An examination of parents’ struggle with discussing the birds and the bees

Photo Credit: http://www.legacydad.com/2011/05/kids-and-technology.html

The year is 2012, and let’s face it, thanks to the virtues of technology and media, few kids are safe from discovering the complex, taboo adult world. How can they be, after all, when elementary school children tote around iPhones, reality television glamorizes rampant hooking up and casual encounters, movies with mere PG-13 ratings make sexually-explicit references, and an overwhelming majority of American adolescents and teenagers spend hours a day updating their Facebook statuses, tweeting on Twitter, and uploading pictures on Instagram?

As per human nature, we all have some natural inclination to explore and question the unknown, and most of us recognize this strong sense of curiosity in children. In fact, for the most part, we encourage the strengthening and expansion of their simple minds.

Yet, we still remain stubbornly ignorant when it comes to talking about sex. We remain ignorant despite believing children have more negative influences in the sexuality realm than ever before, despite the nearly 1/3 girls who become pregnant at least once by twenty, despite the 1/4 teenagers who contract a sexually transmitted disease, despite the explosion and quick accessibility of online pornography, despite the raunchy songs flooding our radio stations, and despite the saturation of hyper-sexualized media exposed to our children,

Why?

Just like most issues and controversies in psychology, the answer is not a simple, black-and-white matter. Instead, there are several reasons.

-Perception that children are not old enough to learn about sex: In one study, (Wilson, E. K., Dalberth, B. T., Koo, H. P., & Gard, J. C., 2010) the majority of participants (parents with children aged 10-12) agreed that while it was important that children learn about sex, they felt theirs were too young. A few stated they didn’t want to discuss sex until “their child brought it up,” somehow believing that they were blissfully unaware of the issue.

-Uncertainty or lack of information: Most parents understand the basics of sex and realize how careless teenagers can be once they start having it. Still, parents often fear they may not have all the answers or that their child will challenge them with an obscure question or remark. For instance, although a mother may stress the importance of using protection, she mights squirm if her daughter asks to see a doctor for a birth control pill prescription. Likewise, parents often feel uncertain about their own personal stance on the “rights and wrongs” of sex. For example, it is very easy to say, don’t have sex. But when a child prods further and asks when the right time might be, parents fear they may not know how to specifically responsible.

-Perception that their child won’t listen or won’t care: The stereotype of the distant, moody, hormone-laden teenager who fails to act receptively comes to mind on this one. Parents may fear that their children will process information by taking it in one ear and out the other when discussing sex, and some believe their children will perceive them as either out of touch or unable to understand. They may believe it is too late, and that if they do express concern or try to talk, their children may just neglect or completely ignore their advice.

-Denial: This is a very popular coping mechanism and a frequent parenting strategy when raising children. Many like to believe believe their child is superior to the rebellion norm, and when suspecting sexual activity or drug and alcohol use, they often resort to turning the other cheek, rather than believing their child is engaging in disappointing behavior. For this reason, parents may avoid talking about sex, simply because they believe their children are smart and savvy enough to handle the matter on their own.

-Discomfort: Although we live in a society that practically brainwashes us with images, music, and media centered on sex, we still find it exceedingly difficult to talk about it in a way that doesn’t make us or our listeners cringe. Likewise, we often struggle with the idea of our children growing up so quickly. How many times have we lamented that it was only yesterday, I was dropping her off for her first day of kindergarten or it was only yesterday, he was playing with his Hot Wheels. Suddenly, awkward adolescent children morph into growing teenagers, and we realize that sex must be on their minds. However, if we still perceive them as young, immature, or naive to the real world, we feel uncomfortable talking to them about such a private, “adult” issue.

Personal beliefs: Religion, ethnicity, or background all play a role in discussing sexual behavior. Many times, parents avoid discussing sex, because they believe if they talk about it, they are condoning the act. Moreover, they may believe that discussing it is inappropriate or goes against their moral beliefs.

Fear: Or, if I talk to my kid about the birds and the bees, they’re gonna go out and DO IT! This one is classic, due to its hypocritical nature. We tend to enjoy teaching our children life lessons and expressing  what not to do, but once it comes to sex, we feel terrified. terrified. We think that just talking about sex, we are essentially planting the notion into their minds.

