Great hacks

Swirly Thinking - The Self-Fulfilling Prophecy

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I believe in the self-fulling prophecy. The sociological idea that predictions make things more likely to come true. 

Example: The young man worries that his girlfriend is going to dump him. This prediction affects his actions. He seems more leery, acts more needy, and expresses more doubts when with her. This makes him a less attractive boyfriend and she breaks up with him. 

The self-fulfilling prophecy is often discussed in the negative, but positive outcomes are possible, too. Human systems are chaotic (as in chaos theory) and our thoughts can be swirly in nature. Future results are sensitive to initial conditions - and every thought and action is like a butterfly flapping (as in the butterfly effect). Everything we do reverberates.

The self-fulfilling prophecy is fueled by swirly reverberations. This is not a linear equation; it's the opposite. And as chaotic beings, we likely have dozens of self-fulfilling prophecies at play at the same time. Some will be in conflict with one another. 

Example:

Swirly thoughts reinforcing GET IN SHAPE: I going to hire a personal trainer and commit to an accountability system for exercise. I can do this and it will work.

Swirly thought reinforcing GAINING WEIGHT: I'm doomed when it comes to health, so I should just enjoy myself and eat whatever I want.

Swirly thoughts reinforcing VEGGIES WILL HEAL ME: If I eat lots of vegetables, I will slow disease progression and feel better.

Swirly thoughts reinforcing DISEASE PROGRESSION: My weight is my greatest risk factor, and if I can't solve that problem, the rest is wasted effort.

Do you see how these conflicting beliefs could co-exist? What might be possible if I could let go of the least helpful beliefs and adopt better ones?

Bottom line: We have the opportunity to be more cognizant of the self-fulfilling prophecies we're reinforcing and deliberate about putting more helpful ones in play. 

BTW, this idea is why something like a Decision Filter can be useful.


Follow Up - Experiment: The Decision Filter

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I began using this decision filter one week ago. So how did it go?

Interesting. Well. Disappointing. Enlightening.

Mixed results, in other words, but my experiment was beneficial, and I'll give it another week. I want to see what's possible and if I can learn from my observations which included:

  • Having the words from the Decision Filter graphic as my phone wallpaper was awesome. I looked at those words hundreds of times and reflected on them often. 
  • It's too easy to rationalize suboptimal actions because they kind of meet the filter criteria. It gives me a wee bit of joy. I'm using my strengths (but to what end?). And so on. I need to be much pickier about my choices.
  • The best choices reverberated to affect multiple goals and interests. We recently upgraded our internet service and downgraded our cable TV to basic channels. We have just local channels and PBS now (plus shopping and music). Moving to a speedier wifi helped us make our work-from-home situation more efficient. But the reverberation is that I'm no longer spending hours each evening watching cable news. I'm interested in politics and watched the same news repeated again and again. It was a bit of an obsession. But no longer. Now I check a few websites a couple of times per day and I have 2-3 hours back per day to use however I want. I've also noticed that my stress level is a bit lower because I'm not watching and listening to media as much. I miss watching my favorite news anchors, but binging cable news doesn't pass the Decision Filter. 

Onward!

I'll work harder to make better choices about how I use my time. I like this filter and look forward to experimenting with it further. Perhaps I'll put the graphic on my iMac wallpaper and as a daily task on my Todoist list. Check out the original post if you want to more details about the Decision Filter. 

Progress


Experiment: The Decision Filter

Progress
Time is all we have. And yet, we sometimes fritter it away doing things that make no positive difference (or a negative difference). Some of this is okay. Too much frittering, I propose, will suck the life our of our lives.

I want more life, fewer regrets. 

This happens one choice at a time. Every decision is a moment of truth. Here's a good one. I've decided to work on making better decisions about how I spend my time. 

The One Week Experiment

It's Sunday September 6, at 3:39 p.m. EDT. I declare that for the next week I will use the following Decision Filter to make choices about how I spend my time. It involves asking the following questions as I plan my day and shift from task to task throughout it.

  • Will this help me make progress on my goals?
  • Will I experience joy during or after this activity? 
  • Does this activity increase or reduce anxiety and worry?
  • Will I be contributing to others in a meaningful way?
  • Am I utilizing my strengths?

That's it. I'm committing to asking the questions and observing how this affects my behavior and overall satisfaction.

Wanna try this with me?

Here's a wee hack that I'll be using. Pull this post up on your phone. Click on the graphic and then take a screen picture of it. Crop it to your liking. Save that as your background to remind yourself of the filter elements. Or create your own cheatsheet with the words in the graphic. Best of success!


