Life / Can Do

Helpful tips to living a better life

Live Fail Repeat

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Last night I watched the movie, Live Die Repeat : Edge of Tomorrow with Tom Cruise and Emily Blunt. I enjoyed it and would recommend it for action movie fans. It was the premise of the movie that intrigued me – the main character, a solider in a war against alien invaders, is able to reset time after dying.

Being in a war against a superior alien force, the opportunities to die are plentiful. Also knowing that he’ll be able to start over, the main character is able to take risks he would have previously avoided. Each time he dies he gets to try again learning from his previous attempts. As you would expect, he becomes a nearly invincible and fearless soldier.

Wouldn’t it be great if you had that ability? Would you believe me if I told you that you do have a similar ability?

For most goals, the penalty for failing is not death. We do have the opportunity to try as many times as necessary. Each time we fail we can take what we’ve learned and try again.

Why is it that most see failure as a permanent condition, like death?

In my life I have failed several times. I had found that sometimes success can be more difficult than failure. When you succeed you have to move into uncharted territory. You have to start the fail and repeat cycle all over again and run into new pitfalls. In additional after success, you often have more to lose if you fail.

Your level of success will depend on your ability to handle failure and keep learning.

Most often, there is no clear distinction between success and failure. For example, suppose someone named Jake took a job as a manager for the first time. As a new manager, Jake is bound to make mistakes but it is just as likely there will be aspects of the job that he excels at. Depending on the environment he works in and his ability to highlight his strengths, he could be perceived as failing or succeeding as a manager.

The better approach would be to work on areas that need improvement while recognizing areas and taking pride in areas that he excels at. Another approach would be to focus only on the areas he excels at and market himself as a specialist. Either approach may apply.

As a technologist, I constantly have to learn new skills so I get the chance to fail quite often. In the middle of my career, I found this process to be extremely stressful, but then I got better at coping with the reality of the situation and now I look forward to trying something new. What was once a curse is now a blessing.

What have you always want to do but didn’t because you were afraid of failing? What would be the worse that could happen if you tried and failed? Could you try again? Would your chances of success increase after failing? Whatever it is, I think you know the answer. The next question is: What are you going to do about it?

Written by Tim ThinkAuthor

October 10, 2014 at 12:31 pm

Choose Your Path

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Success in life is about making choices. When making a decision, it is often difficult to determine which choice is the right one. Just as often, the right choice is a personal one. What is right for you, may not be right for someone else.

As you look back on choices you’ve made, you may determine that you could have made better choices. Don’t beat yourself up about it. Rather, give yourself credit for being able to grow, learn and recognize better choices in the future.

There is one choice that can be applied to any situation and that is choosing not to choose. When you simply let life push you in any direction without making a conscious decision at best you will make no progress. At worse, you could be led down a dark and dangerous path.

Drug abuse, obesity, alcoholism, crime are just a few examples of what is in store for those who choose not to choose. Nobody chooses to be obese – it just sort of happens. Most drug addicts would give anything to free of the uncontrollable urge to do drugs.

When I was a teenager, I was in an environment where drug abuse was common and expected. Everybody was doing it. The default path was to simple become part of that culture. However, I chose not to take drugs. I remember making a conscious choice not to abuse legal or illegal drugs (except caffeine but I did not know it at the time). Being born poor, I knew I had disadvantages in life and that doing drugs was not going to make my situation better. I consider that choice to be one of the most significant choices in my life.

Every time I would hear about someone I once knew who died from an overdose, ended up in prison or was seen lying on the street, I recognized that that was the default path I could have taken. I simply chose not to.

The choice to avoid drugs did have it’s difficult moments. I had to leave or not attend parties where I knew drugs going to be. I had to end or avoid friendships with people who used. I had to accept that I was going to be labelled as “not cool”. The terms “goody-two-shoes”,”narc”,”Momma’s boy” were just some of the labels thrown my way.

Despite my good choices, I did fall into alcohol trap however. For some years as an adult, I chose not to choose regarding alcohol. I knew and know now that there people who can consume alcohol without it being a major problem in their lives, but for me and my family history and the environment I grew up in, the default path led to over-consumption, alcoholism and all the other difficulties associated with drinking too much.

