Who Are You Waiting For?

happy days

I’ve been having some difficulty getting my act together regarding this blog lately.  I haven’t been posting consistently, and some days it feels like the well has run dry.

What I’ve realized in thinking about this current situation is that running a blog is kind of like being in therapy.  Sooner or later, your issues are going to come out.  But, the only way you’re going to be able to look at those issues in a meaningful way is if you stay in.

What I’ve learned through running this blog and struggling to make it what I would like it to be is:

  • Blogging is a tremendous opportunity to reach other people and to explore one’s own voice.
  • Blogging can reinforce some of the beauty of daily living.
  • Blogging can make one more mindful.
  • There is no sure-fire way to do a blog despite countless blog posts written to that effect.

In fact, the only way to do a blog is to do the work.

Who Am I Waiting For?

Part of my recent struggle with posting consistently is I’ve been mired in my own thoughts about what the blog posts are supposed to look like.  What theme should I follow?  What images should I post?  Should I really devote my time to the blog?  The questions go on and on.

But the struggle isn’t just me versus me.  I know through working with my patients over the years, that for me and most others, there’s always something else looming.  There’s always the fear of the other person.  That other person, whether they be real or just an internalized voice, holds the key to our ability to act.

That other person makes us feel:

  • afraid to be creative
  • afraid to be original
  • afraid to move forward
  • afraid to commit to time being used
  • afraid to do things others wouldn’t do
  • afraid of our own capacity to get things done

Believe me, if I could design or devise a one-stop shop place to cure the other person syndrome I would.  It would be my life’s work, I’m sure.  In many ways it is my professional work, as I spend my days talking with patients to help them move past that other person in their head or in their life.

The reason this is not a one-stop fixer-upper situation is because we are complex, intelligent, and anxious beings.  We have come to our situations of delay and distress honestly.  Over the years we have convinced ourselves that stressing out over our lives and work makes everything better in the end.  And because doing work is generally inherently a hard thing to do, we get ourselves in long patterns of delay without purpose, of worry without productivity.

I’m Ready to Go

Although I know I can’t offer a one-stop shop, I am now prepared to move forward with an idea I’ve had in my mind for quite a long time.  I have long dreamt of finding a way to gather people suffering from chronic procrastination together.  My blog and the Internet and your own efforts to find solutions for yourself now make it possible for me to do so.

I will be using the month of October to run my first Procrastination Coach Workout Group. The group will be multi-faceted in purpose and design.

The purpose:  To help members gain a foothold over their Procrastination.  There will be no set expectations for how members choose to do so.  The Workout Group will provide a forum and arena for experimentation and consideration of what needs to be addressed and worked through.

The design:  During the month of October, members will receive written lessons each week covering the topics of communication, time management, control and perfectionism, and tools for maintaining progress.  There will also be a live webinar with me so I may answer your questions and do some coaching.  Members also have the option of joining a “secret” and confidential Facebook group open only to Workout Group members.  My aim is to provide useful and easily implemented information for you.  My intent is to do that without wasting your time and using the most efficient methods I know how.

The cost:  $10 for the month of October

Why this is worth your valuable time and money:

  1. Spending some time to evaluate the reasons you are stuck will pay off in time, flexibility, and lowered anxiety.
  2. Membership in this Workout Group will connect you with peers who are experiencing problems similar to yours.  The Workout Group will facilitate open communication and supportive conversation which I firmly believe will aid you in your effort to recover from chronic Procrastination.
  3. You will gain information and tools relevant to your personal needs.
  4. You will gain direct access to lessons and coaching with me during the Workout Group experience.

Click the Join Now button below to register for the October Workout Group:

I’m really excited about this new venture.  My decision to run with this idea of announcing the Workout Group has renewed my blogging spirit.  I hope you’ll join me and others who are interested in gaining momentum in their lives in the Workout Group.  Who are you waiting for anyway?

Please feel free to reply to me if you have questions about whether the Workout Group will be right for you.  I look forward to working with you soon.

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    5 Back-to-School Productivity Apps for You to Consider

    In my constant quest for ways to be more efficient, I’ve tried out my fair share of apps and programs.  Below are a few I thought might be helpful if you are on your way back to school or looking for new ways to stay focused and connected.

