People often get out of control thinking about the future and start putting off tasks to the future rather than starting now. This issue is known as procrastination, and even though people want to do something, their desire for it is not enough to get them to start. Procrastination is hard to change because it is actually an efficient way to do work, which is to complete something in a short span of time. And because of its efficiency a majority of people procrastinate.
Procrastination is an incredibly efficient task completion strategy in terms of value and efficiency (yield/effort). Therefore, Procrastination is a solution, not a problem.
Aside from the efficiency of procrastination, people tend to struggle trying to resolve this issue because they often misdiagnose it because there are multiple types of procrastination.
The three types are:
For example, you'd rather take a 100% chance of an F than a 20% chance at an A.
Looking at the goal and the future is overwhelming part.
"I don't want to do it because it will make me look or feel _______"
It is caused by our brain having difficulty engaging in unclear tasks. When you do a task and you think: "That was not that bad, I could have done that earlier", then it's likely that you were suffering from operational procrastination. Our brain struggles to execute abstract tasks, such as "finding a job".
"Finding a job" is abstract because the word does not describe the complexity of the steps involved to perform the task.
All of these kinds of procrastination can coexist and you may have to deal with two or all of them at the same time.
Trying is in the middle of doing and failing, which prevents you from acting and taking the next step. Instead of trying to do something, people should attempt despite the success or failure because confidence is build from from failing and knowing that you survived the failure.
Recognize the emotions — "What is the emotion that I'm feeling or trying to avoid feeling?"
Bad, lazy stupid, incompetent are not emotions
For people that struggle with feeling their emotions: "what is the consequence I'm trying to avoid? How would someone who is in that situation feel?"
Work on an emotional level — ask yourself: "If I had a friend who felt X emotion, what would I say to them?" Then say that to yourself (don't be a judge, be a coach).
It's harder to jump from "I need to find a job" to the interview because you can get knocked down and feel like you have to start from the bottom again. Chunking ensures that when you get knocked down you are back to the applying stage or somewhere in the middle.
Often times people feel bad for leaving projects unfinished, even though there are no deadlines. Instead of finding ways to be constantly productive and being distressed by the unfinished projects, accept that you will have unfinished projects and leave them unfinished. You want to focus on finishing the ones that you need to work on, and avoid letting the unfinished projects distract you from your work. For example, Dr K has 90% of his projects unfinished, so that he can focus on the 10% he needs to finish.
An unfinished project is fine because all projects are unfinished before they are finished. In fact, if you do not need the project completed, then there is no point in completion except title of completion. Instead, unfinished projects are actually prepared projects that are waiting to be completed when they are needed. In addition, you can always gain experience and find value in the effort you put into your unfinished project. For example, Dr K writes often has unpublished works, but writing helps him clarifies his thoughts and makes it accessible for future reference.
Unfinished projects are opportunities to learn about the material, the process of completion, and yourself.
Everything that we do in life shapes us in some way. Our experiences get planted in our brain, which learns from them and changes the way that we interact with the world. It is important to understand how gaming shapes the person that you are, and how the brain processes the knowledge or information that we gather from playing games and uses it to approach the real world.
Gamers are very good close-ended problem solvers because playing games makes gamers good at close-ended problem solving and makes them worse at open-ended problem-solving.
In a game, we have a particular objective, and we are given a set of tools or assets. In an RPG, a character has certain abilities. In a sports game, we are given a team of players. The game forces you to figure out how to use that team of people or the abilities you have been provided with, to accomplish a certain objective. You are given an objective and a particular set of rules, and you have to use that set of rules to achieve that goal.
For example, if you are playing Mario, it is not possible to open a lemonade stand. The game does not allow you to do that. If you are playing World of Warcraft, then you cannot build a spaceship. There are certain limits that the game provides us with. As a result, gamers are good at coming up with an optimal solution if they are given a particular sandbox to work in.
The problem is that a lot of the challenges that gamers suffer from are not close-ended problems — they are open-ended problems. These are problems that do not have a particular sandbox.
