Your brain and body can't tell the difference between something you vividly imagine and something that's real. That's why your mouth waters when you imagine biting into a slice of chocolate cake. You can use this to your advantage if you're feeling nervous about doing something for the first time, such as giving a speech. By closing your eyes and repeatedly imagining yourself wildly succeeding, you create neural pathways in your brain which programme you to perform well the next time you give a speech in real life. In order for this to be effective, you need to run your mental movie repeatedly and engage all your senses, so that the scenario is as vivid and realistic as possible. Picture your surroundings, hear the sound of your voice, see the audience respond enthusiastically and feel the excitement and confidence growing inside you. The addition of technology to this corrosive culture made things worse. Perlow describes how the pressure employees feel to be constantly on-call gets amplified in what she calls the "cycle of responsiveness." She writes, "The pressure to be on usually stems from some seemingly legitimate reason, such as requests from clients or customers or teammates in different time zones." As a result, employees "begin adjusting to these demands--adapting the technology they use, altering their daily schedules, the way they work, even the way they live their lives and interact with their families and friends--to be better able to meet the increased demands on their time." Increased accessibility comes at a high price. Answering emails during your child's soccer game trains colleagues to expect quick responses during times that were previously off-limits; as a result, requests from the office mutate personal or family time into work time. More requests mean more pressure to respond, as email inboxes overflow and Slack messages continue to pour in. Soon, a culture of always-on responsiveness becomes the office norm--exactly as it did at BCG. While technology perpetuates a vicious "cycle of responsiveness," its cause is a dysfunctional culture. (Source: Inspired by Leslie Perlow book, Sleeping With Your Cell Phone) The cycle of responsiveness is caused by a cascade of consequences. Technology such as the mobile phone and Slack may perpetuate the cycle, but the technology itself isn't the source of the problem; rather, overuse is a symptom. Dysfunctional work culture is the real culprit. Once Perlow realized the source of the problem, she helped the company change its toxic culture. In the process, she revealed that if a company was unable to address an issue like technology overuse, it was likely also concealing all sorts of deeper problems. In the following chapters in this section, I'll expand on what Perlow did to help BCG and what you can do to change the culture of distraction at your workplace. Probability theory indicates that there will be variation in the subjects' accuracies because of chance alone. While three people correctly guessed eight symbols in the first trial run, there were also three people who only got two right--the other twenty-nine correctly guessed between three and seven.

In the second trial, there was one person who got nine right, but three people correctly guessed only two or one (all different people than those who scored low and high in the first set), and the rest were between three to seven. Remember the bell curve? These results look remarkably like a normal bell curve distribution that has an average of around five and some deviation around that average. So by chance alone, we would expect some people to get eight or nine right. In fact, with large groups of subjects we would expect some people to score even higher. The bottom line is, probability theory predicts these types of results, and so we don't need to invoke some mysterious cause like ESP. According to Shermer, when he mentioned the bell curve to the group, the instructor said, "Are you an engineer or one of those statisticians or something?"4 The group laughed and the instructor went back to lecturing on how to improve their ESP. When we want to believe in something, we'll ignore, downplay, or even ridicule conflicting explanations. And, this is more likely to happen if we lack a good understanding of probability. In fact, researchers have found that people who believe in ESP do not understand probability as well as nonbelievers, and are therefore more likely to attribute paranormal explanations to extreme events.5 Let's go back to the roulette wheel. As you're watching the ball land on successive spins, you notice that it landed on black the last four times. If you had to put $100 on the next spin, would you put it on red, on black, or would you have no preference? Many people would choose red. Why? Because they think it's due. This is the gamblers' fallacy. If each spin is independent of the others, there's an equal chance the number will be red or black, irrespective of what happened on prior spins. But many people believe that what has recently occurred will affect what will occur next, even though the two events are independent. Every time I go to a casino I see seasoned gamblers falling prey to this fallacy, and losing their shirts because of it!6 The gambler's fallacy says that people will view independent events to be related in some way. In some cases, the fallacy leads people to believe that events will change, as in the case of the roulette wheel (red will come up next because black has come up a few times in a row).

