Update: Evidence that Culture Beats Strategy – A Story…

As of May 6, 2019, I learned about a wrinkle to this story.  The wrinkle appeared when I listened to Michael Lewis’s Against The Rules Podcast, “The Alex Kogan Experience”  on Against the Rules with Michael Lewis and it puts into doubt some of the claims.  I encourage you to listen to this podcast to go along with this post.  Enjoy!

Original Post:
Once again, in my continual quest to learn, it seemed all was connected and a story was formed.  In the morning I listened to the NYT’s Daily broadcast: The Whistle-Blowers at Boeing from The Daily in Podcasts. The story made clear, despite quality managers, the culture did not make it possible for them to do their job.

Evidence between culture and strategy relates to short and long-term results.  Strategy’s can work for a short time, but in the end, culture determines what happens. This Daily episode resonated with so many other things I had been reviewing and hearing, it indicated to me there was a story being told.  This is the story I heard being told…

Although I am late reading Jeremy Rifkin’s 2000 book, “Age of Access: The New culture of hyper capitalism where all of life is a paid for experience“, it is currently relevant.  Now, because I have the ability to use hindsight, I am amazed by his prescience or foreknowledge about how technology would impact our world.   He accurately  predicted the changes that have taken place because of the Internet, FaceBook, and our almost constant reliance to our online world.  Throughout the book he talks about how it will, and now has, impacted and changed our culture.

Most importantly, near the end, he explains that culture is the precursor or necessary prerequisite to commerce or a market economy.  He points out that trust and empathy, something developed from face to face contact, is necessary for a caring society.  He was concerned that having only an online relationship could cause harm.

I then heard an example of how the harm he predicted may be attributed to online interactions in Carole Cadwalladr’s TED Talk, Facebook’s role in Brexit — and the threat to democracy. Through this presentation she outlines how an online culture was the instigator for Brexit and Trump.  Of course, all of this was possible because of our innate gullibility and our brain biases or the mental illusions we face as humans.

Then I heard another TED Talk by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie,The danger of a single story.  In her presentation she explained how all these things in very simple terms. She explained how it all relates to when we rely on a single story.  Kahneman and Tversky’s work backs up her presentation when they talked about the representativeness heuristic.  The representative heuristic happens when people ignore base rates or likely outcomes and become biased by a story that seems representative, this therefore becomes The danger of a single story.

People are easily manipulated.  The original research on representativeness heuristic explained how i a situation where there were 100 people, 70 of which were lawyers and 30 engineers.  Despite knowing this, after a description was given of a random member of that group that was representative of a lawyer or an engineer, those initial 70-30 base rate probabilities were ignored if they were asked to pick the likely profession of a member of the group.  Instead of using the 70-30 base rate, the participant instead used the description or story to predict which profession, lawyer or engineer, the random participant held. If no description of a random participant was provided, people correctly used the base rates provided to make their prediction.  In other words, people were manipulated by the story.

If this summary is not clear due to its brevity, I encourage you to watch either or both of the short YouTube video’s below about the representative heuristic.  I also encourage you to read MIchael Lewis’s book, The Undoing Project or the many examples of these studies provided online.  Overall these studies demonstrated an innate mental bias we have related to stories.

 

To finish the story, I read a January 19, 2019 column, More Schools and Fewer Tanks for the Mideast, from my favorite columnist, Thomas Friedman.  In this column he drove home the point of developing and creating a CULTURE for a better tomorrow is the most important and effective way.  The story suggests that we need to take action to help others become all they can so we can live and help develop a better world, instead of destroying what could be.

Below is Friedman’s column:

The U.S. should send more soft power and less hard power to the region.

Tunisians last week celebrated the anniversary of their 2011 revolution.Yassine Gaidi/Anadolu Agency, via Getty Images

Tunisians last week celebrated the anniversary of their 2011 revolution.Yassine Gaidi/Anadolu Agency, via Getty Images

President Trump’s sudden announcement that he’s pulling U.S. troops out of Syria and shrinking their number in Afghanistan has prompted a new debate about American ground forces in the Middle East and whether keeping them there is vital or not. I’m asking myself the same question. To answer that question, though, I need to start with another question:

Why is it that the one Arab Spring country that managed to make a relatively peaceful transition from dictatorship to a constitutional democracy — with full empowerment for its women — is the country we’ve had the least to do with and where we’ve never sent soldiers to fight and die? It’s called Tunisia.

