Cognitive Dissonance and Goals

I’m going to start posting some back of the napkin type posts. I want to try to capture some of my thoughts/ideas on paper, but also display them somehow.

What do you think of this one? Often pursuits can be fruitless without well defined goals. Also uncertainty, fear, doubt, confusion can often muddle vision.


First 10 Day Challenge of 2013

As mentioned in my 2013 “Resolutions” post, one of my “resolutions” (getting sick of the quotes? Yeah me too.) is to do a series of x day challenges to chip away at some habits I want to build.

I had planned on some of these in advance. But I also went ahead and got Zen Habit’s 52 Changes E-Book. There are a lot of great ideas in there. And a lot of overlap of things I wanted to do–so I know I’m not the only crazy one out there! More to come on those soon…

Funny enough… I think the biggest challenge is not to take on too much at once. I feel impatient, but I know if I want habits to stick, I need to take them on one at at time. I need zen like discipline here.

My first 10 day challenge is to eat/drink pristinely for 10 days. I have gone on very good streaks before, and some of my healthy eating habits from 2012 and earlier stuck. But I need a good intense focus on this area to start the new year off right. It might be a quick early win I need for some momentum. It’ll also incorporate my cook twice a week goal.

My pristine eating consists of following basically the anti-inflammatory diet. I cover more details in my Healthy Living Checklist post. No cake, no cookies, no chips, no candy, no crap. Eat as whole/natural foods as possible. Low sugar, low simple carb. High water. Low caffeine.  No artificial sweetener. Low salt. High vegetables. Some fruit. And consume no more than my BMR says I should (calorie counting done thanks to MyFitnessPal).

Yesterday was day 1 and a success. It included my Turkey Chili recipe from the Dolce Diet Living Lean. Cooked once so far. Check. One day down. Check.

9 more days left to get this habit back on the rightful track!

2013 “Resolutions”

I can look at my 2012 resolutions in 2 ways. 1) Failure or 2) a road map that presented its share of twists and turns, which ultimately led to overall improvement (in thinking, creativity, effectiveness, focus).

I’ll take #2. See what I did there? 😉 In all introspective and non-denial honesty, I learned a lot in 2012.

There IS a growing movement of not setting hard-fast goals. For example it might be better for your goal to be “to eat healthy” rather than “to lost 20 pounds.” While I do see the value in that thinking, I still think there should be a target to aim for. Sort of like the old quote, “Aim for perfection, settle for excellence.” But there are very valid points to that thinking and I think it’s kinda sorta where I ended up in 2012.

I definitely made headway in a lot of the areas I focused on in 2012. But as I mentioned early on, the pursuits led to learnings that then compelled me to change course. At the minimum, the careful thought and creation of my 2012 resolutions jump-started a more effective and ever evolving personal development path.

I think overall (and recently) I learned not to try to be such a perfectionist. Rather I should just go for things and not fear failing or getting things wrong at first. This is where I’ll start for 2013.

I hope to carry the non-perfectionist notion into 2013 from day one. Instead of trying to read x number of books or blog posts on y skill before trying it first, I’m going to try first, and rely on books and reference material only when needed. JUST SHIP BABY!

I’ve become a fan of Tim Ferriss. Not to digress, but I AM going to follow my “no book rule” and NOT read his 4 Hour Workweek and 4 Hour Body! Instead I’m going to rely on the gist I attain from other sources of learning (for these books and many others), like shorter blog posts or YouTube interviews and presentations. His latest, 4 Hour Chef, was too interesting to resist though–there is a lot of entertainment value (see how I’m justifying the purchase and time investment?). Where was I going with this… His philosophy is to basically apply the 80/20 rule to time and energy when taking on projects/endeavors/etc. Look for the 20% effort that will yield 80% results. I have already started focusing on this. Other than more obvious time/attention wasters like Twitter, Facebook, etc, there are others that creep into the mix that on the surface look like productive activities, but their ROI (time/attention/etc) is very low. I really catch myself at times being “productive” only to evaluate time I wasted on very low-value/yielding tasks.