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    1. Drafts — This app works well for me because it saves me a few seconds every time I have to send a note to someone, to schedule an appointment, or to log a reminder to myself. This app allows me to go to the Drafts icon to start and to compose each type of entry, and then, and only then, do I decide what the best destination for that entry is. Drafts provides the entire list of choices of e-mail, text, reminders list, print and other send-to options.  I choose one from the list and send or I can leave what I’ve written in draft form.

    I’ve just recently started using Drafts, but I think it’s fantastic.  The app helps me to stay focused on what I am trying to get done first, so I don’t get lost in a sea of other app icons (#wordswithfriendsblackhole) before I get my message written.  I think it’s helping to preserve my sanity, which is no small thing.

    2. Gingko — I am also new to this web app, but I am already well-enamored of it.  Gingko helps writers keep a handle on what they are doing by allowing them to see how their writing is taking shape as they are writing.

    No more one line by one line writing for me.  With Gingko now I can see the entire scope of what I am planning to write.  Gingko encourages you to type your thoughts in a “tree” format, where the root of the tree (your main idea) is on the left side of the screen, and the branches (your supporting ideas) extend out from the root towards the right side of the screen. Gingko even offers suggestions for how you might want to structure particular types of writing.  With my basic ideas mapped out in front of me in the tree format, I can pick and choose where I want to continue writing. One moment I’m expounding on the main idea, the next I’m hopping over to add a small detail to another section.  Shazam.

    3. Lift – I heard about the Lift app through the blog of Pat Flynn who had heard of it from Tim Ferriss.  Knowing how productive both gentlemen have been, I was intrigued and downloaded the Lift app.  Though I was interested, my hopes were not high because I have tried other habit tracking apps and have just been too bored or unmotivated to keep up with the checking and the logging in processes.

    I think the Lift app has been working fairly well as a gentle, friendly reminder of the self-improvement goals I set when I first started using the app.  When I actually succeed at abiding by one of my goals, I simply press the screen to indicate that, and am rewarded by praise and phone fireworks.  It’s cute and just fun enough to keep me mindful of the goals I’ve set.  By the way, the Lift app has a community of goal seekers too, so if you’re community-minded, you can also log in your goals and share your progress with others who share the same goals as you.  Try to avoid checking your e-mail before breakfast for a few days with the help of Lift.  I dare you.

    4. Twitter — Okay, I am pretty sure this is not an “app,” but more like a phenomenon at this point.  I wrote about my love for Twitter a while back, but since I wrote that post, I’ve seen how Twitter has been more prominent in news circles, sports communities, and the like.  I recommend (as appropriate) my patients try Twitter as it’s an easy way to connect with the information communities and sources YOU want to be connected to.  And I’m mentioning Twitter here because I think all students can benefit from a hip research tool like this.  If you haven’t tried it before, get yourself a Twitter handle and send me a direct message (by starting your tweet with @ChristineLiPhD) through my Twitter handle @ChristineLiPhD and I will tweet you back to get you started.

    5. Google Drive — Again, not technically an app, and probably something you may already be using.  I have been using Google Drive a lot, most recently to co-author the book Stepping Into College with my colleague Diane Elkins who lives in North Carolina.  Using Google Drive, we were seamlessly able to write our own parts of the book and then to collaborate in the editing, publishing, and marketing processes.  Google Drive is very user friendly and has my dream feature — auto-save.  Use it to start making plans for a new on-campus club, future business, or book!

    I hope you find these apps as useful as I have.  Consider getting a copy of Stepping Into College too if you are just entering college now.  It contains loads of advice on how to make the early months of your freshman year more manageable and how to use them to ensure your success in the rest of your school years.  Please also keep a look out for a new offering I am putting together for Procrastination Coach readers for the month of October.  Announcement coming soon!

     

     

     

     

     

     

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      Techniques to Try: Make Hard-Working Checklists

      temp_collage_1408595490.479912I recently read a blogpost by Shane Parrish entitled “The Checklist Manifesto: How to Get Things Right” on the origin of the checklist and the author’s ideas about how checklists prevent us from making errors.  I thought this idea was interesting, but then I moved on to read the rest of my Twitter feed.  But then I realized how I never really have associated making checklists with preventing errors.  I’ve always used them as last-ditch efforts to get myself moving when I have been stuck.  I’ve also used them for packing lists, but since I tend to be disorganized, those packing checklists often end up being only partially helpful.

