Staying Up Late – Is It Worth It?

Sleep Depravation

Is it worth it? I heard that question this morning. If was from my wife Lisa. She knows me too well. Let me back up a bit. I was in the bathroom shaving this morning when my wife walked in. Her greeting wasn’t, “Good morning dear, how did you sleep?” It was, “Soooo…you stayed up until 2:00 in the morning. You know what that does to you. Is it worth it?” I didn’t give her an answer. I didn’t have a good one to give.

I have a character flaw. It is not knowing when to quit a project and go to bed. I was working on some articles last night and before I knew it, it was nearly 2:00 a.m. Lisa had long since gone to bed and was sound asleep. When I crawled into bed she didn’t wake up or roll over or even move a muscle. I thought I was safe and she would never know how late I went to bed. How she knew what time I went to bed is a mystery to me. It’s one of those mysteries of women that men can’t figure out.

So she had me. She asked me if it was worth it because she knows from past experience the price I usually pay for staying up late.

Is it worth it?

Before I can determine if it’s worth it I need to find out why I stay up late, what the benefits are, and what price I end up paying for those benefits. Then I can determine if the benefits are worth the price I pay.

Why do I stay up late?

For different people there are different reasons why they stay up late. If you have this problem then you know what your reasons are. Perhaps you stay up late watching television. Or maybe you love to read. Maybe its endless video games or surfing the internet or chatting with babes online. You know what your reasons are.

For me it usually involves a project I want to get done. Because my days are so full I feel that the only time I have is late at night. I see I have an hour before my normal time to go to bed and I’ll think, “Great, I’ve got a whole hour. I can get an article written in that amount of time. So I’ll begin working on my project. Invariably whatever I’m working on takes much longer than I expected. I grossly underestimate the time it will take.

The next thing that happens is I’ll look at the clock and think, “Well, I’ll just work until eleven.” Before I know it it’s midnight and I still haven’t got my project done. But by now my ideas are flowing. I’m making progress. I’ve got my momentum going. So I think, “I can’t quit now! I can’t stop my flow of ideas and thoughts just as they are getting going!”

It’s so hard for me to stop a project right in the middle. I feel compelled to get it done. I hate loose ends. So I keep going.

By now I’m thinking, “Gee, it’s already so late. I’ve already blown it. I may as well just keep going.” So I keep working until the project is done.

And that, my friend, is how I ended up working until two in the morning!

What are the benefits of staying up late?

So I have to ask myself: What benefits do I gain by staying up late?

  1. Of course the main benefit is actually getting something done.
  2. Probably the next biggest benefit in my mind is TIME. Time for me seems to be in short supply, so whenever I can find a block of time I grab it.
  3. The next benefit would be that the time is uninterrupted time. Not too many people bother you at that time of night. Nobody schedules meetings. No one calls you. You are free from distractions. So having a block of uninterrupted time is a great benefit.
  4. Another benefit is going to bed with the feeling of accomplishment, of having finished a project.

What is the price I pay for staying up late?

Let’s now take a moment and examine what I am paying for those benefits. What are the real costs to me? As I have thought about what it costs me I have come to realize that there is a huge domino effect that comes into play. One thing seems to lead to another. Let me explain.