So, casting all these fears and boundaries aside, why should parents tough it out and talk about sex?

For one, despite parents thinking their child is too young, innocent, or naive, sexuality is already planted in their minds. Instead of pointing fingers at parents, we can thank the child’s peers, favorite television shows and books, pornography, music and the Internet for that.

Furthermore, studies indicate that when parents talk about sex, both they and their children benefit. The maintenance of an ongoing, “open-door” dialogue policy encourages increased communication and comfort. Children report feeling more at ease in confiding with their parents about their questions, fears, and experiences, and parents feel more connected and assured in their child’s decisions.

Children who interact with their parents about sex tend to wait longer to lose their virginity, and if and when they do engage in sexual activity, are more likely to use protection and avoid unwanted pregnancies and transmitted diseases. Moreover, compared to children who never discussed it with their parents, children who do talk about sex with their families are less likely to regret their first experiences.

It is primal human instinct to desire feeling understood by others. When teenagers no longer feeling judged or afraid of how their parents might react to discussing sex, they will feel more comfortable and confident when the time to start making big decisions arises.

References

Wilson, E. K., Dalberth, B. T., Koo, H. P., & Gard, J. C. (2010). Parents’ perspectives on talking to preteenage children about sex. Perspectives On Sexual And Reproductive Health, 42(1), 56-63. doi:10.1363/4205610

 

 

 

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Why are we so good at failing?

 

 

 

 
Failure is a necessary component of life, a circumstance that can only be avoided when humans remain stagnant. Since life is constantly changing and we are constantly evolving, everyone encounters failure. It happens when we struggle, when we cannot understand, when we exhibit weak performance. Failure, in many senses, is healthy, as we grow and learn from it. The negative feelings that stem from failure are imperative in motivating us to continue seeking progress.
 
What happens, however, when an individual continuously fails? When he or she has the right tools and awareness in knowing how to succeed, yet disregards them time and time again? We coin this action as sabotage, and we see it  frequently in all walks of human behavior. Sabotage is what dieters do when they keep eating extra helpings of dessert, despite knowing the importance of exercise and proper nutrition. Sabotage is what students who decide to party the week during final exams do instead of study.
 
 
The self-fulfilling prophecy theorizes that one’s actions tend to correspond with their beliefs. What does that mean? Let’s say, after a bitter divorce, a newly-single woman experiences an unsuccessful dating streak. Disappointed with the quality of her suitors, she concludes men are selfish assholes. What happens, then, when she goes out on her next date? The woman’s guard will be strong, her suspicions high, and her faith? Well, naturally, that will be at an all-time low. This new man hardly stands a chance against her powerful opinion, seeing as she is already expecting him to disappoint her. Therefore, in order to avoid another letdown, she will likely fit and adapt her criteria to confirm her beliefs. In reality, the woman may be blaming external variables for her dating struggles (low self-esteem, meeting men in the wrong places, an inability to commit, pining over an ex, etc.).
 
Still, the question remains: why do we fail at the very things we try to avoid failing the most?
 
Surely, it cannot just be attributed to a mere absence of willpower. Ask anyone who fails at an important task, and he or she will often delve into a lengthy explanation about how hard they are trying and how much they seek success.
What’s more likely? We fail because we fear the absence of failure.
 
How does that make sense? When we set goals and fail to achieve them, we become habituated to the adverse emotion. The failure keeps us contained, keeps us square in place. And many times, we cannot actually visualize what the success will feel like. Moreover, we mistake what the success will feel like.  For instance, take someone who has sunk into the dark abyss of financial debt. Despite a strong desire to save money, he spends his paychecks frivolously, draining his bank accounts and racking up insurmountable credit card bills. Why?
 
Reason #1: Behavioral addiction model (in a very simple manner)
 
Debt (creates anxiety)–> which causes heightened feelings of stress and more anxiety –> which leads to a need to relieve the anxiety and feel better (spend money)  –> which leads to heightened feelings of guilt, shame, anger
Addiction is a vicious, complicated cycle, and this is just a simplified  theory of its manifestation.. With addiction, the things that make us the unhappiest are consequently the same things that make us the happiest. Thus, the cycle repeats, and eventually, the habituated behavior may filter into other aspects of life (relationships, work, family).
 
