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15 Magic Minutes

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Author: Pauline Wallin, Ph.D.

This morning while I was out walking I realized, after the first mile, that I shouldn't have had all that water beforehand, if you get my drift. And I had four more miles to go!

I suppose I could have ducked into a neighborhood gas station restroom, but I was too embarrassed. So I walked and walked and walked, my bladder feeling fuller by the minute.

Why am I telling you this? Because the way I got through it was 15 minutes at a time. I kept telling myself that I could tolerate discomfort for 15 minutes. At the end of that 15 minutes I signed up for another 15 minutes. And pretty soon it was just 15 minutes to my house and my bathroom.

The 15-minute rule works for all sorts of discomfort, including that generated by your inner brat - the primitive part of your mind that sabotages your best efforts. It's equally effective for:

a) When you have to take action on something, such as exercise, cleaning or other activities that require effort. I'm using the 15-minute rule as I write this newsletter.

b) When you want to ignore your inner brat's nagging for immediate gratification such as junk food, cigarettes or alcohol.

Why 15 minutes? I've found that for my clients as well as for myself, 15 minutes is all that it takes for the anxiety to diminish and for your inner brat to calm down.

For example, suppose you want to accomplish something that you've been procrastinating - such as organizing your closet, finishing paperwork or following through on a project.

The first 5 minutes are the hardest. You feel antsy, unfocused. Your inner brat complains in the back of your mind that it really doesn't feel like doing it right now.

But if you ignore your inner brat's protests and focus on what you are to do, something almost magical happens. You'll find that you gradually become calmer and your ability to concentrate improves.

Before you know it, your 15 minutes are up. Now it's up to you to decide whether to continue for another 15. This time it's a lot easier.

What about those times when you have to refrain from something? Suppose you're thinking about that chocolate in the next room; or you know that you must stop playing computer games?

It's the same thing - get busy for 15 minutes. But make sure that you're busy enough to not think about what you're craving, because thinking about it magnifies the craving. Again, the first 5 minutes are the hardest, but surely you can tolerate only 5 minutes of discomfort, can't you?

When you break life into 15-minute chunks you can do (or refrain from) just about anything.

How are you going to spend the next 15 minutes?

About the author

Pauline Wallin, Ph.D. is a psychologist and Happiness Coach in Camp Hill, PA, and author of "Taming Your Inner Brat: A Guide for Transforming Self-defeating Behavior" (Wildcat Canyon Press, 2004)

Visit for more information, and subscribe to her free, monthly Inner Brat Newsletter.

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