  • The first domino to fall is that I feel extremely tired in the morning and it lasts throughout the day.
  • The next domino is that I feel lousy. In addition to being exhausted and tired, I usually have a headache because of lack of sleep. Many times that headache will develop into a full-blown migraine and then for sure my day is wasted.
  • The next domino to fall is my inability to get up on time. Because I feel so tired I can’t get up at my regular time.
  • The next price I pay is getting that “look” from my wife when she says, “So, you stayed up until 2:00 in the morning.” I could see the look of disappointment on her face because she knows what it costs me when I stay up too late. So the real cost is the erosion of my relationship with my wife.
  • The next cost is being behind schedule. Because I didn’t get up on time it messes up my schedule for the whole day.
  • Because I’m behind schedule the next price I pay is not being able to exercise in the morning.
  • Next is the cost of not being able to do my daily personal study session. Every morning I try to study and ponder good books. I can’t do that when I have no time.
  • Another big cost is not having time to plan my day.
  • Because my day isn’t planned then I fail to accomplish important tasks that I should have gotten done.
  • The next big price I pay is more stress in my life. Because I’m behind schedule I find myself in a big rush and my stress level rises.
  • Because I’m stressed then I’m in a bad mood.
  • What puts me into a worse mood is having no time to eat breakfast, one of the most important meals of the day. So in addition to feeling lousy and tired and having a headache, I’m also hungry.
  • Then I get to work late. Here I come strolling into work 45 minutes or an hour late. How does that look to my boss, my subordinates and the employees I manage in my department? Not good. Big price.
  • When I eventually do get to work my productivity and my ability to think clearly is affected because I’m so drained.
  • The overall affect continues throughout the day. Because I got to work late in the morning that means I have to stay late to be fair to my employer.
  • Because I had to work late then I get home late. The price I pay is getting, for second time of the day, that “look” from my wife when I walk in the door. She doesn’t have to say anything – I can see the disappointment in her eyes.
  • Because I’m late getting home I miss having dinner with my family.
  • If I have meetings or commitments in the evening then I either have to gobble down my dinner or miss dinner altogether because I don’t have time.
  • The tendency to fail in other areas of my life. When I’m tired and hungry and angry and discouraged and stressed and depressed then I’m more susceptible to failing in other areas where I have made commitments. Failure loves company.
  • Finally, the last domino to fall is the cost of having an overall feeling of frustration and disappointment with myself. My self-esteem takes a big hit.

As you can see the dominos keep falling, one after the other. Its amazing how one little decision the night before affects the entire next day.

Is it worth it?

After weighing the benefits with the costs, it becomes clear that it’s a huge price you pay for that 2 or 3 hours that you think you are gaining by staying up late.

What is the solution?

Well, duh! The solution is to stop staying up late – right? Easier said than done. Here are some ideas to help in mastering this part of your life.

First: You have to make a serious commitment with yourself that you are not going to stay up late any more for any reason.

Second: You have to have a deadline for going to bed. This means you need to decide what time you will be in bed with your head on the pillow and your lights out.

Third: You have to determine how long it takes you to get ready for bed so you know what time you need to begin going to bed. It takes time to brush your teeth, change into your pajamas and whatever else you do before going to bed. If your goal is to be in bed by 11:00 p.m. and it takes you a half-hour to get ready for bed then you need to begin by 10:30 p.m.

Fourth: You need to think ahead and make sure you don’t start anything you can’t finish or end by 10:30 p.m. You can’t be going to a movie at 9:30 at night because you know a movie is roughly two hours and it takes time to get there and time to get home and you’ll never make it.

Okay, so I’ve laid out a very convincing argument against staying up late. I’ve shown that the costs far outweigh any benefits that might be gained. I’ve also laid out a simple plan to change this habit. And I’ve done it all for your benefit. But really, that would be a lie. You see, this really is a challenge to myself to master this area of my life. It’s something I’ve known for a long time that I needed to change.

So, beginning today, I am going to follow this plan and report back to you how I’m doing. Thanks for listening in as I have attempted to convince myself of all the reasons to change. Wish me luck on this challenge.

Do What You Know

farmer I once heard a story about a farmer who had been farming for many years. He had a son who went off to college and after a few years came home with a degree in hand, and a head full of knowledge. He told his father, “You know, Dad, this farm would be much more productive if you would use the new methods of farming. These days everyone is using hybrid strains of seeds. There are better methods of crop rotation and contour plowing. Plus you really should be using up-to-date insecticides and fertilizers. And did you know most farmers are milking their cows three times a day instead of two.” He went on and on expounding the virtues of all the modern methods of farming. Finally his father said, “Now just hold on there son! I’m not farming half as well as I know how already!”

