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As Fried suggests, "Chat should be about quick, ephemeral things," while "important topics need time, traction, and separation from the rest of the chatter." The trouble is that some people like to "think out loud" in group chat, explaining their arguments and ideas in one-line blurbs. This rarely works because it's hard to follow along with someone's thoughts in real time while others comment with emoji and other potential distractions. Instead of using group chat for long arguments and hurried decisions, it's better to ask participants in the conversation to articulate their point in a document and share it after they've compiled their thoughts. Ultimately, group chat is simply another communication channel, not so dissimilar from email or text messages. When used appropriately, it can have myriad benefits, but when abused or used incorrectly, it can lead to a flood of unwanted external triggers. The secret lies in the answer to our critical question: Are these triggers serving me, or am I serving them? We should use group chat where it helps us gain traction and weed out the external triggers that lead to distraction. An event can cause distress depending on how you interpret it in your mind. When you have an accurate understanding and interpretation of what is going on around you, your emotions will likely be in a normal range and not usually cause problems. If your thoughts about or interpretations of an event are inaccurate or distorted in some way, the emotions you experience may cause distress. This happens in depression. Challenging these distorted thoughts and interpretations with CBT can improve the way you feel. Distortions in your thoughts are errors in thinking that twist your interpretation of an event in different ways (see the examples in the next section). Many things can make you less accurate in your thinking and interpretation of events, contributing to thought distortions. Depression often causes people to view their experiences, themselves, and their future in a negative way. Negative events are often magnified, dominating your thinking. The depressed mind tends to interpret and twist things in a negative direction, causing negative thoughts. These thoughts happen automatically, not on purpose. When depressed, you are more likely to believe the biased or distorted thoughts, even though they are not an accurate reflection of reality. There is often little or no evidence to support them, and they are often extreme.

However, these interpretations seem true and convincing when you're in the midst of depression. So when you are depressed, it is important to look at whether your thoughts are distorted in some way . The way to do this is to look carefully at the facts of a situation and challenge any inaccurate interpretations of them. When the distorted thought is replaced with an accurate one, the upsetting emotion will eventually be replaced by a more realistic emotion. This is not easy to do, especially during an episode of depression, when you are viewing the world through a seemingly believable but distorted lens. You may not be able to notice the inaccuracies in your thoughts, which seem so convincing. So what's the upshot? Not all beliefs are created equal. Saying, "It could be" doesn't get us anywhere. It's just not a sound argument to use when forming our beliefs. Instead, we have to evaluate the reasonableness of the belief--consider the plausibility of the claim--then evaluate the degree of credible, verifiable evidence in its favor.5 How we think affects what we believe, and what we believe affects what we decide. When our beliefs go beyond the available evidence, they're more likely to be wrong. And, if we base our decisions on those erroneous beliefs, those decisions are more likely to be in error. We therefore need to apply a considerable degree of skepticism when forming beliefs and making decisions. Many people think, as noted earlier, that a skeptic is a cynic--someone who just wants to find the fault in everything. But that's not what a skeptic is. A skeptic is someone who simply wants to evaluate the evidence for a claim before he believes it.6 Skepticism is a method, not a position. A true skeptic doesn't take a strong position until considerable credible evidence is available for believing or disbelieving a claim. In effect, skeptics proportion the extent of their belief by the extent of the evidence for or against a belief. And, of course, a skeptic's mantra is "extraordinary beliefs require extraordinary evidence." The hallmark of skepticism is science.