      Anyhow, I thought it was worth revisiting the idea of checklists here with you.  Perhaps this idea of preventing errors might make me (and you) a bit more inclined to make some checklists up and to make sure we check each item off.  We could make quick checklists for:

      • Recurring projects
      • Calls we need to make
      • Grocery shopping
      • Making the most out of the rest-of-summer plans
      • Financial matters to be handled for taxes
      • Marketing plans for a new launch of a book or other product
      • Business expenses
      • Dividing duties up among different people
      • Cleaning tasks as we transition into the fall season
      • Travel packing
      • Back-to-school items
      • Thank you lists
      • Party planning
      • Books to read and movies to see

      It seems the idea of creating a few end-of-summer checklists might just make the season end on a high note.  Get cracking and get packing.  I hope your end-of-summer plans go off without a hitch.

      Remember to make room for enjoyment in your life.  If you’d like to add your checklist suggestions here, that would be great!  And please remember to follow me on Twitter @ChristineLiPhD too!

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        14 Tips for Keeping Yourself in Flow

        The following list is an excerpt from STEPPING INTO COLLEGE, an e-book I recently published with Diane Elkins.  Although the list was originally written to assist students about to head off to college, I believe the points are relevant for us all.  In fact, I think if you are feeling stuck, there is a good chance you are not sticking to one of the listed guidelines.

        Take a few minutes to scan the list of tips, and try to zero in on the one tip you are ignoring.  Then determine how you will set yourself on a path towards greater flow and movement, by addressing how you have been behaving, what you have been ignoring, and what you need to do or to avoid doing.

        Recently, I have felt the pain of Tip #2.  To elaborate — figuring out how to get a book published has been a huge learning experience, largely one consisting of times “when things are going wrong.”  Don’t get me wrong…it has been an exciting journey too.  Things didn’t go so much wrong as much as it seemed EVERY part of the process was a new challenge.  And that made it feel like things were going wrong.  Persisting and completing each challenge (read: hurdle) brought us to where we are now – published authors!

        14 Tips for Keeping Yourself in Flow

        1. Don’t be afraid to mix it up.
        2. Use the times when things are going wrong as learning experiences.
        3. Ask for help whenever you need it.
        4. Communicate, communicate, communicate.
        5. Don’t assume you can do everything.
        6. Don’t assume you need to do everything.
        7. Don’t do everything.
        8. Write it down.  Keep good records and keep your records simple and organized.
        9. Choose simplicity over complication.
        10. Follow your interests and participate in what interests you.
        11. Invest time daily in keeping yourself organized and healthy.
        12. Reduce distractions and time suckers.  Whether it’s your phone, social media, or trying to study in a noisy room – identifying and eliminating distractions is crucial to success.
        13. Take good breaks.  Get outside, move, stretch, eat something, meditate, laugh.
        14. Be patient and kind to yourself, especially when things aren’t going the way you want them to.

        Best wishes as you embark upon some list reviewing.  If you think you might be interested in STEPPING INTO COLLEGE, get it today (8/3/14) on Amazon for FREE!  (Click through to the Amazon sales page and the price will be $0.00.)

        I have difficulty with #3, #6, #7, #8, #9, and #12 also.  What’s on your list?  Which ones get you stuck in a rut?  Comment here to share your stories.

         

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          The Importance of Micro-Movements

          Micro-movements are so important.

          • Doing a to-do list
          • Checking you have all the right ingredients for a recipe before you start baking
          • Figuring out how much time you want to spend on finishing a project
          • Sorting your ideas for an essay into categories before you start writing
          • Setting your backpack, handbag, briefcase, or gym bag in order and by the front door with your keys the night before

          In overlooking the need to make micro-movements, we may believe we are ready to work when we are not.  We may have to stop mid-way in our work to recalibrate.  We may have to make a U-turn in our travels in order to pick up a needed part.  We may get frustrated at ourselves for not having thought of the little things and then lose steam or motivation, or both.

          I can speak about the importance of micro-movements now because I am in the process of promoting my e-book STEPPING INTO COLLEGE.  From the very start, when I had the idea to compile useful tips for students who were about to become college freshmen, I realized the process of producing the book would involve many varied micro-movements.