Isn’t that the way we are? We seldom perform as well as we know how. I’ve heard people say that “knowledge is power.” To a certain degree it can be. But in my own personal experience I find that I know a lot of things that I should be doing but I don’t. Just having knowledge about something doesn’t necessarily translate to the ability or power to do it.

Many times over the years I would tell my children to do their homework. Invariably they would answer back, “I know dad!” and I would say back to them, “Then do what you know!” It’s kind of a joke around my house because I have said that phrase so many times to my children: Do what you know.

How many self-improvement books have you read over your life time? I have hundreds of them! We probably learn ten-times more than what we ever put into action in our lives. Yet we keep buying books and wanting to learn more.

At some point it’s time to stop learning and start doing. We need to put our knowledge to use. I’m not suggesting we completely stop learning but what good is learning if we never use it?

Here is my suggestion: How about making a list of all the things you know you should do but aren’t. Then from your list choose two or three things and start doing them! You can read books, read blogs and listen to tapes and CDs till the cows come home but until you actually do something you are going nowhere. It’s time to take real action! At the end of the day, knowing the answer means nothing if you don’t do anything about it.

Decide to Decide

Fork in the Road

Fork in the road

What if there was a key behavior that if you could master, would save you untold pain, worry, effort and time? What if this behavior could make your efforts to achieve total self-mastery ten times easier? Today I’m going to teach you a simple concept that seems to elude most people, yet is so simple.

One thing you share in common with nearly every one else is that your day is full of decisions. Dozens of times a day you are faced with a fork in the road and must decide which way to go. Humans are naturally lazy creatures so when you are faced with two choices you tend to gravitate toward the easiest path. Why choose the long, hard road when you can take the short, easy one? Or why do something when you just don’t feel like it? As you stand there at the fork in the road and evaluate the situation, the pull to the easy road becomes powerfully strong. More often than not, if you are like the average person, you are sucked into the easy road.

The problem here is that the easy road is not always the best road to follow in the long run. In our minds we know which road is the best road but somehow we end up going the wrong way. What I am explaining here is the answer to a long held question. It is:

“Why do we do what we do when we know what we know?”

In other words, why do people do things they know aren’t good for them? The answer is because we are making our decisions at the wrong time. We are making our decisions when we are standing at the fork in the road.

Let me give you an example. If every morning you make the decision of whether to get up or not at the time your alarm clock goes off, you are making that decision at the fork in the road. In your mind you are deliberating, “Should I get up? Should I sleep for ten more minutes? I’m so tired! Just a few more minutes of sleep.” And back to bed you go.

Do you see the problem here? The time to make the decision of when to get up in the morning is not at 6:00 in the morning!

“Right decisions are easiest to make when we make them well in advance, having ultimate objectives in mind; this saves a lot of anguish at the fork, when we’re tired and sorely tempted.” – Spencer W. Kimball

There are dozens of decisions we face every day that should already have been decided long ago. We shouldn’t have to agonize and re-decide the same decisions a hundred times! Many of these decisions only need to be made once. This statement by William James describes it so well:

“There is no more miserable person than one in whom nothing is habitual but indecision, and for whom the lighting of every cigar, the drinking of every cup, the time of rising and going to bed every day, and the beginning of every bit of work are subjects of deliberation. Half the time of such a man goes to deciding or regretting matters which ought to be so ingrained in him as practically not to exist for his consciousness at all.” — William James

The whole point we are trying to make is to determine early on what things you will and will not do and be done with it. Look at your long-term objectives and make the decisions now that will lead you in that direction. You only need to make those decisions once.

For example, my wife made the decision long ago that she will go out running every morning, no matter what. There is no deciding each morning as to whether she is going running or not. That decision has already been made. There is no painful deliberation and analyzing that takes place. It is as automatic for her as the rising of the sun each day.

