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Many of our problems come down to an inability to retain an ideal mental picture of ourselves to guide behavior. We forget to consider the optimal alternative, or we don’t know how to envision it. We need a model to follow, but we want it to be personalized. Dialectical thinking can help this. On your right side, envision yourself as you are now—with all your foibles and frailties and shivering latent potential. On your left side, envision yourself as you’d ideally like to be—confident, animated, and with your potential realized and talent fully explored. Picture just how this person on the left would respond to a given situation. Spurn the right. Now you have a model for behavior, one that’s immediately apprehensible. It’s a very powerful technique; I stole it (and modified it to make it self-serving) from the Dalai Lama.

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