When I was in my mid-twenties, I chose to get out of the alcohol trap and get off the default path. The effects of drinking had only just started to erode the quality of my life so I believe I stopped before I became a full-blown alcoholic.

The important thing to remember is that we always have a choice. If you have been overweight for years, you can choose to take a different path. Sure it may be difficult and require a great deal of effort, but the choice is still yours.

Think about what you really want out of life and then choose to take the path to get you where you want to go.

Written by Tim ThinkAuthor

August 20, 2014 at 9:10 am

Don’t Trust Your Doctor

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With a title like that you may think I’m advocating alternative medicine, but that’s not the case. Despite issues with the medical establishment, your doctor and other certified health care professionals are still your best source of information and treatments. What I am suggesting is that you question the wisdom of your doctor regarding your health and the diagnosis and treatment of illnesses.

More often than not, a good doctor will be more of a partner than an authority regarding your health. They will let you know what they think and make educated suggestions about treatment options. On the other hand, there will be times when the diagnosis will be so obvious and the treatment so effective that you would be wise to just do what they tell you to do. It’s up to you to do your homework, consider their suggestions and ask about other treatment options or diagnostic tests.

For example, doctors are notorious for over-prescribing antibiotics. This has led to growth of  antibiotic resistant bacteria. Once I was dealing with sinus infection that I couldn’t kick. I was hesitant to take antibiotics because I knew it was just a matter of time before my body beat it, but I finally broke down and went my local walk-in clinic and ,after a brief examination, asked for antibiotics. The attending physician had no problem giving me the prescription and did not even suggest I could just give it time.

Another big problem is the over-prescription of antidepressant drugs. Don’t get me wrong – antidepressant drugs can be a life-saver (literally) for people who need them. The issue is when doctors prescribe them without make a strong case for therapy first. I would argue that a primary care physician has no business prescribing antidepressants and that this should be the business of a psychotherapist with the proper training and credentials.

I have a friend, let’s call him Alan, who was dealing with mild mood issues and thought it was time to seek professional help. He was given a number to specialist and gave them a call. Below is an approximation of how that call went:

Doctor’s Office: “Acme Psychological, how can I help you?”

Alan: “Hi, I’d like to talk to someone about mood issues I’ve been having.”

Doctor’s Office: “We can help you. Would you prefer medication or talk therapy?”

Alan (confused): “I don’t know. I’d prefer to see someone before deciding on a course of treatment.”

Doctor’s Office: “Okay, talk therapy then.”

What’s really troublesome about this conversation was that the patient was asked to choose a treatment plan without even being accessed by a professional. As it turns out, the talk therapy was very effective and he was able to learn a few simple techniques for managing his mood WITHOUT becoming dependent on mind altering drugs.

The average person when faced with the same choice as my friend would likely just take the drugs without considering therapy. With antidepressants, once you find a drug that works for you, you pretty much have to take it for the rest of your life. Most have side effects – the most severe being suicidal thoughts.

In general, I believe the medical establishment is not well equipped for helping patients make the right decisions for the treatment of mood disorders. Health Insurance companies along with the government may have a bias towards prescribing drugs rather than treatment. Treatment is more costly for one and requires that the patient plays an active role in getting better. Psychotherapy be difficult to quantify, control and enforce pricing guidelines.

The only way to insure that you get proper treatment is by doing your homework, asking questions, raising concerns and taking charge of your health care.

Written by Tim ThinkAuthor

August 13, 2014 at 1:51 pm

What You Think Is More Important than What You Eat

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Just as you can choose to which foods you put in your body, you can also choose what thoughts to have in your mind. And, just as low quality, unhealthy foods can have a negative impact on your physical health, low quality, unhealthy thoughts can be detrimental to your mental state.

I want to avoid labeling thoughts as “good” or “bad”. Using terms “good” or “bad” would be placing judgement on your thoughts and may lead one to think that they are a bad person for having bad thoughts. Rather let’s use the term maladaptive which is a fantastic word therapists uses to describe what most would call “negative thoughts”. To be consistent with other resources and help with understanding, I may use the term “negative thought” as well. Just know that this does not imply a judgement.

