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Force Yourself to be Productive with Conditional Events

Force Yourself to be Productive with Conditional Events
    Photo credit: gayle_n (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

    I’ll be the first to admit it; doing stuff is difficult. By “stuff”, I don’t mean eating, or playing video games, or doing easy things – nope, I’m talking about the things in life we decide we’ll do because they’re good for us or will help us improve.

    Every day, I find things that I’d like to in order to live a better life, such as doing a certain exercise every day, drinking enough water, or writing morning pages. These are all things that I know will make me feel better or learn more.

    So why are they so friggin’ hard to do consistently?

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    My theory as to why these things are hard stems from Isaac Newton’s first law of motion: a body at rest tends to stay at rest. We humans operate kind of like lightening; we naturally want to take the path of least resistance. Most of us live a in a country prosperous enough to afford us a comfortable living in exchange for work that is oftentimes sedentary and mentally easy after the initial learning period. Because we can get along fine doing this kind of work, we’re content to spend the rest of our time diverting attention to TV, video games, and other things that are easy to consume.

    Still, we all have goals and know we could be doing more to reach them. Maybe it’s being leaner. Maybe it’s learning a new skill. Maybe it’s a big goal like writing a novel. Whatever our goals may be, the steps we need to take to achieve them are usually right in front of our faces. The hard part is getting up off our butts and doing them.

    Today I’m going to detail a technique I use to make myself do the things I know are necessary for reaching my goals. This technique involves removing the need to internally motivate yourself by setting up conditional events that make doing things necessary, or at least very, very easy.

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    So, What Are Conditional Events?

    The way I think of conditional events is in the context of computer programming. In a computer program, a conditional event describes something that will be done once a certain condition is met. Most programming languages use “if” statements or “while” statements to accomplish this. Here’s a small example that anyone should be able to understand:

    if (user logs in) {

    display welcome message

    }

    This is pseudocode, meaning it’s not written in any particular language, but it should still illustrate the concept well. Basically, a conditional statement makes something happen every time something else happens.

    How Can I Apply This To My Life?

    Applying the logic of conditional events is quite easy, actually. I have a four-step process for incorporating a conditional statement into my own life that you can follow:

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    1. Pick a specific goal you have
    2. Isolate one action that needs to be taken to work towards achieving the goal
    3. Tie this action to another action you already do (we’ll call this the parent action), making sure the pairing makes sense
    4. Make sure you do the conditional action every time you do the parent action

    Building conditional actions into your life in this manner has a very powerful effect: it eliminates much of the preparation involved in doing the desired action, thus removing any reason you could use to justify not doing it. Essentially, it makes working towards your goals a part of your daily routine. This is a really important fact, as something that’s part of your routine will take a lot less of your mental energy to do than something that’s been added on.

    Now that you know how to build conditional statements into your daily life, as well as why doing so is beneficial, let me provide you with a few examples of conditional statements I use in my own life. I’m sure you’ll be able to use at least one of them!

    • Goal: Drink at least a gallon of water a day. Conditional: Every time I use the bathroom, I down a 20 ounce bottle of water and refill it. This essentially creates a loop that keeps me well hydrated.
    • Goal: Be able to do at least 15 pullups. Conditional: I put a pullup bar in my dorm room. Every time I come in, I do five pullups. This is a conditional I took from the Army; many basic training camps will make cadets do a few pullups before entering the mess hall for meals.
    • Goal: Write down my thoughts every morning in a journal. Conditional: I made my computer be my alarm. Every morning, it wakes me up and I have to turn on my monitors to disable it. At this point, I’m already at my computer, so I sit down and write.

    These are just a few ideas; there are literally endless possibilities for conditional statements you can build into your own life. Come up with some of your own, and start making headway on your goals! If you like, you can also share the ones you create in the comments to give inspiration to others.

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    Last Updated on October 16, 2019

    Invaluable Lessons You Can Learn From Your Mistakes

    Invaluable Lessons You Can Learn From Your Mistakes

    Do you like making mistakes?

    I certainly don’t.

    Making mistakes is inevitable. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could be at ease with them?

    Perhaps there is a way to think of them differently and see their benefits.

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    Why Mistakes Feel Dangerous

    Mistakes often feel dangerous. Throughout human history, our errors have often been treated as dangerous for a variety of reasons:

    • Our vulnerability. We have limited and fragile support systems. When those systems fail, people often lose their lives.
    • Real dangers. Nature can be dangerous, and making mistakes can put us at the mercy of nature and its animal residents seeking a meal.
    • Ignorance. Many cultures scapegoats someone whenever there is a failure of some kind. Scapegoating can be serious and deadly.
    • Order. Many societies punish those who do not conform to the prevailing orthodoxy and treat difference and non-conformity as a mistake. Even our brains flash an error message whenever we go against prevailing social norms.