Speaking of 4 Hour Chef… And goals in general. One of my 2012 “failures” was to create a weekly meal plan and stick to it. It was clear early on that the task was a bit overwhelming. Mostly on the shopping front, not the actual cooking front. Just the thought of the monumental task (for me) was enough to feed procrastination and avoidance. I’ve decided to take Ferriss’s advice and start with only 2 meals per week to start. That’s it. And that’s “resolution” #1. Cook 2 healthy meals a week. Hopefully there will be enough leftovers!

I did join toastmasters and I did give one speech. So I did dip my toes into that 2012 resolution water. A really bad string of scheduling conflicts, then the birth of baby boy #2 got in the way of attending more. Simply, “resolution” #2 is to give more public speeches in 2013.

I will open up an IRA this time. I sort of procrastinated the research on it. I finally understand what I can do and what to do. And I have enough for the minimum required. This is an example of feeling the need to know way too much before taking action. I should have just gone on a lunch hour to Fidelity, instead of feeling to urge to do hours of independent research on IRAs. “Resolution” #3 is to finally open an IRA.

I have a long list of outstanding things to do around the house. Nothing major, just little fixes here and there. I had the ambitious goal of finishing one thing a week in 2012. Sure enough new stuff got in the way of old stuff. And a lot remains on the list. I think the mental stress of falling behind led to the ultimate doom of this resolution. This is kind of what Bregman alludes to. “Resolution” #4 is to chip away at the list.

Everyone, I mean EVERYONE, who talks, advises, etc. about goals, changing habits, etc. says you will likely fail if you take on too much at once. Better yet, you should really only take on one change at a time. Therefore I’m going to make “resolution” #5 a series of x day challenges. I’ve done 30 day challenges before with varying success. I’m going to spend a little while thinking about dialing the days back a little (maybe 10-15) and firing away at things I want to learn, try, accomplish etc. And perhaps there will be breaks in between. Some for fun. Some development areas. Some are are already in a quasi state of progress now, but desperately need more focus to create a permanent habit. I don’t think the first 4 lend themselves to this… Therefore “resolution” #5 is to do x (tbd # of days) challenges for the following: meditation, exercise, hydration (yes really), sleep (bedtime and wake-up schedule), nutrition/healthy eating, reduce caffeine consumption, do more  brain/memory training, and others as I think them up, like x days of eating with only chopsticks or something fun like that. As I mentioned, some of these are in a varying states of habit, but they tend to slip. More dedication and focus one at a time might be in need.

There are a few other things on the periphery, which will remain on a soft kind of “radar screen” if you will. They are to get more quality input and inspiration (e.g. going to museums, watching more educational documentaries, etc.), learn to speed read, and to toy around with “outsourcing” mundane tasks. The outsourcing will have to require that time gained put to the utmost good use. For example, if we hire a housekeeper to tidy up, the time not wasted tidying up will be spend on real valuable areas, like getting more important stuff done, doing volunteer work, doing paid freelance work, etc. NOT watching more reality TV (not that we do anyway). We’ve already ordered groceries from PeaPod, and I’ve already put things on Amazon’s “subscribe and save” autoship.

Lets see how 2013 goes!

Got a recommendation, let me say no thanks

I’m a sucker for a good recommendation. I like having recommended channels, people, things, etc. on the social networks. What they need, however, is a no thank you option to 1) hide that recommendation in the future and 2) learn from that choice. Facebook and LinkedIn can use this big time.

Here is some recommended channels on my YouTube page:


Let me say, “no thanks.” Then offer me up some more recommendations why don’t ya? As it is, there is a little x to remove the recommendation, but it’s just temporary. The same recommendations come back again and again.

I’m unofficially alpha testing Google Now!

I hope they are doing some more alpha testing at the old Googleplex. They have a lot of work to do.