          What I didn’t realize was that I was significantly underestimating exactly how many micro-movements there would be.  I didn’t think about how much time editing a book takes.  I didn’t remember that my co-author Diane Elkins and I had lives, especially over the holidays.  I didn’t even spend a second worrying about promoting the book either.

          The funny thing is, you cannot publish an e-book without going through all of these micro-movements.  The good thing is, no one micro-movement ended up flattening us.  We continue to learn so much about the book writing and selling process as we go.

          What I’ve learned is when you push forward, there will likely be resistance.  I’ve also learned that when you train yourself to stay steady and work past the resistance (both internal and external), your future movements will become more clear.

          Try to remember when you feel stymied that those accomplishments you admire in others and in your own life were made great, in part, because all the micro-movements were taken care of first.

          What projects are you working on now?  Are you feeling flattened by (seemingly) endless micro-movements?  Do tell.

           

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            Set the Wheels in Motion

            Often when we are stuck in a large, multi-faceted project or task, there is good reason. We get:

            • deflated
            • distracted
            • uninterested
            • bored
            • consumed by something else
            • perfectionistic
            • and over time, we forget the need to have this task be done.

            So much for the task.

            In my experience, there is always a key in these situations.  That is, there is one action you can take that will cause a rippling, cascading effect on the rest of your to-do list items within the project.  Taking that one action will make you feel like you are on a downhill glide to the finish line.

            Here’s an example of a “key” situation:  If you are stuck on your dissertation, try to identify what is getting in your way.  Is it that you haven’t put yourself in the library in a while?  Is it that you haven’t seen your advisor for an update meeting in a while?  Is it that you haven’t seen any human being in a while?  Instead of sitting and stewing about how much time has gone by and how wrecked you feel, contact the person in your life who will help you to remember you can do your work.  Turn that key.

            I recommend acting on your “key” idea or action as soon as you possibly can:

            • If you e-mail your advisor that you’d like to meet at the end of the month, your motivation will be recharged if only because you now have something to aim for or because you are freaked out about the idea of showing up empty-handed.
            • If you are planning a large get-together, send an e-mail blast to all of your guests, just to get your juices flowing and to engage your guests in conversation about your plans and preparation needs.
            • If you need to mail a package, place the package near the exit to your home, so it has a fighting chance of making it out the door.
            • If you don’t know how to proceed because you have no knowledge how, contact the first person you can think of who can guide you in the right direction.
            • If you need to fix something in your relationship with someone close to you, speak specifically and directly about the problem you’re experiencing, and simply follow along once the conversation gets rolling.

            In all the above scenarios, you can see there is no “perfect” plan in action.  Each of these “key” steps will lead to you opening up your capacity to act again.  It’s not so important what you do as it is important that you do do something to move yourself forward.  There’s your life you need to enjoy again.  Go do it.

            If you have any questions about finding your “key,” or stories to share about successful actions in your own life, please feel free to leave a reply here.  Please also remember to join me on Twitter @ChristineLiPhD for more information and conversation.

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              Announcing the Release of My E-Book STEPPING INTO COLLEGE!

              I couldn’t be more proud to let you know that I have recently launched my first e-book, STEPPING INTO COLLEGE, co-written by my good friend and colleague Diane Elkins.

              CLICK HERE TO BUY OUR NEW E-BOOK (AUTHORS: LI & ELKINS) - $5.99                 SteppingIntoCollegeCover

              STEPPING INTO COLLEGE is a primer on many important topics every new college freshman will face.   We hatched the idea for this book, because we felt young adults who were excited about leaving the nest would benefit from relevant and pragmatic information about the adjustment process they were about to head into.

              Writing this book was a labor of love, because we focused on what would help new college students feel comfortable, confident, focused, eager, and positive.  We combined our expertise — Diane’s is in workspace organization and sending her own three children to college and mine is in helping students thrive in college and graduate school — to compile solid advice on making the most out of the first year in school. We cover topics such as:

              • how simplicity and organization can support academic progress
              • how to avoid common freshman year pitfalls, like procrastination and feeling overwhelmed
              • ways to develop healthy relationships with new friends while maintaining good ones with family
              • ideas for ways to engage in the campus community
              • tips for successful time management
              • guidance on being mindful of finances and spending habits
              • and of course, suggestions for a great dorm room packing list!

