How I stopped procrastinating (and got a 40 on the IB Diploma) pt.1

Winter is coming in a metaphorical sense because our finals are just around the corner. Winter is also coming in a literal sense, which means food and alcohol and parties in copious amounts.

You’ve said it a million times to no avail, but this time, you are convinced that you will study for your exams, and you won’t gain weight over the holidays, etc. Except for the tiny fact that you won’t, not unless you change your strategy.

“Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” – Albert Einstein

I’m no different to most students, unless you count the fact that I stopped procrastinating a long time ago, and before I tell you how, you must understand why you procrastinate.

I’m a finance major, which means I’m a fan of cool graphs, like this one:

ainslies

Those things up there are called Ainslie Curves, and they depict hyperbolic discounting. In short, Ainslie Curves show us that human beings suck at making decisions because we’re fucking sloths and hyperbolic discounting is a fancy name for when you prefer a smaller, short term reward to a larger, long term reward*. When you prefer to binge watch Netflix shows instead of studying for an exam, you’re a victim of hyperbolic discounting. You know that studying will get you a better grade (aka “what you should be doing”), which in the long term will make you happier than the hours you spent watching Netflix (aka “what you’re actually doing”), but OHMYGOD watching your show feels so necessary RIGHT NOW.

Refer back to the graph. You’ve just gotten the idea that maybe you should be studying, or exercising, or waking up earlier, so you care more about this than doing instantly-rewarding things like scrolling through Facebook, eating a muffin or attending a party. You’re determined to reach your long term goal. However, as time advances a few thoughts creep into your head… “Maybe one muffin isn’t so bad” or “I’ll just check Facebook really quickly”, you’re operating at the intersection between the two graphs above. Next thing you know, you start valuing what you’re actually doing over what you should be doing, and you justify your action by thinking “who cares, it isn’t that important” or “I’ll start later” or “fuck it, I’ll be a stripper”.

Everything seems okay when you’re procrastinating, until your Netflix show is over, you’re tired of social media stalking or the muffin is all gone, you’ve left your “fuck it I’ll be a stripper period” and then… “WHAT ON EARTH HAVE I DONE?!”, panic, panic, panic. “What you should be doing” once again tops your “things I care about” list, but now you have less time, now you can’t get that long term reward.

Just like in rehab, we start by admitting to ourselves we have a problem, and that is the fact that we are all a bunch of hyperbolic discounters, and that George Ainslie would be very, very unhappy with us. This is your first step to breaking the procrastination cycle. Now you understand that reaching most long term goals and refusing short term temptation will only get harder with time, but the reward you get in the end for it will be much more valuable.

You are a rational creature, which means you should aim to act rationally. The animal part in you will tell you to delay your long term reward, it is your job to tell it to sit down and shut up.

Make sure you stay tuned for part 2 with more grounded advice to stop procrastinating. SHARE this post if you know a few procrastinators who need a dose of Ainslie.

Good luck!

Aisling A

*Simplified concept, read more by clicking on the hyperlink

7 facts about me

Here are 7 facts about me, huge thank you to Sheila for the nomination.

  1. My first language is not English. I grew up speaking Portuguese and didn’t properly learn how to speak English until I was about six years old.
  2. I was named after my great grandmother. I never knew her, but I do know her family escaped from the Czech Republic, and that she danced the Charleston like no other.
  3. I have a weird, irrational and passionate dislike of mason jars.
  4. I  go on A LOT of first and last dates.
  5. My favorite poem is “The Wasteland” by T.S. Elliot.
  6. APRIL is the cruellest month, breeding
    Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing
    Memory and desire, stirring
    Dull roots with spring rain.
    Winter kept us warm, covering
    Earth in forgetful snow, feeding
    A little life with dried tubers.

  7. I don’t share my blog with people I know. I love connecting with others around the world and having a sphere beyond my immediate life one.

I’ll nominate anyone who is up to writing this!

Aisling A.

Why life is made of contradictions

I used to be in a pseudo long distance relationship with a guy from Austria. Because of the 7 hour time difference, our conversations took place when one could see light outside and the other could see stars. You might hear that one’s most candid conversations take place before dawn, when the world seems to be in a period of pause, and it feels like nothing can hurt us.

On one such occasion, at my 3 a.m. and his 10 a.m., James laughed whilst informing me that I am a walking contradiction. My response? Life is made of contradictions. It’s funny how we suck at judging people, how we classify them in little boxes in our head, how we think of their being as binary when we know we aren’t binary ourselves. I am a contradiction.

1. I’m cold and calculating but caring and compassionate: I have what people call a  “bitch barrier”, an aversion to opening up to new people (and here I am, confessing so much online to strangers,  yet another contradiction). I’ve been called manipulative because I get my way professionally, and because I’m relentless in a debate. And yet when I love someone, I go to the end of the world for them.

