Although we work harder in life when we believe we’re the master of our fate, if we don’t acknowledge the role of luck, we’re bound to be either heartbroken over our perceived failures, or insensitive to the misfortune of others. While raising two sons alone as a divorced mother, I attended a couple of high school reunions and wondered what I’d done wrong. My former classmates … Continue reading The Role of Chance and Luck in Life
A character in the novel Today Will be Different, by Maria Semple, said about psychotherapy: Change is the goal. Insight is the booby prize. It reminded me of what I tell people when they ask, “Why isn’t my wife romantic?” or “Why is my sister always mean to me?” or “Why can’t my husband stop demanding that the house be spotless?” Will answering these questions make … Continue reading Insight is the Booby Prize
My mother asked me how my internet search for a relationship was going. “Terrible,” I told her. “I’ve been doing this for years and it’s a complete failure.” “Years?” she asked. “10 years! No, 15!” I said. 15 years was a nice round number and added just the right amount of dramatic spice to my pessimism. But I knew I was lying to my mother (and myself). Here’s what … Continue reading I Want it Now!
When I tell people I quit eating added sugar over a year ago on a dare from my son, the response I get is, “Wow, I could never do that. I don’t have your willpower.” But I quit the sugar precisely because I realized that willpower is a myth. How else to explain that whenever I hosted a holiday party, I had to give away, … Continue reading The Willpower Myth
I used to belong to a ski club that traveled often to the breathtaking mountains of Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine. I was friends with a group of New York City firefighters who also belonged to the club. Once, instead of taking a bus, I decided to take my car and split the driving with a couple of these men. I’m scrupulous about wearing seat belts and … Continue reading Telling Yourself Superstitious Tales
I’ve tried all different types of time management systems. I’ve typed my goals on a spread sheet with small actions divided into columns with headings like this: Today, This week, This month, This year. I’ve tried a handwritten system with 3 notebook pages. One titled: Inside (tasks I do at home or indoors), Outside (errands in the outside world) and Work (specific to my full-time job.) … Continue reading Who Has Time for Passion Pursuit?
Sometimes, after working at something diligently, you may begin to wonder if you’ll ever get to where you want to go. When I began working in a clinic, counseling cocaine addicts, I started out being totally ignorant about the substance abuse world. The supervisor who hired me said, “I’m looking for someone with good, general counseling skills. Don’t worry about your lack of knowledge. The clients will teach you everything you need … Continue reading How do you Know You’ve Succeeded at Passion Pursuit?
The most popular theme of commencement speeches in high schools and colleges is Follow Your Passion. But how do you figure out what that is? And what if everyone wanted to follow their passion? Are the sanitation workers on the garbage trucks following their passion? What about school custodians, lunch ladies, and school crossing guards? I’ve had the opportunity to counsel more than a few school crossing … Continue reading Can Everyone Follow their Passion?
Now that I’ve trashed positive thinking in The Dark Side of Positive Thinking, it’s time to set the record straight. Our beliefs and thoughts have a real, physical effect on our bodies, our brains, and our world. Take the placebo effect. When I was in college, there was a time I had a headache every evening at 9 pm. My routine was to walk into the bathroom and take … Continue reading The Sunny Side of Positive Thinking
It’s one thing to be criticized by others. It’s quite another to do it to ourselves. Is it always a bad thing? I had a client who told me she was a bumbling, stumbling klutz. She constantly tripped over her own feet, walked into furniture, and knocked statues over. “You’re a clumsy idiot!” she’d berate herself. “Don’t ever try dancing. You’ll look like a complete fool.” In a New York Times review … Continue reading Self-Criticism: Who’s your worst enemy?