Yes, Tunisia, the only Middle East country to achieve the ends that we so badly desired for Iraq, Syria, Egypt, Libya, Yemen and Afghanistan, did so after having hosted more U.S. Peace Corps workers over the last 50 years than U.S. military advisers and after having received only about $1 billion in U.S. aid (and three loan guarantees) since its 2010-11 democracy revolution.

By comparison, the U.S. is now spending about $45 billion a year in Afghanistan — after 17 years of trying to transform it into a pluralistic democracy. That is an insane contrast. Especially when you consider that Tunisia’s self-propelled democracy is such an important model for the region, but an increasingly frail one.

American service members arriving in Helmand Province, Afghanistan, in 2017.Andrew Renneisen/Getty Images

American service members arriving in Helmand Province, Afghanistan, in 2017.Andrew Renneisen/Getty Images

It’s threatened by labor strikes, the spillover of instability from Libya, a slowing economy that can’t produce enough jobs or income for its educated young people, a 2016 International Monetary Fund loan that restricts the government from hiring, all causing stresses among the key players in its power-sharing deal involving trade unionists, Islamists, old-regime types and new democrats. For now, Tunisia is holding together, but it could sure use one week’s worth of what we spend in Afghanistan.

Why could Tunisia transition to democracy when others couldn’t? It starts with its founding father, Habib Bourguiba, Tunisia’s leader from independence, in 1956, to 1987.

Though he was a president-for-life like other Arab autocrats, Bourguiba was unique in other ways: He kept his army very small and did not waste four decades trying to destroy Israel; he was actually a lonely voice calling for coexistence.

He educated and empowered Tunisian women and allowed relatively strong civil society groups to emerge — trade unions, lawyers’ syndicates, women’s groups, who were vital to toppling Bourguiba’s tyrannical successor and forging a new Constitution with Tunisia’s Islamic movement. Tunisia was also blessed by having little oil, so it had to invest in its people’s education.

Tunisia, in short, had the cultural underpinnings to sustain a democratic revolution. But political and cultural transformations move at different speeds. The U.S. (myself included) wanted to rush the necessary cultural transformation of Afghanistan and Iraq, but as Peter Drucker once noted, “Culture eats strategy for breakfast.” That fact — plus our own incompetence and their corruption — has eaten alive the U.S. democracy efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan.

All of this shapes how I think about Trump’s abrupt order to withdraw from Syria and desire to get out of Afghanistan. I think he is right on Afghanistan. We’ve defeated Al Qaeda there; it’s time for us to negotiate with the Taliban and Pakistan the best phased exit we can — and take as many people who worked for us as we can. Afghanistan has hard countries around it — Russia, Pakistan, India, China and Iran — and they have the ability to contain and manage the disorder there. We gave at the office.

I’d keep our special forces in Syria, though, but not because we’ve yet to defeat ISIS. ISIS is a direct byproduct of the wider regional struggle between Sunnis and Shiites, led by Saudi Arabia and Iran. ISIS arose as an extreme Sunni response to the extreme efforts by Iran and pro-Iranian Shiite militias in Iraq and Syria to ethnically cleanse and strip power from Sunnis in Iraq and Syria. As long as Iran pursues that strategy, there will be an ISIS in some form or other.

That’s why the only peace process that could have a stabilizing effect across the Middle East today is not between Israelis and Palestinians — but between Iran and Saudi Arabia.

What the small, not-all-that-costly U.S. force in Syria does that is most important is prevent the awful there from becoming the truly disastrous in a couple ways. It does so in part by protecting the Kurds and moderate Sunnis from the murderous Syrian government and Turkey. The mainstream Syrian and Iraqi Kurds have been, for the most part, forces for decency and Western values in that corner of the world. One day we might build on their islands of decency; they’re worth preserving.

Our forces also help stabilize northeastern Syria, making it less likely that another huge wave of refugees will emerge from there that could further destabilize Lebanon and Jordan and create nativist backlashes in the European Union like the earlier wave did. To me, the European Union is the other United States of the world, and we and NATO have a vital interest in protecting the E.U. from being fractured over a fight over the influx of Mideast refugees.

Finally, I’d take $2 billion of the $45 billion we’d save from getting out of Afghanistan and invest it regionally in all the cultural changes that made Tunisia unique — across the whole Arab world. I’d give huge aid to the American University in Cairo, the American University in Beirut, the American University of Iraq, Sulaimani, and the American University of Afghanistan.

