The jury is in: He's an idiot. No more questions. If the label, instead, is "I'm a loser," then you hold that label, "loser," in front of you every day. You may exhibit numerous "winner"-type behaviors, but your label will become a self-fulfilling prophecy. I guarantee that if you have bought in to a bunch of labels, your radar will scan around and find support for them. You will live to the label. If you're like most people, you will shut the data-processing window and you will live that label. Why? Because--again, if you're like most people--you would rather be right than happy and your payoffs, however illogical, are powerful. It makes logical sense to make definite and specific plans, and to work hard to achieve your goals. However, allow some scope for spontaneity and free play. For me, life has always been more fulfilling when it is approached with no firmly planted, previous expectations. Expectations are by definition based on the future, not on prior events and thought patterns. Maintain an attitude of curiosity, like that of a child with eyes filled with wonder, desiring to explore a world suffused with marvels waiting to be discovered. Live your life, instead of analyzing or obsessing over how to do it best. As the tagline from Leo Babauta's blog says, "Smile, breathe, and go slowly." That sums up my attitude and advice. There is a very fine line between prayer and meditation, but there is an important distinction. Meditation is a focusing of the mind, a clearing of thoughts, and the construction of a pathway to clarity. Prayer is a focusing of thoughts and communication with God. The key to prayer and meditation is effort and focus.

The more focus and effort you put into the act, the greater the results. This is the common thread in all that you endeavor to accomplish. You can't call something a distraction unless you know what it's distracting you from. I know many of us bristle at the idea of keeping a schedule because we don't want to feel hampered, but oddly enough, we actually perform better under constraints. This is because limitations give us a structure, while a blank schedule and a mile-long to-do list torments us with too many choices. The most effective way to make time for traction is through "timeboxing." Timeboxing uses a well-researched technique psychologists call "setting an implementation intention," which is a fancy way of saying, "deciding what you're going to do, and when you're going to do it." It's a technique that can be used to make time for traction in each of your life domains. The goal is to eliminate all white space on your calendar so you're left with a template for how you intend to spend your time each day. It doesn't so much matter what you do with your time; rather, success is measured by whether you did what you planned to do. It's fine to watch a video, scroll social media, daydream, or take a nap, as long as that's what you planned to do. Alternatively, checking work email, a seemingly productive task, is a distraction if it's done when you intended to spend time with your family or work on a presentation. Keeping a timeboxed schedule is the only way to know if you're distracted. If you're not spending your time doing what you'd planned, you're off track. The first step is to recognize when it is happening. If you notice yourself spending more time alone, not by choice but because you are fatigued and have no interest or energy, this is isolation. If you find yourself avoiding people and activities for no particular reason, this is withdrawal. Know the signs of isolation for you and include these on your Action Plan for Relapse Prevention (see chapter 5). Once you have identified your alone time as isolation and withdrawal, take steps to prevent it. Avoiding isolation when depressed can be a challenge. Do not wait until you "feel like it" to get out and be with others. Push yourself a little and just do it, a little bit at a time.

Make it a point to return telephone calls from friends and family who are helpful and positive. Set your expectations to do the activities you can do now and modify them as needed. It can be overwhelming to do everything you managed when well, so break your activities down into small steps. Get out of the house. Do one or two errands at a time, not a dozen. Say hello to the store clerk. For now, walk for ten minutes around the block rather than tackling your usual exercise routine. Eventually, it will all become easier to do. A written routine and schedule can help you manage the tendency to withdraw. That way, you have something concrete to follow for the times when you are so tempted to isolate. The key is to stick to your schedule even when you don't feel like it. Hold yourself accountable for following through. Then give yourself credit for this accomplishment! Imagine that you're having a relaxing evening watching TV when you hear a knock at the door. As you open it, a policeman slaps a pair of handcuffs on you and states, "You're under arrest for sexual assault." Amazingly, you find out that your daughter has just accused you of sexually molesting her when she was a little girl, some twenty years ago. You can't believe it because you've always had a great relationship with your daughter, and you know that you never abused her. However, to resolve some emotional problems, she recently saw a therapist who thought that her problems could be the result of childhood sexual abuse. After several sessions of hypnosis, your daughter started to remember a number of instances in which you sexually assaulted her. Based on these repressed memories, you're convicted and sent to prison, even with a complete lack of physical evidence for the abuse. Sounds crazy?

You don't think it could happen? Well, it has happened in a number of cases in the United States.11 Why is that? Many of us--including those who testify as witnesses--think that our memory is a permanent record of past experiences. Of course, we know that we can't remember everything, but many of us think that if we use special techniques, like hypnosis, we'll be able to recall previously inaccessible events. In fact, surveys indicate that most Americans hold this view of memory.12 And when we're confident in our memory, we believe that we remember things as they actually occurred. However, considerable research indicates that our memories can change. We can even create new memories for events that never actually happened! In effect, our memory is not a literal snapshot of events which we later retrieve from our album of past experiences. Instead, memory is constructive. Current beliefs, expectations, environment, and even suggestive questioning can influence our memory of past events. It's more accurate to think of memory as a reconstruction of the past--and with each successive reconstruction, our memories can get further and further from the truth. Memories thus change over time, even when we're confident that they haven't, and those memories can have a significant influence on the beliefs we form and the decisions we make. It's time for some self-diagnosis. How do you label yourself? Did someone tell you that you were a loser? Have you, in turn, labeled yourself a loser? Somewhere along the way, did you accept a label in order to be accepted by a group? Have you labeled your life a dead end? If you have, what does that do for your life? To pull yourself free from your fictional self, you've got to get your hands around the labels that may have entrapped you; evaluate them; and delete them.

The following exercises will help you do just that. Absurd, isn't it? If those are not the labels you would want an employer to attach to you, then why do it yourself? Resolve that you will no longer conspire with the world in assigning limiting labels to yourself. Whatever the payoff you're getting from living to your labels, determine that you are going to move out of that comfort zone, once and for all. There'll be two dates on your tombstone and all your friends will read them but all that's gonna matter is that little dash between them. Have you ever been to a sporting event or a large group meeting where you can feel the energy flowing through the stadium or room? It's the kind of environment where the energy is palpable and contagious, and it pumps you up! For example, imagine you are at a football stadium, and the home team is down by twenty-one points. The local fans feel dejected and sense imminent loss. Their coach and the team are full of hope, and they believe that they can still pull the game off. The coach takes his quarterback aside and lets him know that he believes in him, that he can master the victory, and he can be the hero. After the pep talk, the quarterback heads back out onto the field for the next series of downs and hands the ball off to the running back. Lo and behold, the running back picks up twelve yards and a first down. All of a sudden the faint belief that they can win grows in tandem with the crowd's positive energy. The home crowd stands and cheers them on. Their belief explodes, the momentum swings, and now the other team starts to doubt. Before long, the home team---buoyed by faith, confidence, expectations of success, and the emotional energy of the crowd---is rallying for a victory! What has happened is that their belief and expectations rose to a level that caused the atmosphere of the stadium to change in a positive way for the home team. At the same time, the atmosphere of the away team dropped and diminished; self-doubt crept in and changed the outcome of the game.