The anecdote may be unique, but the problems it highlights are not. Employees doing their duty and trying to please their managers often feel unable to change the way things function. As a consultant Perlow interviewed said, "Partners like hearing yes,' more than they like hearingno,' and I'm trying to give them what they want." If a manager sent an email at an hour traditionally reserved for one's family or sleep, it would be read and replied to. If a manager wanted a meeting to discuss whatever they felt needed discussing, despite other pressing matters, the team would drop everything and attend the meeting. If a manager felt the team needed to work late (irrespective of employees' existing personal plans), well, you can guess what happened. The extreme occurrences that are evident in the tails of a distribution have led many people to form erroneous beliefs. Suppose your friend was just told he has a serious cancer, and that his average life expectancy is only one more year. When given such news, some patients try bizarre healing techniques, such as therapeutic touch, healing crystals, or even psychic surgery. Some of those patients may live longer than a year, and if they do, they often believe the alternative technique extended their life. But there's variability in the life span distribution--while the average life expectancy may be one year for a person with the cancer, some people may die after a month, while others may live for another five years. In essence, the tails of the distribution indicate that some people will live considerably longer than the average, a fact often ignored when forming beliefs. The tails of a distribution are also a good reason to listen to the consensus of qualified experts rather than to a single individual. There are thousands of experts in most fields, and it's likely that some of them will believe some pretty weird things. There are outliers even among scientists, professors, and other qualified experts--something isn't true just because one expert says so. Remember the weird beliefs of John Mack from Harvard on alien abduction? If we look for the consensus view of the experts, we're more likely to get closer to the truth as we now know it. Probability theory can explain many occurrences that, on the surface, seem inexplicable. Consider, for example, ESP. Michael Shermer went to Edgar Cayce's Association for Research and Enlightenment in Virginia Beach, an official-looking organization that conducts ESP experiments.3 When he arrived, they were running an experiment in which people (receivers) tried to discern certain shapes that another individual (a sender) was viewing. The "sender" concentrated on a card which displayed either a plus sign, square, star, circle, or wavy lines.

At the same time, the "receivers" were told to concentrate on the sender's forehead and attempt to discern what he was thinking. Thirty-five people participated in the experiment, which ran two trials of twenty-five cards each. The instructor said that everyone has ESP to some degree, although some have more than others. He indicated that, on average, people should correctly identify five out of twenty-five because of chance alone (since there were five symbols). In fact, he said that probability can explain any accuracy between three and seven. However, anyone who correctly identified more than seven symbols was said to have ESP. It turned out that three people identified eight symbols in the first trial, and one identified nine in the second trial. So, according to Cayce's association, at least four people participating in the experiment demonstrated ESP without even being trained. But did they really? We are just beginning to realize that we have overdeveloped the material aspects of existence at the expense of the deeper emotional and spiritual aspects, and we are paying the price for that error. It is one thing to talk about degeneration of moral and spiritual fiber in America today, and another thing to actually do something about it. The place to start is within ourselves. Look carefully inside, truthfully and objectively, and each of us will see moments when "I am the delinquent" and "I am the crazy person." We will learn to see those moments, see them clearly, cleanly, and without condemnation, and we will be on our way up and out of being so. You can't make radical changes in the pattern of your life until you begin to see yourself exactly as you are now. As soon as you do that, changes will flow naturally. You don't have to force anything, struggle, or obey rules dictated to you by some authority. It is automatic; you just change. But arriving at that initial insight is quite a task. You have to see who you are and how you are without illusion, judgment, or resistance of any kind. You have to see your place in society and your function as a social being.

You have to see your duties and obligations to your fellow human beings, and above all, your responsibility to yourself as an individual living with other individuals. And finally, you have to see all of that clearly as a single unit, an irreducible whole of interrelationship. It sounds complex, but it can occur in a single instant. Mental cultivation through meditation is without rival in helping you achieve this sort of understanding and serene happiness. The Dhammapada, an ancient Buddhist text (which anticipated Freud by thousands of years), says: "What you are now is the result of what you were. What you will be tomorrow will be the result of what you are now. The consequences of an evil mind will follow you like the cart follows the ox that pulls it. The consequences of a purified mind will follow you like your own shadow. No one can do more for you than your own purified mind--no parent, no relative, no friend, no one. A well-disciplined mind brings happiness." Meditation is intended to purify the mind. It cleanses the thought process of what can be called psychic irritants, things like greed, hatred, and jealousy, which keep you snarled up in emotional bondage. Meditation brings the mind to a state of tranquillity and awareness, a state of concentration and insight. That's what has become of standard treatments for depression these days. Care providers tend to use their favorites as singular fixes for a disorder that is never caused by one thing alone. In my experience, depression always arises from multiple factors converging in a person's life. Treating one thing at a time, with one method at a time, is akin to expecting new tires to revitalize a car with multiple systems on the blink. Below is a list of commonly prescribed depression treatments these days--and the reasons why each on its own is unlikely to produce lasting healing. Don't misunderstand: I am not opposed to the use of medications, which can sometimes stabilize an individual enduring an acute crisis. Further, I am privileged to work in conjunction with many brilliant, caring physicians who skillfully use pharmaceuticals as part of their therapeutic regimen. I believe antidepressant medications have a vital role to play in recovery for many people.