Now I want you to think about the decisions you make on a daily basis. Aren’t there a number of them you could make once and for all and be done with them? Aren’t there decisions about what you will eat or not eat, decisions about exercising, decisions about daily habits, decisions about all kinds of things that you can make once and forever be done with them?

I challenge you to consciously examine your life and make this one key behavior change. Examine each fork in the road you come across on a daily basis and see which ones you can decide once and for all. You will be so much further along the road to self-mastery.

“We know what happens to people who stay in the middle of the road. They get run over.” — Aneurin Bevan

What are your thoughts about making decisions once and for all? What are the ones you have the biggest challenges with? Have you found ways to make this process easier? Please share with us in the comments below.

Thank you.

Copyright © 2014 Gary N. Larson

Judging Others – A Lesson in the Desert

The Biker

Several years ago I decided to make the long trip to southeastern Arizona to visit my father. We had a nice visit and when it was time for me to drive home I decided to take a different route home to see some of the country I hadn’t seen before.

The Breakdown

My trip across the desert was going fine until I made a stop and saw steam coming from the engine of my car. I added water to the radiator and tried to continue on but before long the engine began steaming and overheating again. I tried that remedy a few more times but realized I would never make it home at that rate. I limped into the next small town and talked to a mechanic. It turned out my water pump was going bad. Unfortunately they were closing in a half hour and told me they couldn’t help me.

I had tools with me so I thought I would try and replace the water pump myself. I bought one at the local auto parts store and then looked for a place I could work on my car. I found an abandoned rest-stopa mile or so outside of town and pulled into the empty parking lot and began to work on my car.

To my dismay, I couldn’t loosen the bolts on the water pump. I tried and tried but they just wouldn’t give. The sun was about to go down and I was getting very discouraged. I just wanted to get home and it didn’t look like I was going to make it.

The Stranger

As I was standing there, staring at my engine, I heard the sound of a motorcycle. I looked up and saw a man on a Harley Davidson heading in my direction across the empty parking lot. He was wearing a leather vest, leather pants, a bandanna on his head, earrings in his ears, various tattoos on his body, and chains hanging off his clothes.

I assessed the situation. Here I was all alone in the middle of nowhere and here was this man coming towards me that didn’t look like the kind of guy I wanted to meet up with. I remember thinking to myself, “I am going to die right here!” I was sure he must be carrying a gun and was going to rob me and then shoot me, execution style. My wife was going to be a widow. My kids where going to be fatherless. I even started imagining what my funeral was going to be like. I was scared!

He parked his Harley nearby and walked over towards me. I was bracing for the worst.

He asked me, “What seems to be the problem?”

The Near-Death Experience

“Oh,” I thought, “he’s just softening me up before robbing and killing me.” I told him my situation and instead of killing me, he helped me. I was shocked! He told me to loosen the radiator cap just enough to let the pressure off the cooling system and I should be able to make it home fine. And guess what, that’s exactly what I did and it worked just as he said. I made it home without further problems.

I remember as I was driving home how bad I felt that I had misjudged this man. He was really a very nice guy – just a bit different than me in his choice of clothing and jewelry. It taught me a great lesson to not be so quick in judging others just because they may be different than me in some way. It taught me that I need to be more accepting of people for who they are.

The Challenge

My challenge to you is to be more aware of how you are treating others. Do you treat all people with equal respect and kindness or are there some groups that you tend to treat differently than others? Ask yourself why that is and resolve to change. Work more on being inclusive, not exclusive. Look past the differences and see the common good in all.

Not Repression, But Self-Mastery

Self-Mastery

(This is an excerpt from the book THIS MYSTICAL LIFE OF OURS by Ralf Waldo Trine, first published in the 1907 and is now in the public domain.)