Misadventure: Catch the Mouse #3

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I liberated a trapped mouse.

But I’m getting ahead of the story...let's back up a bit.

See post #1 here.

See post #2 here.

Night 2 Trapping Attempt

On Saturday morning I woke up feeling victorious. I as I stared at the ceiling, I imagined what I’d wear and whether I’d transport the mouse (or mice) before or after my first coffee.

I decided after coffee, because I want to get everything right. More mistakes would occur pre-buzz. Like letting a pissed-off mouse in my car, or allowing one to jump on my head and get stuck in my frizzy hair. Do mice have a mean side? Seems like a reputation reserved for rats and drunken bikers (in the movies). I made a mental note to google the stats on mouse attacks.

I walked into the kitchen and flicked on the lights. My cockiness turned to a whimper when I found all four traps empty. Four chances, not one mouse.

Had my previous successes set me up for failure?

No...I know how to do this! I have a proven track record. I’ve trapped and liberated three mice over the last two years. I’ve honed my techniques and augmented my toolkit. I'm a mouse-catching warrior. You might consider me a mouse whisperer. 

Or am I? Maybe I just got lucky. No, I know that wasn't it.

What happened? I examined my traps and noticed that the peanut butter was gone. Peanut butter doesn’t evaporate, so something must've eaten it. The mouse had visited, chowed down, and escaped capture. My opponent was a smarty-pants, maybe the village genius.

Round One: The Mouse. But I'm still in it to win it.

Game on.

Saturday night I prepared the traps for my third attempt – all with peanut butter, since this mouse obviously loved it. I reduced the amount of peanut butter and pushed it to the farthest corner of each trap. The mouse would have to walk all the way in the tube to get a good lick. I tested and retested the trap door mechanism. And I put all the traps up on the kitchen counter because every mouse I'd caught had gotten trapped on the counter.

I sweet-talked any mice who were getting ready to invade. Are you craving an extraordinary culinary experience? Tonight we have our finest peanut butter on the menu we'll be serving in one of our cozy private dining rooms. 

I talked to the traps. Feel the mouse. Watch it enter your domain. See it stealing your food. Don't let it rob you of your riches or dignity. Capture it and don't let it go. Victory can be yours.

I'm a mousetrap whisperer, too. And yes, I used different communication channels to ensure my messages reached the intended recipient. 

Night 3 Trapping Attempt Results

Our 120-year-old house is one and a half rooms wide and four rooms deep. From front to back it goes office-kitchen-living room-bedroom. The distance from the kitchen range to our headboard is about 40 unobstructed feet as the sober fly flies. Everything is close.

I’m a light sleeper/insomniac and, at 4:00 a.m., I rolled over and woke up. The cool air from the A/c was making the curtains flutter and I could tell it was raining outside. I heard another sound, too, a fast and persistent scratching noise. Like something was trying to get in or out of some hard object.

I grinned because I knew I’d caught a mouse this time. I got up and inspected my traps. The scratching noise had stopped, so I couldn't follow the sound. I knew the two black traps were empty because their front trap doors had not been tripped close. I held up the first green trap. Empty. But there was an occupant in the second green trap.

It looked at me.

I looked at it.

Hey buddy. You’re going to leave my house soon, but today is your lucky day because I will not kill you. I’m going to take you to a lovely park where you can start over and live your life. Unless you get picked off by a hawk, but that will be on you, not me. I wish you the best.

I put the mouse-filled trap in the larger plastic box and set it out on the front porch. Why outside? That scratching noise was haunting and disturbing. Maybe another mouse—if there was another mouse—would venture into a once-again quiet kitchen and get trapped. Two-for-one, baby. And maybe I could get another hour or two of sleep.

Neither happened. No second mouse. No sleep. I couldn't stop thinking about the one I'd caught and where I'd take him or her.

My criteria for relocation sites has always been: must be a park, far from homes (industrial businesses ok), more than two miles from my house but not too long a drive.

And then I obsessed about how to plot out the morning because I had non-mouse things to do and it was still raining.

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Here’s a picture of the mouse. It’s rounder than the scrawny one I caught last year. A more successful hunter and higher in mouse intellect, perhaps. I took it farther from my house than I did the skinny rodent.

I’m realizing as I write this post, that it’s the first time I've used the word rodent, and I feel like changing it to something that sounds less icky.

Like calling gorging on pasta carb loading.

