Realistically, though, that's a very conservative estimate, since those three hours and twenty minutes don't include the wasted time needed to get back on task between checking emails. In fact, a study published in the International Journal of Information Management found office workers took an average of sixty-four seconds after checking email to reorient themselves and get back to work. Given the hundreds of times per day we check our devices, those minutes can add up. Lest you think email time is well spent, researchers writing in the Harvard Business Review have concluded that an astonishing number of workplace emails are an utter waste. When it comes to the hours managers spend on email, they estimate that "25 percent of that time is consumed reading emails that should not have been sent to that particular manager and 25 percent is spent responding to emails that the manager should never have answered." In other words, about half the time we spend on email is as productive as counting cracks in the ceiling. Why is email such a persistent problem? The answer can be found in understanding our psychology. Email is perhaps the mother of all habit-forming products. For one thing, it provides a variable reward. As the psychologist B. F. Skinner famously discovered, pigeons pecked at levers more often when given a reward on a variable schedule of reinforcement. Similarly, email's uncertainty keeps us checking and pecking. It provides good news and bad, exciting information as well as frivolity, messages from our closest loved ones and from anonymous strangers. All that uncertainty provides a powerful draw to see what we might find when we next check our inboxes. As a result, we keep clicking or pulling to refresh in a never-ending effort to quell the discomfort of anticipation. With depression or bipolar disorder, you may have trouble remembering anything but your current mood state. Find a way to stay connected to your sense of who you are, your inner sense of self. Remembering your baseline self, or healthier state of mind, will help you keep each episode in context, and you will feel more in control of your life. You are not your depression.

Having a clear image of your baseline healthy self to draw on during your recovery will help you know what you are working toward. You may need to ask people who know you well to help you. Ask your friends or family to remind you honestly of your strengths and unique personal qualities, then write them down. Review that list periodically. Triggers are events or circumstances that may cause you distress and lead to an increase in your symptoms. Being aware of what can worsen your symptoms is crucial to avoiding relapse (see page 74). You may not be able to change the Trigger itself, but you can learn to modify how you respond to it so that you do not feel as much distress. Work with your therapist to identify, monitor, and modify your response to your Triggers. Warning Signs are distinct changes from your baseline that precede an episode of depression or mania (see page 75). Each person has a characteristic pattern of Warning Signs. These are changes in your thoughts, feelings, behaviors, routine, or self-care that are noticeable to you or others. Being aware of the changes that are Warning Signs for you will help you recognize the signs early. This will give you a chance to intervene and change the course of the depression or bipolar episode. Symptoms that might be Warning Signs are those characteristic to depression or mania that last for two weeks or longer (see chapter 2). They may include changes in appetite, sleep, thinking, or concentration; loss of interest; sad, worthless, hopeless, or guilty feelings; negative or elevated thoughts or feelings; or behavior that is slowed down, irritable, restless, or overactive. Pseudoscientific thinking can also lead to misplaced fears. We have been sensitized to murder in the workplace, listening to stories of disgruntled employees with guns and office massacres. But did you know that, out of approximately 121 million people who work, only about one thousand are murdered on the job each year, and that includes high-risk jobs like police and taxi drivers. Furthermore, about 90 percent of these murders are committed by people attempting robbery. The chance of being murdered by someone you work with is less than one in two million.

