As you are putting your plan into action, making new choices that will empower you to handle stress better, there will be days when you fall back into old habits. Whether you binge on comfort food, say yes to too many commitments, stay up half the night watching mindless TV shows, or put off doing what you need to do to solve a stressful problem in your life, don't worry about it. Forgive yourself. Let it go. Move on. Celebrate your successes. As you experience successes in your efforts to reduce the stress in your life, stop and savor the moment. Journal about the milestones in your journey--discovering a healthier way of seeing things, letting go of a grudge, improving your diet, beginning a workout program, getting to bed earlier, or tackling problems sooner rather than later. Step one on the road to likability is recognizing the traits that stand out as being unlikable. What are you doing right now that could make someone else cringe or stop listening? I guarantee you, from personal experience, that you probably don't realize you're doing any of them. And don't think just because you're some kind of social savant with the people who do like you that you don't have any bad habits. Just ask your friends or family. I can guarantee they'll gladly point out the things on this list that fit your personality and probably offer you a few dozen tips on how to fix the problem. There are a lot of things you never want to do to someone you like and respect, especially if you want them to like you. With the help of a 2007 Johns Hopkins University study which analysed rude and unfriendly workplace behaviours, here is a list of things you may not realize you're doing that should stop immediately: Taking Credit for Someone Else's Work - If someone does something or broaches a topic, give them credit for the idea. One of the easiest ways to end a conversation is saying "Oh yeah, I heard that the other day and I also heard....." then going on as if you brought up the topic. It's a bad habit many people have as they try to be engaging in conversation but it generally alienates other people from speaking. Discrimination or Stereotyping - Simple enough; don't say anything rude about someone else's race, gender, age, sexual orientation, or any other differences. It's rude, closed minded and will almost always offend someone nearby.

Discrimination goes even further - if you make a decision about someone based on anything but the key elements, you may be discriminating. This is a big one to look out for in dating. Talking Down to Other People - Talking down to someone in a position you deem "lower" than yourself is a sure way to alienate everyone you meet. Just because someone is bagging your groceries does not mean they are less intelligent or interesting than you. That could be your future spouse or a good friend, but instead of cultivating that relationship, talking down will create an uncomfortable situation every time you see them or their co-workers again. Inappropriate Jokes or Mocking - Making jokes or mocking someone is unfriendly in any situation. The only exception is if you already know someone, have established that kind of relationship and know that they will not be offended. Even then, make sure to gauge the limits of your joking, because it's very easy to go too far and create an uncomfortable situation. Both of these statements are true! How can that be? It turns out that instead of investing and holding a fund for an extended period of time, most investors move in and out of funds on a regular basis. Oftentimes, investors move their money into a fund that has experienced good recent performance. However, statistics tell us that we have regression to the mean. That is, if a fund is currently outperforming the market, its performance is likely to drop in the future to bring it back to average. And so, if we buy into a fund right after it has posted recent gains, we're likely to be in for a fall. In effect, going after strong past performance often means we take money out of funds that are likely to rebound, and put it into funds that are ready to drop. In fact, one study compellingly demonstrated that frequent stock trading results in poor performance. The stock investment performance of individual investors from over sixty thousand households was analyzed between February 1991 and December 1996. The average household earned an average return of 16.4 percent. More importantly, the top 20 percent of investors who traded the most earned an average return of 11.4 percent.

