In his book The Social Construction of Reality, Peter Berger explains the importance of developing roles and the routines that will enable us to sustain our daily activities. We are born without any genetic, biologically imprinted instincts for human social interaction (if we were, all human beings the world over would respond the same way to each other for any similar situation). To deal with this "instinct deprived" state, we create "instinct substitutes" (roles, habits, routines). Berger points out that "everyday life is dominated by the pragmatic motive" of having to get things done. Most often we do things by routine, by habit. We follow what he calls, following Alfred Schutz, "recipe knowledge," which means knowledge that, like a cook in a kitchen, is "knowledge limited to pragmatic competence in routine performances." These "recipes" make up our "social stock of knowledge." These recipes provide us with our "institutionally appropriate rules of conduct." This is when I first learned of the "why" behind the importance of lists. Hence the term the "social construction of reality," which refers to small "tee" truth, not Ultimate big Tee truths. Truth is truth, but how we interpret it and accept it determines how it will affect it (Copernicus and Gallileo, Bell Curve, identity culture conflicts, etc.).
For many of us, these recipes become separate "to do" lists or find their way into the columns of our daily planners. To be effective (i.e., making us want to actually follow them), they must be part of some large set of plans (short, medium, long range) which have been translated into goals. These roles are mediated by what society as a whole expects of us (the way we play our roles) and what we want to do (how we ourselves want to play our roles). We then have to ask ourselves this question: how can we develop goals and objectives and then motivate ourselves to bridge this difference between what is expected of us and what we want to do, learn the roles we need to play and then go out on the "stages" of life and play them well in order to meet our goals and objectives? We need help to follow our goal lists. We need lists that are part of an overall goal meeting plan and which include the positive, "learned optimism" supported by "positive self-talk."
In his lectures on emotional intelligence, health and relationships for managing thoughts, feelings and actions, William H. Polonsky (in February 1998) recommended as a good book on motivation, Facilitating Treatment Adherence by the cognitive-behavioral medical psychologist Donald Meichenbaum (founder of Cognitive Behavior Therapy) and his colleague Dennis Turk, a professor of psychiatry. The book is for medical doctors on how to facilitate a partnership between themselves and their patients that would result in the various treatments prescribed being followed by both the doctors in the office visit and the patient at home. In other words, how to ensure that the action is taken to meet the goals that are part of the treatment plan. They demonstrate empirically that the key to adherence (meeting treatment goals) is to develop and make lists and empower their patients and themselves to follow them. These lists are like the recipes discussed above.
When I asked Don Meichenbaum, at a May 1998 conference on cognitive behavior therapy, if I had correctly interpreted his work about the importance of "lists" and "empowerment," he said yes except for one caveat: it is not empowerment if it is not negotiable. Ordering someone to do something is not the same as empowerment. We can take that point on "negotiable" a step further to include not just with others but also with ourselves: we must have positive "self-talk" negotiating our overcoming of the negatives of our fears and sense of helplessness if we are to be successful both personally and in teams with others.
In conversations (in April and September 1998), with Nicholas Hall, at two conferences on the immune system, confirmed the need to use the same approach to dealing with stress and good
Health: develop programs or lists, follow them, evaluate them as you go, and make changes as experience dictates (Hall is one of the pioneers in the new field of psychoimmuneurology (the field is so new that some call it psychoneuroimmunology) and developer of the preventive health care program for Celebration City at Disneyworld).
One such "program" is that of "cross-stressing." We can't eliminate stress in our lives, he said, and that, indeed, stress is also "a stimulator for growth." Muscle strength is obtained by putting it through stress and strain. The key is recovery in between. Through the practice of cross-stressing, the recovery time can be reduced. For athletes, this can be achieved by switching between aerobic and anaerobic exercise. For individuals it is achieved by simulating stress events in order to learn what lowers the negative aspects of stress the fastest. Success, individually and working together on teams is often a reflection of the ability of that "recovery time," something which can be hastened by "positive self-talk."
Cross stressing is also used by FBI and SWAT teams, who use this approach to enable agents to recover quickly from the stress (including the sense of feeling helpless) of entering dangerous situations so they can immediately recover from any fear or trepidation and return quickly to the calm needed to make good decisions, as high stress can not only shut down the ability to think it can shut down the ability to even act.