 
2. Avoidance: The debt (or any other evidence of “failure”) is actually masking a much larger issue. In this case, finance trouble can indicate an insatiable need to fit in with others, career dissatisfaction, or underlying depression. The surface problem (debt) shields the more painful, rooted issues. This theory is popular, because it is so applicable. For instance, those who struggle with weight problems may blame their body size for appearance dissatisfaction or loneliness. They may falsely conclude that if they just shed the extra weight, these “other problems” would diminish. Yet, these problems are much more complex (self-esteem issues, shyness, difficulty in making relationships, etc.). These individuals may subconsciously sabotage their diets as a means of avoiding the real problems at hand. Therefore, they can blame these issues on their weights, rather than on their core personalities.
 
3. Mistaken priorities: Yes, repeated failure can stem from a lack of motivation, but in doing so, the person often does not even recognize this. Often seen in high-pressure situations, such as academic or athletic performance, people may subconsciously “mess up.” This is usually an unconscious mechanism, but it is most likely to happen when the individual knows he or she is expected to succeed at a given task. This expectation stems from societal and internal internal cues. For example, while nobody wants to fail an exam, a person may subconsciously pair success with greater pressure to study harder, spend more time focusing on school, or take more advanced courses in that subject. While the individual knows failure is not desirable, it may actually be more so than those other options.
 
 
4. Unachievable goals: Failure, of course, can happen when the expectations are too high. For instance, someone who has never held a job is unlikely to find a full-time career in a week, just as a longtime couch potato should not be disappointed when he cannot sculpt six-pack abs after one workout. Yet, we humans naturally seek short-term gratification, hence our uncanny ability to seek out the most convenient shortcut available. We want instant results and we stubbornly hold out on the belief that “once-in-a-lifetime” opportunities will  come our way and bring us success. This, of course, is an open invitation for continuous failure. A rushed, all-or-nothing mantra tends to result in higher levels of quitting, frustration, and endless restarting. Therefore, an individual will probably take much longer to succeed compared to someone who approaches their goals in a gradual but reasonable fashion.

 

 

 

The science behind the marketing strategies of Groupon and like-minded promotion websites

 

 

 

According to its mission statement, “Groupon features a daily deal on the best stuff to do, see, eat, and buy in 48 countries, and soon beyond.” Since its 2008 launch, several other websites, such as Living Social, Amazon, Yelp, and even Facebook have taken part in this insta-deal trend. And people are digging this stuff right up. Saving money and finding deals is no longer a shameful, frugal secret, but rather, a victorious feat.

So, why exactly is this effective?

For one, Groupon and like-minded websites capitalize on the popular shelf life marketing technique. Placing a time stamp on an offer creates a sense of urgency, which naturally makes promotions more appealing. This can explain the success behind single-day sales, such a the wildly-popular, infamous Black Friday. Time and time again, this sense of “limited time only” has proven to be quite effective. Groupon’s deals tend to have a shelf life of just a few hours or days. When a “special” has a reduced price for a designated amount of time, this induces a sense of anxiety and pressure for consumers, who may fear this type of deal will never come around again. Knowing they have a ticking time bomb may make people  feel they need to buy it now or they will regret it later.

Numerous studies indicate that consumers misunderstand how saving money during special sales or promotions work. Chalk it up to poor arithmetic, laziness, or impulsive shopping, but businesses have become very savvy in tricking their customers. Results from various social psychological experiments demonstrate that we are more inclined to buy a pricier item advertised “on-sale” than a similar, cheaper item not on sale. Moreover, we are more likely to buy that first item e even if it ends up costing more. The famous “buy-one-get-one-free” deals are highly effective for this very reason. People usually spend more money if they know they will be getting another item for free. Business owners know this, and now, they are advertising these deals on Groupon. Typical promotions include spending $10 for $20 worth of restaurant food or take a class for $7 that regularly costs $15.