A gamer is good at figuring out how to get from point A to point Z if you show them where points A and Z are, but they struggle with open-ended problems, which are those in which you don't know where the endpoint is.
An example of an open-ended problem is gaining financial independence. That seems so vague — what does financial independence even mean? It may involve certain pieces such as finding a job, moving out of your parent’s place, etc. But gamers seem to have trouble with problems that do not seem to have a particular set of tools or a particular goal. They struggle with abstract things.
A lot of gamers think that the reason they struggle with open-ended problems like finding a job or finding a romantic relationship is that they think they are lazy. They think that if they weren't lazy then everything would be easier in life.
When someone gives you a problem, an objective, and a set of tools, then you will probably be able to get from point ‘A’ to point ‘Z’. The problem that gamers run into is that they do not know exactly where point ‘Z’ is. When our brain spends a lot of time playing games, it starts to optimize for working within that close-ended framework.
Gamers tend to find it difficult to find solutions to abstract problems such as gaining financial independence, finding a romantic relationship, and getting in shape. They will say things like they are lazy or unmotivated, but what they do not realize is that open-ended problem solving is a skill that can be learned and taught. Since gamers spend so much time playing video games, they end up losing opportunities to learn this kind of problem-solving.
For example, when a four-year-old is asked to clean their room, they have trouble doing that. They know the difference between a clean room and a dirty room, but they do not know how to get from one to the other. The way you teach them is by cleaning the room with them and breaking down the task into pieces. You show them where their toys go, where their papers and crayons go, and where to put their books.
You walk them through the steps of creating a clean room. They cannot take the abstract task of cleaning their room and break it down into pieces. The process of taking an abstract problem and creating the operation of moving from point ‘A’ to point ‘Z’ is called operationalizing.
If you wanted to operationalize financial independence, you would break it down into tasks such as creating a bank account, earning enough money to pay rent, and finding a place to live. You could further break it down by making decisions such as whether or not you need a roommate, or whether you want to live in the suburbs or downtown. There are several different pieces to the puzzle, and breaking it down into its constituent pieces it operationalizing.
The reason gamers have trouble with operationalizing is that games tend to break down tasks for them. They are good at putting the pieces together, but they struggle with figuring out what the pieces are.
Gamers think they are lazy, but actually, their brain has difficulty operationalizing tasks for them, which makes them unsure of where to start.
There is a part of the brain called the frontal lobe which is responsible for planning and executing actions. Gamers tend to have under-developed frontal lobes because games do the planning for them. In a game, you do not have to figure out which level to do first — the game chunks up the levels for you. This is part of the reason that gamers struggle to solve abstract or open-ended problems because those are the things that people usually require to move forward in life.
Open-ended problem solving has nothing to do with intelligence or laziness — it is a skill that can be learned and developed.
In the same way that a four-year-old can be taught to break down the abstract task of cleaning their room into pieces, gamers can also be taught how to break down abstract problems like financial independence or finding a romantic relationship.
Once an open-ended task has been transformed into a close-ended task, your analytical mind will take over and you will have no problem whatsoever.
A 16-year-old who tries a job has about 10 options. When they apply to college, they have 20 options. They also have 10 options when choosing their major. They have 50 options for their first job and about a hundred options when choosing a graduate school. Each step of the way, their brain learns the skill of taking an abstract problem and breaking it down into individual pieces. As a result, they get good at solving open-ended problems
When a gamer looks at a successful person in their age group, they say, “Wow, that person is motivated because they are a manager at an investment bank. That guy has to be smart, not lazy.”
Reality is more subtle than that — it is not about whether they are or aren't lazy. They have simply learned how to manage a broader and broader set of abstract problems. They have gotten better at open-ended problem-solving.
On the other hand, the gamer, instead of getting a job at 16, plays video games for 6 hours a day. When they go to college, they don't spend a lot of time going to different club activities or figuring out what to major in. They just pick computer science or graphic design because they want to be a video game programmer. They spend a lot of their free time playing video games. When they finish college, they apply for a narrower set of jobs and spend most of their time just playing video games.
