Monday, March 08, 2010

Tipping Points

A couple of weeks ago, a commenter directed me to Change Therapy, a free online book about marketing "soft skills" like therapy by David P. Diana. I'm a little leary of promoting things from sources I'm not sure of, so my first action after seeing the comment was to email the link to a friend of mine who has been a practicing psychologist for over 40 years. His response was not only positive, but there was the hint that it would do me some good too.

I did enjoy reading the book. Among the gems within it, was a revisitation of Malcolm Gladwell's 10,000 hours rule. In a nutshell, 10,000 hours of practice is the tipping point of making one an expert at a skill. Diana extended the rule into an exercise program for one's career.

Yesterday, I visited, Dr. Barbara Fredrickson's site. Fredrickson found through her studies that "that experiencing positive emotions in a 3-to-1 ratio with negative ones leads people to a tipping point beyond which they naturally become more resilient to adversity and effortlessly achieve what they once could only imagine." Knowing that negativity is one of my worse inner demons, I've decided to track my positive/negative ratio on her site.

Most of my life, I've been told that it takes 21 days to create a new habit. I've have started several "habits" this way, only to have them get squashed by major life upheavals months later. The thing is I don't want new habits, I want an effective lifestyle where I take better care of myself than I do now. I can't do this by being a "habitist". That's how I developed my toolbox of immediate stress relievers. What I need to do is to become an expert - a master - of personally dealing with stress and depression.

So, how can I apply the 10,000 hour rule here? Well, to make it more manageable, I've decided that I would focus on two things - becoming an "expert" at realistic positiveness and becoming an expert at visual processing. The first is for my health; the second is for a career. If I were to assume that I could apply myself to one of these goals 16 hours a day, then it would take me 625 days or about 22 months to gain expertise. Though that is hardly a realistic expectation, especially since I have health concerns that bring the Spoon Theory into play. If I did an hour a day, it would take me a little over 357 months or close to 30 years to achieve the 10,000 hours by rough estimate. After a few more calculations and based on the fact that I tend to have 5 year cycles in my life, I've decided to make a goal of doing at least 2000 hours of effort to my mastery of these two fields, per year. This means about 5.5 hours a day or 38 hours a week. Luckily for me, I can integrate these tasks in with my other activities, and in fact, I already am to some extent. It might take me a little while to get that going strong, but I suspect that once I do, the 5.5 hour practice will naturally extend itself. And on those days when it's harder, I will remind myself that even if I have been doing it for several months, I still have to reach that 10,000 hours.

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