Friday, July 28, 2006

Sleep and this working girl

I am not a morning person. And these days, when people hear that someone is not a morning person, they assume that that person is just a lazy bum who cannot get his or her bottom out of the bed. I have never really been a morning person. In fact, I remember as a child some painful rituals I was subjected to, just so I could get up on time to go to school. It is sad that the world is designed mainly for day walkers. So what do you do when, in your most natural self, you would be a whole lot happier sleeping in the day and working at night?

Well, it is such a pleasure to act like myself, even if it is only a transient occurrence. In the past couple of weeks, I have been enjoying being quite like a bat in my sleep habits. This change in sleep behavior took me back to memory lane, and I remembered that even when I came home during college breaks, with no school to "discipline me," I would wake up in the afternoon and go to sleep in the early morning, when most people were preparing for work--and this worked for me; I was well rested and active. But it didn't suit some of the people around me, so I had to stick to the world’s schedule.

Now, thanks to a blessing, I can live out my natural sleep patterns, before school and the outside world interfere again. I go to sleep around 6am or so, and I wake up in the early afternoon (roughly noon to 2pm). I was telling an acquaintance of mine about this (we were just coming back from an evening meeting), and he said to me, "How do you do it? How do you get any work done?" Well, the late night hours are (and has been) the most productive period of the day for me. So when people are off to work, I can have undisturbed sleep. And when I am ready to go to work (in terms of my academics, writing, reading, and otherwise), people are getting ready to sleep or are already asleep. It works for me. Then he turned to me and said, "No wonder you look rested. I feel so tired; I need sleep soon." And I said to myself, "Well, my day is just beginning."

Very shortly, reality is going to disturb me again, and I am going to be reluctantly waking up for 8am appointments. I still have to stay up later than most people would, in order to cash in on my peak productivity hours. I cannot imagine how anyone can go to sleep at 10pm, wasting all those precious, efficiency-rich hours. But this is just my preference. I can adapt pretty well to a “day” working schedule, but I would much rather prefer a “night” working schedule. At least I know that during my residency (after medical school), I won’t have too much problem doing the graveyard shifts.

It is one of the beauties of life: our differences. I don't understand how people go to bed at 10pm, and some people don't understand how I go to bed at 6am.

Be honest. Is there a significant discrepancy between when you wake up (and sleep) and when you would prefer to wake up (and sleep)?

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Thursday, July 20, 2006

Motivating force: appeal of success or fear of failure?

As this summer starts to disappear into the past, I find myself, as usual, drafting a series of goals or rehashing old ones in order to keep them new. Many nights, I have closed my eyes and allowed my mind to roam free with all the wonderful goals it would like to see become reality within the next five, ten, and twenty years. I know it might seem a bit weird that I am thinking and planning that far ahead, but it keeps me excited about the future. Sometimes I wish I could fast-forward my life, just to see if I accomplished all my goals.

Anyway, with all these goals swimming in my head, each one getting generous amount of smiles from me, regardless of how ambitious any one of them is, I had to ask myself what motivates me to achieve these goals. Better yet, what motivates people to achieve their goals? Are we motivated by the prospect of success (in achieving our goals) or by the fear of not accomplishing these goals? And which of these two motivating notions do we prefer or tend to lean towards?

Here is a picture for you to imagine. When you try to achieve a goal, what do you see? Do you see Ms. Success jumping up and down (with pompoms in hand), praising your steps towards your goal--and so you move forward? Or do you see Ms. Failure insulting you and telling you not to even bother--and so in defiance or as a challenge, you move solidly toward your goal? It is a subtle difference in motivational approach: the fear of failure or the love for success, but I think it is helpful to see where we tend to lean towards.

We must recognize that one of the two, the "fear of failure" or the "love for success," has a greater influence on us than the other does, even though loving one necessarily implies loving the other, or more simply, the two phrases are essentially synonymous. One of these two phrases is at the root of our motivation to achieve our dreams, however ambitious they might be. Therefore, if we know which phrase drives us, it can allow us to keep the journey towards our goals in the right perspective and maybe even make the journey easier.

