Course Correction
The Missing Step That Keeps You Flailing

The Missing Step That Keeps You Flailing

Flailing is my word for a particular pattern of unproductive effort: you try, and try, and try — harder, and harder, and harder — and you still don't achieve your goal. Some people call this hitting your head against the wall. It sure feels like it when you're...

Making an Action Plan That Shifts Subconscious Programming

Making an Action Plan That Shifts Subconscious Programming

When people think about changing their subconscious premises, they often envision therapy. Therapy is an important tool for understanding and addressing deeply-held conflicts. A therapist can help you identify such conflicts and give you emotional and practical...

Three Levels of Intervention to Get Unstuck

Three Levels of Intervention to Get Unstuck

There are only three basic cognitive obstacles that can stop your thinking in its tracks: blankness, overload, and conflict—or some combination of the three. Level 1 Intervention: The 3-Minute Solution When you first notice you're stuck, try "thinking on paper" for...

The Value of Revisiting “Settled” Issues

The Value of Revisiting “Settled” Issues

Whether you grow or stagnate as you get older depends on how and when you rethink settled issues. An issue is settled when you evaluate it in the full context of your knowledge and conclude it is true or false. Some conclusions get settled for life. Philosophical...

Three Types of Obstacles to Concentration

Three Types of Obstacles to Concentration

When we played 20 Questions as a family, the first question was always, “Animal, vegetable, or mineral?" If you are trying to identify an object, it falls into one of those categories.  When you are mentally stopped, unable to concentrate, you should ask an analogous...

Snap Out of It: The Mental Importance of a Physical Pause

Snap Out of It: The Mental Importance of a Physical Pause

"Snap out of it" is pretty useless as a piece of advice. Typically, when you tell someone to "snap out of it," he is overreacting emotionally, or obsessing about something, or letting himself be distracted. Your advice won't be welcome if he disagrees with your...

Three Reality Checks Before You Commit

Three Reality Checks Before You Commit

Do you have trouble saying "no" to requests from others? Do you add new projects faster than you can complete them? Do you love to go above and beyond on your assignments? If so, you're like me. You tend to overcommit.  The standard advice we are given is, “Just say...

Three Principles for Releasing the Pressure of Perfectionism

Three Principles for Releasing the Pressure of Perfectionism

In my previous blog, I made the case that sometimes the logical, moral, and practical option is to do B-minus (B-) work. This can feel excruciatingly difficult if you are tempted by perfectionism. I was reminded of this recently when I tried to write an article on...

B- Work

B- Work

In a recent coaching call, one of the participants in Launch 2021 shared that he was overscheduled. He had added in an "artist's date," three hours of drawing work, to an already busy schedule. He was enjoying the drawing time, but now it seemed that every minute of...

Replace Duty Motivation with Means-End Motivation

Replace Duty Motivation with Means-End Motivation

If you've been following my work, you know that I recommend you motivate yourself entirely by values, not by threats. This means throwing out "duty" as a way to get yourself to do an important but unappealing task. By a "duty," I mean an out-of-context rule or...

A New Perspective on Self-Critical Thoughts

A New Perspective on Self-Critical Thoughts

Self-critical thoughts get a bad rap. You should neither reject self-critical thoughts nor treat them as revealed truths. Instead, treat them like crazy ideas from a brainstorming session. They, too, are products of your current knowledge, values, and skill. Used...

Plan to Be Surprised

Plan to Be Surprised

I've had a love/hate relationship with planning, and I've finally figured out why. Although I love the clarity I get from planning, and I see that planning helps me in the long run, I had always been distressed when a project didn't go as planned. This is crazy. Most...

What is Anxiety?

What is Anxiety?

Do you find the term "anxiety" a bit puzzling? It's always been described to me as a non-specific fear. My fears are always specific, so I never knew quite how to differentiate fear from anxiety until I read an article about anxiety by Brooke Castillo that clarified...

You Can Break the Vicious Cycle of Unproductive Emotions

You Can Break the Vicious Cycle of Unproductive Emotions

I've become a fan of Brooke Castillo's "Self-Coaching Scholars" program. I find her methods to be a valuable complement to the ones I have already developed. She's helped me speed up how I deal with distracting, unproductive emotions, while still maintaining the...

Using a Proportional Response to Improve Quality

Using a Proportional Response to Improve Quality

Improving the quality of your own performance, or that of an organization, can be a complex and long-term endeavor. In his book The Lean Startup, Eric Reis explains a doable method for making incremental adjustments that can dramatically improve performance in...

Blocked by the Same Old Bad Feeling? Release Its Hold

Blocked by the Same Old Bad Feeling? Release Its Hold

Sometimes when you feel blocked, the situation has a deep, painful, familiar feel to it. You say to yourself with a sinking feeling, “I’ve been here before.” When you recognize that old bad feeling, try this somewhat bizarre procedure from P. J. Eby to release its...

Change Proliferating Questions into Answers

Change Proliferating Questions into Answers

Sometimes when you "think on paper," you don’t get paragraphs of clarity, but paragraphs of questions. The questions proliferate in all directions as you see more and more things you don't know and feel you need to know to make any progress. Questions proliferating in...

How to Remember Your Commitment

How to Remember Your Commitment

Forgetting is real. It takes special work to remember an idea or an intention, particularly to remember it at the time you need it. The default is that you don't. This issue is much wider and more important than remembering names of people you meet or items on a...

Introspect Deeply When You Catch Tinges of Hostility

Introspect Deeply When You Catch Tinges of Hostility

Introspection is your tool for understanding and shaping your own psychology. Often, your first identification of a feeling is the tip of an iceberg. There is much more work to do before you know what caused the feeling, and can disintegrate any self-defeating beliefs...

Keep Your Purpose in Mind to Keep Your Break on Track

Keep Your Purpose in Mind to Keep Your Break on Track

If you want to stay on a schedule, you need to be able to take breaks that last a certain amount of time, and no longer. But that can be difficult. By definition, you are taking a mental rest from concentrated effort. How do you take that rest, without slipping into...

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