I retrieved the creature miscreant being monster mouse from the front porch and took it for a ride in my car after the rain slowed to a drizzle and I’d had coffee and breakfast. I drove 3.5 miles to a part of the Legacy Trail (very popular with bikers, runners, and walkers) that goes through rolling horse pastures but is close to some commercial buildings. The picture at the top of this post is the mouse’s new home.

I got out of my car with the plastic container and closed my door (so it couldn't jump back inside, this is not my first rodeo). I held up the green container to check on the mouse, it moved around and seemed fine. I turned the knob on the back door of the trap to remove it and placed the trap on the wet grass. It took a few seconds, but then the mouse ran out of the trap and through the grass in the correct - away from me - direction. Liberation complete! No blood shed!

I liked the mix of pastures and businesses of this location because it occurred to me that there might be city mice and forest mice. This fella/sister might know how to harvest crumbs from Pop Tart wrappers but have no experience hunting or gathering fresh whole food. I hedged my bets, in other words. If it’s a city mouse, it will find some trash cans to jump into.

I'm sensitive to these differences because I'm a city girl. If someone dumped me in the woods without a pre-made PB&Js or a microwave oven and frozen burritos, I’d starve. Unless I got a good cell signal, then I’d be back in my element.

What. FedEx delivers everywhere, doesn't it?

This little misadventure is complete for now. We’ll continue to look for and fill and gaps or cracks in our house. I’d rather address the root cause. I’d rather not have mice running around my house. Have I mentioned our little brick cottage is 120 years old? With the original foundation, walls, and wood floors? Don’t get me started on the non-working coal fireplaces. Charming, the real estate ad said. Non-working fireplaces instead of closets would’ve been truth in advertising.

But I digress. We love our house, and it’s time to clean my traps and celebrate.


Misadventure: Catch the Mouse #2

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These are the supplies I keep for mouse catching. 

See post #1 here.

I have two each of two types of traps - the black ones work by trapping the mouse in the tube as it walks in to get the bait at the end of the tube. I bought these first and they worked well except that I couldn't see whether a mouse was inside (I could guess but didn't want to open it and be wrong).

The green traps use a similar trapping mechanism. I like that I can see through the plastic to determine whether a mouse is inside.

The large plastic container seen on the left side of this picture helps me feel safer about having a mouse-filled trap inside the car with me as I drive it/them to their new home in the park. When I first started trapping mice, I wrapped the trap with a plastic bag. Then I realized that if the mouse escaped the trap, the bag would not stop the mouse from getting into my car. That would be a whole new problem!

When I trap a mouse, I put the trap inside the container and secure the top. Better!

I use two types of bait. The small white bottle contains a gel that attracts mice. It does not harm them if they eat it. This has worked well. Peanut butter works, too, and so I use both.

Night 1 Trapping Attempt

I decided to put out all four traps last night. Why not go for it, right? I put peanut butter in two traps and the gel in the other two. Below are a couple of pics of how I set them out. Two on the floor, two on the counter. We suspect that they're entering somewhere in back of the range.

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Results: This morning I discovered that I'd caught ZERO mice! Total bummer! We had storms last night, the remnants of Hurricane Laura, so maybe the mice stayed in their homes.

I will try again tonight and report back. I might also read up on mice behavior and see if I can get any ideas for how to best catch them.

You might be wondering why we don't just solve the root cause of the problem - access points into our house. Trust me when I say that we've tried. We've reduced the number of potential ways mice and other critters can get in. We've sprayed holes and crevices with hardening foam (and pest repellant). We've boarded up and caulked larger cracks, and we've installed fine mesh coverings to any air vents on the foundation. We've inspected the areas under the house that are accessible, but there's a part in the front where it's too shallow/short for any human to go. 

There's more we can and will do. Until we're able to lock the mice out, I'll need to trap them and take them away. 


Misadventure: Catch the Mouse #1

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Hey all,

Starting tomorrow, I'll be chronicling my efforts to catch the mouse, or mice, that are getting into our house at night. Although we take excellent care of our 120-year-old brick cottage, we cannot fill every gap, crack and hole that mice might use to get in. So they sometimes visit our kitchen at night, and then we get to work evicting them. I've learned a few things during past efforts that I hope with make this year's effort especially successful (it seems like we need to deal with the issue once each year, must relate to their seasonal behaviors). 

How do you know when they've started coming in? More details on that in future posts.

I'm an animal lover, however, and do not want to set lethal traps or icky glue paper. So I'll be putting out trap houses that capture but don't harm the mice. I'll then drive them to a park and release the mice so they can start over.