The success behind these websites and apps can also be attributed to their convenience. They provide novel opportunities for a relatively commitment-free cost. No contracts, no hidden costs, no need to sign up for a whole year. This is a valuable tool for someone who may be on-the-fence about trying a particular business. For instance, Living Social is currently featuring a 2-week weight loss trial for $50. The advertised market retail price is $199. Someone who has struggled with losing weight may be hesitant about spending the full amount for this program. Smart business owners realize this. So, they put out promotional deals in hopes of advertising their services, expanding clientele, and generating more profit and traffic. Just featuring the ad provides an essential billboard for their company website, as people are likely to investigate their business before purchasing one of their promotions. And, let’s say, a consumer buys that two-week weight loss trial, uses it, and finds herself highly satisfied with the results. Chances are, if she continues with the program, she will continue her business with that company than seek out a new one.  do something. For instance, Living Social is currently featuring a 2-week weight loss trial. The advertised market retail price is $199, but the featured Living Social price is $50. Someone who may be interested in trying one of these programs, but does not necessarily want to pay the full price on it, is exactly the consumer the company is trying to reach. The business owner puts out the promotional ad in hops of advertising his/her services, increasing clientele, and eventually gaining more profit and traffic.  For example, let’s say a woman buys this 2-week trial, uses it, and is highly satisfied with her results. Chances are, if she continues with this program, she is far more inclined to continue giving money to this business than seek out a new one.

Customer loyalty; it’s the key ingredient to operating a thriving business.

We live in a technology-driven society, where the majority of young consumers tap away on social networking sites, pay their bills, text-message, and surf the Internet via smartphones. Therefore, providing mobile “one-click” sales makes sense. Both Groupon and Living Social feature downloadable apps. Yelp and Facebook offer “check-in” deals. For all of these, simply showing your phone with the advertised deal is all an employee needs to honor your discount. Users can create an account, store their credit card billing information, and purchase a deal within a matter of seconds. Not to mention, consumers can sign up to receive daily emails and reminders about new deals in their area. No need to clip coupons, carry around paper discounts at the risk of losing them, scour company websites, or wait for things to go on sale. Groupon makes budgeting easy, fast, and convenient–just the way our generation likes it.

The consumer feels like he/she is getting a once-in-a-lifetime steal. The business gains a new customer. Groupon enjoys a cut of the money. Everyone wins.

 

 

 

The Olympic Games: Why do we only care about professional swimming, gymnastics, and track and field once every four years?

 

Following months of eager anticipation and frenzied hype, the 2012 Olympic Games started with a predictable but enormous bang. Names like Franklin and Lochte, that were largely unknown just months ago, have morphed into household terms. We watch the games with panting breaths and awe-inspired minds, floored with utter pride for our country.

Why? For most people, the last time they watched a swim meet was in high school. As for  gymnastics? Unless you participated in the sport as a child or have a child yourself, chances are, you aren’t frequenting gymnasiums on a regular basis. Track and field events hardly draw much of a crowd either. 

This is not to say Americans aren’t avid sports fans. If anything, we are a die-hard bunch; a dedicated mass of peristant supporters rooting for our favorite teams. But, that’s just it. We like teams. Group sports. Football in the fall, basketball in the spring, baseball in the summer. And this support extends so much further than just the results of a season; following a particular team embodies all that comes with it, including the tailgating parties, the merchandise, and following the player’s personal lives. Rooting for a team is easy. We know the rivals and the right colors to wear.  

The Olympic Games extract a different kind of audience, one that may be entirely unfamiliar with a particular athlete’s background, college team, and performance stats. Nevertheless, every season, the Olympic Games draw record-breaking numbers in terms of its viewers. In response, marketing campaigns splash the fresh-faced athletes on commercials, print ads, even cereal boxes. Before winning a medal, an athlete may already have several endorsers willing to support his/her event.