In other situations, however, people think that if an event has occurred, it's more likely to occur again. We can see this in the "hot hand." In our society, we are great believers in education. We believe that knowledge makes a person civilized. Civilization, however, polishes a person only superficially. Subject our noble and sophisticated gentleperson to the stresses of war or economic collapse, and see what happens. It is one thing to obey the law because you know the penalties and fear the consequences; it is something else entirely to obey the law because you have cleansed yourself from the greed that would make you steal and the hatred that would make you kill. Throw a stone into a stream. The running water would smooth the stone's surface, but the inside remains unchanged. Take that same stone and place it in the intense fires of a forge, and it all melts; the whole stone changes inside and out. Civilization changes a person on the outside. Meditation softens a person from within, through and through. Meditation is called the Great Teacher. It is the cleansing crucible fire that works slowly but surely, through understanding. The greater your understanding, the more flexible and tolerant, the more compassionate you can be. You become like a perfect parent or an ideal teacher. You are ready to forgive and forget. You feel love toward others because you understand them, and you understand others because you have understood yourself. You have looked deeply inside and seen self-illusion and your own human failings, seen your own humanity and learned to forgive and to love. When you have learned compassion for yourself, compassion for others is automatic. An accomplished meditator has achieved a profound understanding of life, and he or she inevitably relates to the world with a deep and uncritical love.

Meditation is a lot like cultivating a new land. To make a field out of a forest, first you have to clear the trees and pull out the stumps. Then you till the soil and fertilize it, sow your seed, and harvest your crops. To cultivate your mind, first you have to clear out the various irritants that are in the way--pull them right out by the root so that they won't grow back. Then you fertilize: you pump energy and discipline into the mental soil. Then you sow the seed, and harvest your crops of faith, morality, mindfulness, and wisdom. Faith and morality, by the way, have a special meaning in this context. Buddhism does not advocate faith in the sense of believing something because it is written in a book, attributed to a prophet, or taught to you by some authority figure. The meaning of faith here is closer to confidence. It is knowing that something is true because you have seen it work, because you have observed that very thing within yourself. In the same way, morality is not a ritualistic obedience to a code of behavior imposed by an external authority. It is rather a healthy habit pattern that you have consciously and voluntarily chosen to impose upon yourself because you recognize its superiority to your present behavior. Again, it's important to understand that there are many gifted therapists in the world doing excellent work to provide hope and healing to their clients. I have great admiration for caring, trained therapists who consistently offer wisdom and compassion to their clients. These professionals create a healing space where a person can feel safe--perhaps for the first time--to explore painful wounds from the past or confront present-day circumstances that are intolerable. Like the car tune-up, this may be exactly what someone needs who is suffering a typical case of doldrums or who is in the process of recovering from the grief of loss. But for those in the grip of major depression--remember, these are people who are hopeless, helpless, and despairing--talk therapy alone is unlikely to produce lasting relief and healing. Here's why: Talk therapy rarely integrates a thorough exploration of physical conditions that contribute to depression. Talk therapy is generally a slow process, which is not always suitable for someone who may be considering suicide or who is sliding toward an inability to function on a basic level. Talk therapy tends to look backward, searching for old wounds to account for current patterns of thought and behavior.

Most often we find plenty of immediate causes in our patients, things that can be addressed here and now. Working through deep issues with a therapist can be an outstanding component of a whole-person treatment plan, one of many simultaneous avenues for healing. As powerful and helpful as counseling can be, I still believe it should be utilized among other treatment approaches to experience lasting progress in overcoming depression. While psychotherapy is focused on understanding the root causes of a person's symptoms--often buried out of sight in the subconscious mind--CBT is chiefly concerned with developing strategies for managing those symptoms right now. The idea is to help people see that changing distorted thoughts, beliefs, and attitudes about themselves, others, and the future can have a direct effect on how they feel about those things. Distorted thinking is usually accompanied by maladaptive behaviors that can likewise be reprogrammed to improve a person's outlook. When times are tough - and even when things are just peachy - make a habit of listing the good things in your life: actually write them down. This simple act of gratitude, especially before you go to sleep, will soothe your soul. Whether it's health, family, friends, your job or your partner, recognise and dwell awhile on your blessings. Spending time with upbeat, supportive people rubs off on you and puts you in a positive frame of mind. Smiles and laughter are wonderfully infectious. Your friends are an obvious source of this great energy. They can build you up and improve your self-confidence and self-worth. True friends support your efforts to achieve your goals - they celebrate your successes and console you when things don't go according to plan. They're also a sounding board for ideas and can provide a valuable second opinion. Sadly, not all friends are like this, and if the people you mix with tend to drain you or bring you down a lot, it's time to find some new pals. However, even strong friendships will go through rough patches, so don't give up on someone because of one argument or minor disagreement. Remember to be a good friend yourself and you will attract similarly sweet souls. When the pressure of deadlines, meetings, phone calls and long hours builds up, we doubt our ability to stay on top of things. In turn, this causes a dip in confidence.