Google Now is supposed to be a one stop of all things “now” in your life. For example, you are about  to leave work and you get a handy alert on the traffic conditions on the way home. Great, right?

It’s also supposed to be handy for sports scores, stock quotes, nearby events and places, etc. Search for something interesting, possibly get an update on it. Get an e-mail about something, possibly get an update on it.

All of these are shown in a stream of “cards.”

I decided to forgive a ton of privacy concerns to test out this fancy thing. Man do you give up a lot, like having it keep a detailed location history and search history–stuff I used to have turned off. Previously, having Google keep a detailed record of all my online and mobile activity gave no value in return. The latter hasn’t changed much.

I say “alpha” testing because that’s were it is at this point. Truthfully, it’s really not at a point that it should have been released to the public.

Here are my random observations.

Battery Life:
Since it requires GPS and Wifi (for more accurate GPS) on all of the time, and since it is constantly checking position, my battery life has been cut in more than half. Not good!

Sports Scores:
I’m not sure how it determines how long to show previous scores vs. when in advance it shows upcoming games. There is no setting to customize… It showed me the score of the Knicks vs. Rockets (12/17) game and didn’t show me there was an upcoming Knicks vs. Nets game (12/19) until the Nets game already started. I have the card to appear “before the game, during the game, and after the game.” There should be a check box to check off once you got the score so it won’t show anymore–then show the upcoming game instead. Same with football. The Bills vs. Seahawks game score was there for days. I was left feeling “I KNOW ALREADY!”

I assume the stock updates are taken from my Google Finance list. I’d like an option to see the whole list of stocks I’m tracking. I think I chose the right option “Card appears always” but I’m not sure how it determines which stocks to show and which to hide. Confusing.

Nearby Events:
Google may be only as good as the info that’s put in, because my nearby events are chock full of hockey games. Which would be nifty if the NHL WASN’T ON STRIKE! Some of the other suggestions are ok, but it desperately needs a mile radius setting. I’d like to see stuff on Long Island, and not so much in NYC if possible.

One of the few useful things. A nice weather update and forecast.

Very cool feature that recognizes shipment confirmation e-mails and lists them. However until you delete the e-mail, the card appears although they can be outdated. I’m seeing a “package shipped” card although the it was delivered already–because I haven’t deleted the e-mail yet. Sort of makes it unreliable…

Traffic to Home and Work:
This is probably the almost bestest feature. So close, yet so far. I get a handy status like “x minutes to work” with traffic info and a link to turn on navigation. This is great while drinking my morning cup of tea. I now know how long it will take me to get to work and if I need to leave earlier. Great, right?!?! NOPE! I’m sure I’m not the only one in the world who doesn’t go straight from home to work and from work to home. It should have options to put in some stops in-between, like my daily dropoff and pickup of my son at pre-school. That would be amazing! Instead of useless… Only time will tell if the “machine” will learn my habits and routes.

I debated setting a recurring morning and afternoon appointment in my calendar with the address of the pre-school in, but I don’t want to clutter my calendar.  Yet…

A REALLY useful card for me would be a time and navigation card (both separate and all together) for Home to Preschool, then Preschool to Work. For example “Time to Preschool: 15 minutes” “Time from Preschool to Work: 10 minutes” “Total travel time: 25 minutes.” I know that’s super complicated, but it would be super relevant.

Direction to places searched:
Another ALMOST! there feature. This one came as a surprise. On my computer, I looked for nearby Gap and Old Navy stores. I step out at lunch to go to the Gap, check my phone, and there is a handy navigation card to… Old Navy! Man that was close. It would have been real handy if it picked the right store I ultimately decided to go to. Again, no setting to help it/adjust it in the future. I’m not sure how or why it chose one place over the other.

Directions to appointment in calendar:
This one actually worked out pretty well. If there is an upcoming appointment in my calendar with an address in it, a card will appear with the appointment time and the time it will take to travel.

Upcoming appointments:
Even without an address, seeing upcoming appointment cards is pretty handy.