From what has been said let it not be inferred that the body, the physical, material life is to be despised or looked down upon. This, rather let it be said, is one of the crying errors of the times, and prolific of a vast amount of error, suffering, and shame. On the contrary, it should be thought all the more highly of: it should be loved and developed to its highest perfections, beauties, and powers. God gave us the body not in vain. It is just as holy and beautiful as the spirit itself. It is merely the outward material manifestation of the individualized spirit; and we by our hourly thoughts and emotions are building it, are determining its conditions, its structure, and appearance.

Every part, every organ, every function of the body is just as clean, just as beautiful, just as sweet, and just as holy as every other part; and it is only by virtue of man’s perverted ways of looking at some that they become otherwise, and the moment they so become, abuses, ill uses, suffering, and shame creep in.

Not repression, but elevation. Would that this could be repeated a thousand times over! Not repression, but elevation. Every part, every organ, every function of the body is given for use, but not for misuse or abuse; and the moment the latter takes place in connection with any function it loses its higher powers of use, and there goes with this the higher powers of true enjoyment.

No, a knowledge of the spiritual realities of life prohibits asceticism, repression, the same as it prohibits license and perverted use. To err on the one side is just as contrary to the ideal life as to err on the other. All things are for a purpose, all should be used and enjoyed; but all should be rightly used, that they may be fully enjoyed.

It is the threefold life and development that is wanted, — physical, mental, spiritual. This gives the rounded life, and he or she who fails in any one comes short of the perfect whole. The physical has its uses just the same and is just as important as the others. The great secret of the highly successful life is, however, to infuse the mental and the physical with the spiritual; in other words, to spiritualize all, and so raise all to the highest possibilities and powers.

It is the all-around, fully developed we want, — not the ethereal, pale-blooded man and woman, but the man and woman of flesh and blood, for action and service here and now, — the man and woman strong and powerful, with all the faculties and functions fully unfolded and used, all in a royal and bounding condition, but all rightly subordinated. The man and the woman of this kind, with the imperial hand of mastery upon all, — standing, moving thus like a king, nay, like a very God, — such is the man and such is the woman of power. Such is the ideal life: anything else is one-sided, and falls short of it.

Focus On You, Not Your Problem

Focus

What if I could show you a way to overcome the biggest obstacles in your life that was totally different than the advice you get everywhere else – and what if it really worked? I’m talking about obstacles such as smoking, drinking, anger, overeating, staying up too late, bad relationships or even drug and pornography addictions. Think for a moment about the biggest obstacle that is holding you back in your life. Think about how you’ve been dealing with it. What I want to present today is a better approach to eliminating it from your life.

In order for me to more clearly explain this I want to use a visual example.

The Trail of Life

Obstacle1

Picture yourself walking down a trail (which is exactly what I happen to be doing right now as I record this.) You are walking along a path. This path is your life. You are walking along the trail of life. As you move forward along this trail of life you are progressing and moving forward in your life. A simple analogy.

The Obstacle in Your Path

Now you are going along your merry way and you come across a huge boulder in the trail. It covers the entire path and blocks your way. You can’t go any further. It’s a huge obstacle in your way. You look at the boulder and you think, “How am I going to deal with this? I’ve got to somehow get it out of my way.”

Focusing On Your Obstacle Doesn’t Work

You try pushing on the boulder. You put your back up against it and push with your feet and it doesn’t budge. You run at it and hit it with your shoulder and it doesn’t move. You try to go around it but it’s so big you can’t get around it. You try to climb over it but it’s just too tall. You try to dig under it. You get down on your knees and try to dig with your hands. You scratch and scrape and dig in the hard ground and you make very little progress. You work and work on that boulder and try every way possible to get rid of it and no matter what you do you fail. The more you work on this boulder the more frustrated you get, the more tired you get, the more discouraged you get. It just can’t be done.

Finally you sit down on the trail because you feel like giving up. You think, “What am I going to do? I try and try to get this boulder out of my way and no matter what I do I can’t seem to overcome it.” It’s extremely discouraging and frustrating to you.

