Compared to some of the issues you all face, my are very trivial by comparison; but for those who want some advice on the more trivial hardships of life...here it is. To generalize the events I went through, I give you a small table of contents to my post:
1) Social Anxiety.
Each part is separated by '---'.
I used to, and still do, have a lot of trouble just replying to e-mails. I get incredibly anxious about what I'm writing, how to write it, what to say; and generally get far too caught up in what the reaction will be. At times, say, I'll have an employer ask me how work X is going; and I'll just be frozen the entire day out of anxiety from an e-mail like that. I didn't know what to do.
I then heard this story about how Abe Lincoln wrote two letters for every letter he sent. One was his serious letter, the one he intended to send; and the second was the letter he actually wrote first: the letter that contained his honest feelings and what he'd like to send to the person were it not fear of reprisal.
I used this strategy, and it helps a lot with me being able to get over social anxiety.
I've always had problems with videogame/internet addiction. For the longest time I thought it wasn't an addiction, and now looking back I realize in my case I definitely have it.
This came to a forefront when, one Spring Break, I sat down in my apartment and staid in the corner the entire week. On the internet the entire week. I didn't move from that spot, nor did I go outside, nor did I get any work done. And I would tell myself at the beginning of each day, "This is ridiculous, I have to get out of here, I have to just willpower through this trap." But even though I told myself this, it just didn't work, I couldn't do it.
Shortly after that week I had read "The Way to Willpower" by Henry Hazlitt. He had a quote that made me change the way I view things:
"I repeat it, lest you fancy there has been a misprint. There is no such thing as the will. Nor such a thing as will-power. These are merely convenient words."
He went back a little on what he said, but the importance of this is that instead of thinking to myself "Come on, just CHOOSE to plow through this!" And then repeatedly fail, I got decidedly more clever about my problem. I saw this talk (http://www.youtube.com/user/GoogleTechTalks#p/u/83/XeJSXfXep4M
), that backed up Hazlitt's claim even further. In other words, to use a cliché, I "needed to work smarter, not harder".
That was when I decided instead of trying to use willpower to get over my internet/videogame addiction problem, I got rid of the power chords and disabled the internet connection from my apartment (I am now typing this from a computer lab. Unfortunately, I have not found out how to substitute everything I use the internet for). This was a huge first step. Just simply implementing barriers and changing my environment, instead of using brute strength, really helped me out.
I still read pretty much every therapeutic book and self-help technique under the sun. And I had a great friend who helped me out in these endeavors as well. We tried Tony Robbins, Alice Miller, CBT (cognitive-behavioral therapy), NVC (non-violent communication, there is a way to apply that to self-control), family systems therapy, Nathaniel Branden, the GTD cult, Lifehacker, Pomodoro, and almost everything else under the sun. Somewhere amidst studying these things, I came across Skinner's self-control techniques (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Self_control#Skinner.27s_Survey_of_Self-Control_Techniques
and also in his book, Science and Behavior).
I initially had a large bias against Skinner and his behavioralism because of his deterministic conclusions. However, after getting to know his theory a little bit better, I reasoned that it didn't immediately lead to determinism like I first thought. And in the midst of trying the above, I dallied with behavioralism.
It wasn't long until I realized that the environmental changing strategy I picked up after reading Hazlitt was generalized by Behavioralism. And even though I didn't want to believe it, it has been the one theoretical framework that has given me success w.r.t. willpower.
This is still a work in progress, but I feel I've come somewhat of a long way.
When I was in undergrad, one year I had a very heavy load. I was taking a bunch of high-level mathematics and physics classes and one class in statistics.
I took the first final in statistics, and...I failed. I flunked. This was the first time in my life that I failed an exam so hard. And I felt horrible. I did the math and came to the conclusion that there was no way I could get a good grade in the class anymore. And I felt totally and completely depressed.
So, I went to my number one therapist: my mom :P. We figured out that it was still quite possible that I could pass. That, and I reasoned that at that point, even if I failed, I still had a lot of opportunities available.
The second sentence there was the MAJOR insight. I learned that just having a back-up plan in life is a major step in being able to cope with failure.
(and in the end, I was able to ace the class anyways. Which taught me a second lesson: even if it looks like everything has hit the bucket, if you have the slightest chance, go for it.)