They may not even go to graduate school, because at that point, their abstract thinking stops. It stops growing and they end up being 30 years old and comparing themself to their buddy, who's a manager at an investment bank and say, “Wow, that guy is hard-working while I'm lazy, and that is the reason I am where I am.”
The fascinating thing is that it's not about laziness or intelligence — it is about developing a particular cognitive skill of taking an open-ended abstract problem and being able to chunk it up. If you can sit down and consciously take a problem that you have and operationalize it i.e break it down into its parts and figure out what you need to do it each step of the way, then you will suddenly start to move forward in life. You will suddenly start getting better, start becoming more financially independent, find better jobs, and even find romantic relationships.
Even something like finding a relationship is an abstract problem that can be chunked down into fashion, hygiene, social skills, getting physically into shape, and moving out. Once you start working on the pieces, it is amazing how much better your life can get, but to do that, you have to learn how to break down that problem because your brain is not used to doing that. It has not needed to do it because gamers spend so many hours playing video games where that has been done for you.
Do you know how to achieve the goal that you say you want? If you want to be financially independent do you know the steps around to achieve that? If you sit down and start writing those steps on a piece of paper, you are likely gonna come up with like 6 or 7 which are going to be abstract. That is when you are going to stop because that is when you are going to have trouble.
If you want to start moving forward in life, teach your brain how to take abstract problems and turn them into concrete ones. The neat thing about gamers is that if they are given a concrete problem and a concrete set of tools, they will figure it out on your own. The first step is taking an open-ended problem and turning it into a closed-ended problem.
Gamers tend to be objective-oriented. whenever you are playing a game there is always some kind of objective. If you’re playing something like Assassin’s Creed you’re supposed to go assassinate a target. If you’re playing World of Warcraft and you’re trying to do some kind of quest, it is usually like "collect six pig tusks" or something similar. There’s always a goal in a game.
When our mind does something for a long time, it gets used to doing things in that particular way. Since gamers spend so much time with their mind focused on a specific objective, their mind becomes very good at being objective oriented.
That is not exclusive to gamers, in fact, most of our society tends to be objective or outcome-oriented. Schools do not care what you learn, they care what your grade is. The grade is an outcome, and it is somewhat different from how much you know. Similarly, the stock market depends on things like meeting the quarterly expectations and whether the profits were higher or lower than expected. Our society is built around the idea that outcomes are the important thing.
Focusing on outcomes can get in the way of gamers moving into the world. When a gamer tries to do something and there is a decent chance that the outcome is not going to be favorable, then they avoid doing the task altogether.
For example if a gamer thinks, “Oh, I'm not going to find a great job so there’s no point in applying.” or other things like, “there's no point in asking a person out because they are just going to say no.” Since they are so focused on a particular outcome it prevents them from even trying. That has a lot of different complicated psychological stuff associated with it, things around ego, feeling hurt and feeling rejected but for now, we’re just going to focus a little bit on what it means to be outcome-oriented.
Since gamers are quite analytical and good at predicting things if they believe there's a chance that something won't work they avoid the entire phenomenon. That's a damning way to go through life because a lot of the time, you have to try something a couple of times for you to get it to work. Gamers have an aversion to trying because when they do attempt something and it doesn't work out, they feel worse and rejected. They justify their feelings by saying "Oh, I knew it wasn't going to work anyway — why did I even do it?". As a result, they don't even attempt to do things in the future.
If you find that you have this kind of thought process, then chances are that it is part of the reason why you are not able to move forward in life. You don't even give yourself a chance to try.
A lot of Dr. K's success is because he took these drastic steps. When he graduated from the University of Texas at Austin, his GPA was 2.5. That was after doing well during his last two and a half years. After he finished graduating with an undergraduate degree in neurobiology, he applied for a research job because that's usually what people with biology degrees do.
He applied to 130 research labs for a research assistant position, out of which he got just one interview. He lived in Houston at the time, and the interview was in Dallas (which he wasn't even sure if he was going to move there). He almost gave up, but then he saw there was one position opening up at, of all places, Harvard University. He was attracted to the fact that it was a neuroscience lab researching Tai Chi. He applied for the position and ended up getting an interview. He was really surprised and wondered how a guy with a 2.6 GPA, who’s applied for 130 research positions end up getting an interview for a position at Harvard of all places?”