The boulder represents the biggest struggle or obstacle you face in your life. This is the thing that’s holding you back the most in your life. You have tried and tried and struggled for years to get rid of this problem from your life with no success.

Change Your Focus

The big revelation here is that you’ve been focusing on the wrong thing. You’ve been putting all of your time and energy and attention into your problem. Strange as it may be, that’s the wrong place to put it.

Obstacle2

I’ve had the opportunity to meet with a number of people who have come to me for counsel with huge issues and problems in their lives that they have struggled with for months and years. Generally this is the case: they have put all their focus and energy on the problem. Usually I will take out a sheet of paper and draw a simple picture of them on the trail with the big rock that stands in their way. I tell them that their focus and energy has been on the wrong thing, on their problem. I then draw a big arrow pointing at the problem.

Work On You, Not Your Problem

Then I draw another arrow pointing at them and say, “This is where you need to be focusing, not on your problem but on yourself.” For most people this is an entirely new concept, something they have never considered. It is the idea that they need to worry and focus on themselves, not their problem.

What does this mean?

Let’s say you are trying to quit smoking. Normally you put all of your efforts into trying not to smoke. You get rid of your cigarettes and you get the nicotine patch and you do the typical things people do to try to quit smoking. It’s constantly on your mind as you try to overcome your smoking habit.

Let’s say it’s overeating. That’s a fairly common one. You struggle so hard to not eat bad foods. You have a long list of the foods you shouldn’t eat and you try everything possible to conquer your habit of overeating.

What I say is that it doesn’t work. What you need to do is focus on strengthening the character traits in yourself that are incompatible with your habit or problem.

In the case of overeating, instead of focusing on not eating certain foods, your focus and energy would be on yourself as far as eating healthy food and exercising. Your focus would be on yourself as a fit and healthy person, instead of focusing on what you don’t want. You get your mind off the boulder and onto yourself.

Obstacle3

Picture in your mind the visual image of you on the trail with the obstacle in your path – the obstacle doesn’t change, you do! You grow! You become large. Compared to you, your obstacle is tiny! It’s not an issue any more because you simply step over it and go on your way. You never even deal directly with the problem because it is now so insignificant. You’ve grown and strengthened yourself so much in that particular area that it’s no longer a problem for you.

Does it Really Work?

You may be wondering if this method really works. Let me share with you a story that happened recently. I was working with a young man who was struggling with pornography. He hated it. He wanted to be free of the temptations and had struggled for some time on his own to stop. Each time he gave-in to temptation he would tell himself, “I’m never going to do that again” only to have it happen again in a few days. He failed because he focused on the problem.

As I worked with him I drew on a chalkboard the picture of the person on the trail with the big obstacle in the way. I told him to quit worrying about his problem and start working on himself.

We came up with some ways that he could strengthen himself spiritually. He determined that he would sincerely pray and read scriptures every day. He also decided to be nicer to his family and just be a better person.

For a number of weeks he worked at this and would report back to me from time to time. Several days ago we met again. He told me that when we began this program the temptations would still come back from time to time. Then he told me that for the last few weeks the temptations were totally gone. He said they never even crossed his mind. He said, “I never even thought about not thinking about it. It was just totally gone.” You should have seen the big smile on his face as he left my office.

My Challenge to You

I would like to challenge you to try this. Determine what is the biggest obstacle you face in your life. What is the thing that holds you back the most? How have you dealt with it? Have you put all your energy into fighting this obstacle directly? If so, I challenge you to change your focus and work on yourself. Make yourself bigger and stronger in the character traits that are incompatible with your obstacle. Work on those every day. Grow yourself to the point where all you need to do is step over your obstacle and continue on you path in life. May you succeed as I have seen many others succeed.

What are your thoughts on dealing with the obstacles your face? What methods have you used to combat these obstacles and have you met with success? Please share your thoughts and/ or experiences in the comments below.

Copyright © 2014 Gary N. Larson