And I’d massively expand the scholarship program we once ran by which top Arab public school students were eligible for a U.S.-funded scholarship to any U.S.-style liberal arts college in Lebanon or anywhere else in the region.

I’d also massively expand student visas and scholarships — especially for Arab women — for study in America. And I’d offer 5,000 scholarships for Iranians to come to America to get graduate degrees in science, engineering or medicine, with visas available in Dubai. That line would be so long! Nothing would embarrass the Iranian regime more.

And I’d give Tunisia a $1 billion interest-free loan and quadruple the size of the Tunisian American Enterprise Fund that promotes start-ups there.

The other $43 billion I’d spend on new infrastructure in America.

Since 9/11, we’ve relied almost entirely on hard power. Some was needed, some is still needed, but most of it failed. It’s time we tried more soft power. It’s time we focused on giving more Arabs and Iranians access to the ingredients that enabled Tunisia to transform itself by itself into a democracy without a single U.S. war fighter.

Yes, it will take a long time. But there was never a shortcut, and the approach we tried with the Pentagon in the lead has only led to multiple dead ends.

Follow The New York Times Opinion section on Facebook, Twitter (@NYTopinion) and Instagram.

Thomas L. Friedman is the foreign affairs Op-Ed columnist. He joined the paper in 1981, and has won three Pulitzer Prizes. He is the author of seven books, including “From Beirut to Jerusalem,” which won the National Book Award. @tomfriedmanFacebook

 

Please share your thoughts.  I will continue to work at generating comprehensive improvements through the creation of pervasive, reciprocal, selfish, selfless, synergistic interactions so everyone and everything benefits, or by practicing paneugenesis.  I look forward to hearing about the how you help generate all good for everyone and everything.

If you want to contact me:
Email: BeWellr@gmail.com

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Chronic Wellness Article Published

Planting a Tree Model for Public Health: Shifting the Paradigm Toward Chronic Wellness

  • April 2019; DOI: 10.1080/19325037.2019.1590260

With the leadership of Dr. Michael Stellefson, we were able to publish this article.  Using ideas proposed with Paneugenesis, Dr. Stellefson clearly outlined how these ideas can facilitate “Chronic Wellness” which we defined as:

Persistent positive conditions enabled through engagement in health-causing actions

The article explains how health education can work in the eco-sytstem of health like trees function in our physcial environment to provide a life giving force.

Abstract
Though the U.S. health care system is among the best in the developed world, access to chronic care remains a problem for many, in part, because the system is not ideally suited to treat long-term conditions. Consequently, economic and societal costs associated with chronic disease are rising rapidly. To complement traditional pathogenic chronic disease management strategies, Health Education specialists should consider incorporating salutogenic methods that promote chronic wellness. We define chronic wellness as persistent, positive conditions enabled through engagement in health-causing actions. This commentary proposes a public health tree model that seeks to nurture inclusive interactions in a health-promoting ecosystem that fosters chronic wellness: Assessment (ie, “roots” of public health interventions that appraise idealized health outcomes), policy development (ie, “trunk” of public health that helps support positive health outcomes), research and evaluation (ie, “branches” of evidence-based public health that apply scientific methods to engage and learn about health in community, school, health care, and organizational settings), and assurance (ie, “leaves” that reinforce policies to nurture continually improving environmental determinants of health). Adopting a public health tree model could lead to more efficient and effective services for many, including those at risk of devloping or living with chronic disease.

Please share your thoughts.  I will continue to work at generating comprehensive improvements through the creation of pervasive, reciprocal, selfish, selfless, synergistic interactions so everyone and everything benefits, or by practicing paneugenesis.  I look forward to hearing about the how you help generate all good for everyone and everything.

Be Well’r,
Craig Becker

Be selfish, selfless, & synergistic so everyone and everything benefits!

If you want to contact me:
Email: BeWellr@gmail.com

Science, Beauty, Evolution, and Progress

This post was inspired and improved by information provided by Kerry Sewell. Thank you Kerry.

I am constantly reading and listening to presentations to learn new things.  As I learn I am awed by what I learn and how everyone and everything is interconnected.  Recently I listened to an interesting RadioLab presentation and 2 TED Talks and they all seemed to tell an interconnected story.