    We have a history of handling mistakes and failure in an unpleasant way. Since each of us carries our human history with us, it can be a challenge to overcome the fear of making mistakes.

    If we can embrace the reality of mistakes, we can free ourselves to be more creative in our lives and dig up some interesting insights.

    Why We Can’t Avoid Making Mistakes

    Many people operate under the notion that making mistakes is an aberration, a mistake if you will. You can call it perfectionism but it is a more substantial problem. It is really a demand for order and continuity.

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    When we think we can eliminate mistakes, we are often working from a perspective that sees the world as a fixed place. The world, however, is not so obliging. Like it or not, the world, and everything in it, is constantly changing.

    Change is more constant and pervasive than we can see with our own eyes which is why we often miss it. Our bodies are constantly changing. The natural conditions of the earth change constantly as well. Everything, including economic and cultural systems have life cycles. Everything is in a constant state of flux.

    We cannot see all of the changes going on around us since rates of change vary. Unfortunately, when we try to create a feeling of certainty and solidity in our lives or operate from the illusion of stability and order, we are fighting reality and our natural evolution which is built on adapting to change.

    It is better to continually bend into this reality rather than fight every change we experience. Fighting it can cause us to make more mistakes. Finding the benefits in change can be useful and help us minimize unnecessary mistakes.

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    Lessons Learned from Making Mistakes

    Life has so many uncertainties and variables that mistakes are inevitable. Fortunately, there are many things you can learn from making mistakes.

    Here is a list of ways to harness the mistakes you make for your benefit.

    1. Point us to something we did not know.
    2. Reveal a nuance we missed.
    3. Deepen our knowledge.
    4. Tell us something about our skill levels.
    5. Help us see what matters and what does not.
    6. Inform us more about our values.
    7. Teach us more about others.
    8. Let us recognize changing circumstances.
    9. Show us when someone else has changed.
    10. Keep us connected to what works and what doesn’t work.
    11. Remind us of our humanity.
    12. Spur us to want to better work which helps us all.
    13. Promote compassion for ourselves and others.
    14. Teach us to value forgiveness.
    15. Help us to pace ourselves better.
    16. Invite us to better choices.
    17. Can teach us how to experiment.
    18. Can reveal a new insight.
    19. Can suggest new options we had not considered.
    20. Can serve as a warning.
    21. Show us hidden fault lines in our lives which can lead us to more productive arrangements.
    22. Point out structural problems in our lives.
    23. Prompt us to learn more about ourselves.
    24. Remind us how we are like others.
    25. Make us more humble.
    26. Help us rectify injustices in our lives.
    27. Show us where to create more balance in our lives.
    28. Tell us when the time to move on has occurred.
    29. Reveal where our passion is and where it is not.
    30. Expose our true feelings.
    31. Bring out problems in a relationship.
    32. Can be a red flag for our misjudgments.
    33. Point us in a more creative direction.
    34. Show us when we are not listening.
    35. Wake us up to our authentic selves.
    36. Can create distance with someone else.
    37. Slow us down when we need to.
    38. Can hasten change.
    39. Reveal our blind spots.
    40. Are the invisible made visible.

    Reframe Reality to Handle Mistakes More Easily

    The secret to handling mistakes is to:

    • Expect them as part of the process of growth and development.
    • Have an experimental mindset.
    • Think in evolutional rather than fixed terms.

    When we accept change as the natural structure of the world, our vulnerability and humanness lets us work with the ebb and flow of life.

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    When we recognize the inevitability of mistakes as part of the ongoing experiment which life is, then we can relax more. In doing so we may make fewer of them.

    It also helps to keep in mind that trial and error is an organic natural way of living. It is how we have evolved over time. It is better to be with our natural evolution than to fight it and make life harder.

    When we adopt an evolutional mindset and see ourselves as part of the ongoing human experiment, we can appreciate that all that has been built up over time which includes the many mistakes our ancestors have made over thousands of years. Each one of us today is a part of that human tradition of learning and experimenting,

    Mistakes are part of the trial and error, experimental nature of life. The more you adopt the experimental, evolutional frame, the easier it becomes to handle mistakes.

    Handling mistakes well can help you relax and enjoy all aspects of life more.

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    Featured photo credit: Sarah Kilian via unsplash.com

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