 

 

What’s the draw? Why do we find these games so intriguing, and, moreover, why do we  admire these relatively unknown athletes? From a strictly evolutionary standpoint, it makes sense we enjoy the Olympics, in the same way we enjoy other high-pressure competition (rivalry games, beauty pageants, and even the vast realm of reality television). After all, the formula to win is very similar amongst these competitions: hard work, the cliched “blood, sweat, and tears,” mantra, and performing feats unimaginable and unattainable for most of the human population. The Olympics feature the pinnacle of fitness compete, and despite our talent and persistence, most of us will never reach that extreme caliber. As humans, we seem inclined to want to witness history in the making, and undoubtedly, the Olympics feed straight into that desire. Watching individual events that do not generate much attention on their own (swimming, gymnastics) may even be more enticing for this very reason. We tend to seek out novel ideas and experiences, and when we do, we are not as desensitized or cynical about them. For instance, when a devout football fan watches a game, it often takes a magnificent play to impress him. However, chances are, if he just watches one gymanstic competition, he will be floored, without needing to know all the background stats or story. Why? Because knowing less about a particular event/activity/idea naturally makes you more curious, especially when it has generated extreme media attention.

Likewise, down to its legendary torch and infamous gold, silver, and bronze medals, the Olympics strongly uphold the values of tradition. In a society that is constantly rocked by athletic scandals and political changes, we find this guaranteed formula refreshing. In recent years, professional sports have exhibited stronger sense of subjection and controversy; fans frequently disagree about the best players or whether the team should have recruited a particular athlete. But because the Olympics require a rigid set of trials, this opinionated disparity is rarely if ever seen. The audience realizes these athletes must successfully pass several rounds of competitions just to have the opportunity to perform. Furthermore, their likelihood depends on raw data and mathematical computations, rather than the opinion of a particular recruit or coach.

And finally, the Olympics embody such a worldwide allur due to their nature of being a worldwide spectacle. To be frank, we have scant evidence of positive global unity. Obvious examples of bringing a nation together include wars and natural disasters, neither of which are particularly cheery. The Olympics, on the other hand, bring both the world together in addition to strenghtening internal pride within each country. This camaraderie abides to our basic needs of human interaction and social desirability. Being aware and updated with the current news keeps you “in the know” with your peers and with your country. Similar to watching the Academy Awards or Superbowl, not seeing the Olympics almost makes you an outcast, thus increasing your chances of alienation and social inferiority. Besides, these games hold the potential to boost your overall mood, spark that motivation to go out and make big things happen, and increase your patriotic pride! 

Who wouldn’t want to reap those benefits?

The psychology behind boycotting Chick-Fil-A: Is this a means of expressing tolerance or intolerance?

Last week, in a scandal that rocked the fast-food world, it became public that Don Cathy, president of Chick-Fil-A, the popular eatery specializing in chicken sandwiches, believes operating his business  “on biblical principles.” Moreover, current records reveal the corporation’s monetary and public support for organizations that specifically denounce gay marriage rights.

Stemming from various political platforms and the sweeping trend of individual states offering legalization on their ballots, the gay marriage debate represents a major American controversy. Within the past decade alone, we have seen a huge influx of support for marital equality rights. a stark contrast from the opposition seen just half a century ago.

Thus, the the huge backlash from online and media sources comes as no surprise. Facebook and Twitter pages are littered with Chick-Fil-A boycotting movements. Even politicians have joined the chaotic party. Former presidential candidate and Republican governor of Arkansas, Mike Huckabee, declared August 1 as “National Chick-Fil-A Day” and former Alaskan governor, Sarah Palin, made a promise “to stop at Chick-Fil-A on her way home.”

So, what’s the psychological dilemma here? Have we given a company’s moral beliefs, rather than quality of service, enough power to stream into our consciousness when making the simple decision regarding what to eat for lunch? It appears so. Those who support of gay marriage are enraged: many have vowed to halt all business in Chick-Fil-A.

Despite the red-hot popularity of this scandal, surely, the argument will cool down and diminish, leaving consumers with the ultimate decision of whether or not they want to support Chick-Fil-A in the future.   Interestingly, this company made no attempt to hide its moral beliefs; the information was publicly available for anyone who sought it. The media only recently decided to shine its spotlight on the controversy.