Below is Google’s definition of maladaptive:

maladaptive
not providing adequate or appropriate adjustment to the environment or situation.

To promote mental health one can try to control thoughts that are not adjusted to the environment or situation. For example, if it rains on the day you planned to go hiking, the thought, “Why does it always rain when I want to do something outside!” could be considered maladaptive because there is really no connection between the rain and your plans. Thinking that a natural process is working against you is not rational or realistic. Also, the thought, “I should have planned for rain! I’m so stupid” can also be considered maladaptive. It would have been helpful if you had planned for rain, but not doing so is not a reflection on your intelligence. A rational approach would be to consider it as a learning opportunity so you can take steps to account for rain in your future plans. You can replace your maladaptive thought with the rational thought, “If I had planned for rain, I could have packed rain gear and we would have had the unique opportunity of hiking in the rain. In the future, I’ll do that.”

As you can see above, the rational thought would have a person better prepared to handle rain in the future while feeling better in the present.

With dieters we often hear something along these lines: “I’ve tried every diet there is. I just can’t lose weight.” While we know that it is more difficult for some people to lose weight than others, we also know that anyone can lose weight with the right strategies. We can also be sure that this person has not tried “every” diet. A more rational thought could be, “I’ve tried a number of different diets that don’t appear to work for me. Could there be flaws in my approach that I am not aware of? I need to gather more information. I’m sure there is an approach that will work for me that I just have not found yet.”

One approach to changing how you think is to write down your maladaptive thoughts and then right down a rational thought for each. Seriously, don’t just do it in your head. If you want to improve how you think you will need to write it down. You don’t get points for good intentions.

Below is an example of an automatic thought/rational response listing:

Automatic Thought
I failed my exam. I am so stupid.

Rational Response
Obviously, I wasn’t prepared for the exam but that doesn’t mean I’m stupid. I’ve done well in other exams. What can I do in the future to better prepare myself for an exam?

From the example above, you can see how simple it would be to use this strategy. You can use a paper notebook or word processing software such as Google Docs or Google Sheets. Don’t worry about the medium or the format – just use what you prefer. It’s the process that is important, not the specifics.

I’ve just scratched the surface on the subject of automatic negative thoughts. I suggest you read more. Below is a link to an article that goes into more details:

AHHA: ANT Therapy

It’s surprising how few people know about techniques for managing negative thoughts. When you consider that just about everyone knows that physical exercise is beneficial to your health, why wouldn’t strategies for improving mental health be just as well known? I suspect the stigma of having mental health issues prevents people from even discussing it. There may be a fear that if you do work to improve your mental health, that people may think your mentally unstable. The truth is that everyone could benefit from the strategies.

Once I was asked by friend, “Why do you exercise and eat healthy? You are in great shape.” I was stunned at the person’s lack of understanding of a healthy lifestyle. It’s not a series of actions to get to a certain point and then stop. It’s a way of being. The same applies to developing mental fitness. I don’t do it because I’m mentally ill – I do it because I want a healthy lifestyle.

Written by Tim ThinkAuthor

July 31, 2014 at 9:39 am

Do You Want to Reach the Next Level?

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It has been awhile since I’ve posted anything new but there were good reasons. I’ve been doing a great deal of research and analysis about what it would take to achieve a higher level of self improvement.

There are several great resources that can help a person improve their lives and increase their happiness but there doesn’t appear to be a single source that brings it all together.

There are resources that focus on physical fitness and other resources that focus on mental fitness but I have yet to find a single resource that successfully integrates both development paths.

The mind and body are not independent systems. They are integrated and developing one system often requires that you develop the other. You can’t expect to lose weight and keep it off if there is no improvement in your mindset. On the flip side your mood can be improved by doing regular physical exercise.

To improve your physical fitness you must perform physical exercise and eat clean. To improve your mental fitness you must perform mental exercises and think positively. In future posts I would like to share ideas on how to develop both your body and mind.