I am also tempted to ask which motivational leaning is better. When I refer to my own record of accomplishment, it seems that goals hide behind particular obstacles, and once one conquers these obstacles, one’s goals are more readily seized. With a tendency towards "fear of failure," the obstacles seem outward, so one may feel that one has a target, a wall to punch out of one's way--and this might make aiming towards a goal easier. And if one does fail, it makes it easier to bear the disappointment, because one thinks about all the Ms. Failures shouting in one’s ear. With a tendency towards "love of success," the obstacles seem to be within, one cannot readily see it--and this might make aiming towards a goal harder. But the success approach has that benefit of having a cheerer, someone to say, "Yes, you can do it." However, if one fails, it is a bit more difficult to bear the disappointment. One’s personality probably determines the particular phrase that rules one. If you are an optimistic and energetic kind of person, with an "of course, I can do it" attitude, the "love of success" might rule you. If you love a challenge or you are the "I'll show you" kind of person, or you are a pessimistic kind of person, the "fear of failure" might rule you. It seems then that if a personality style is appropriately matched with the right motivational phrase, one should witness relatively no difference in the effectiveness of either of the two phrases.

Like I said before, both phrases are essentially the same and might be equally effective. So, ultimately, it is probably the balancing act (in our minds) between the appeal of success and fear of failure that gets us moving--we need to have both (though in seemingly differential amounts) in the motivating cooking pot.

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Saturday, July 08, 2006

When to surrender

"Surrender"--it has such a powerfully negative reputation in our society today. To surrender can sometimes mean a lack of sufficient will; it often times warns of a deficiency in something. "If you just tried a little harder, if you just did a little more..." seems to want to follow most people who surrender. Surrendering implies that we no longer have control, that something else has overpowered us. In modern times where everyone wants to be in control (or appear to be in control), is it a wonder that the act of surrendering is almost like a self-inflicted curse? Yet, surrendering can be a good thing. It is not the lack of action, as it sometimes appears to be. Sometimes it is the best thing to do.

The reason I am talking about this word is that it has been on my heart. I have been a bit absent from this blog and from my writing because of specific issues that I needed to deal with. I am the kind of person who likes to be in control. I like things to happen when I want them to happen and how I want them to happen, and I like to plan how I want things to look, feel, and so on. If I am not the one doing something or planning something, it is generally difficult for me to trust that it will be done well, particularly if the thing in question is something that deeply interests me. In the past few weeks, however, it seems my efforts at control are completely useless and unnecessary. Nothing I do seems to affect any significant change. Yet, I feel the need to do something, anything. It does not matter what, even if that thing drains me. I feel like the person who keeps pressing the elevator button, even though the elevator is not going to come any faster. Still, I keep pressing the button.

I spoke with a friend and we prayed, and she said that word that my heart had been feeling but that my mind was reluctant to bring to my consciousness. When I have done my best, what more can I expect of myself? If I expect more of myself than my absolute best, then I fall into a pit of anxiousness and worry. It becomes difficult to see the things that I have accomplished or positively influenced, and it becomes difficult to see the happiness dancing around my life, wishing me to dance with it. The result is that I start to lose my confidence and wear sadness on my face.

I had to admit it: some things are beyond my control, and this is all right. I am only human. I can only do so much. The rest I have to, by faith, leave to God and trust that whatever happens is, in some way, for my benefit. It is so nice to shake of all these worries. I feel lighter. I can finally grasp that I have a party in a few hours and that people are coming to celebrate with me. Yes, that is right. I have a Book Launch Party today. I am going to go get my dancing shoes. It is going to be a beautiful day. I am going to put on my best smiles, my best look. I am going to let the beauty radiate from within me. This much I can do, and it is sure to inspire others.

Quick lesson of the day: Strive to change what you can change, and be wise; don’t waste your time, thoughts, and energy on what you cannot change. Listen to your heart.

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