There are opportunities for missteps and misadventures at all phases of this operation. 

Pictures and details to come. Watch this space.


Further on the Topic of Intrinsic Exercise

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As a follow up to yesterday's post, if you're interested in learning more about the concept of intrinsic exercise, here's an article with a good tee up that was published in Psychology Today. "Learn to Love Exercise," by Jay Kimiecik. And here's a post from the Mind-Body Medicine blog

I'll be talking to a potential virtual personal trainer today and one thing I'll mention is my desire to discover the best way to tap into and ignite intrinsic motivation for exercising. I know part of this is to find the activities that I enjoy or that provide some satisfaction.

Intrinsic motivation means that I'd engage in the activity for its own sake. 

Or as Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi called it, FLOW. That state when we lose track of time and are totally into what we're doing. I want more of this!

Given my love (obsession) for adventure, I know that there needs to be an element of adventure and misadventure to the activities I select. Or HOW I do them. For example: I loved riding my bike to school when I was in the 5th grade. This offered me an element of danger (the school was across town), independence, and fun. I bought the road bike myself from selling toys at a garage sale, and I loved it.

It was lime green, I know you were wondering. 

But is every bike ride going to jazz up my motivational juices? No. The situation and manner matter.

What might adventurous exercise look like in the time of covid-19? Don't mistake adventure for risk - I am risk-averse relative to the pandemic because I care about others and am at high-risk for a poor outcome if infected.

All good stuff to think about.


Ready to Make My Move

On June 16th, I blogged about my desire - need - to take on a big challenge. And I wrote that I'd be focusing on my physical fitness for this challenge.

Because I want to - there are adventures I want to experience!

Because I need to - my health has been iffy and in overal decline.

But I'm capable. And I don't have limitations that would get in the way of trying. Actually, I do have barriers - all internal, all self-imposed, all learned and reinforced.

I need more skin in the game - because I'm too weak to rely on discipline or motivation. I'm thinking:

  • Commit to a trip/outing/event that will require X level of fitness. Like hiking in New Mexico in the Fall.
  • Sign up for some kind of virtual personal training, using the equipment I have (or can get for home use). Something that will force an accountability structure but fit my current circumstances and the covid restrictions. Maybe add some boxing? Not sure where I'd put the bag/dummy...
  • Re-align the kitchen to reinforce my best and healthy food options.
  • Clear the to-do list and my commitments so that a fly on the wall would guess that THIS endeavor is among my most important. 

Will update again soon with progress notes.


Knowing Your NOTs

I find that knowing

what is NOT right

what we DON'T want

what is NOT interesting

where we DON'T what to go

what we DON'T want to spend time doing

the actions that WON'T lead to success

and what we can't do

is really, really helpful when trying to determine how to best live. And if we want to experience more adventure and misadventure, then it is doubly important that we acknowledge what we should not allow to get in our way.

What should not be on your list? 

Identifying our NOTs can be painful because we've invested time in energy in them - sometimes a lot of time and energy. Maybe our persona is wrapped up in this thing that is no longer fueling our energy or interest.

  • I'm an athlete
  • I'm a best-selling author
  • I'm an inventor
  • I'm a community leader
  • I'm female comic of the year
  • I'm teaching

Uncommit - decommit - not sure what the right word would be - from a something (or someone?) that is no longer a good use of time and is getting in the way of your progress and opportunity.


UNDOing so I Have More Time and Space for Adventure.

It doesn't seem possible, but after a full week of aggressively unsubscribing and unfollowing, there's still so much more I can do. Today I unsubscribed from another dozen e-newsletters. And I'm unfollowing on FB and IG - at least 10 per day.
 
It's AWESOME.
 
Twitter is another matter, would love to unfollow 1/2 or more of the 4,000 I follow, but it seems like a lot of work to find the ones I'd let go. Ideas or hacks welcome. I know, I could just shut Twitter off. Might do...I keep Twitter primarily to support others, I get no real joy or value from it.
 
Related but different - I'm also discarding and/or donating items. Silly stuff, like a garbage bag full of shipping peanuts. Why was I keeping these wormy magnetic things? And I have stupid stuff - like cases for phones and keyboards I no longer own. 
 
I'll tackle the books another time and tell you about it. That could be super painful but needs to happen. It's like staring at hundreds of balls of yarn that you know you'll never turn into scarves. I have some yarn, too. 
 
I'm not becoming a minimalist. I'm a less-crap-in-my-way-ist. How will I concoct new misadventures if I'm checking my email every twelve seconds? I'd be a piss-poor attempt if I did.