Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Time to procrastinate

'Work expands to fit the time available for its completion'

This is Parkinson's law and it has a lot of truth. It is the reason why procrastination works for a lot of people - they leave everything to the last minute because it really only takes them the last minute to complete the task! Here's an idea, what about trying to complete it in the FIRST minute so that you can relax for the rest of the time? Easier said than done, I know. However, you can still put Parkinson's law into use by giving yourself half the time you think you need when you are tackling assignments and household chores. Then you are left with the other half of the time available for you to pester the people surrounding you.

Anyways, procrastination isn't all bad. In fact, here are some instances that I have come up with where I think it would be wise to procrastinate:

1. Telling someone off. It is always wise to waste as much time as possible before rushing to confront someone. This small lapse of time will surely give your kettle sometime to cool off, so you can think more clearly and be less likely to scorch your victim. Also, in the time you take to wait and confront, you may realize the person is not actually at fault thereby sparing you the embarrassment and uncomfortable apologies. It will also give you some time to re-think if it is even worth it or perhaps to come up with more clever, piercing insults! But remember, words can never be erased or taken back. Even if you cool down later and apologize, it will be too late, the irreversible damage will be done. You may be forgiven, but it will NEVER be forgotten. On the other hand, if you had taken the time to come up with an especially sharp retort perhaps you will be remembered for you wit instead of your witchiness.


2. Eating junk food. Usually if you procrastinate for reasons like being too lazy to get out of your chair or not wanting to take those few extra steps to the fridge, your craving might actually disappear. This is especially true if it is a sweet craving that comes directly after a meal as these will go away as the food you just ate begins to digest.


3. Having kids/getting married. Although I have no firsthand knowledge, I am sure we can agree that many couples should not be together. Because they have a commitment of some sort (being married or having kids) they are stuck to each other like a press on nail (the permanent kind). This would be an ideal situation if the fact that they are unwillingly glued together forces them to resolve their issues, but this is usually not the case. Instead, because they decided to rush into committing in one way or another, they never got a chance to set boundaries/make rules/really get to know one another. Does it make sense that we procrastinate paying our bills, doing our dishes, doing our paper work but when it comes to something that involves all of that and more people jump in faster than you can say bobs-your-uncle?! I think not!!!


Well that's my 2 cents, feel free to leave a comment, or plan on leaving one now and wait and wait until the last minute.

Can I offer you some low self-esteem?

Having low self-esteem is considered an insult in our society. You can be accused of this affliction if you are anything from reserved, to very loud (you must be compensating for something), depressed, a push-over, a masochist, etc. Terms like low self-esteem and low confidence are thrown around all the time. However, saying that someone is a person with low self-esteem is just as erroneous as saying that someone is a person with hunger. It is a passing phase that happens often and to all, and some more often and strongly than others. I am certain that everyone has had periods of their life where they have experienced feelings of inadequacy or experience these feelings with respect to different aspects of their lives.

There has always been a negative connotation with low-self esteem whereas high confidence has been associated with positive attributions - i.e. confidence brings success, happiness, friends, money..etc.But being confident isn't necessarily all its cracked up to be. As Charles Darwin so eloquently stated, 'Ignorance more frequently begets confidence than does knowledge'. This means that knowing your limitations, and even underestimating your abilities can actually be more powerful than believing too much in yourself. I find this especially true in relation to your academic and professional life.In a psychological study done at Cornell University, students found that people who performed the worst in tests of logic, grammar and comedy also were the ones to have most overestimated their abilities. Those who performed better, were better aware of the limitations of their abilities. (http://www.apa.org/journals/features/psp7761121.pdf)

Evidently, if you begin to dwell too much on your limitations - because trust me EVERYONE has A LOT of them, it may prevent you from attempting new things. Having perpetually low self-esteem can lead to self-pity and depression. However, a healthy dose of low self-esteem is always good - it is better to err on the negative side as opposed to overestimations, as these could certainly lead to precarious outcomes!! Just be careful not to overestimate your abilities of underestimating your abilities!!

Monday, June 02, 2008

Ethics

Most people in our society consider themselves to be ethical people with strong morals. At least more ethical than the crooks in their city jail? Right?

Scenario 1: You are on your way home from a busy day at work. Strolling along in the summer sun, you find a wallet with $40 and the owner's name and phone number. You promptly call the number and arrange to return the missing wallet and cash. You blush as the owner gushes 'Oh God bless you, you are such a good person, your momma must have raised you well!'. You then you go to the supermarket to reward your good deed for the day with a Twix. The cashier boy is too busy oogling the girl behind you that he hands you $5 in change instead of 5 cents. Being the morally righteous person that you are, you alert him to his mistake.

Does this sound like you? Would you go home smug, perhaps brag about your actions to a friend? Do you think those actions will give you a karmic reward from the heavens /a gold star /a cookie from your sister? Before you get all high on yourself for being an ethically moral person, read on..