People often criticize scientists and skeptics for being too close-minded. They say that skeptics don't believe in things like ESP and ghosts because they just don't fit with their theories of how the world works. But scientists are constantly trying to find support for new, and sometimes bizarre, theories. In fact, a scientist who develops a new theory that is substantiated by the evidence achieves great fame and fortune. We don't remember the scientist who just plugs along testing someone else's ideas, we remember scientists like Darwin and Einstein, who proposed new, earth-shattering concepts. So what's the difference between skeptics and believers in the paranormal and other bizarre claims? Skeptics and scientists require considerable, repeatable evidence before they accept a claim. Don't you think that any scientist would love to find compelling evidence for the existence of extraterrestrials or ESP? He would achieve considerable status and be remembered throughout history.7 Once you have identified your target event and learned what your responses to it were and are, now what do you do? You need a litmus test, a standard against which you can test those perceptions to see if they are worth keeping or if you've just been jerking yourself around all this time. You need to measure them against a standard of rationality and truth and authenticity. Knowing and applying that standard, so as to challenge the acceptability of your internal reactions, will be the focus of this third step. Soon I will give you that litmus test in very clear and usable terms. Any internal response that fails Step 3--in other words, it fails the "jerking around" test--needs to be thrown out. When you examine your own perceptions, self-talk, fixed beliefs, and so on, and you find that they are irrational, untruthful, and anything but authentic, then you need to get rid of them; you need to break that bad internal habit. "Break" is actually a misnomer, because we don't actually "break" habits. In order to eliminate one habitual behavior, you must replace it with a new behavior that is incompatible with the one you want to eliminate. Generating that new internal response pattern is what this step is all about. Step 4 challenges you to engage in what I call "Triple-A thinking": that is, to generate an Authentically Accurate Alternative response, one that does pass the test for authenticity.

Replace any response that does not support your authentic self with one that does. Replace any response that causes you trouble and pain with one that moves you toward what you want, need, and deserve. This last step acknowledges that action --an external behavior--is often needed if you're going to get emotional closure. The question then becomes, Okay, what will it take? What behavior will be most effective in getting you that emotional closure, with the least cost to you in terms of energy, risk, and so on? The fact that we are looking for the least demanding, yet effective response is why I call it your MER. What real-world steps can you take that will resolve the pain, free you up, and allow you to create more of what you want instead of what you don't want, without putting you in further jeopardy? Those are the broad outlines of your action plan. Now it's time to get specific and to put the plan to work for you. AS you take up this five-step plan, let me encourage you to look back at the work you've already done. It's perfectly acceptable, and, in fact, a good idea, to use your journal as a stimulus or "prompt" for the upcoming exercises. Maybe it helps to reexamine the internal dialogue you recorded or to take another look at the tests you completed with respect to your locus of control. The point is that this five-step plan is designed to build on and incorporate the foundation you have already laid. You don't need to feel as if you've got to build from scratch. I'm often asked the question, "Do expectations really matter that much?" My answer is simple and straightforward: Setting and managing expectations can make an incredibly positive and life-changing difference in your life. My passion for this subject runs deep. I've seen people turn their lives around, tap wellsprings of creativity and fortitude they never knew they had, and achieve excellence and success they once thought was beyond them---all because they established high expectations. Why do they matter? The simple answer is that you tend to get what you expect. Of course, outcomes also depend on the effort you put into them.

When you set ambitious goals, you must be prepared to work hard to achieve them. Expectations are at the core of your being, and they nourish you spiritually, inspire your intelligence, and spark your creativity. Expectations are the eternal ideals that move mankind forward both personally and communally. If you want to improve on any level, then you need to set higher expectations. However, many people shirk the kind of mindset that breeds success. They avoid setting high self-expectations because they fear failure. They seem to be willing to let others do the hard work on which human progress depends. Then, they jump on the bandwagon and claim they have been pushing all along. In other words, too many people have become lazy and are willing to let others take control or set the agenda. How has this come about? What we've done on a gradual basis is lower the expectations we have of parents, teachers, community leaders, and ourselves in all facets of our lives. "Let someone else worry about it, and we'll just live with it." Most people seem happy with that, but at some point the results aren't to their liking or advantage; then the uproar starts, and the second-guessing begins. "How could this have happened?" people ask, pointing the finger at everyone but themselves. Again, this is the easy way out. The question then becomes, "How do we change it? Can I really make a difference? Does it really matter in the big scheme of things?" Real-time communication channels should be used sparingly. Time spent communicating should not come at the sacrifice of time spent concentrating. Company culture matters. Changing group chat practices may involve questioning company norms.