The extremely elevated mood of bipolar disorder affects your thoughts, feelings, and behaviors, which can interfere with the quality of your life. The form on page 44 provides examples of common thoughts, feelings, and behaviors related to elevated mood. Check off those you can relate to and share this information with your treatment team. With depression, you may have difficulty remembering what you were like before the episode. You may often struggle to differentiate the symptoms of depression from "just me, my regular self." Depression can take away your sense of who you are as a human being (your inner sense of self). It feels like there is nothing but depression in life. You forget what you are like, or used to be like, and you may not feel familiar to yourself. You may forget what your basic competencies are, your baseline skills and accomplishments. In managing depression, you have to find a way to stay connected to your inner sense of self, to your baseline person. Having your baseline healthy self to draw on is an important aid during your recovery. This will help you envision what you are working toward. You are not your depression. Create a list of your strengths and weaknesses, personal preferences, beliefs, values, skills, and competencies. Be realistic when you assess your strengths and weaknesses. Include your personal preferences, your likes and dislikes, needs, wants, skills, values, beliefs, opinions, sense of purpose, what nourishes you, energizes you, gives you pleasure and enjoyment, a sense of perspective and calm. Identify what makes life rich and full for you. My intent is not to uniformly bash TV or the popular press. They report on many well-researched topics that provide us with valuable information. Unfortunately, they also provide us with a great deal of misinformation, so distinguishing between the two is not always easy. One reporter, who often wrote stories about psychic abilities, was asked if he believed those stories.

He replied, "I don't have to believe in it. All I need is two Ph.D.'s who will tell me it's so and I have a story."20 Since there are many people who hold strange beliefs, and among them some have doctorates, the media can often report bizarre things with "expert" testimony. In fact, budding reporters often hold extraordinary beliefs themselves. A recent poll of students at Columbia's graduate school of journalism revealed that 57 percent believe in ESP, 57 percent believe in dowsing, 47 percent believe that you can read a person's aura, or energy field, and 25 percent believe in the lost continent of Atlantis.21 With Columbia's journalism students holding such beliefs, their future articles written on these subjects are likely to be slanted. In fact, articles in the popular press supporting topics like ESP, ghosts, and astrology outnumber skeptical articles on these issues by about two to one.22 Whatever people find interesting will find its way to TV and the print media, no matter how bizarre. The media not only fosters beliefs in the weird, they can also affect our beliefs concerning things that are not bizarre. Studies reveal that the amount of media coverage of various health dangers is often inversely proportional to those dangers.23 Drug use is one of the lowest ranking risk factors for serious illness and death, yet it receives about the same amount of coverage as the second ranked risk factor, diet and exercise. Over a period when our country's murder rate dropped by 20 percent, the number of murder stories on network newscasts soared by 600 percent.24 Such biased reporting can affect the beliefs we hold. One study analyzed the number of stories that contained the words "drug crisis" as well as the changes in public opinion over a ten-year period. At times, nearly two out of three Americans thought that drugs were our most important problem, while at other times only one out of twenty believed drugs were most important. Not surprising, changes in public opinion coincided with changes in media coverage.25 We would probably agree that a script is what gives the play its meaning. We would agree that the script affects the choices made for the entire production: dialogue, costumes, casting, locations, and scenery. In addition, after a certain number of rehearsals, the actors put down their typewritten scripts and simply "become" the characters. From then on, the script is no longer words on a page; it lives in the actors' heads. Although they are no longer reading it, it is alive and active, guiding what the actors do and say. There is no improvisation; there is no creativity, because every player must stick with the script so that all the other players' lines, actions, attitudes, and positions will work. If one of the actors in our play were to start freelancing, it would be seriously frowned upon, since it would disrupt the expected flow and that, of course, would be highly inconvenient. So how about you: Are you living your life according to a script? Do you have an assigned role; a role with certain lines to be spoken, certain actions to be carried out? Are the other actors in the play of your life expecting you to be and do certain things, such that you feel as though you, too, can't improvise, can't make up new lines?