You're several times more likely to be hit by lightning than to be done in by Frank in shipping. In fact, the often-used term going postal is a misnomer. Postal employees are actually two and a half times less likely to be killed on the job than the average worker. Perhaps you're afraid that one of your children will eat poisoned candy or an apple containing a razor blade on Halloween. You're not alone. An ABC News/Washington Post poll in 1985 revealed that 60 percent of parents were afraid that their children could be victims of a Halloween treat gone bad. Why? They heard stories. However, a study investigating all of the reported incidents up to that time found that not a single death or serious injury occurred from Halloween candy received from strangers. In the two instances in which children died, apparently from eating poisoned candy, it turned out that family members deliberately spiked the candy. As sociologist Barry Glassner states in The Culture of Fear, "We waste tens of billions of dollars and person hours every year on largely mythical hazards like road rage, on prison cells occupied by people who pose little or no danger to others, on programs designed to protect young people from dangers that few of them ever face, [and] on compensation for victims of metaphorical illnesses."48 So what harm can be caused by pseudoscientific thinking? Plenty! It leads to a decline in critical thinking and scientific literacy, it decreases our ability to make well-informed decisions, it diverts resources that could be spent on more productive activities, and it leads to monetary losses and even death. Clearly, we should be looking for ways to improve our thinking processes so that we can avoid such problems. It may very well be that much, if not all, of that hammering and shaping took place without your being consciously aware that it was going on. Looking back, you may feel as if your "chain of life" has been wrapped around your neck from before the time you could even speak. It may be that yours has you bound up, feeling suffocated and "stuck." As I have said, you can't change what you don't acknowledge. But the flip side is just as true: You can change what you do acknowledge. Get real about the links in your life chain and those that need to be broken and discarded can and will give way to the will of your authentic self. Toward that end, I have a new and bold plan.

It's time for you to become the blacksmith of your own life. It's time for you to stop being passively shaped by the internal and external forces in your life. It's time to start consciously and actively challenging and directing those very same forces. Doing so will move your self-concept away from the world-defined, fictional end of the continuum toward the self-defined, authentic end of the continuum. It's time to start moving in a new direction that is grounded in the vibrant here and now, instead of continuing in the old direction that is grounded in a tired, outdated, and irrelevant history. You can create a momentum that will allow you to be and do what you truly value and care about. To redefine your life and your self-concept, you must do two things. First, you must acquire some very specific tools. Second, you must commit to being totally and courageously honest in evaluating and using all of the information you have amassed thus far. Some of that which you have identified has been ugly and unpleasant to acknowledge and now is the time to do something about it. Insight without action is worse than being totally asleep at the switch. At least when asleep, you can cling to the old "ignorance is bliss" argument. To do the hard work necessary to figure out your life, with all of the whys and why nots, and then just stagnate and go right back to the same old grind is not okay; it's just a bunch of mental masturbation. You must be accountable and action-oriented to effectively deal with the unvarnished truth and make important changes. To do any less is a waste of your time. What I'm saying is that if you want to maximize your quality of life and escape from the traps that have contained you thus far, you're going to have to find the courage to continue to be real, and you are going to have to get active in changing your life pattern both internally and externally. No con, no excuses, no blaming others for the choices you've made. You must decide which elements of your self-concept you value, and therefore want to keep, and which you do not. It is time to sort the fictional crap from the authentic truth, so that you can reject it and finally uncover and live consistently with who you truly are. As I have said, this has taken great courage in the identification phase and will for sure require that same courage in the implementation phase.

Remember that not everyone will be excited about you rejecting some of the roles that you have passively been accepting, in favor of those you truly and actively choose. People are very susceptible to suggestion, so it makes sense that those you spend time with will influence your outlook. If you hang around pessimistic people, many of their suggestions will color your attitude. The question then becomes: how do you break away from that? I'm sure you have experienced negative people in your life---the person who maligns your high expectations and ambitions, the individual who subtly tries to undermine your self-esteem, or the naysayer who says you you'll never accomplish your dreams. I sometimes refer to these pessimistic souls as black holes. They fail to set worthy goals for themselves. As a result, their lack of achievement engenders an emptiness, which they seek to fill by trying to make others share their unhappiness. In truth, these lost souls need to get a life. Their aimlessness and inner toxicity should not be your problem. If they are hindering your development and pursuit of excellence, then you need a strategy for coping with them. Here are a few tips for dealing with negativity. Seek out and cultivate relationships with positive people. Remember, positivity begets positivity. Encouraging people will naturally nurture your spirit and boost your energy, which will help you accomplish your goals. Set boundaries. The old cliche about misery loving company is true. Don't be afraid to set limits and say no to someone who is draining you. If people bringing you down, don't be afraid to tell them why you find their negative attitude unhelpful. Hopefully they can learn something and adjust their behavior accordingly.