The methods to develop your body are relatively simple to learn – it is the implementation that takes extraordinary discipline. It is the same for the mind. The methods are simple and easy to learn but you the level of commitment required can be difficult to maintain.

In future posts I plan to share what I’ve learned. Skeptics are welcome. I will provide links to resources that you can refer to.

No matter where you are in your life, it is important to know that you never stop growing. There are those who had lost all hope  that have changed how they think to live happy and rewarding lives. Even if you think you are relatively content, you can always improve your mental state. You will never reach a state of perfect mind and body perfection. It is the process that will be the most rewarding not the achievement of some impossible end state.

Written by Tim ThinkAuthor

July 30, 2014 at 10:52 pm

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Obesity Is a Crisis We Must Resolve

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In 2010, in Chile, a cave collapsed and trapped 33 miners. Nations reacted and did what was needed to rescue them. Over 1 billion people watched on live TV as the miners were rescued. A third of the expense was paid for by private donations. The outpouring of support from people across the world was inspiring.

Today, right now, over 200 million people worldwide are obese. This amount of suffering is incalculable but the public outcry is minimal and the effort to address is a pitiful, disorganized and poorly funded mess. In the United States, we have the first lady going on talk shows and making speeches. While I applaud her efforts, it is not enough. A crisis of this scale should be handled by the President directly and other world leaders as well.

In the private sector, many are getting rich exploiting the obesity crisis. With the amount of money being made in the health and fitness industry you would think obesity would be rare. The truth is that people are spending their money on products and services but are not getting results.

Some time ago, I decided to do my part in helping to combat obesity. When my wife and I were dealing with our own obesity issues, we realized that the problem is much more complicated than what we could address using just our willpower. We had to tackle the problem from multiple angles. We learned that to beat obesity, we had to drastically change our lives. The amount of effort was beyond anything we had ever done before but it was well worth it.

One thing we learned was that the solution was not a single product or service from the health and fitness industry. While we do use products and services from the industry, we hold onto our skepticism and trust only our own efforts.

While I try to give sensible advice based on proven results, I am just a small voice in a crowd of people promising “Fast six pack abs” or “10 Super Foods to Turbo-charge Your Fat Loss”. I get that people need to make money and sell what sells, but I believe they are missing out on offering something truly valuable to those looking for help.

The most influential brands in the health and fitness industry, are truly in the entertainment business. They product or service they offer is just fantasy. People purchase what they sell because they believe they can have the type of body or lifestyle they see in the advertisements. I know this because I’ve bought many products based on the fantasy being presented. It wasn’t until I faced the ugly truth about the effort and change required that I lost the weight and got fit.

I am asking anyone in the health and fitness industry to think beyond just profit and do more to help those who need it. Go ahead and publish your quick-fix articles and sell your “fat-burning” supplements, but also contribute a small amount of your time and energy to really trying to help fight obesity. Use the platform you have to make a real difference. Ask yourself, “What can I do to truly help fight worldwide obesity?”

Written by Tim ThinkAuthor

June 20, 2014 at 8:56 am

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Don’t Compare Yourself With Anyone

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As we strive to improve ourselves, it is tempting to compare ourselves with others. No matter how much we are failing, there will be someone else we can look at and tell ourselves that at least we are doing better than them. On the flip side, it is also true that no matter how successful we are, there will be someone else doing better.

Comparing ourselves with others is a destructive habit. It can prevent us from pushing forward when faced with failure and it can be demotivating when we are succeeding.

When you compare yourself with someone else, you are not seeing the whole truth. Everyone is different, with different motivations, advantages, backgrounds and strengths. Someone who is doing better than you at one aspect of life, may be struggling in others where you excel. A person who is failing where you are doing well, may not place the same level of importance on that particular endeavor. Whatever the differences, when you compare yourself to someone else, it’s like comparing apples to oranges.

The better approach is to look to others for inspiration and strategies. It is not only acceptable to look to others for ideas, it is required to succeed. The difference is that you need to be more concerned with the behaviors than the results. Ask yourself: What is the other person doing that contributed to their success and is this a behavior I can adopt?

Written by Tim ThinkAuthor

June 11, 2014 at 7:42 am