Still, most consumers are largely unaware of major company origins and owners’ religious/moral affiliations. Most will argue that it doesn’t matter, as long as the product at hand is of high quality.   Atheists who shop at Forever 21, for instance, should note that the owners are born-again Christians who claim “God told them to open the store.” Other mainstream companies with ethical controversy include Curves (owner donates to anti-abortion campaigns), Tyson Foods (has about 120 employed chaplains to provide pastoral support), and In-N-Out Burger (prints Bible verses on wrappers). Should pro-choice women stop working out at Curves? Should non-believers feel hypocritical eating a Double-Double from In-N-Out?

From a psychological perspective, boycotting Chick-Fil-A does seem like an appropriate reaction to take a stance against discrimination. Boycotts, indeed, embody powerful movements. Their intent is to deny the corporation customer business, and subsequently, demonstrate that they have made a wrong decision. Boycotting puts that decision on exhibit for the world to see. In the past, with regards to making civil right strides, these movements do appear to be somewhat successful. Strangely, the loss of money is not the main factor predicting success. The sudden transformation from a positive perspective on a corporation/business/etc. to a negative one can cause far more long-lasting damage. After all, restoring a destroyed reputation and earning back lost respect is much harder than recovering from a temporary income blow.

Those boycotting Chick-Fil-A establishments are voicing their refusal to support a company that does not believe in a right they believe in. In this case, it is gay marriage.

However, is this, in an ironic sense, intolerant? To be straight-forward, refraining from Chick-Fil-A solely based on their anti-gay stance, shows that the particular consumer does not wish to support a company that holds a different opinion from their own.

What about the thousands of Chick-Fil-A employees serving food who support gay marriage? Should we encourage them to quit their jobs? If a Chick-Fil-A employee is gay, is he/she being a hypocrite? More importantly, however, do we have the right to call him/her hypocritical? 

Tolerance stems from the notion of respecting everyone’s beliefs, even if they may differ from your own. Is one viewpoint enough to denounce an entire company for their so-called bigotry and intolerance? 

To play devil’s advocate, if we refuse to take a stance against Chick-Fil-A, are we simply just encouraging more intolerance? By purchasing food from this corporation, are we inadvertently supporting a company that does not support a cause many people now fiercely believe in? Would we be hypocritical to vote in support of gay marriage, while, at the same time, giving money to an organization that opposes it. The nature of this answer might be simpler if the company in question were a school or housing complex or extra-curricular club, but it’s not. It’s chicken sandwiches.

Where do we draw the line at differences? Surely, liberal consumers shopping at an establishment founded by conservative owners would disagree with some of the company polices and vice versa. Should anti-birth control advocates boycott a drugstore for selling condoms? Are vegetarians unethical for buying food at commercial supermarkets that have butchers?  Most would agree that doing so would be ridiculous, if not impossible. In reality, boycotting against corporations that we morally disagree with would ignite a countless, never-ending spew of boycotts. 

The answer to this controversy is not a conclusive one. Fortunately, consumers have the freedom to shop around and purchase whatever they please, either choosing to abide to moral ethics or disregard them completely. The president’s opinion aside, Chick-Fil-A does not hold a chicken sandwich monopoly; therefore, the choice to boycott this corporation is a personal one.

The psychology behind the poor excuse, “I don’t have time.”

How many times have you complained in utter exasperation, I just don’t have time? For most of us, that phrase embodies an automatic response, one used hastily when inquired about leisure activities or self-indulgence.

Time, in essence, is a meticulous socially-constructed force, one designed to create boundaries, convenience, and structure. Without time, our modern world would be nonexistent, and rather we would live in a chaotic mess characterized by prehistoric times, where people rose when the sun came up and slept when it came down. Back then, time was marked by the external factors of the day, by the lightness in the sky, by the chill in the night.

Today, we arguably live in a 24-hour time zone. Thanks to the invention of lights and technology, we can perform tasks and work in a “round-the-clock” fashion, whether they are done at three in the afternoon or three in the morning. With the ability to conduct business at all hours of the day, we have essentially undermined the rigidity of universal travel lines. Yet, this virtue comes at a heavy cost, one that presents us with an even more perplexing dilemma. Despite the increased options for merging time at our convenience, we are also living in an exponentially fast-paced, high-volume lifestyle. In fact, society seems to encourage the notion of multitasking and overworking; for some, it has become habitual to respond busy when others ask how we are.

