We are never going to get anywhere unless we expect more of ourselves, the educational system, our government, and employers (who in turn need to expect more of their employees). Higher expectations across the board are what will inspire the creativity, imagination, and the can-do attitude we need to solve our problems. There is talk about cutting government funding right now, and it shows how diminished collective expectations are manipulated to achieve results. Think about the one complaint about the government---perhaps you think it is inefficient, for example. How could we make government more efficient? By changing the culture of the employees in government and how they represent our institutions. We create this massive conglomerate called government that is out of control. Everybody knows the government is out of control with spending, yet we do nothing to resolve it, and they keep spending and spending. A businessman knows if he spends more than he takes in on a yearly basis, he will not survive long. To put it succinctly, we know that our government is inefficient, yet we as citizens do nothing about it. We have collective diminished expectations telling us that the problem is too big. However, it can be solved if we put our heads together! Sometimes it's hard to recognize collective diminished expectations because they are so subtle, and they often spread subliminally in small, incremental stages over a long period. People don't even realize their expectations are being lowered. Collective diminished expectations are typically done so covertly over time that people have gotten to the point where no one expects anything from anyone. Consequently, an insidious negativity corrodes our minds and spirits: "Don't expect anything from yourself, don't expect anything from parents, don't expect anything from teachers, don't expect anything from clergy, and don't expect anything government officials." It's discouraging because we should expect more from ourselves, both individually and as a society. Some people try to brainwash others into thinking that we should settle for less. With expectations, we get what we ask for. We get exactly what we expect, so we continue getting nothing from the government or anybody we expect little from. Unless we change our attitudes and raise our expectations, our society will continue to be stuck in a vicious cycle, and things will continue to deteriorate in our country.

We need to change our outlook by thinking about what each of us can do to expect more of ourselves and others. Addicts' beliefs regarding their powerlessness was just as significant in determining whether they would relapse after treatment as their level of physical dependence. Just let that sink in--mind-set mattered as much as physical dependence! What we say to ourselves is vitally important. Labeling yourself as having poor self-control actually leads to less self-control. Rather than telling ourselves we failed because we're somehow deficient, we should offer self-compassion by speaking to ourselves with kindness when we experience setbacks. Several studies have found people who are more self-compassionate experience a greater sense of well-being. A 2015 review of seventy-nine studies looking at the responses of over sixteen thousand volunteers found that people who have "a positive and caring attitude . toward her- or himself in the face of failures and individual shortcomings" tend to be happier. Another study found that people's tendency to self-blame, along with how much they ruminated on a problem, could almost completely mediate the most common factors associated with depression and anxiety. An individual's level of self-compassion had a greater effect on whether they would develop anxiety and depression than all the usual things that tend to screw up people's lives, like traumatic life events, a family history of mental illness, low social status, or a lack of social support. The good news is that we can change the way we talk to ourselves in order to harness the power of self-compassion. This doesn't mean we won't mess up; we all do. Everyone struggles with distraction from one thing or another. The important thing is to take responsibility for our actions without heaping on the toxic guilt that makes us feel even worse and can, ironically, lead us to seek even more distraction in order to escape the pain of shame. Eating out at restaurants can also sabotage the best intentions of maintaining a healthy diet and weight. Try to stick to your plan of portion control, limiting fats and salt. Order an appetizer and salad instead of a main course, request that the salad dressing or sauce be put on the side, share a main course, or ask for a doggy-bag to bring the rest of your entree home for the next day. If following a healthy diet and regular exercise program does not solve your weight-gain problem, speak with your physician about alternative medications for depression and sleep. Other options include joining a support group plan such as Weight Watchers, getting a referral to the Weight Center at your local hospital, or speaking with your physician about a medication to help counteract the weight-gaining potential of the antidepressant medications.