He went to the interview and ended up getting the job. That's when he realized he was the only applicant. Of all of these other places that he applied to, where there were dozens of applicants, no one had applied to Harvard, because no one thought they were good enough. That is when Dr. K learned a really important lesson — you have to try because you don’t know what's going to happen.
Gamers think that they can predict the future, which makes sense because they are extremely analytical. A game trains you to make an analytical read of a given situation and then make a decision about what is going to happen. That capacity is far above the average population of gamers.
The problem is that in the real world you don't know what is going to happen. The real world is not like a video game where the rules are set in stone — it is way more nebulous. If you fall into that category this is what you need to do, this is another cognitive reframing, to shift from being outcome-oriented to action-oriented.
Don't focus on the outcome of your actions. Try to focus on what you’re doing, not on what you’re getting. The more that gamers get hung up on outcomes, the more problems they run into. However, focusing on the action and ignoring the result moves you closer to the result.
For example, a lot of gamers say that they need to get in shape. What does that even mean? You can't get into shape, that's not a thing. Does that mean having washboard abs, losing ten pounds, or being able to bench press 300 pounds? What does getting into shape mean?
This is the way that gamers think — in really broad abstract terms. They think about getting rich, but what is rich? Is that ten thousand, fifty thousand, a million, or ten million dollars a year?
Change from an abstract goal into a more concrete one — so getting into shape can mean losing ten pounds. But even for that, do not focus on the goal, focus on the action. So instead of telling yourself to get into shape or lose ten pounds, tell yourself that you need to go to the gym three times a week.
It doesn't matter what you do at the gym, just focus on action. The more that you’re able to focus on the action the better off your life will become because at that point you’re just going to the gym three times a week. Whether you get into shape or not doesn't matter so much. The more that you focus on what you’re doing the better your chances are of being successful in life.
For example, instead of focusing on getting a job, focus on applying to ten jobs a week. It seems like a subtle change, but it’s gigantic. One is something that is absolutely under your control — you can apply to ten jobs a week, and the other is not actually under your control, which is finding a job. Maybe all of those jobs are filled, there are more competitive candidates or the people there don't like you. Maybe they don't like your name so they will throw your application away. Maybe the mailman loses the application. There are lots of things that can happen in outcomes that are outside of your control.
Games have trained your brain to be objective-oriented. Games have also taught you that you are good at analyzing a situation and predicting the outcome. But that analysis and prediction only holds true in the game. The real world is a different place, and your brain doesn't realize that. Your brain has developed a certain kind of machinery or algorithm and it tries to use that algorithm as much as possible.
What gamers need to do to move forward is to refrain from being objective-oriented to being action-oriented. The more that you can change from a goal to action, the better off you will be.
The frontal lobes is a part in the brain that is used to plan and execute complex tasks, while executive function is the the ability to execute those complex/abstract tasks. For example, finding a job is one of the most common abstract tasks that tests the executive function of the frontal lobes because it requires you to create smaller, related tasks that will lead you to employment. You would need to do things such as updating or drafting a resume, revising that resume, asking for feedback, etc. All of these smaller tasks are combined to be one big abstract task which is find a job. Executive function usually improves with age because the frontal lobe develops, and does not degrade over time. However, the frontal lobes are negatively impacted by playing video games because video games often removed the need to use of executive functions of the frontal lobes by breaking down the task for you. Eventually, enough video game exposure could possibility cause something called executive dysfunction.
Executive dysfunction is when your executive function are not working effectively and therefore you are not able to break down abstract tasks and execute on them. This is often observed in toddlers when asked to clean their room. Often times toddlers are unable to clean their room, yet they are completely capable of doing the smaller tasks that would equate to cleaning a room. They are unable to break down the task of cleaning their room because their frontal lobes and executive functions are not as develop as adults. As a result, they require someone with the executive function ability, i.e. the parents, to break down the task for them and deliver the steps to them. So like the toddler, people with executive dysfunction will struggle working towards a large task and will be paralyzed. They can also have insight and understand their paralyzation but there is nothing they can alter in the brain to change their executive dysfunction.