Still, I challenge this disposition. Yes, one cannot deny that we are often pressed to the core, existing on a schedule marked by deadlines and dates. But, in a number-crunching sense, each day provides us with 24 hours. We receive 168 per week and approximately 5,048 per month. Over the course of one year, we enjoy 1,842,520 hours. That’s almost two million. Naturally, we do not live in a utopian society. Within the realm of our unwritten code of human behavior, we are expected to live with some degree of structure. For instance, we all need to sleep, eat, and use the restroom at some point. Consider that biological, evolutionary needs. In a secondary sense, we also spend a large portion of mandatory time in school or working. Most of us, fortunately, are blessed with leftover spare time after all these essential requirements are met.

When people reflect on how they spend spare time, they do it poorly, just as a dieter reflects on his food habits or an impulsive shopper reflects on her recent purchases.  Sure, they’ll remember the big events (eight hours spent working, one hour in a meeting, one hour at the gym, etc., etc.). But, what about all those in-between minutes, all those stolen licks and bites, that three-dollar drive-thru coffee? What about the details?

We are masters at wasting time; slaves to doing things we don’t necessarily like or dislike doing. This is not a rant against spending time on frivolity. We all benefit from leisure; however, when we are actually granted with true leisure, few of us actually enjoy it. We instead fill the gap with sub-par activities; maybe flipping the channels or surfing the web. Interesting how much of us use the phrases, I don’t have time and I’m just killing time in the same day.

This may have to do with the human drive towards short-term gratification. Instead of viewing seven spare hours a week, we may only see one hour a day. Instead of using each one to do a small chunk of a task we enjoy, we see it as “too little of time” to do anything we like. We fail to see our allotted time in the big picture. We live by excuses; rationalizing our flaws using skewed logic to make ourselves more socially desirable and generate a higher sense of self-satisfaction.

While time may be pressed, we all know those people who seem able to “do it all.” These are the super freaks who can juggle full-time work, family life, romance, and hobbies. Oh, and they also seem to find time to travel the world or train for marathons. Their agendas, whether tangible or not, are often color-coded, scratched-out, written all over, and jam-packed. We think they are different from us; special and entitled. Yet, they share the same twenty-four hours as the rest of the world. They still eat and sleep and use the restroom, and most of them went or go to school and work.

 

How do they do it?

Simple. Instead of wasting time on things that don’t matter to them, they “waste” time on things that do. Rather than seeing an hour as just an hour, they see it as a chance to get started on something, without feeling that rushed sense of anxiety to finish it. They see one hour as a yoga class, walk with their spouse, cooking time for a lavish dinner, or a manicure with a friend. For bigger passions and life goals, they may view that hour as time to write one page of a novel, practice a new chord on the guitar, or learn a few phrases in a different language. These people realize progress is a bit-by-bit process, and while it seems they can do everything in one day, what is really happening is that these people understand that very little can be done in one day. Moreover, they do not berate themselves for spending weeks or months in pursuit of a passion or goal.

They know their priorities, and they live in a way that moves from top priority to bottom priority, whereas so many others work in the opposite direction. They shift their lives in ways that maximize their passions and goals, rather than dismissing them. They channel their spare minutes into activities that provide an energy surplus. Thus, they feel more fulfilled and ambitious, because they perceive spare time as a means to improve mood, rather than just stabilize or diminish it.  

Techniques:

1. For one week, track down everything you do in the day, from waking up to going to sleep. Yes, it’s tedious and difficult, but it will be an incredible eye-opener to see how much time you are likely wasting on things that don’t serve any purpose in your life. These priorities are not a one-size-fits-all; how we choose to spend our time largely defines our personalities and lifestyles, and is a strong predictor in the types of relationships, careers, and passions we choose to pursue. If an activity provides you with positive energy and pleasure, do not second-guess its virtues, despite criticism from others.

2. Notice how much spare time you have in a day; notice what you do during that time. Notice the differences between using that time ineffectively and using it effectively.

3. Set a one-day goal, one-week goal, one-month goal, and one-year goal that can be achieved within your allotted spare time. Nothing work or school-related. These goals will provide a sense of direction, and the satisfaction generated from achieving them will be tremendous.