These individuals actively traded their stocks because they thought they could beat the market, when in fact, that trading actually resulted in poorer performance. Many researchers argue that the reason we can't predict future stock prices is because the market is efficient. The efficient market hypothesis states that all publicly available information is quickly impounded into a firm's stock price, so we can't beat the market by finding over- or undervalued stocks.35 While there's considerable support for this hypothesis, there are also anomalies that make some people question whether markets are totally efficient. However, even if the efficient market hypothesis doesn't hold in all cases, that doesn't mean we can predict future stock prices. As Malkiel states, "although I believe in the possibility of superior professional investment performance, I must emphasize that the evidence we have thus far does not support the view that such competence exists." One reason for the unpredictability of the stock market is that, even when prices are rising, they don't increase in a gradual, steady manner. Instead, a few days a year have big gains, while the rest of the year is relatively flat. As Gary Belsky and Tom Gilovich state, "the stock market is much like that common description of war: long periods of boredom interrupted by episodes of pure terror." Studies show that if you missed the forty best-performing days out of the 7,802 trading days from 1963 to 1993, your average annual return would have dropped from just under 12 percent to slightly above 7 percent.37 The problem is, we have no reliable way to predict which days are going to be the top performers. What causes these big shifts in the market? William Sherden offers a plausible explanation when he states, "The stock market is clearly driven by irrational herd mentality and mass psychology. Speculative binges cause stocks to surge to price levels way beyond their economic value in terms of future earnings potential. Panics cause the equally irrational effect in the opposite direction. The stock market is a psychological soup of fear, greed, hope, superstition, and a host of other emotions and motives."38 Just look at Black Monday, October 16, 1987, the day the stock market crashed. The crash came and went without any good cause. Compared to the preceding Friday, stocks were worth 30 percent less, and no real new information accounted for the drop. This irrationality suggests that the efficient market hypothesis doesn't give us the whole story about the market. A more complete explanation is that the market is a complex system that has both rational and irrational forces at work. As Sherden states, "While rational forces drive the market toward its fair value, irrational forces of speculation and panic cause the market to diverge from rational value. These irrational forces give rise to explosive nonlinearities that make the market unpredictable."39 And yet, we are spending billions of dollars to predict it. This does not mean, however, that you should be sitting there having little conversations with yourself inside your head: "There is a short ragged breath and there is a deep long one. I wonder what's next?" No, that is not vipassana.

That is thinking. You will find this sort of thing happening, especially in the beginning. This too is a passing phase. Simply note the phenomenon and return your attention toward the observation of the sensation of breath. Mental distractions will happen again. But return your attention to your breath again, and again, and again, and again, for as long as it takes until distraction no longer occurs. When you first begin this procedure, expect to face some difficulties. Your mind will wander off constantly, darting around like a bumblebee and zooming off on wild tangents. Try not to worry. The monkey-mind phenomenon is well known. It is something that every seasoned meditator has had to deal with. They have pushed through it one way or another, and so can you. When it happens, just note the fact that you have been thinking, daydreaming, worrying, or whatever. Gently, but firmly, without getting upset or judging yourself for straying, simply return to the simple physical sensation of the breath. Then do it again the next time, and again, and again, and again. Somewhere in this process, you will come face to face with the sudden and shocking realization that you are completely crazy. Your mind is a shrieking, gibbering madhouse on wheels barreling pellmell down the hill, utterly out of control and helpless. No problem. You are not crazier than you were yesterday. It has always been this way, and you just never noticed.

You are also no crazier than everybody else around you. The only real difference is that you have confronted the situation; they have not. So they still feel relatively comfortable. That does not mean that they are better off. Ignorance may be bliss, but it does not lead to liberation. So don't let this realization unsettle you. It is a milestone actually, a sign of real progress. The very fact that you have looked at the problem straight in the eye means that you are on your way up and out of it. In the wordless observation of the breath, there are two states to be avoided: thinking and sinking. The thinking mind manifests most clearly as the monkey-mind phenomenon we have just been discussing. The sinking mind is almost the reverse. As a general term, sinking denotes any dimming of awareness. At its best, it is sort of a mental vacuum in which there is no thought, no observation of the breath, no awareness of anything. It is a gap, a formless mental gray area rather like a dreamless sleep. Sinking mind is a void. Avoid it. Vipassana meditation is an active function. Concentration is a strong, energetic attention to one single item. Awareness is a bright clean alertness. Samadhi and sati--these are the two faculties we wish to cultivate.