To start the story,  Phil Plait ‘s TED talk, The secret to scientific discoveries? Making mistakes,(see below) provided a fresh perspective on science.  He reminds us that mistakes are part of the scientific process.  He also suggests that many people misunderstand science because they  think that “…science is just a big pile of facts.” He emphasizes the problem with this belief is not only that it is wrong, but that collected facts are not even a goal of science.  He then explains how the process of science provides humans with the best chance to learn about our reality, objectively.  Next he explains what most of us know, but fail to admit, “…people are flawed” and easily fooled. Science is valuable because it provides a method to be objective  (for more about our difficulty seeing things accurately see, Innate Gullibility Highlights the Value of Predictability)

Science helps because it gives us a process that minimizes our biases so we can see reality more clearly. I encourage you to listen to his presentation below.

Next, an interesting RadioLab discussion about The Beauty Puzzle (show linked) challenged the evolutionary scientific idea of fitness as the determining factor.  In other words, it suggests we may have made a mistake.  This hypothesis suggests beauty or aesthetics, not survival of the fittest, is the determining factor, and that the ’survival of the fittest’ paradigm was a deliberate perversion of Darwin’s original theory..

 

 

The evidence providedfor this hypothesis,, while it has some merit, for me, provides an unconvincing alternative.  The discussion did not factor in the idea of mental illusions or mistakes in the scientific process as discussed by Phil Plait.  Nor did it take into account mental illusions as outlined by Kahneman and Tversky. (see Undoing Needed because Mental Illusions Impact Us)   As I understand it, evolution is an ongoing big experiment and not all experiments are successful.  Their examples may represent some experiments that may contribute but may not be successful. Possibly, or maybe…

Then I heard Marjan van Aubel‘s TED Presentation about solar energy, The beautiful future of solar power.  She suggest beauty may in fact be the determining factor for OUR survival.  In his presentation she explains the importance of aesthetics or beauty and suggests it as necessity if we are to adopt and use the power of the sun.

All together these interesting presentations seem to recommend for us to progress toward a better tomorrow using study, science, experiments, and mistakes to learn how to contribute to a more beautiful tomorrow.

Please share your thoughts.  I will continue to attempt to push evolution with science by creating more beauty through the generation of comprehensive improvements from the creation of pervasive, reciprocal, selfish, selfless, synergistic interactions so everyone and everything benefits, or by practicing paneugenesis.  I look forward to hearing about the how you help generate all good for everyone and everything.

Be Well’r,
Craig Becker

Be selfish, selfless, & synergistic so everyone and everything benefits!

If you want to contact me:
Email: BeWellr@gmail.com

Be Fruitful and Multiply – Time That is…

This post can fulfill a dream – it will help you multiply your time.  Rory Vaden’s fantastic TED presentation  on “How to Multiply Your Time”  will help you get important things done. It will also help you say no to things you don’t need to be doing. I encourage you to watch, learn and put into practice these ideas.  Enjoy.

I liked this presentation because it suggested a better way to use our executive function. Executive function is our amazing ability to consciously control our thoughts, emotions and actions in order to achieve goals  For more information about executive function see Sabine Doebel’s good TED Presentation, “How Your Brain’s Executive Function Works – How to Improve it”. From my perspective, Rory Vaden explained how to improve our executive function by using the “Focus Funnel“.

Rory’s presentation teaches us how to multiply time by investing time today to give us more time tomorrow. This of course is how we can be a “Time Multiplier”.  These techniques give us permission to focus on the future, rather than the present, because it gives us ROTI (Return On Time Invested). ROTI is what multiplies our time.

For example, he explains that we have many automation tools to help us multiply our time. He explains how time invested in automatic bill pay gives us more time and is a time multiplier. I realized I use an automation time multiplier.  My wife and I used to use paper lists or try to remember what we needed at the grocer but inevitably would still forget things and or the list.  Now, so we don’t have to rely on our memory or a list for the store, we use the Notes function that is on all our apple devices.  We usually have a device with us so if we invest a few seconds to record the item on the list, we multiply our time.

We use the Notes function by putting items on the list when we notice we are running low or want an item.  Then when we shop we can open our grocery list on Notes at the grocery store and get what is needed.  We also are using the Notes function to list things to bring on our upcoming trip, movies we want to rent or see, and many more things that we want to remember.  Doing it on the Notes app now has helped us and created ROTI.

    Notes Shared on your iPhone, iPad, and Mac

Another great insight from his presentation was how his “Focus Funnel” helps people clarify what they should be doing based on what can be eliminated, automated or delgated.  More can be learned about the “Focus Funnel” in his presentation and here.