2. I’m a prude and a slut:  I’ve only given this part of the list this title because I am consistently socially labelled as both. I’ve never had an issue with making out with strangers at parties, so I’ve been called a slut. I also never kiss someone I am romantically interested in before we have anything serious, so I’ve been called a prude.

3. I’m a nerd and I party hard : As the girl who memorized the CIA World Factbook up to “France”, I can confidently say I’m a huge nerd. At the same time, I also love going out in the tightest skirt I own, drinking, smoking and fooling around.

Stop and think about it for a second, contradictions are part of the human experience. From Daisy Buchanan’s “I like large parties. They’re so intimate” to Oscar Wilde’s “I can resist anything, except temptation” to retailers telling you to “Spend and Save” to  every time you are “busy doing nothing” and to that moment of inexplicable calm after the tears on your face have dried.

An oxymoron (or contradiction) shows us the multifaceted nature of the subject, it shows us that our mutual understanding and experience of the world is completely layered, different and illogical. And that is okay. Perhaps if we stopped demonizing our inner contradictions we would be much more human. Maybe if we start to see the beauty in pain and the truth in myths and the shortness in the wait, we might understand this crazy world a little better.

Life will turn you upside down and spin you around in both directions simultaneously every single day. And that’s just how it is.

Aisling A.

On Preaching and Practice

My friend Lena is undeniably, unbearably sexy and smart. She has the world in the palm of her hand, and she could eat it all in a single bite. How in the world could she ever be insecure?

I had the aforementioned question asked to myself a few hours ago by Lena herself, over a lukewarm black coffee and a half finished chocolate pastry at a hipster-ish café outside of uni.

The thing about Lena and I is that we are opposite sides of the same coin. One guy I dated even dumped me because “it’s eerie how alike Lena and I are” (no, I’m not even kidding). We seem to be the same person… until you learn about our love lives. She’s the girl who always has a boyfriend, I’m the girl whose closest experiences with romantic relationships involve texting someone from another continent and/or making out in the backseat of some Uber. Her biggest issue is she doesn’t even know if she’s okay with being alone anymore, my biggest issue is feeling like wtf I’m going to die a virgin with 17 cats that only like me because I give them food.

Here’s where the title of the post comes in: For me it is quite clear that Lena is being dramatic, for her it is quite clear that I am being dramatic. She isn’t the type of person who takes shit from anyone, so she would clearly be fine on her own, she isn’t codependent, she simply found a great person after she broke up. I also realize that there is no reason why I can’t be in a relationship. After all, I am only 18 and the chances of me dying alone are still slim (Note to 40 year old Aisling: It’s up to you to confirm this in the comments).

Things seem less dramatic when we see them from someone else’s perspective, problems seem smaller, windows seem bigger, life seems longer and suffering feels shorter. No matter how many times people tell us we are smart, or beautiful, or amiable or DESERVING of love, it takes a single blow to our self esteem to puncture our hearts. We stop seeing the big picture! And yet our friends and bystanders seem to know that we exaggerate our problems, and we know they exaggerate theirs. It’s time we consciously leave our pity party and walk out of this vortex that makes our problems seem ten times worse than they are.

I will see my problems as a just arbiter, panic gets me nowhere. Ask yourself: What advice would I give myself if I were just one of my friends? You’ll come to find that you would likely not be as harsh on yourself, and that your freakout-inertia is leading you to bad places. Write yourself a letter as if you were giving advice to a friend with the same problem, then practice what you preach! If all else fails, go and talk to a person you trust, hearing it from someone else always helps.

Stop. Breathe. You’ve got this.

Aisling A.

Alliteration Agenda

Largely lacking loving livelihood

Helplessly harboring hazardous hope

Strongly securing sentimental sanity

Relentlessly reaching rational rope

 

Carefully crafting convincing controversy

Finally finding fiery fortitude

Powerfully portaging parlous potentiality

Absolutely accepting abnormal attitude

 

Aisling A.

Finding a Way Out

I'll find a way out of this wave,
that rolls me and drags me across the pain.

 

I'll find a way for my tears to save.
So when you come back
I'll rise up in glory.

 

And if you survive, you can tell the sad story
of how I drowned you,
in your own misery.

 

Aisling A.

A Poem for Myself

  1. Say what you will about life,
  2. You’ll find that you know nothing yet.
  3. 18 years are a fraction
  4. of all attraction and action
  5. the future will bring.
  6. Never judge yourself harshly
  7. or believe you can judge all.
  8. Since experience has told you,
  9. that time is a concept
  10. embedded with conflict
  11. but with transient ways.
  12. Remember that problems,
  13. may always be solved
  14. if you just keep your head clear
  15. if you keep heart strong.
  16. If you just show compassion,
  17. if the anxiety is rationed,
  18. Destiny will find it’s way…

Aisling A.

