Yearly Archives: 2017

Before they ever met you

The person who treated you hurtfully, who judged you, who disappointed you… Their responses to you were set in motion long before they ever met you. This is not about you.

You? Now? Your influence and power lie in stopping for a moment and choosing your response.

Note: This is not analytic philosophy or epistemology. It is not “The Truth”. It is just my attempt to point to a truth about human interaction. 

Return to the desired behavior without judgment

Perfectly expressed:

Getting organized (or establishing new habits) is like following your breath when learning to meditate. We are taught that, when you notice your mind wandering off and straying from the intention of following the breath, you simply notice having done so, without judgment, and return to following your breath. What if we could apply the same technique to habits, following routines and using strategies? What if the habit was not the new desired behavior, but the habit was returning to the desired behavior without judgment? If you solidify the habit of return, you will worry less about leaving the path. You will always have a way back.

– A listener’s letter to an ADHD-themed podcast. Link.

Want to make a real difference? Here are 3 ways.

Thrilling? Definitely. Terrifying? Probably. At least they’re not doing it for fundraising.

A common theme for many of my clients is wanting to make a positive difference in the world, and being held back by a lack of focus or procrastination. So we’re going on a slight tangent here: If you want to make difference through earning and giving (a perfectly valid way to do good), here are some angles to consider.

First, consider the big picture and make sure you’re doing overall good! Consider sponsored skydiving for charity in the UK: 1,500 people went skydiving for charity and raised £45,000 (after more than 60% of donations were used to pay for the diving), according to 80,000 Hours (an Effective Altruism charity). 163 injuries from the jumps cost the National Health Service around £610,000. So for every £1 raised for the charities, the health service spent roughly £13.

Ironically, many of the charities supported focused on health-related matters.

How about volunteering? Not always as impactful as you’d like, and you don’t want to push a project that appeals to outsiders but ignores the needs of locals, so proceed thoughtfully and listen carefully and continually to those you aim to help.

However, there are ways to make a real difference, and this article from 80,000 Hours describes three of them:

  • Donating effectively.
  • Advocacy.
  • Helping others be more effective.

Click through to the article for guidance on each. (I endorse the work of 80,000 Hours – a great organisation helping people make good choices in careers and altruism.)

Investing time and energy for friendship

Many times in my life I’ve felt disconnected, lacking the friendships I desire. At a distance from old friends, geographically and emotionally. It hasn’t been simply bad luck, or dastardly actions by others. (And if I focused on those things, what could I do about them? Very little.)

Speaking for myself, disconnection has followed from my neglecting of relationships, of the people I’ve cared about and who have cared about me. It has resumed from unclear or misguided priorities. Allowing distractions to govern my time. Lack of social awareness. Lack of conscious, planned commitment to guarding and maintaining friendships. Unwillingness to be vulnerable and own up to my desire for friendship. Fear of taking initiative in making new friends. Low energy due to bad habits and poor management of my health, meaning a lack of spare energy for social activities.

Those things allow friendships to escape, and as time flows on, an untended friendship will escape.

Planning time for friends, keeping in touch over the years and willingness to be vulnerable: these bring friendship closer.

​Spend energy to create energy

Spending energy creates energy. A short run and I’m more alert. A slightly harder run and (once I recover) I have energy for days. I take a push-up break from the computer instead of a cookie break, and I feel more energised. And the same seems to apply to most of us.

Physics still applies: there are no perpetual motion machines and the laws of thermodynamics remain unbroken.

But we are enormously complex machines made of mechanical systems that grow and change and run on hormones, directed by neurotransmitters. Inputting energy in the form of a processed snack has many effects beyond the extra blood sugar. Moving my muscles and joints and starting to strain my cardiovascular system has impacts far beyond using up some of that blood sugar and some of that energy.

I seek to be an empiricist – one who deals with the reality of the world even when it disagrees with ideology – and when I exercise I feel more awake and alive. Times when I’ve taken up effortful exercise after a long break, the benefits have been dramatic.

Your mileage may vary, of course – if you’re already working out hard, if you’re not getting a full restful sleep each night, if you  have chronic fatigue or are recovering from illness, then collect your data and observe your body’s needs with kindness.

For many of us (and for the typical reader of this blog) our default response to lethargy and tiredness is to sit or lounge and reduce our energy output. The result is less energy, in a self-reinforcing cycle.

Spend energy to create energy.

​My routines are my strength

​My routines are my strength. But they are not strong enough. 

My boundaries are my protection. But if they are poorly established and defended, they do not protect me. 

I want to be calm, energetic and focused. To achieve that, I must do the things that help me be calm, energetic and focused. 

Make things as simple as possible, but no simpler.

The no shame zone: frailty, not failure

I don’t know what Bill O’Reilly would think of my “No Shame Zone”. Or as I express it, my coaching principle of “no blame, no shame”, understanding our patterns and investigating with curiosity and compassion.

It shares a declared aspiration with his “No Spin Zone”, that of frank honesty with ourselves and others. As Bill may have noticed, it’s easier said than done. Why?

Shame is the reason that we fear to speak truth and flinch away from looking at the facts. That we choke on the truth, even as we try to speak it, and find ourselves engaging in spin.

The patterns of our thoughts and behaviour are fruitful areas to explore. Interrupting unwanted patterns establishing new ones brings about change. Blame and shame get in the way of that, whether blaming and shaming ourselves or blaming and shaming others.

When we know we are safe and not judged, we can begin to loosen our protective shields, begin to let our reality show through.

The reason for these notes

Note: This post was made on a separate blog that I kept for a short while, deliberately low profile and marked as “notes”, in order to give myself permission to write. That was helpful and I’m now feeling more comfortable, so I’m merging those posts into Procrastination Paramedic. – Chris Waterguy, 2 Jan 2019. 

For the last several years, I’ve been keeping notes, links, insights, findings from psychological research and perspectives that have helped me and strategies that have supported my goals. What I mostly haven’t done is shared these.

I’m sharing them here, starting now, as an exercise in writing (a goal I’m working on now) as well as to create a public record of what I believe and how I work.  For one thing, when I’m coaching a client in anti-procrastination or anything else, I can more easily point them to a post here rather than digging something out of my private notes.

It’s also a way for a potential client to see who I am and whether they might like to work with me. (If so, contact me for a chat.)

My least urgent goal but perhaps the biggest impact in the long run is in reaching more people that I can through one-on-one coaching alone. I share these notes, perspectives, strategies, in the hope in hopes that they will benefit someone besides myself. If they’ve helped you, please drop me a line or leave a comment.

Lower the bar and get jumping

Note: This post was made on a separate blog that I kept for a short while, deliberately low profile and marked as “notes”, in order to give myself permission to write. That was helpful and I’m now feeling more comfortable, so I’m merging those posts into Procrastination Paramedic. – Chris Waterguy, 2 Jan 2019. 

When I find myself resisting work on a goal, it’s useful to remove obstacles and lower the bar to actually starting.

One of mybarriers to blogging, for example, is the feeling that a post isn’t ready. So for several weeks I’ve been writing for myself, using a journal app on my phone. This has been easier because it’s not public and it doesn’t have to be perfect at all.

At the same time, it’s motivating me to start writing publicly, because I have so much that I want to share, these journal posts are close to what I want to share, And I know will be a value to someone.

So now that I have higher confidence and higher motivation, I reassess: I’m happy to share these writings, but still uneasy about associating them with my “brand”. So away around this is to create this separate blog for journaling and experiments. I promise that it will be imperfect, and that gives me space to create.