Navigation is an important feature for me. Especially on my trip home from picking up my son at daycare since the route is subject to traffic jams. I assume the same “work/home” thing that renders the Google Now feature useless for me is causing this bug. When I get out of daycare, I fire up navigation, only to be given directions from my work to home instead of my current location (a good 5 miles from my office). The actual location doesn’t update and work itself out. This requires me to close out of navigation and start it again. It happened more than a few times, so it has to be a bug. This costs me about 3-4 first world problem minutes a day!

What it needs:

  • Google Tasks integration.
  • More routes/stops other than work and home.
  • More flexible settings for stocks and sports.
  • More flexible settings for nearby events (e.g. mile radius, types of events)
  • Bug fix to navigation.

That’s all for now. More of an unreliable novelty than something anywhere useful at this point. I’ll update post the more I play and learn.

The Internet and Mobile are Destroying Our Brains!

Well it’s just a theory. I wrote about this here:

Adam Gazzaley articulates the theory here:

I definitely felt more focused during my 30 day challenge of no twitter, G+, etc. I have limited their use since. I need to be more mindful of other “clutter” that I default to when there is a split second of boredom. I truly believe in its negative downstream effect.

2012 Resolutions Update 2

I still haven’t completely abandoned my 2012 resolutions! Here is a long overdue update.

  1. Join and attend Toastmasters.
    • Done. I’ve joined and already have given  a few impromptu “table topics” speeches. They were horrible, but that’s what I’m there to improve!
    • I gave my first speech, which wasn’t so shabby.
    • A long string of bad scheduling luck prevented me from attending a lot of recent meetings. I hope to get back on track and deliver my 2nd speech soon.
  2. Come up with and follow weekly meal plans.
    • This was not abandoned as far as the idea is concerned, but put off for sure. I think I’ve been over-complicating the process. I just need to DO it. Start simple. Just start with 1 or 2 planned meals a week at least.
  3. Set up and adhere to a household budget.
    • I haven’t set spending limits per so, but I feel the exercise helped me to get a real solid handle on where our money is going. We don’t spend too frivolously, which is good. All in all we’re in decent financial shape, so I don’t see a need to really go overboard with limits. Just knowing where our money is going and where we can cut back if needed is an accomplishment enough.
  4. Start up an IRA.
    • No change since last time: I at least called Fidelity. I think I need to speak with an accountant or financial planner first.
  5. Finish one thing a week.
    • A lot of new stuff got in the way, but that’s really just an excuse. I need to re-prioritize the list and try to squeeze things in during the week rather than only the weekends. I need to finish out the year strong.
  6. Identify and eliminate distractions and replace them with something productive and report.
    • I’ve definitely spent a lot of energy and effort in this area. I gained a lot of momentum at the beginning of the year, but slacked off in the summer. I’m back on track now. At least getting off track serves as a learning lesson as to the value of time an how it can be wasted on utterly meaningless things (instead of productive things). I’m even going to try to steer my mind from unproductive thoughts and daydreaming. There are downsteam consequences / garbage in garbage out, which I wrote about in my Mind, Body, Spirit and Accidental Creative posts.
  7. Develop skills needed for all above.
    • This is definitely ongoing. Sometimes I feel I need to do more DOING than information gathering. I’m also going to sprinkle in some fun stuff too, like getting better at chess, poker, and even expand my limited Spanish vocabulary.
    • I also have to remember to keep in mind my strengths. Constantly focusing on improvement areas can prevent you from realizing and asserting strengths.

I’ve also re-dedicated myself to do brain training exercises. I recently joined I believe in the theories, but although I’m playing along I’m not sure if there are any games that are truly backed by successful clinical results. Some of the games do require quite a bit of concentration and focus, so I think they help in those areas. I’m not sure if there is a placebo effect, but I do feel I have a stronger ability to stay focused lately.

I’m already starting to think of my 2013 resolutions!

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