              We wrote this book with both students and parents in mind.  There are many talking points throughout the book that will make for great discussions.  We’d love it if you’d consider purchasing a copy for your friends or family members who might be thinking about what’s in store for them at college this September.  You can also follow STEPPING INTO COLLEGE on Twitter and Pinterest for more helpful ideas for your (or your son’s or daughter’s) college debut.

              Best wishes and thanks!  Christine

              By the way, for more of a peek into our book, take a look at Diane’s recent post too.

               

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                16 Tips for Speeding Up Your Productivity

                I have a habitual problem with slowness.  Not with how I walk or talk, but how I get to things.  And how I get to a point of being able to focus on what I am focusing on.  It is a constant, daily exercise for me to work on these struggles, and I have learned a few tricks over the years which have helped me to squeeze in a little more work each time.  Making these extra efforts helps me to keep abreast of my own affairs.

                Here’s a quick list of 16 of my sneaky techniques:

                1. Add one or two more points.  Get that much closer to starting the next thing on your list by wrapping up the project you are currently doing with gusto.  Use that energy to push you forward rather than letting yourself come to a cold, hard stop.  Jot down some ideas to help you gear up for the next project on your list.
                2. Drop one or two items.  For example, if you are thinking of buying items off a supply list, see where you might be able to shave off some time by re-purposing what you already own.  Save yourself some moolah in the process.
                3. Shorten what you need to write.  This particularly works well when writing texts and e-mails.  This also often helps to increase the clarity of your message.
                4. Change your style and/or format.  As in Tip #3, this works well with texts and e-mails.  A formal e-mail exchange might end up looking like a list of bullet points by the time you are through.
                5. Batch your items.  Bundle your work rather than spreading it out over time.  For instance, you can tackle all your laundry at once.  Batch your work so you don’t have to waste time stopping and starting it again and repeating the process needlessly.
                6. Make a conscious effort to work quickly.  Remind yourself of all the good stuff you want to get to after your hard work is done.  Refresh your work speed by reading “Do Things Quickly.”
                7. Break things up.  This is the opposite of Tip #5, but sometimes it’s good to switch things up to increase your productivity and speed.
                8. Stop and evaluate what is going on when you find yourself working at a particularly slow pace.  Do you need to get a drink of water?  Do you need to eat? Do you need to find a work buddy?
                9. Jot down a quick list of what needs to be done to keep yourself focused.  Don’t be perfectionistic or obsessional with this list.  Taking two minutes to make a quick list will improve your focus right away.
                10. Put distracting thoughts aside.  Jot them down as they pop up, so you don’t forget them and they don’t distract you.  Try the Emergent Task Planner to help you manage the items from Tips #9 and #10.
                11. Identify what your next (small, doable) action step is.  This tip never fails to get people moving.
                12. Decide what your point is.  Sometimes we hover around “the point” and write too much, talk too much, and think too much.  Figure out what is at the heart of your efforts.  Then head in that direction.
                13. Pretend what you’re doing isn’t so important.  Reducing your stress in this way can do wonders for your work speed.
                14. Talk about your plans with someone else.  I find when coaching clients know I know what they are planning to do, there is a higher chance those items will get done.  Go public with your plans.
                15. Make it a game.  Use a timer.  Challenge your colleague.  Track your speeds on a spreadsheet.  Make a bet with your work group.  See how you might adapt the idea of gaming for productivity in your own life.  De-emphasize the work, and up the fun.
                16. Decide it’s important.  Focus by will and intention.  Hone in.

                There.  I’ve just told you everything I know.  Best of luck using these tips and creating some of your own.  Let me know how you do.

                What tips do you find helpful for speeding yourself up?

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                  The 5 P’s and 5 Items to Plan for Now

                  I recently inquired about my older cousin’s capacity for both calm and kindness and remarkable productivity.  I was informed about his motto of the “5 P’s” which is:

                  Makes sense to me.  Just wish I were more of a planner.

