Yet, as our research suggests, they are quite powerful." She continues, "Even when they are not embedded in years of tradition, simple rituals can help us build personal discipline and self-control."7 Skepticism, a cornerstone of science, is suppressed in pseudoscience. Scientists open themselves up for criticism, while pseudoscientists are defensive and wary of opposing views. In pseudoscience, we don't see other pseudoscientists criticizing the results of a study. Why? They all want to believe the same thing. Their agenda is different than that of science. Pseudoscientists already know what they want to believe as they come into a study, and they selectively search for data to confirm their preconceived belief. Of course, science is guided by theories that may bias its search for knowledge. Also, scientists are human, so they can fall prey to human frailties. They have egos and may also want to find support for their pet theory. Fortunately, science has that built in error-correcting mechanism--criticism--to counteract the problems of human frailty. For every scientist publishing the results of a research study, a number of other scientists stand ready to find fault with the research. The end result is that useful ideas are retained, and nonuseful ideas abandoned.26 To appreciate the difference between real science and pseudoscience, just think about the great advancements of our civilization. We live longer, healthier, easier, and, for the most part, more fulfilling lives, primarily due to the knowledge we gained from science. Science has given us cures for a multitude of diseases, the ability to explore space, and technological marvels like the computer, television, and cell phones. On the other hand, paranormal investigators are still trying to establish the basic premise that ESP exists, and it's difficult to find a single practical benefit from that questionable research.27 In the words of magician Penn Jillette, of Penn and Teller fame, "Being pro science is one of the oddest things you can do in show business. Which is very strange, because it was science that, oh, cured polio. I could list others--isn't that enough? Oh, Western medicine doesn't work; I'm sorry, we cured polio.... And guess what?

It cures polio even if you don't believe in it." Enough said! So what can we take away from our knowledge of science that would help us set more informed beliefs and make better decisions? Table 3 summarizes the major characteristics of a scientific approach to acquiring knowledge. Each of these items can be extremely useful in our everyday lives. As we've seen, we should keep an open mind to new phenomenon and explanations, but we should also be skeptical of any claim that's unsubstantiated. We have to make sure a claim or belief can be put to the test, because if it can't be tested, we'll never be able to determine its truth or falsehood. It's extremely important to evaluate the quality of the evidence when testing any claim. We all too often simply accept anecdotal data or trust the results of a research study without evaluating the tightness of the controls. Given our underlying tendency to seek out confirming evidence, we need to be particularly vigilant in our search for disconfirming data. At the same time, we have to consider alternative explanations that may better account for the phenomenon. And, if the alternatives are equally proficient in explaining the phenomenon, we should choose the one that provides the simplest explanation and doesn't conflict with other well-established knowledge. Finally, we have to proportion our belief to the amount of evidence for or against that belief. If the evidence doesn't strongly support a belief, a leap of faith will never establish the belief as true. We simply can't make something true just by believing it.29 Consequently, we may have to withhold judgment on certain issues until the preponderance of the evidence indicates that it's more prudent to accept one belief over the alternatives. If we follow these basic guidelines used in science, we can all form more reasoned beliefs and make better decisions. Though conventional wisdom says our beliefs shape our behaviors, the opposite is also true. Evidence of the importance of rituals supports the idea of keeping a regular schedule, as described in part two. The more we stick to our plans, the more we reinforce our identity. We can also incorporate other rituals into our lives to help remind us of our identity. For example, I have a ritual of repeating a series of short mantras every morning.