Regular physical exercise may be helpful alone or when used in addition to standard antidepressant treatment. This is called an augmentation strategy. Exercise is also considered part of a Relapse Prevention plan (page 71) and may be associated with lower relapse rates. It is also a way for you to take a more active role in managing your depression. Before beginning an exercise program, discuss your plan with your physician. Mention any physical health concerns, such as heart disease or bone or joint problems. We have evolved as storytelling creatures. From our very beginnings, our history and knowledge have been passed from one generation to the next by means of personal stories. In evolutionary terms, it's only recently that we recorded and stored our knowledge in forms that are easily accessible. As a consequence, we have a penchant to pay close attention to information that comes to us in the form of a story or personal account.6 Stories are wonderful. They add enjoyment to our lives, they engage our imagination, they move us. We are social animals, so we're particularly interested in the personal stories of others. As we will see, however, relying on this anecdotal evidence to form our beliefs and decisions can be fraught with errors. Why? It means that we ignore other more relevant information. For example, we shy away from statistics. The mere word can cause otherwise intelligent individuals' eyes to glaze over. At our core, we are storytellers, not statisticians. But statistics often provide us with the best and most reliable information with which to make our decisions. In many cases, unfortunately, our knowledge of even simple statistics is rudimentary.

Former president Dwight Eisenhower was appalled to learn that about half of our children had below average intelligence, thinking that something had to be done about such poor performance. But, of course, about half of our children will be below (and half above) average intelligence.7 In other cases, we ignore statistics because they seem abstract and boring. As a result, even if we know the statistics, we let personal stories affect us more. Consider the following. You're thinking about buying a new car, so you check Consumer Reports to investigate its reliability. The statistics from prior years' models indicate that the car is very reliable. Happy with your research, you go to a party where a friend informs you that he recently bought that very same car. "It's been nothing but trouble!" he exclaims. "It's in the shop every few months. I've replaced the clutch, there were brake problems, and it keeps stalling out on me." How do you react to this information? For many of us, learning of our friend's plight would make us question our decision and possibly not buy the car. However, it's better to rely on the frequency of repairs, as summarized in Consumer Reports. That data is based upon a large sample of similar cars, while our friend's experience is based on only one car. There's variance in everything--there can be lemons with any model of car. Your friend may have just been unlucky to get one of the few problem cars. The point is, if you listen to your friend, you're basing your decision upon anecdotal evidence that is much less relevant. And yet, most of us have a tendency to give considerable attention to such personal experiences when making our decisions. As you get ready to identify the labels that may be at work in your own life, please understand that not all harmful labeling is motivated by hatred or by a desire for control over other people. There's a term, "iatrogenic," that describes harm induced by a healer. Iatrogenic injury results from good intentions.

For example, the doctor prescribes a couple of extra weeks' bed rest and the patient develops bedsores. Or the patient loses some mental function, not because of his or her illness, but because the doctor cautioned that there might be some loss of mental function. Similarly, iatrogenic labeling is destructive labeling that is actually motivated by kindness. A label that was intended to be helpful proves to be a lifelong disaster. Just because one has good intentions does not mean that the label can't be harmful. Parents of handicapped children, for example, will sometimes communicate to their children that they lack the capacity to deal with a "normal" world. Understandably, the parents fear that their children will be bullied or hurt in that world. However, this desire to protect the child may give rise to an adult who is more handicapped by his or her self-concepts of weakness and fear than by any physical handicaps. The young Helen Keller's greatest obstacle may have been not her blindness or her deafness, but her overprotective father. Imagine the loss to the world if her entire life had been guided by his well-meaning but extremely narrow labeling of his daughter and by his desire to keep her shut away forever. Other kids have been told they have a "delicate constitution," or that they are "unusually sensitive." Any number of labels that might be placed on a child, with no malice at all, could nevertheless have awful consequences in the long run. So you need to be alert to the possible effects of iatrogenic labeling in your own life. Look for any labeling that may have diminished your sense of self, boxing you into a lifelong sense of self-limitations, whether or not the labeling was done in a loving and protective way. And let me quickly add that this is not an invitation to snarl at your parents for your sense of powerlessness. Yes, parents, teachers, or other authority figures may have assigned you some iatrogenic labels, but you have the responsibility for yourself now. Your task is to look inside, find those labels, and decide for yourself whether you want to continue using them or not. It's your choice. Remember, progress invariably begins with the individual. One person filled with passion and high expectations can move a community, a country, or even the world in a better direction. Start small but think big---you just might make a large difference.