: “Worry sees the problem but faith sees the God who can handle the problem.”  She says its not wrong to look at the problem – we need to look at it so that we can analyze it and figure out where it stands.  But its a slippery slope to worrying and over analyzing.

She commented on the interesting social norm that some people feel like they aren’t being a good parent if they don’t worry about their kids.  It made me think about the other areas of life where we’re encouraged to worry.  I myself have been conditioned to feel pressure to worry about my future.  Everything from getting good grades to getting into college, (you know the cycle) to picking a “realistic” major, getting a good job, paying your bills, etc.  Basically: not messing up.  These are great things to be aware of, and to keep in mind when making decisions and planning your life.  And by no means am I suggesting you should ignore them or just completely wing it and hope for the best.

But the amount of pressure we can feel just causes us to have FEAR.  Fear of messing up.  Do you know anyone who has never messed up and who won’t continue to mess up?  Its unavoidable, and that’s why this is a completely, completely irrational fear, and that is what’s unrealistic.  (For some wise words on being realistic, check out this Will Smith video, at 5:49 in.)

What may be worse is the irony at play – I’m way less likely to take chances to better my life because of this fear of failure that I have, because of the fear of messing up my life, which stems from worry.  But the likely outcome is that I will just create more to worry about!  Whereas if I just trust in God (or trust in myself and my intelligence and my abilities, or whatever) then chances are, things would work out for me.

Joyce says that when we have trust, we can enjoy the journey.  She also says, “When you pray and then you worry, the worry nullifies your prayer.  Prayer is something you do instead of worry.  Its not something you do with worry, its what you do instead of worry.  …  If we pray and then worry, we’re saying with our mouth that we’re depending on God but we’re saying with our actions that we don’t really believe that God’s going to come through so we’re going to worry and have a backup plan just in case he doesn’t.”

This makes me wonder how to find the balance between responsibility, avoidance, and trust.  Is it safe to perhaps deny our seemingly bad situation under the trust that it will work out?  Is it irresponsible to allow things to stay the same and not actively change them ourselves?  And if we decide to make a change, how will we know when we are acting from ourselves (ie the backup plan) or acting from God?  When our problem gets solved, was it us or was it God?  How long do we trust God before giving up and trying to solve it ourselves?

But perhaps there isn’t some spiritual equilibrium to find.  Perhaps no balance is required at all.  Perhaps all we need is to trust in God.  Maybe what’s unbalanced is when we decide to trust ourselves, because we are not nearly as deserving of trust as God is.  (I guess then its a question of credibility.)

Having complete trust in God requires a huge level of surrender.  Not only is that scary, but if it turns out to be a bad idea, then in hindsight it was pretty irresponsible and potentially dangerous.  This worries me.

For me, I find that the subject of faith and worry is a catch 22.  I worry about something, then wonder if I should just trust God.  But as I’m not a religious person and thus not strong in any faith, I worry that trusting God might not be the correct solution.  So now I’m not only worried about my initial problem but also about whether or not I should be worried.  (And I do see the humor in this.)

It seems to me, that for someone who has faith that God exists and that He is good, then trusting Him completely is obviously the way to go.  Why would you ever not trust Him?  And if you trust Him, then it would make sense to also trust His timing.  (I like this pin on Pinterest.)  I see the logical progression here but what I am waiting on is that first acceptance.  The acceptance that God exists.  When/If I come to that conclusion, then I have a whole line of beliefs that will come with it.  But its that first one, which determines the validity of the others.

That’s where my interest in Christianity lies, I suppose.  In learning more and finding out more about God.  And in the hopes that I will learn more about myself in the process.

I’ll conclude with a few lines that I particularly enjoyed from the video:

“God is greater than any problem that you have.”

“You’re talkin’ to yourself anyway, you might as well start saying something that makes sense!”

Do you have complete trust in God?  How do you balance having faith and taking personal responsibility for the course of your life?

 

Twitter Wisdom

I am following some really interesting people on twitter.

Backpackers, digital nomads, businesses owners, celebrities, dogs, and of course my own friends and acquaintances.  Twitter is probably one of my top sources for information now – and yes, some of that “information” is a picture of @MissAmyChilds in a dress or @Bentleythegrey taking a nap.  But a lot of it is not only informative, but also educational and beneficial to my life:

@AlexIkonn posted this article by Tim Ferriss called Reinventing the Office: How to Lose Weight and Increase Productivity At Work

And I learned from it that even if I start exercising regularly (as I have been for the last 3 days) the fact that I still sit for more than 6 hours daily makes me more likely to have heart disease than someone who sits less than 3 hours a day and gets no exercise.  Great.  A little tempted to freak out.

But I also read this article and this article and have since concluded that I shouldn’t be worried.  I move around quite a bit during the day, even though I am usually sitting.  And, I rarely sit for 6 hours in a row without getting up, which seems to be their main area for concern.

So it seems the idea here is two-fold: 1) be aware of how much time you spend sitting, and 2) balance is key.  Even though they say that exercise alone is not the antidote for sitting, the point is to sit and move intermittently, and that will at least help you more than a solid 6 hours of sitting followed by a solid hour at the gym.

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Another thing that caught my eye in that article was these shoes, which I started to check out but haven’t done enough research to form an opinion on them yet.

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My friend Olivia shared this, Is Independence the Key to Happiness?

One line stood out: “Everyone has a unique definition of themselves, so it makes sense that every person needs to follow her own path to a full life.”

Even though I’m still learning and most definitely don’t have everything figured out, I often find myself judging other people’s lives and assuming I know what’s best for them.  Sometimes I act on this and give my two cents, but other times I just silently wish that they’d find a different (ie better) path.

But who am I to judge that?  “Everyone has a unique definition of themselves” – meaning a different definition than the one I have for them.  Who’s definition is more likely to be right?

“So it makes sense that every person needs to follow [their] own path to a full life.”  I know that if I spent my life doing what other people wanted instead of what I wanted, I would not be happy.  (Remind me to tell you sometime about my experience in college.)

Reading that quote has most definitely given me a new perspective and will most definitely make me question the next time I feel high and mighty enough to judge someone else’s life choices.

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And here’s a great quote from @IrishPolyglot:
The difference between a stumbling block and a stepping stone is how high you raise your foot.

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Something not found on twitter:

From the book White Space is Not Your Enemy, I learned that “people read words, not letters” and that typing in all caps makes the words lose their shapes, and thus they aren’t as easily readable.  If you’re typing something in all caps in an attempt to communicate your point more strongly, think again.