I've collected them over the years and say them before I start my work every day. A quick reading of these snippets of indistractable wisdom, such as the William James quote "The art of being wise is the art of knowing what to overlook," reinforces my identity through ritual. I also find opportunities to label myself as indistractable. For instance, when I'm working from home, I tell my wife and daughter that I'm indistractable before starting a focused work block. As you learned in chapter eighteen, I use my phone's Do Not Disturb function to send an auto-reply message stating that I'm indistractable to anyone who might contact me during my focused time. I even printed T-shirts with Indistractable across the chest to reinforce my identity whenever I look in the mirror or someone asks me about my shirt. By making identity pacts, we are able to build the self-image we want. Whether the behavior is related to what we eat, how we treat others, or how we manage distraction, this technique can help shape our behavior to reflect our values. Though we often assume our identity is fixed, our self-image is, in fact, flexible and is nothing more than a construct in our minds. It's a habit of thought, and, as we've learned, habits can be changed for the better. Now that you know the four parts of the Indistractable Model, you're ready to put these strategies to work. Make sure you can draw out the four parts of the model (traction/distraction, internal triggers/external triggers) so you can share the model with others as well as have ready access to it the next time you find yourself struggling with distraction. Up until now, we've focused primarily on what you can do to become indistractable. But we must acknowledge that we work and live with other people. In the next section, we'll dive into how workplace culture affects distraction. Then, we'll learn about why children overuse their distractions and what we can all learn from their need for "psychological nutrients." Finally, we'll explore how we can be indistractable around friends and loved ones, and help them stay focused as well. Do you remember the first season of Survivor that aired a few years back? Sixteen people were stranded on a deserted island and had to survive both their physical surroundings and social interactions. Every week, one person was voted off the island by the other members of the game, and the last person left was to receive one million dollars. In the final episode only two players, Kelly and Richard, remained.

Their fate was determined by a vote of seven others who had already been eliminated. To help in their decision, the former members asked Kelly and Richard a number of questions, such as what three qualities they thought were most important to surviving the game. The results couldn't have been closer--after six votes were counted, the score was tied. The seventh and deciding vote gave Richard the million. When the jury was asked why they voted the way they did, one of the members, Greg, said he couldn't decide, so he asked Kelly and Richard to pick a number between one and ten. Richard said seven and Kelly said three. Greg was thinking of the number nine and voted for the person who came the closest. After surviving thirty-nine days of physical, mental, and social challenges, the winner of the million-dollar prize was ultimately determined by chance! So it is in many aspects of our lives. We like to think that we can control our environment through our intellect and hard work. But the fact is, chance plays an important role in our everyday lives. As Michael Shermer likes to say, we are causal-seeking animals.1 We have an innate desire to find patterns in our world. Throughout our evolution, people who discovered the causes for things survived and passed on their genes. For example, those early ancestors who saw that certain rocks could be chipped and formed into spearheads were more likely to be successful hunters. They were better able to hunt prey, feed their families, and produce offspring that would survive. This inherent tendency to seek out causes has usually served us well. However, our desire to find causes is so central to the way we think that we often see causes for things that are simply random events or the result of chance occurrences. You're driving down the street thinking about your recently deceased Uncle Jim. Lost in thought, you're driving a little slower than usual. As you approach a busy intersection, a speeding car runs a stop sign on your right--you would have crashed if you were just two seconds earlier!

Instead, you drive away safely, although a little rattled. Many people attribute supernatural or divine intervention to such an event. They say, "Uncle Jim was watching out for me--that's why I slowed down." But we have to ask ourselves, does Jim's supernatural intervention offer the simplest explanation for the near miss? Remember Occam's razor--we should choose the explanation with the fewest assumptions. To accept the Jim hypothesis we have to assume that spirits of dead relatives exist, hang around this world, and watch out for our welfare--assumptions that have no hard evidence to support them. On the other hand, given the millions of cars on the road, probability theory predicts that there will be some accidents and some near misses. And so, a well-supported theory can explain the near miss without having to make untenable assumptions. We naturally look for the reasons things happened the way they did. We want to believe that there's a reason for everything, and that if we understand what it is, we can, in some way, control the event. This even happens for the most obvious of chance events--the lottery. The lottery is certainly determined by chance, and yet, many people carefully choose their lottery numbers, thinking they can improve their odds. Entire books are written on the best way to choose winning numbers. In fact, studies show that people require more money to give up a lottery ticket if they pick their numbers than if they don't.2 We want to, and think we can, control chance events. However, before we attribute some underlying cause for an event, we should first ask ourselves if the event can be explained by the laws of chance. If the well-established rules of probability can explain an event, there may be no reason to attribute any other cause. There is not a thing wrong with this. It is the nature of the universe. But human culture has taught us some odd responses to this endless flowing. We categorize experiences. We try to stick each perception, every mental change in this endless flow, into one of three mental pigeon holes: it is good, bad, or neutral.