A Social App That Lies for You

I read about CouchCachet in Self magazine and was instantly horrified. It’s an app that works with FourSquare to “check you in” at cool locations near your home, such as a new restaurant, club, or concert venue. But CouchCachet does these check-ins for you at your request, while you’re at home. So your friends see on Twitter or Facebook that you’re out doing something cool. But really, you’re home in your jammies watching Netflix.

A quick survey of the CouchCachet website shows that this app is a lighthearted lark from some funny people including Brian Fountain. Their site includes taglines like “I can finally be who I want you to think I am” and “Life. Without the Hassle of Living.”

Thank goodness they’re not deathly serious about this. I just hope everyone who’s using this app does so, umm, ironically. With like six layers of air quotes around each faux check-in.

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Let’s Get “Decisive,” Part 2

We’re great at giving advice to others. We’re terrible at making decisions for ourselves.

So the authors of Decisive recommend that, when you’re facing a tough decision, you ask yourself, “What would I tell my best friend to do?” It’s amazing how quickly this clears away any haze around the issue.

Humans are kinda weird. In theory, it shouldn’t matter whether the decision is facing me, or my best friend, if I’m trying to analyze it logically. But for some reason, just giving ourselves that little extra bit of breathing room yields better results.

Let’s Get “Decisive,” Part 1

I just read Decisive, the new book by Chip and Dan Heath. They’re wonderful writers who focus on how people can communicate their ideas and make changes in their lives and businesses. (Their first book, Made to Stick, is a classic.)

Decisive contains many small but powerful ideas, so I’ll break them down into a series of posts, and put a childfree spin on each one.

Decisive Rule #1: Widen your spotlight.

We often get trapped into either/or decisions without quite knowing how we got there. So the “spotlight” of our attention is focused very narrowly, and there may be excellent options just outside its range. According to the Heaths, any time you’re wondering “whether or not” to do something, beware, because there are other options you’re leaving off the table.

For example, instead of obsessing about “whether or not” to move in with your boyfriend, ask yourself: “What makes me happy about our relationship? What would I like to see change?”

Maybe it bugs you that you always have to pack a bag before heading over to your guy’s place for the weekend. If he gives you use of a dresser drawer and you can keep some clothes there, how will that feel? A relief? More pressure?

Widening the spotlight helps us chop up a big meaty question into bite-sized pieces. And it helps us reframe a problem, so that our creative mind can attack it with gusto.

 “Whether or not” to have a kid is one big, overwhelming question. But even though it seems like the ultimate either-or decision, shining a slightly broader spotlight shows that it’s not.

There are many ways for me to nurture people other than raising a child. Mentoring and teaching jump to mind right away.

There are lots of ways for me to be creative, without creating a new human life. Writing, singing, doing crafty art projects, and cooking all satisfy that urge.

And there are lots of ways for me to have kids in my life, without crossing that huge whether-or-not line to becoming a mom.

What do you think about the “widen your spotlight” idea? Has this ever worked for you?

Stretching the Comfort Zone

I’ve been trying to live outside my comfort zone lately. Re-learning to drive, supervising a new employee, introducing myself to strangers at social events–none of these come naturally. But they all feel good once I make myself do them.

Eleanor Roosevelt said, “Do one thing every day that scares you.” Ali Binazir, author of the wonderful Tao of Dating, puts it this way:

“Remember that in life, everything that you want is outside of your comfort zone. Because if something is inside your comfort zone, it’s either something you already have or something so trivial as to be undesirable: you don’t want something you already have. So in order to get what you want but don’t yet have, you have no choice but to venture outside of your comfort zone.”

To me it feels more like stretching my comfort zone, the same way I stretch my muscles on my yoga mat. Maybe with these “comfort zone stretches,” I’m expanding my soul’s capacity and strength, giving it its own version of a workout.

How the Driving Went

My Zipcar trip to Providence was six months’ worth of driving drama, condensed into one day.

Drama Point 1: Construction on Route 9, the busy highway near my home. This entailed merging, re-merging, and finally re-emerging to exit onto–

Drama Point 2: Interstate 95 South. Where there was also construction! Where I almost missed my exit, despite my GPS’s blandly forceful warnings, and braked hard and dangerously to get off the road. (Lesson learned: next time, I will just miss my exit and get off at the next one.)

Then there was a brief lack of drama while I enjoyed wandering around downtown Providence and eating a delicious lunch at AS220.

Drama Point 3: On my drive back to Boston, my newly purchased GPS died. I wound up in a northern suburb of Boston, and had find my own way home to Brookline. I took the old-school approach of stopping at a bank to ask directions. It worked! An elderly Russian lady knew what was up and directed me back home.

Wow! It was both empowering and terrifying.

What freaks me out about driving is how high the stakes are. If I space out or panic, for even a moment, that can cause injury or death–my own, or other people’s. How can people drive on the highway every day, and be so calm about it (even bored enough to listen to audiobooks)?