Throw it in the Focus Funnel

I also found it interesting and valuable to hear how he saw Time management techniques evolve. He explained the First era focused on efficiency and it came about with Fredrick Taylor who was the industrial efficiency engineer during  the industrial revolution. That time management philosophy evolved because it was believed if we did things more efficiently it could be done faster and this meant we would have more time.

The second era was in the 1980s. The second era was brought into existence by Stephen Covey. This era allowed us to focus on what was most important by prioritizing our list of things we had to do based on urgency and importance (see Matrix). While valuable, this approach helped but didn’t give us more time or create time, it only gave us an effective way to re-organize our to do list.

From his perspective, now we need a way to multiply time. This third era of time management, where we are now, needs to help us multiply time. To multiply time he suggests we need to add a third dimension, significance, to urgency and importance. Significance requires us to think about how long what we are planning to do will matter. In other words, what is its significance.  In this third era of time management, the time multiplier teaches us to do today things that will make tomorrow better.

Using this focus funnel should help us improve our executive function as described by Sabine Doebel.

If you didn’t watch Rory’s presentation, I encourage you to watch it now or watch it again – I have.  Watching it has a high ROTI (Return On Time Invested)

Implementing these ideas has helped me invest my time on generating comprehensive improvements through the creation of pervasive, reciprocal, selfish, selfless, synergistic interactions so everyone and everything benefits, or by practicing paneugenesis.  In other words using this idea has helped me take action today to make tomorrow better. I look forward to hearing about the how you invest your time today to make tomorrow better for everyone and everything.

Please share how you multiply your time so we all can benefit! Thank you.

If interested, lets talk, please contact me:
Email: BeWellr@gmail.com

Is Altruism Disingenuous?

I try to be straightforward when I talk about health. I explain I am doing this for selfish reasons, not altruistic reasons (For more on Altruism see,Altruism is Advanced Selfishness). So many in health say they do it because they like helping others, or they say they do it because they are altruistic. From my perspective this is disingenuous.

Evidence suggests we like helping others because it makes us feel good about ourselves for doing something good. By saying I am selfish I mean that I want others to learn things that can help them have a better life and be better at what they do. Of course that means I start with the assumption that people are good.  Existing evidence confirms that most people are good.  If not, society could not function.

Altruism can also be thought to be disingenuous because we feel good for doing good.  As George Bernard Shaw explained:

and also explained…

To me he is describing the ideas of Selfish, Selfless, Synergy, in other words we want to feel good for doing good. We help others because it makes us feel good. Best actions help the whole system is work better, because as John Muir discovered, everything is interconnected:

For me John Rosemond also made this point in his column on April 8th, 2018.  In his column on Attachment Parenting, I understood him to explain how we are all in this together:

Monday, April 8th, 2019
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On Attachment Parenting

 

“So, what do you think of attachment parenting?

My inquisitor was a 30-something mom. I sensed she was testing me, trying to determine whether I was worth her time.

“Not much,” I said. “I don’t see any objective research that would verify any short- or long-term benefits; therefore, I don’t think the effort – on the part of the mother, primarily if not exclusively – pays off.”

“Well, I disagree,” she replied. “I practice attachment parenting and I see lots of benefit.”

“To whom?”

“Uh…to both me and my child.”

“How many kids do you have?”

“He’s my first.”

“So you have no control group or other point of comparison.”

“Maybe not,” she said, bristling, “but I have a right to raise my child any way I choose.”

“Actually, no, you don’t.”

“Well, isn’t that narrow-minded of you!” At which she stormed off.

Yes, it is narrow-minded of me. If one’s thinking doesn’t “narrow” as one grows older, then one is simply not paying attention, much less truly growing.

Anyone who thinks they are entitled to raise a child any way they choose is wrong. In the raising of a child, one has an obligation to one’s neighbors, broadly defined. That obligation over-rides one’s obligation to one’s child, in fact. Furthermore, the parent who understands and practices what I just said is going to do a much, much better job than the parent who believes his or her child is the beginning and end of their obligation. The child who learns, early on, that he is not worthy of being the center of attention, that the world does not revolve around him, is going to be a much happier camper than the child who is caused to believe otherwise.

Another way of saying the same thing: Esteem of self – once known as pride – makes only ONE person’s world go around. Humility – a willingness to serve others, no matter the inconvenience – is what glues culture together. Humbleness also makes for the highest level of personal satisfaction. For those reasons, the highest of all child-rearing goals is to raise a humble child. There are not multiple, equally viable ways of accomplishing that. There is one. Therefore, there is one proper way to raise a child and the Almighty YOU do not have a “right” – self-conferred, of course – to raise YOUR child any old way YOU choose. That is narcissism, plainly speaking. It could be argued that one has a right to be a narcissist, but if so, the right ends when one’s self-absorption impacts another person. The only functional narcissist is a hermit.