Scenario 2: You are on your way to your second shift, strolling along in the summer sun. You have just used your full paycheck to pay your rent and buy diapers and are wondering when you will get enough money for your groceries when you spot the glistening wallet on the corner. You pocket the $40 for your groceries and return the wallet an IDs to a security guard.

Now, does this person's greater need for the $40 justify their 'unethical' behaviour? And if their need does justify it, what happens when we're not talking about money, but about lying, cheating, stealing and - gasp - killing? I can think of scenarios where all these actions can be justified, but I am not going waste time debating whether or not they would be considered 'ethical'.
Let's look at it this way: someone who recently downed an entire birthday cake may not be as tempted to take a bite out of the muffin you left on your desk when you went to the washroom as someone who has not eaten in 4 days. Similarly, someone who has never been homeless, starving or threatened, can't exactly pat themselves on the back for not having stolen, cheated or killed. Since I have never been in those situations, I can honestly say I don't know what I would do if it were me. All I do know is that I should be less quick to judge whoever just ate my muffin!

Friday, May 30, 2008

Just follow your instincts...

'Just follow your instincts' - What great advice!...NOT!!! How many times have I thought I was supposed to turn right and then ended up on the other side of town taking me 3 hours extra to walk home. Or when I met someone who I was certain was the type to kill animals in his spare time only to discover he was a male Mother Teresa. I am sure this has happened to all of you, but these examples will never come to your mind when you think about your instincts. Incidences where your thoughts have led to the correct conclusion will always pop up and, therefore most people probably believe they are intuitive i.e. special (aside: face it - if everyone is special in their own way, no one is actually special, sorry). Now I am by no means stating that we don't have a form of 'intuition' or little voice that is sometimes able to tell us correctly where to go or how to judge someone. I believe that this it is simply our highly intelligent subconscious that is able to piece together past experiences, peripheral visions, conversations, facial expressions etc. to give us our 'instinct' that comes to us before we can consciously figure out how we actually knew the answer. A common example is ' I just had a feeling he was cheating on me, gosh I was so right, it must have been my womanly intuition'. Sorry to say, dumbo, (not dumbo because you got cheated on, but dumbo because you thought it was your female intuition that caught him) I am certain that your significant other was leaving some very obvious clues, not to mention behavioural changes which led you to conclude that he was a swine. If your womanly instincts were actually that good then you wouldn't have been with him in the first place. To mistakenly rely on this 'intuition' as some magic fairy godmother that will tell you the answer when you have no other way of finding it out would be ridiculous; although, your 'intuition' i.e. subconscious would be the best thing to use if you had no other option! However, when you do have the option, relying on intuition would be highly dangerous in science, for example, and a horrible way to approach meeting new people. I guess what I am trying to say is don't listen to people who tell you to blindly follow your gut. The advice I would give would be not to follow your instincts but to LISTEN to them. Be aware of them, be conscious of their limitations. Then you can choose whether or not it would be wise to go ahead an follow them or if you should search for some more empirical evidence to base your belief.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

SMILE!

If it is not followed by a flash, it is one of the most irritating instructions someone can give you. Usually if you're not smiling, there's a reason: you can be complacent, thinking, grumpy or sad. Either way you are experiencing (or not experiencing) an emotion and people should let you be. Granted, it may not be the best idea to always sport a gloomy expression and smiling to people as you meet them is a great way to give off a friendly vibe; however, once in a while if it just doesn't feel right, it is ok! The argument 'If you smile, you will automatically be in a better mood', is true - nevertheless, ordering someone to smile is the wrong way to go about it. First of all, if you have to ask someone to smile and they haven't smiled already when they made eye contact with you, chances are you are not smiling yourself. If you had been smiling (you hypocrite) a nice natural smile probably would have crept up on your frowning friend's face. If you're already Mr. Cheery, full of warmth and empathy, and no amount of radiance will influence your victim, you can assume that he/she is unhappy to see you or if you're lucky, they may just be having a bad day. Wouldn't offering to help or lending an ear be a better idea than ordering this person to hide their emotions? Finally, the forced smile that you may receive out of politeness will be fake and unattractive thereby disproving the 'You look prettier when you smile' argument that men like to use on unsmiling females. So, if you are one of those people who like to go around telling people to smile, I suggest YOU become more entertaining company - that way you won't have to force a reaction from your audience :)

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

What to do when you meet new people

I am the furthest thing from a social butterfly, a social worm if you may (since caterpillars eventually turn into butterflies). I despise small talk and therefore rarely enjoy getting to know new people. However, this process is important in every day life and can lead the formation of new and lasting friendships and if for no other reason, when forced to go to public outings with friends, you can only pretend to be a mute for so long before your friends will refuse to take you out. Therefore, I have found some fun ways to pass the time in superficial social settings.



