Life is full of many ups and downs. Each lifetime has moments of inconceivable joy, tremendous suffering, and utter boredom, yet in the end, it is all part of a beautiful ride. It is a wonderful blessing to have a conscious mind, but being self-aware entails many burdens and drawbacks. Sometimes the greatest gifts in the world---free will, consciousness, and creativity---can seem like weighty burdens. Because of the way in which the brain is hardwired, you perceive the world in a way that keeps you from experiencing it in its totality. Think about it: you utilize memory and logic, but your outlook is always limited because your finite mind cannot get a handle on all of reality. Instead, you have to focus and filter your experience in a more piecemeal fashion. Like everone, you have a little "mental censor" that resides inside you and is constantly comparing every experience and interaction you've ever had. This evaluating process inevitably leads you to have many expectations. What is an expectation? An expectation is an idealized outcome that you have for yourself; it is the way you want your life to unfold and how you think things should be, which is based on the experiences you've had in the past. You look out at the world through filters influenced by the millions of impressions you have accumulated, all safely tucked away in your brain. Self-compassion makes people more resilient to letdowns by breaking the vicious cycle of stress that often accompanies failure. If you find yourself listening to the little voice in your head that sometimes bullies you around, it's important to know how to respond. Instead of accepting what the voice says or arguing with it, remind yourself that obstacles are part of the process of growth. We don't get better without practice, which can be difficult at times. A good rule of thumb is to talk to yourself the way you might talk to a friend. Since we know so much about ourselves, we tend to be our own worst critics, but if we talk to ourselves the way we'd help a friend, we can see the situation for what it really is. Telling yourself things like "This is what it's like to get better at something" and "You're on your way" are healthier ways to handle self-doubt. Reimagining the internal trigger, the task, and our temperament are powerful and established ways to deal with distractions that start within us.

We can cope with uncomfortable internal triggers by reflecting on, rather than reacting to, our discomfort. We can reimagine the task we're trying to accomplish by looking for the fun in it and focusing on it more intensely. Finally, and most important, we can change the way we see ourselves to get rid of self-limiting beliefs. If we believe we're short on willpower and self-control, then we will be. If we decide we're powerless to resist temptation, it becomes true. If we tell ourselves we're deficient by nature, we'll believe every word. Thankfully, you don't have to believe everything you think; you are only powerless if you think you are. Depression symptoms may make it more difficult to start and stick with an exercise program. These symptoms include loss of interest in activities, decreased physical and mental energy, decreased motivation, and loss of focus and concentration. However, there are effective steps you can take to deal with these challenges. First, choose an exercise activity that you enjoy, or used to enjoy, and can do regularly. Once you pick your exercise program, sticking with it is the most important part. How do you do that when you are depressed? Make it part of your daily routine and schedule it as a key part of your day. Here is where action precedes motivation. This means that you should start your exercise program now and keep at it, even if you don't really feel like doing it. The motivation for doing it will come later. If you have not exercised in a while, start slow and gradually build up your time and effort. Commit to walking around the block for 10 minutes each day, and then gradually increase the amount of time you walk each week. Or start by walking 10 minutes away from your house, and then 10 minutes back home, and gradually increase your time.

You may want to purchase an inexpensive step counter, a small plastic device you clip to your waist that counts each step as you go about your daily life. The goal is to add 1,000 steps in the course of your day, so that you eventually walk up to 10,000 steps daily. Incorporate small changes into your daily activities, such as walking more places, taking the stairs instead of the elevator, or getting off the subway or bus two stops earlier. If you support gun control, do you give more credence to information that supports a ban on guns? If you have a favorite presidential candidate, do you pay more attention to information that's favorable to the candidate? If you believe in the ability of psychics to predict the future, do you remember the few times they were right, and forget the vast majority of times they were wrong? It turns out that this is how we think. We have a natural tendency to use "confirming" decision strategies. That is, we place greater importance on information that supports our existing beliefs and expectations, or what we want to believe, and less importance on information that is contradictory to those beliefs. In effect, we remember the hits and forget the misses. Our penchant to attend to confirming evidence is so deeply ingrained in our thinking processes that we'll often seek out supporting data even when we don't have a strong belief or expectation. To see what I mean, think of someone you know and try to decide if the person is charitable. More likely than not, you will think of instances when the person exhibited charitable behavior, such as donating money, helping others, etc. You won't think of all the times the person wasn't charitable but could have been. Why is that? We seem to find it easier to think in terms of those instances that support whatever notion we're testing. The problem is, by selectively focusing on supporting information, we ignore contradictory information that may be very relevant to the decisions we make. Some people react to labels with complete and total conformance to the implied message and other times they radically react against the label by becoming extreme in rebelling in the opposite direction. Perhaps a person that has been put down and labeled like Beth Ann might respond with arrogance and a false sense of superiority. They may pretend vehemently that they couldn't care less about the acceptance that has been withheld from them.