Attachment parenting is the latest postmodern parenting aberration. Women who have practiced it and then escaped its cult-like grip attest that there is no way a child so idolized can draw any conclusion other than that his needs surpass everyone else’s. It is HUMANism pushed to a pathological extreme, the epitome of not understanding that the proper raising of a child is an act of love for one’s neighbors.

It’s quite simple, actually: By keeping one’s obligation to one’s neighbors uppermost in mind, one will do the very best job of raising a child. When said child finally realizes why he’s so happy, he will not be able to thank you enough.

 

Please share your thoughts.  I will continue to work to create all good by generating comprehensive improvements through the creation of pervasive, reciprocal, selfish, selfless, synergistic interactions so everyone and everything benefits, or by practicing paneugenesis.  I look forward to hearing about the how you help generate good for everyone and everything.

Be Well’r,
Craig Becker

Be selfish, selfless, & synergistic so everyone and everything benefits!

If you want to contact me:
Email: BeWellr@gmail.com

Bonus: Why Create a Better World?

My colleague sent this to me so I am sharing this as a bonus post this week.

The rhetorical question!

I want a better world so I will work for to create good by generating comprehensive improvements by creating pervasive, reciprocal, selfish, selfless, synergistic interactions so everyone and everything benefits, or by practicing paneugenesis.  I look forward to hearing about the how you help generate good for everyone and everything.

Be Well’r,
Craig Becker

Be selfish, selfless, & synergistic so everyone and everything benefits!

If you want to contact me:
Email: BeWellr@gmail.com

Creat More Good First, Means Less Procrastination

We often continue to engage in actions over and over again because they make us feel good.  We engage in behaviors again because we want that good feeling again.  This functions on a conscious and unconscious level and is how reinforcement works.  It is also how we create habits, good or bad.  Using this to drive action, we can think that if we feel good for doing good, we are more likely to do good again.

Procrastination however evolves because it feels good, temporarily to put off an assignment or task we know we have to do that may be hard.  It feels good because we are concerned we may fail or not meet our own expectations.  This however is transactional can only provide temporary relief.  To really feel better and to have evidence that you deserve to feel better, engage in the task.  As Charlotte Lieberman’s March 25, 2019 article, “Why You Procrastinate (It Has Nothing to Do With Self-Control): If procrastination isn’t about laziness, then what is it about?”explains, we procrastinate because we misbelieve it will help us feel better, it does not. To feel better, get into action doing what you know needs to be done.

In other words, rather than creating less bad (or what is perceived as possibly bad), work to create good. I will work for to create good by generating comprehensive improvements by creating pervasive, reciprocal, selfish, selfless, synergistic interactions so everyone and everything benefits, or by practicing paneugenesis.  I look forward to hearing about the how you help generate good for everyone and everything.

For more information about procrastination, I encourage you to read Charlotte Lieberman’s column below:

 

Why You Procrastinate

(It Has Nothing to Do With Self-Control)

If procrastination isn’t about laziness, then what is it about?

If you’ve ever put off an important task by, say, alphabetizing your spice drawer, you know it wouldn’t be fair to describe yourself as lazy.

After all, alphabetizing requires focus and effort — and hey, maybe you even went the extra mile to wipe down each bottle before putting it back. And it’s not like you’re hanging out with friends or watching Netflix. You’re cleaning — something your parents would be proud of! This isn’t laziness or bad time management. This is procrastination.

Etymologically, “procrastination” is derived from the Latin verb procrastinare — to put off until tomorrow. But it’s more than just voluntarily delaying. Procrastination is also derived from the ancient Greek word akrasia — doing something against our better judgment.

“It’s self-harm,” said Dr. Piers Steel, a professor of motivational psychology at the University of Calgary and the author of “The Procrastination Equation: How to Stop Putting Things Off and Start Getting Stuff Done.

That self-awareness is a key part of why procrastinating makes us feel so rotten. When we procrastinate, we’re not only aware that we’re avoiding the task in question, but also that doing so is probably a bad idea. And yet, we do it anyway.

“This is why we say that procrastination is essentially irrational,” said Dr. Fuschia Sirois, professor of psychology at the University of Sheffield. “It doesn’t make sense to do something you know is going to have negative consequences.”