 

What is happiness?

In my college philosophy classes we’ve been learning about how the Ancient Romans used to justify the existence of God. To sum this up quickly, instead of telling us what God “is”, they tell us what he “is not”. For  example, they tell us that God is not visible, or tangible, or material in form. I think the same logic process can be applied to happiness, because there is no textbook answer as to what it is, but along my path I have discovered a few things it certainly is not.

A comprehensive list of what it is not:

  1. Money: Seriously Aisling? No one is sad on a yacht. Yeah yeah, we’ve heard this before, but honestly, we can always find ways to do what we love (travelling, being stylish, you-name-it) on a budget. Use your google skills, get up your ass and find out how to do just that.
  2. Power: It tends to draw those who love you away, and then all that’s left of you is a sad fucking loner.
  3. Romantic Relationships: If you feel like you need one to make you complete then you’re probably fucked up and codependent, learn to be fully happy with yourself first.
  4. Sex: If you’re doing it to prove to yourself you are worthy, then you’re no better than the perpetrators of number 3 on this list. You WILL scar yourself emotionally.
  5. Success: Let’s be real, we all want this. But if you’ve been doing all in your power, and you just don’t seem to get there, don’t beat yourself up. All you need is a change of strategy.
  6. Beauty: It might make life easier, but when it consumes your thought, it is deadlier than poison. Models happen to be some of the most insecure people out there, because their entire life centers on their physical traits.

I might not be as radical as Cicero, but I do agree with something he thought: If you learn to be happy with poverty, you are rich. In other words, if you learn to be happy with your imperfect life, then everything else on that list is just a fucking bonus.

Aisling A.

Do I Intimidate Men?

Let’s go over the facts: You’re attractive, book and street smart, you make people laugh and all of your friends love hanging out with you. Men have no issue being with you at parties, or hooking up with you, but you rarely go on dates and all relationship prospects sort of fizzle out. Why the fuck are you still single? The answer is quite simple: You’re not the kind of girl 99% of men like.

“Woah, WHAT?! Hold on a second Aisling. You just described a virtually perfect woman in the first paragraph and now you tell me men don’t want that?!” Yes, that is precisely what I am telling you, but that doesn’t mean you should change any single aspect of yourself, I just want you to understand why.

When my dad was in college he sat down with my grandfather and in a moment of candor, confessed that he was rarely attracted to the most beautiful girls in his classes. To which my grandfather, in the most refined and polite manner he could, replied “that’s because you don’t have the balls to ask them out”. Ladies and gentlemen, the wisest words spoken in 1989.

Nowadays, I would switch the word “balls” for “self esteem”. Even the smartest and handsomest of men harbor a myriad of insecurities which they cannot help but remember when they see a beauty with a brain, because they know that upon the slightest provocation, a feisty reply is sure to follow. Being with this type of woman isn’t easy, so men tend to go for the pretty girls with less personality. It’s that simple.

What to do about it?

  1. Don’t give a fuck. 99% of men might not be into you for a serious relationship, but you don’t have to be with 99% of them, just one.
  2. Make the first move. You might not like doing it, but sometimes it is necessary.
  3. Make sure your friends know that although some women might be scary and intimidating, they are always the most rewarding to be around.

Let’s be fair.

Aisling A.

Why write this, Aisling?

Words have always been something fascinating for me, because though the sound of them is transient, the meaning is transcendent….

But you don’t care about that. In fact, I don’t know what you care about. I don’t know who you are or why you clicked on this or if you even exist.

I also don’t know why I’m writing this blog post, I only have a vague idea of what I want to get out of it. Before I reveal to you (the imaginary reader) why I write this, let me tell you a story: Flashback to 2012, 14 year old Aisling is underweight. She isn’t underweight because that’s her body’s complexion, she’s underweight because she pukes most of what she ingests. Fast forward to 2013, her arms and legs have small, barely perceptible scars she inflicted on herself by pressing a twisted pen cap on her bare skin. She hates the way she looks, has no friends and hates her family. The funny part is, Aisling is a model. Yes, a model, as in “she gets paid to look pretty”. Now at 18, she has surpassed those problems only to face new ones. This is why she came up with the idea to write invisible blog entries…

I can honestly say I’ve been the catholic god fearing schoolgirl, I’ve been the highschool slut, I’ve been a national speech champion, I’ve been sexually assaulted, I’ve slit my wrists and starved to the bones. And I think here is where I confess why I write:

I write because I want to help a person with the retelling of my stories and my personal views. Just one. Even if that one person might be* myself.

*probably will be

Let’s be fair.

Aisling A.