Meeting people is always a fun time to reinvent yourself, since people probe you over and over again with the same predictable questions...



'What are you?' -for those of us who do not have our race stamped on our forehead (i.e. not white or black), this questions is the most common and usually is asked even before your name. Some fun answers include 'Human I think' or 'I am not sure, I was adopted'



'What is your name?' - leaves the most flexibility, so be creative - use colours, movie characters, sounds



'What do you do?' - aah, the question to put you in a box, to judge your mental abilities, your social ranking. This is a fun one to experiment with to see how much respect you get after your answer.



'Why are you still single?' What a question! Usually this is more of a statement intended as a compliment, or perhaps a ploy to determine your fault that would make you a bad choice for a relationship. Some good answers are ' I just got out of jail', 'It is hard to find someone who will put up with the kids'



Getting to know people takes energy, and I admire people who put in the work to get to know others. But I also think it is equally important to know fewer people, but know them well and be there for them as much as you can. This is sometimes harder to do if you are constantly going around asking people annoying questions!!

Bad or Best?

When disaster, death and despair strike the age old questions begin to surface: 'Why do bad things happen to good people?' (which I think is very presumptuous to assume that you/the person you are referring to is a good person. The question should be, 'Why do bad things happen to ALL people?'). Many answer that questions with 'Life is not fair', 'Everything happens for a reason' and my favourite 'Everything will be ok in the end' (a good way to defer the question since by the end, it will be too late for the person to find you and call you a liar). Anyways, if you dig a little deeper the lines between what is good and bad will begin to blur and perhaps you will realize that neither do exist - as exemplified by the following anecdote (taken from Eckhart Tolle):







There was once an old man who won an expensive car in the lottery. His family and friends were very happy for him and came to celebrate. 'Isn't it great?' they said 'You are so lucky.' The man smiled and said, 'Maybe.' For a few weeks he enjoyed driving the car. Then, one day, a drunken driver crashed into his new car at an intersection and he ended up in the hospital with multiple injuries. His family and friends came to see him and said, 'That was really unfortunate'. Again, the man smiled and said 'Maybe.' While he was still in the hospital one night there was a landslide and his house fell into the sea. Again his friends came the next day and said, 'Weren't you lucky to have been here in the hospital?' Again he said, 'Maybe.'






Maybe is right. But what happens if we even go deeper than that, since that story was based on Western presumptions of what is considered good and bad.



What are these presumptions?



Good: being educated, goal-oriented, organized, wealthy, productive, strong bonds with family, friends, attachment to children, good health



Bad: unemployed, failure, old age, death, purposeless, single, illness



The labels good and bad work for these categories if your goal is to become a materially successful individual with a family. However, why exactly is this our goal? And when you achieve those goals, what next? Do we continue to set higher goals until we eventually DIE... dun dun dun!!? Usually it is only when these 'disasters' occur, that we get woken up to our higher purpose since we begin to question the meaning of life. It is only when things don't go our way that we are made to question and analyze the mental noise, created by our own brain, that had become our reality. We are then forced to stop living in the past or spend all our time imagining our future- especially if the future is now shaky. We realize that the people or things we thought were important are only temporary illusions in our fleeting life. All we are left with (as Tolle would say) is the present - which is in fact all we had in the first place. If this is the case, wouldn't that make these so-called 'bad' things actually the best things to ever happened to us? Maybe.



I promise this will be a good post.

I just lied. But it was for a good cause, to prove my point. When you hear the word 'I promise I will...' it is almost always followed by a lie. Promises are my pet-peeve, which may seem like a strange statement. Yes, I am well aware that many people have good intentions when making promises, however the whole idea of a 'promise' is inherently based on a lie. Life has no guarantees, we can barely predict what will happen tomorrow/who we will meet in the next few hours/ the weather next week. Therefore, how can we promise we will always be there for a friend /pick up the groceries for our mom /won't make fun of your spouse's figure? How about a promise that doesn't require for you to predict future disasters i.e. 'I promise I will always remember you'. Well sorry to say but even that I don't believe. Even if 40 years down the road you still remember this friend-of-gold, there are chances you are en-route to full blown Alzheimer's and the memory of your friend will have vanished like a snowflake. So much for your promise! Perhaps the general population does not take promises so literally, but I am quite insulted when a promise is made to me. Even if it is a promise that my friend John ' will TRY and fix my TV', well maybe in the next minute John will be hit by a car and will no longer have the opportunity to 'TRY and fix my TV', yet another broken promise. Even though it is possible that most promises are fulfilled, why decorate tasks, thoughts or favours with absolute terms such as 'I give you my word', 'I promise' or 'forever'. For people like me, who take everything literally, it is simply offensive.