She added: “People engage in this irrational cycle of chronic procrastination because of an inability to manage negative moods around a task.”

Wait. We procrastinate because of bad moods?

In short: yes.

Procrastination isn’t a unique character flaw or a mysterious curse on your ability to manage time, but a way of coping with challenging emotions and negative moods induced by certain tasks — boredom, anxiety, insecurity, frustration, resentment, self-doubt and beyond.

“Procrastination is an emotion regulation problem, not a time management problem,” said Dr. Tim Pychyl, professor of psychology and member of the Procrastination Research Group at Carleton University in Ottawa.

In a 2013 study, Dr. Pychyl and Dr. Sirois found that procrastination can be understood as “the primacy of short-term mood repair … over the longer-term pursuit of intended actions.” Put simply, procrastination is about being more focused on “the immediate urgency of managing negative moods” than getting on with the task, Dr. Sirois said.

Attention Management Week in Smarter Living

Read more from this series about taking back your attention — and spending it wisely.

The particular nature of our aversion depends on the given task or situation. It may be due to something inherently unpleasant about the task itself — having to clean a dirty bathroom or organizing a long, boring spreadsheet for your boss. But it might also result from deeper feelings related to the task, such as self-doubt, low self-esteem, anxiety or insecurity. Staring at a blank document, you might be thinking, I’m not smart enough to write this. Even if I am, what will people think of it? Writing is so hard. What if I do a bad job?

All of this can lead us to think that putting the document aside and cleaning that spice drawer instead is a pretty good idea.

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But, of course, this only compounds the negative associations we have with the task, and those feelings will still be there whenever we come back to it, along with increased stress and anxiety, feelings of low self-esteem and self-blame.

In fact, there’s an entire body of research dedicated to the ruminative, self-blaming thoughts many of us tend to have in the wake of procrastination, which are known as “procrastinatory cognitions.” The thoughts we have about procrastination typically exacerbate our distress and stress, which contribute to further procrastination, Dr. Sirois said.

But the momentary relief we feel when procrastinating is actually what makes the cycle especially vicious. In the immediate present, putting off a task provides relief — “you’ve been rewarded for procrastinating,” Dr. Sirois said. And we know from basic behaviorism that when we’re rewarded for something, we tend to do it again. This is precisely why procrastination tends not to be a one-off behavior, but a cycle, one that easily becomes a chronic habit.

Over time, chronic procrastination has not only productivity costs, but measurably destructive effects on our mental and physical health, including chronic stress, general psychological distress and low life satisfaction, symptoms of depression and anxiety, poor health behaviors, chronic illness and even hypertension and cardiovascular disease.

But I thought we procrastinate to feel better?

If it seems ironic that we procrastinate to avoid negative feelings, but end up feeling even worse, that’s because it is. And once again, we have evolution to thank.

Procrastination is a perfect example of present bias, our hard-wired tendency to prioritize short-term needs ahead of long-term ones.

“We really weren’t designed to think ahead into the further future because we needed to focus on providing for ourselves in the here and now,” said psychologist Dr. Hal Hershfield, a professor of marketing at the U.C.L.A. Anderson School of Management.

Dr. Hershfield’s research has shown that, on a neural level, we perceive our “future selves” more like strangers than as parts of ourselves. When we procrastinate, parts of our brains actually think that the tasks we’re putting off — and the accompanying negative feelings that await us on the other side — are somebody else’s problem.

To make things worse, we’re even less able to make thoughtful, future-oriented decisions in the midst of stress. When faced with a task that makes us feel anxious or insecure, the amygdala — the “threat detector” part of the brain — perceives that task as a genuine threat, in this case to our self-esteem or well-being. Even if we intellectually recognize that putting off the task will create more stress for ourselves in the future, our brains are still wired to be more concerned with removing the threat in the present. Researchers call this “amygdala hijack.”

Unfortunately, we can’t just tell ourselves to stop procrastinating. And despite the prevalence of “productivity hacks,” focusing on the question of how to get more work done doesn’t address the root cause of procrastination.

Erik Winkowski

O.K. How do we get to the root cause of procrastination?

We must realize that, at its core, procrastination is about emotions, not productivity. The solution doesn’t involve downloading a time management app or learning new strategies for self-control. It has to do with managing our emotions in a new way.