Do you fear that the inconvenience you would create by freelancing would be unacceptable? If you are living by a script, maybe written by you years earlier, maybe written by someone else, do you know what it is? Are you living your lines and following your script? Is it what you would write today if you were writing it all over again? Are you spending your days doing what you would write into your script if you could? Are you doing what you're doing, where you would choose to do it, and with whom? Does your script have you spending your life pursuing what you really want or did that get dropped from your script a long time ago? Have you outgrown or just evolved away from the script? As I suggested earlier, the script of life that you are living builds on and draws its strength from certain cornerstones called fixed beliefs. Your fixed beliefs tell you what role you are playing. You have practiced your script so much and for so long that the beliefs you have about you, about your possibilities, about your responsibilities, do in fact become fixed. They become set in stone, but it is a stone that I intend to chip away. High expectations can be inspiring, however success in life is rarely a straight line. When you struggle to achieve your objectives, disillusionment can result. Ambitions can frequently outstrip abilities, at least initially. When it comes to your dreams, you're virtually bound to face a learning curve. Understanding how to adjust your expectations in the light of feedback from life is one of the keys to ultimately achieving your goals. When you develop expectations, there is a cycle that explains what happens to them. Charles Brown developed what he calls the hexagon of expectations, which is about the neurological pathway that expectations create in our brain, as well as the processes that we use to move through our expectations. According to Brown, it takes two-fifths of a second for an expectation to be processed in the brain.

When you follow the hexagon model, it takes you through the cycle of how expectations work. Charles Brown believes "Expectations can deliver devastating emotional impact if one's expectations are not managed correctly" (Brown). In his model, expectations (step one) can turn into unfulfilled expectations (step two), which leads to disappointment. Further stages on the hexagon include anxiousness (step three), anger (step four), and remorse (step five). This is why some people think it is better not having expectations at all! Rest assured that expectations are empowering. Approached right, expectations need not cause distress. To conquer the hexagon and avoid the pitfalls he outlined, Brown says you should begin by having realistic expectations. He suggests that you avoid comparing yourself to others or being "unduly influenced by the expectations of others" (Brown). In sum, you must look at your current reality and factor it into consideration when you create expectations. Being realistic is different from having lowered expectations; it's about honesty. Be grounded and candid with yourself, but don't be afraid to set ambitious expectations. If you couple faith with attainable goals, you will have the confidence to thrive. Using a detailed, timeboxed schedule helps clarify the central trust pact between employers and employees. Through regular review, the two parties can make informed decisions regarding whether the employee's time is spent appropriately and help them allocate time to more important tasks. Remember, the Indistractable Model has four parts. Mastering internal triggers is the first step and making time for traction is the second, but there's much more we can do, as you'll soon learn. In part five, we'll also dive into the role of workplace culture and why persistent distraction is often a sign of organizational dysfunction. For now, it's important not to shortchange the simple yet highly effective technique of schedule syncing. Whether at work, at home, or on our own, planning ahead and timeboxing our schedules is an essential step to becoming indistractable.

By defining how we spend our time and syncing with the stakeholders in our lives, we ensure that we do the things that matter and ignore the things that don't. It frees us from the trivialities of our day and gives us back the time we can't afford to waste. Syncing your schedule with stakeholders at work is critical for making time for traction in your day. Without visibility into how you spend your time, colleagues and managers are more likely to distract you with superfluous tasks. Sync as frequently as your schedule changes. If your schedule template changes from day to day, have a daily check-in. However, most people find a weekly alignment is sufficient. This may be hard to do when you are depressed. You may feel as though you are describing another person. If you have difficulty with this, get feedback from others who know you well. Ask your friends and family to remind you, honestly, of your strengths and unique personal qualities. Once you identify these qualities, you will have a clearer idea of what you are about, which will help reconnect you to your healthy baseline self. Identifying your preferences and beliefs will help you be yourself. Use the worksheets in this chapter to guide you through this exercise. Perhaps this example will help you get started. When I had trouble writing my own personal statement, my therapist used it as an illustration. In a scene from the movie Bull Durham, the baseball character played by the actor Kevin Costner gives us a modified version of this exercise when he confidently states: "I believe in the soul, ... the hanging curve ball, high fiber, good scotch ... I believe there ought to be a constitutional amendment outlawing Astroturf and the designated hitter ... I believe in ...