One of the biggest problems that gamers face is moving into the real world and doing things outside of video games. As crazy as it sounds, that's a perfectly reasonable problem to have.
Why is it that you guys may have things that you want to do but have trouble doing? You have hopes, you have desires, you have dreams. You even know what you should be doing, but you have trouble doing it. The way to get control of that and control your behavior is to understand where that problem comes from. To understand how to fix something we have to understand what's wrong. A lot of the paralysis that gamers experience in doing things outside of a video game comes from the way they were treated when they were very young.
A lot of gamers are smart. Data shows that the average gamer is smarter than the rest of the average population. Most games might have higher IQs than the average person. As a result, a lot of them are told that they're smart, right from a young age. Due to this, they start to develop this identity of being a smart kid. When they develop an identity that they're smart, they start to do things that reinforce that identity and stay away from things that contrast with it.
For example: if a child thinks that they are smart, then they would want to do things that other people are gonna perceive as being smart. But if there are things that they are not very good at, and they feel stupid when they try it, then they are very unlikely to attempt it.
Over time, the smart kid only does things that make them appear smart, which means things that are generally easier. They stay away from things that are hard for them. This works out fine until they reach third grade, fourth grade, or fifth grade because as a smart kid you do not have to spend a whole lot of time studying. You can just do the things that you want to and everyone, including your parents, teachers, family and family friends are all going to say, “Oh, look at that kid, he's so bright.” But over time, those kinds of kids start to avoid challenging things because whenever they do something challenging, they feel stupid. This conflicts with their identity of being smart.
A kid who is told that they are smart avoids challenging things and as they get older, that avoidance becomes baked in. It becomes a part of who they are and how they move around in the world.
This avoidance starts at a very young age. Moreover, the hardest things for gamers to do are those where you're being observed by other people. You feel incompetent, why is it that that bothers you so much even if those are people that you don't care about? Even if you're never going to see them again.
It's really hard for you to do anything where other people see how incompetent you are. Gamers run away from any sort of experience that makes them feel less than smart or where they feel kind of silly or incompetent. That is paralyzing because everyone is bad at most things in life when they are new to it.
The first way to get around this problem is by reframing a little bit. In the world, we tend to value intelligence and we say, for example, “I'm a faculty member at Harvard Medical School.” When people learn that the first thing that they say is, “You must be so smart.” It is true, Dr. K is a pretty smart guy, but he is probably not a lot smarter than other gamers.
The world values, as well as rewards, is experience and competence. A lot of people are really smart, but they don't amount to much.
That is probably the way that you feel right now. you feel that despite being so smart, you're not able to accomplish a lot in life. 95 percent of gamers say that it's because they are lazy. Let's reframe from smart or stupid to experienced and inexperienced.
Your success has nothing to do with your intelligence. It has to do with your experience or inexperience and the degree of your competence. Think about what you want to do and try to reframe in your mind, that it's not that you are smart or stupid — you are experienced or inexperienced.
For example, you can say, "I suck at interviews.” But actually, interviews require practice, and the more you practice at interviewing the better you are gonna be.
If you're feeling paralyzed in life, or feeling like you can't move out into the world and do the things that you want to do or should do, first look at yourself and ask yourself, “Am I facing this roadblock because I feel judged or stupid?” If the answer to that question is yes, then the first solution that you can try is to make a change in your mindset.
Don't think of yourself as stupid, think of yourself as inexperienced. The neat thing about that is that the more you think of yourself as inexperienced, the more you naturally realize that the solution to inexperience is to try things.
When you try things and you accept that you are inexperienced, then failure becomes more and more acceptable. The problem that you have likely is that you cannot tolerate the idea of failing.
If you can reframe to inexperience then failure becomes a normal part of it. You have to learn, you have to stumble a couple of times before you learn how to walk. If you can make that shift then that is a good first step to you being able to move forward in the world and overcome that obstacle of feeling like you're stupid or feeling like you're judged.