                  In thinking about my cousin’s wisdom, I came up with a list of important items which I believe we should make time for right now, if we haven’t done so already:

                  5 Items to Plan for Now

                  1. Safe driving.  I guess this item made it to the top of my list because earlier this week, I was almost mowed down by a Mercedes SUV while I was walking to work.  The only reason the driver stopped was because I screamed.  I’m may not plan well, but I can scream when I need to.  Pay attention while you are at the wheel, and plan to be undistracted and focused while driving by putting your affairs in order before you start your engine.
                  2. Your will.  This item is notoriously difficult to complete, but essential for your peace of mind.  Ask your friends what resources (either on-line or legal professionals) they have used to establish their will.  If it turns out your friends have also not started making their wills, decide to commit to finishing this important project together, e.g. giving yourselves three months to research and complete your wills.  Remember to designate who will serve as your health care proxy and who will have power of attorney on your behalf.
                  3. Matters of your health.  Plan and schedule your check-ups, screenings, and follow-ups.  Don’t delay seeking medical attention if you feel something is awry in your health picture.  Make sure you have appropriate referrals ahead of time if your insurance company requires them.  Also check to make sure the medical procedures you are signed up for are covered under your insurance plan.
                  4. An emergency fund.  Start creating one today.  Put aside as much as you can, week by week, until you have three month’s worth of income and expenses saved.  Doing this will increase your sense of calm (and perhaps your kindness and remarkable productivity).
                  5. Removing money drains.  Take part of your lunch break to take care of:
                  • an account or subscription that might be automatically renewing although you don’t need or use it anymore
                  • overdue fines for library books
                  • late penalties on credit cards
                  • over-priced wireless plans
                  • medical receipts which need to be submitted to your insurance company or flexible spending account for reimbursement

                  I think my cousin definitely has the right idea with his motto.  When you spend some time in planning, the rewards tend to multiply.  For instance, if you begin to take care of money drains, magically you will have extra cash to start your emergency fund.  Actually having an emergency fund started will, in turn, spare you from having to go into costly debt in the case an emergency should happen.  Handling the items listed above will allow you to feel like you have the basics taken care of.  And any good planner would appreciate that.

                  Are your cousins smarty pants too?  Do you have any mottos of your own to keep your productivity high?  Please share with us here.

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                    What to Do When You Don’t Know Everything, or, Tips for Every Day

                    When I began my graduate school training to be a clinical psychologist, I was worried.  In particular, I was worried because not only was I one of the youngest in my cohort, but because I also had almost no experience in psychology.  I had never done or seen an intake session.  My classmate conducted an intake (in front of all of us classmates) like it was something she had done daily for the past 20 years.  I was freaking out internally, but I remained calm on the outside.  Who exactly could I express my anxiety to anyhow?  My new classmates?  Nope.  Not happening.

                    I was also worried in a bigger way.  I believed I would never be completely ready to be a psychologist because I could not possibly ever know everything.  And that meant I believed at that very important time in my life that because I was training to be a psychologist, I needed to know everything.  I wondered, “What if a patient asks me to explain every sexually transmitted disease in existence?”  “What if I need to describe how planes take flight?”  You get my message.  The potential for on-going worry was endless.

                    Fortunately for me, I survived my graduate school training.  Fortunately for you, I’m still pretending I know everything by writing this blogpost, but feeling more calm and collected about what I actually know.  What I know now is this:

                    • You don’t have to know everything.  No one does.  No one can.
                    • Don’t assume you know everything.
                    • People do not assume you know everything.
                    • Don’t worry when you inevitably get caught not knowing everything.
                    • You can use your lack of knowledge to learn more.
                    • Keep your mind as open as you can.  People will appreciate that as your eagerness and capacity to learn.
                    • Life will teach you what you need to know.  There is actually no getting around this point.
                    • If you are a professional, e.g. a doctor, your patients and clients can help you to know more.  You can help them get over their own worries about not knowing it all, e.g. what to do, how to cope, where to turn.
                    • Everyone has some anxiety about how competent they are.  Use this fact as a way to connect with people around you rather than to feel inferior or superior to them.
                    • Knowledge isn’t everything.  It isn’t what we really treasure most.  For example, knowledge, for me, does not trump trust, love, and kindness.
                    • Knowledge is not the equivalent of competence.  So stop beating yourself up if you feel you don’t know enough.  You are good enough.

                    Thanks for reading about my journeys in graduate school anxiety.  I hope my reflections and tips help you to enjoy your sense of your potential more.

                    Do you have any tips for getting around the need to know everything?  If so, please send a reply.

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