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Sporadic photos and notes from a Psyche-midwife, cheerleader, anthropologist--aka clinical social worker in therapy practice. Photos are usually mine except for those of historical events/famous people. Music relevant to the daily topic is often included in a web video embedded below the blog. Click on highlighted links in the copy to get to source or supplemental material. For contact information, see my website @ janasvoboda.com or click on the button to the right below. Join in the conversation.

Monday, January 20, 2014

January 21st Challenge--Do your future self a favor

so many choices
I don't really want to be writing this blog right now.  That is, my current self doesn't want to write it.  My future self would be very pleased I did, because I said I would, and it would prove that there are at least a few exceptions to my narrative that I have zero self-discipline.

I pretty much write these in the last moments of my day, when as one Real Writer said, ego is too tired to protest and flip out.   I wait as long as I possibly can.  To avoid it tonight, in the last hour and a half I have surfed the web to read travel warnings for countries I will never visit and check out the weather in places I know no one.  I have dealt with dust bunnies that were weeks in the making and shuffled small items from one abused lateral space to another.  But I really, really want to go to bed soon.  And meet my commitment to have the blog out early.  This got me thinking about that constant struggle we humans have between what we say we want and what we do.

maybe just a couple small pieces...
Psychologist Daniel Gilbert talks about this in his book "Stumbling on Happiness".   He says we are actually pretty lousy at predicting what in the future will make us happy (he calls this "affective forecasting").  But we are probably even worse at acting on future desires in the present.  It's a dilemma:  I want to run that 5K in May, we tell ourselves.  And then "It's so cold outside and I don't know where my rain gear is-- maybe I'll watch a few episodes of that new HBO series".  Future self wants to be thin, and current self would like to try those other three French pastries.  Future self wants to climb mountains, and current self would like another cigarette. 

This is partly why New Year's Resolutions are so lousy, and why most get dropped in the first couple weeks.  We KNOW how we want things to be, and we FORGET how we are-- adverse to discomfort, set in our habits, short on discipline, bad at thinking about the details and the barriers.

don't chicken out now-- 10 days left.
Every day we make thousands of choices.  Most of us choose what to eat, how big of a portion, whether to have seconds.  We choose to turn on the TV/computer/device, or not.  We don't necessarily choose how much executive function we have (impulse control, future forecasting and task switching ability, etc).  But if we think it through, we can become pretty aware of the patterns of our past behaviors, which are the best predictors of today's unless we do something really different.

Today, hold an awareness about your choices.  Not every single one, but try to attend to some within a particular block of time, from a few minutes over or after a meal, to an hour or so.  Notice and own where you have choice with a mental note to self.  And ask:  is this what future self would want?  Pay attention to the talk-back (I have a mean internal dialogue that is very argumentative with future self). And at least one time, do something for future self.

Quote of the day:  "The best way to predict your future is to create it".  (Variously attributed)
Video of the day: 

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