Self Improvement


Positive-Sounding Traits That Are Bad In The Long Run

Some behavioural traits generally have a positive connotation to them, but are self-sabotaging in the long run:

  1. Thriving Under Pressure
  2. Thoroughly Exploring Your Options
  3. Being In Control
  4. Striving For Excellence

These traits can set us up for success initially but have a downside to them.

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Self Improvement

Thinking everything to death before making decisions can be counterproductive, creating self-doubt.

If you keep researching every aspect and keep gathering every information to make that mythical perfect decision, you will never reach certainty.

Always staying in control can turn one into a control freak. It can also make us fearful of situations when we cannot be in control.

One can feel unprepared in certain situations and avoid them altogether. Always wanting to be in control can also create unnecessary anxiety.

Being able to work under pressure once in a while is a positive trait, but if it is an addiction to trigger focus, it can give rise to procrastination.

People create artificial pressure situations to add that spark of a time crunch but waiting to start your work just before the deadline is highly unproductive.

  • Trying to do something perfectly is fine but always trying to be a perfectionist is a recipe for disaster.
  • Striving for perfection is an avoidable ‘impossible standard’ that makes one self-critical.
  • Failure to reach the impossible standard lowers one's self-worth.
  1. Monitor your behaviour and acknowledge your self-sabotaging behaviour.
  2. Take action that is the opposite of what you intend to do while self-sabotaging yourself. Handle situations differently and observe the effect it has on you.
  3. Acknowledge your accomplishments and build your self-esteem by writing down the things that make you special, and unique.
  4. Focus on the positive and start a daily self-affirmation mantra to recite to yourself.

Stoicism is basically inner engineering, choosing our response and judgement towards external events that are not in our control.

It is the basis of modern psychological therapies like Cognitive Behavioural Therapy(CBT) and goes deep into how we behave towards unexpected and unforeseen blows of life.

The Stoic practice of catastrophizing, that is manoeuvring the potential dangers and troubles we will experience during the day or the mean and rude people we will encounter, loads our brain with a kind of anti-anxiety potion, that helps us face the day with ease.

We prepare our worrying mind to face the day's problems and are mentally prepared to handle the unexpected.

Stoicism: A Primer
  • Stoicism is an ancient philosophy that has recently gone mainstream. It is a kind of premeditation that involves reframing our attitude towards external events.
  • Stoicism states that nothing is good or bad, valuable or miserable in itself, and it is our assumptions, beliefs and thought patterns that colour the world around us.
  • If we have control of our feelings, emotions and the mind in general, we would cease to be judgemental, happy or miserable.

One of the fathers of the Stoicism philosophy, the Roman Statesman Seneca, suggested a Stoic technique called Premeditation.

The exercise involves imagining the worst-case scenario of your situation, like your partner leaving you, you catching a virus and dying, or your getting fired, or your house getting burned down. The next step is to rehearse how we will react to these misfortunes.

Casting oneself in dark, miserable, even desperate conditions and then seeing how we can endure them, creates an emotional protection shield around us.

Plausibility of Jurassic Park

In 1993, Newsweek ran an article affirming the scientific plausibility of Jurassic Park. They pointed out that two Berkeley scientists announced that they had cloned 40m-year-old bee DNA after finding the insect preserved in amber.

But to replicate a dinosaur genome, you would need billions of DNA building blocks. They could not harvest more than 250. Moreover, the amber-based experiments of the bee DNA finding were likely based on false results. Lastly, no one has ever found any dinosaur DNA since DNA degrades over time.

A controversial palaeontologist thinks we might have all the DNA necessary to recreate dinosaurs - in chickens.

Scientists managed to tweak poultry DNA to grow alligator-like teeth and a dinosaur-like snout instead of a beak. The creatures would not be recreations of a once-extinct species but a human-engineered version of how they think dinosaurs have been.

Fear manipulates us through:

  • Impatience - Being fearful has made us into beings that want to have a solution for every single problem even though it isn't happening at the moment.
  • Future Orientation - Fear makes us internally experience something that isn't currently happening which fills us with adrenaline so that we'd be able to stave off the problem.
  • Time Distortion - Fear makes us feel like we're "stuck" and may never be able to get out of the situation.
  • Self-Generation - Fear demands us to keep on thinking.
Getting Away From Fear

Being mindful about how fear manipulates our minds into overthinking certain situations is something we need to practice. Being able to see how manipulative fear is will allow us to loosen its grip on us.

We can do so by allowing ourselves to take the time we need in order for the fear to pass and to recognize that the future isn't as frightening as it seems. Once the fear passes, we are able to stand up for ourselves and that fear is only distorting our perception.

Deconstructing Anxiety

Anxiety is a normal experience, however, it is not recommended that we let ourselves be consumed by the fear it holds against us.

Being able to deconstruct anxiety will allow us to practice the principle of doing the opposite. With this, we will be able to reverse the responses we give out of habit in order for us to become free and live fulfilling lives.

“Before you make your move, look at the position as if you were a beginner.”

As we struggle in the settings of our laptop/phone/iPad, we see that children conquer these gadgets almost instantaneously. This is because everything is new for them, and they have a true beginner's mindset.

Children see the world with no burden of past experience, and less junk knowledge inside their heads, which are mostly restrictions. They are not worried about sounding foolish, so they ask questions that most of us wouldn’t.

  • We all have a linear, logical approach to learning something. We believe that learning something like singing or drawing, will help us be better singers or artists.
  • Learning has advantages that are less obvious to anyone. It is termed as an effective response to stress.
  • Learning something puts one in the zone where the body and mind are tuned to absorb more of the outside world.
  • Learning something new and challenging with other people improves our cognitive behaviour, providing us with skills far beyond what the subject of learning is.
  • Learners feel confident in areas unrelated to the main subject and experience internal growth, which makes the world outside a lot bigger and richer than before.
Keep Learning: Adult Beginners

It is a myth that experts commit fewer errors than beginners. The Dunning-Kruger Effect states that people who are bad at something are often unaware of the fact, and are overestimating their performance.

There is an advantage in having a beginner’s mindset even as our skills and knowledge develop, something that is not available even to the experts.

Many adults make a mistake of letting their kids learn new things but not patronizing the learning mentality among themselves. They subtly give out a negative message to the kids: Learning is only for young people.

Adult Beginners, the people who are not young but are trying to learn something new, almost have a failed tone to it, like the person is already late. They become a ‘stereotype threat’ just by being adults and beginners.

Experts, who are skilled and are aware of their knowledge, tend to be more efficient in their handling of problems.

However, the skills, knowledge and expertise often turn into a handicap, a blindspot that makes the expert commit errors in certain situations where a more agile, fresh and innovative solution is required.

There is a certain age in children, known as the sensitive period, where they are able to learn at an accelerated rate. The brain's neural systems are extremely responsive to change. That is why kids learn languages, music, chess or even coding as a ‘first language’.

Kids are also having fewer responsibilities, are protected and supported, and their lives tend to be built around learning new things by default.

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