It's important to note that in both cases, whether you are conforming to the label or radically rebelling against it, the label is controlling you and dictating your life. It is easy to understand how such treatment of a young, vulnerable, and impressionable girl could control her thinking, but how does it persist when that girl grows up? Why would a mature, competent woman continue to be controlled by childhood labels? The answer is powerful, but not at all obvious. Living to a label can only become a part of your personal truth and concept of self if at some level it is working for you. Living to that label, giving your power away, provides some kind of income--social, spiritual, economic, or otherwise--that can make even the most painful and inappropriate labels highly durable and stubbornly resistant to change. Somehow, someway, accepting the definition of that label provides you some currency or you wouldn't do it. Maybe it's an excuse to be passive or angry or play the victim, but whatever it is, you wouldn't do it without a reward, however sick that payoff might be. Having an expectation entails an ideal in your mind that becomes a destination. That ideal is not yet real, but it is a goal. Many people become fixated on their aims. When your mind becomes closed and functions from pre-conceived conclusions, you cease to learn from events in your life. But through willpower and substantial effort, you can achieve some of your expectations. On the surface, this may seem great, but I question whether this is the most joyous way to live your life. Are expectations necessary? Shouldn't life be lived simply and not made extraordinarily complicated by expectations? Some may say, "Then maybe I should rid myself of expectations." My response is, how can a person even live a life without expectations? The first step to living life with expectations and without becoming stressed out is to become aware of your inner censors, or the little voice inside you that automatically begins to evaluate and compare any situation against the backdrop of your beliefs. Then, based on the resulting evaluation, which is always incomplete, you will proceed with some type of action or nonaction (though it is still a form of action). Once you observe this little voice in operation, you become aware of it.

Doing so allows you to become a somewhat detached witness to it. That way, you don't become too identified with it. Ultimately, we recognize that what this little voice is saying may not necessarily be the best way for you to respond to a situation. This goes back to being open-minded in chapter two. Don't become identified with that little voice; instead, learn to question it constantly. By doing that, you automatically create an inner space to observe your thinking processes more freely. This helps you respond to situations, not just react. Traction draws you toward what you want in life, while distraction pulls you away. In part one, we learned ways to cope with the internal triggers that can drive us to distraction and how to reduce the sources of discomfort; if we don't control our impulse to escape uncomfortable feelings, we'll always look for quick fixes to soothe our pain. The next step is to find ways to make traction more likely, starting with how we spend our time. The German writer and philosopher Johann Wolfgang von Goethe believed he could predict someone's future based on one simple fact. "If I know how you spend your time," he wrote, "then I know what might become of you." Think of all the ways people steal your time. The Roman Stoic philosopher Seneca wrote, "People are frugal in guarding their personal property; but as soon as it comes to squandering time, they are most wasteful of the one thing in which it is right to be stingy." Though Seneca was writing more than two thousand years ago, his words are just as applicable today. Think of all the locks, security systems, and storage units we use to protect our property and how little we do to protect our time. What counts as exercise? Exercise is any physical activity or movement of the body that uses energy. The American College of Sports Medicine considers a regular exercise program to be essential for most adults. It endorses one that includes cardiorespiratory, resistance, flexibility, and neuromotor exercise training, beyond the usual activities of daily living, to improve and maintain physical fitness and health. It is recommended that you do a combination of aerobic activities that increase your heart rate and breathing (see the Examples of Aerobic Exercise Intensity table below), strength activities that build and maintain bones and muscle, and balance and stretching activities that increase physical stability and flexibility, such as yoga, tai chi, or just basic stretches. When you do aerobic exercise, your body's large muscles (such as your quadriceps or hamstring muscles in your legs) move for a sustained period, your heart rate and breathing rate increase, and you get sweaty.What is considered moderate or vigorous activity?