“Our brains are always looking for relative rewards. If we have a habit loop around procrastination but we haven’t found a better reward, our brain is just going to keep doing it over and over until we give it something better to do,” said psychiatrist and neuroscientist Dr. Judson Brewer, Director of Research and Innovation at Brown University’s Mindfulness Center.

To rewire any habit, we have to give our brains what Dr. Brewer called the “Bigger Better Offer” or “B.B.O.”

In the case of procrastination, we have to find a better reward than avoidance — one that can relieve our challenging feelings in the present moment without causing harm to our future selves. The difficulty with breaking the addiction to procrastination in particular is that there is an infinite number of potential substitute actions that would still be forms of procrastination, Dr. Brewer said. That’s why the solution must therefore be internal, and not dependent on anything but ourselves.

One option is to forgive yourself in the moments you procrastinate. In a 2010 study, researchers found that students who were able to forgive themselves for procrastinating when studying for a first exam ended up procrastinating less when studying for their next exam. They concluded that self-forgiveness supported productivity by allowing “the individual to move past their maladaptive behavior and focus on the upcoming examination without the burden of past acts.”

Another tactic is the related practice of self-compassion, which is treating ourselves with kindness and understanding in the face of our mistakes and failures. In a 2012 study examining the relationship between stress, self-compassion and procrastination, Dr. Sirois found that procrastinators tend to have high stress and low self-compassion, suggesting that self-compassion provides “a buffer against negative reactions to self-relevant events.”

In fact, several studies show that self-compassion supports motivation and personal growth. Not only does it decrease psychological distress, which we now know is a primary culprit for procrastination, it also actively boosts motivation, enhances feelings of self-worth and fosters positive emotions like optimism, wisdom, curiosity and personal initiative. Best of all, self-compassion doesn’t require anything external — just a commitment to meeting your challenges with greater acceptance and kindness rather than rumination and regret.

That may be easier said than done, but try to reframe the task by considering a positive aspect of it. Perhaps you remind yourself of a time you did something similar and it turned out O.K. Or maybe you think about the beneficial outcome of completing the task. What might your boss or partner say when you show them your finished work? How will you feel about yourself?

What are some other, healthier ways to manage the feelings that typically trigger procrastination?

Cultivate curiosity: If you’re feeling tempted to procrastinate, bring your attention to the sensations arising in your mind and body. What feelings are eliciting your temptation? Where do you feel them in your body? What do they remind you of? What happens to the thought of procrastinating as you observe it? Does it intensify? Dissipate? Cause other emotions to arise? How are the sensations in your body shifting as you continue to rest your awareness on them?

Consider the next action: This is different than the age-old advice to break up a task you’re tempted to avoid into bite-sized chunks. According to Dr. Pychyl, focusing only on the “next action” helps calm our nerves, and it allows for what Dr. Pychyl called “a layer of self-deception.” At the start of a given task, you can consider the next action as a mere possibility, as if you were method acting: “What’s the next action I’d take on this if I were going to do it, even though I’m not?” Maybe you would open your email. Or perhaps you would put the date at the top of your document. Don’t wait to be in the mood to do a certain task. “Motivation follows action. Get started, and you’ll find your motivation follows,” Dr. Pychyl said.

Make your temptations more inconvenient: It’s still easier to change our circumstances than ourselves, said Gretchen Rubin, author of “Better Than Before: What I Learned About Making and Breaking Habits.” According to Ms. Rubin, we can take what we know about procrastination and “use it to our advantage” by placing obstacles between ourselves and our temptations to induce a certain degree of frustration or anxiety. If you compulsively check social media, delete those apps from your phone or “give yourself a really complicated password with not just five digits, but 12,” Ms. Rubin said. By doing this, you’re adding friction to the procrastination cycle and making the reward value of your temptation less immediate.

On the other side of the coin, Ms. Rubin also suggested that we make the things we want to do as easy as possible for ourselves. If you want to go to the gym before work but you’re not a morning person, sleep in your exercise clothes. “Try to remove every, every, every roadblock,” Ms. Rubin said.

Still, procrastination is deeply existential, as it raises questions about individual agency and how we want to spend our time as opposed to how we actually do. But it’s also a reminder of our commonality — we’re all vulnerable to painful feelings, and most of us just want to be happy with the choices we make.

Now go finish up alphabetizing that spice drawer before it becomes your next procrastination albatross.

Correction: 

Be Well’r,
Craig Becker

Be selfish, selfless, & synergistic so everyone and everything benefits!

If you want to contact me:
Email: BeWellr@gmail.com

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