They can calm the chaos of a major depressive episode to give you a chance to rest and regain your footing. What they can't do is fix the reasons you became depressed in the first place--and that is perhaps the biggest drawback of all. Underlying the use of antidepressant medications is a mostly unspoken but powerful medical philosophy that asserts the problem is largely (if not entirely) biochemical in nature. For many decades, the medical establishment has regarded psychology and psychiatry with suspicion, calling these fields "soft science." That's because measuring mental health or dysfunction is not as simple as tracking physical markers and manifestations. Doctors trained in strict biological models are more comfortable with mechanical causes and cures for illness--even mental disorders. Some distrust talk therapy or behavior adjustment as inherently untestable. ("It's all in your head" takes on a different meaning in this context.) Once a person accepts this view and starts taking medication with the expectation that "everything will be fine now," then doctors and patients alike stop considering all the other causes and remedies we now know have a role to play. These are the puzzle pieces we look for in the whole-person model of treatment: diet, other medications, built-up toxins in the body, physical conditions, life circumstances, emotional environment (past and present), allergies, spirituality, sleep habits, addictions, and more. Uncovering and correcting problems in these areas of your life takes commitment, sacrifice, and work, so it's easy to see the appeal of a pill that does it all for you. Having the right frame of mind means you can find the positives in any situation. When faced with a problem, ask yourself this counterintuitive question: 'How does this help me?' Maybe a challenge at work forces you to develop a new skill. Or perhaps breaking up with someone frees you to focus on your own needs for a while. Silver linings will always appear to you if you look for them. A clever way to improve self-confidence is to model the habits of highly confident people. Choose a role model who is highly competent in the area where you would like more confidence - whether that's giving a presentation at work or going on dates - and model as many of their behaviours, attitudes and habits as possible. If you have the chance to talk to them, ask them about their attitudes and thought processes. If the person is a well-known figure, you can learn from them by reading their books or biographies and studying their TV shows, films or interviews. At first, it may feel unnatural to act differently, but there's wisdom in the motto 'fake it until you make it'; in time you'll internalise the confident mindsets and behaviours to the point where it's no longer a conscious performance. Sleep is a crucial foundation of your overall health, well-being and confidence levels. Understanding how much sleep is normal for you is the first step to getting better-quality shut-eye.

Many of us lie awake at night worrying that we won't get the recommended eight hours' sleep that we need to function well. However, studies have shown that most people will have no problem functioning with six or seven hours' sleep - and what's more, many people find that if they have lost sleep, they only need to catch up on about onethird of the lost time to feel better. For example, if you went to bed an hourand-a-half late one night of the week, a 30-minute lie-in at the weekend should do the trick. Changing our perceptions of how long we need to sleep can help us: feel more secure, and therefore help us sleep more easily; achieve better quality sleep; feel more rested; and get ready to take on new challenges with a more positive outlook. Whether it's taking driving lessons, learning a new language or discovering a new hobby, becoming skilled at something new can lead to increased self-esteem. Admittedly, it takes courage to be a beginner at something and to acquire new skills, but the satisfaction of venturing out of your comfort zone and being able to do something well can make you feel really good about yourself. Is there an instrument you have always wanted to play or a sport you fancy trying? Perhaps you might prefer to learn something practical like baking or gardening? Research shows that people who continue to learn throughout their lives are more optimistic and have a higher sense of self-worth. Plus, going to a class is a great way to enhance your social life. One of the key ways to challenge negative thoughts that can drain your confidence is to ask a very simple question: 'Why?' For example, the negative thought that a lot of us wrestle with - 'I'm not good enough' - can make you worried about many aspects of your life. Perhaps you feel you are not good enough at your job, not a good enough friend, or not a good enough parent. Now is the time to ask yourself why that is: can you find five legitimate reasons why you are not good enough? It's unlikely you can. Let reason prevail; if the only way you can answer this simple question is with 'because I know it's true' or by citing minor incidents from the past, it's time to change your self-perception. As your confidence grows, so might your ego. With each milestone reached and goal achieved, there is a risk that your self-belief could spill over into arrogance or actually overconfidence. Watch out for this and the way you come across to others. Though it may be tempting to brag about success, humility is a far healthier attitude in the long-term. Be confident, by all means, but also be kind.