Laziness, Procrastination and Discipline – Keith Kurlander & Will Van Derveer – HPP 78

Keith Kurlander, MA, LPC

Dr. Will Van Derveer

Do you sometimes feel like not doing anything at all on some occasions and just want to sit around doing nothing all day? Then, at a later time, you realize the many hours wasted during that time, so many meaningful tasks could have been accomplished. Why does it seem so hard to teach ourselves discipline and develop the right attitude towards doing more and being more productive?

In today’s inspiring episode, Keith and Will share their experiences about laziness, procrastination and ultimately overcoming these urges through discipline, conditioning one’s mind, and finding your purpose. Join us as we delve deep into this interesting conversation.

Show Notes:

Keith’s Interesting Story On Laziness – 01:30
“I was actually a pretty lazy person. Historically, in my young adulthoods, probably in my 20s, I watched a lot of TV, I screwed around a lot. I was what we call lazy, I was definitely that”

Busyness As A Form Of Laziness – 02:21
“And that was the first time that I really connected with the feeling of laziness, because I realized how busy I was. And now I filled my life with things that were not that important to me, actually, deep down, but I was pretty good at camouflaging my laziness”

Understanding Laziness – 09:11
“We’re just talking about when we are not efficient, nonstrategic, impulsive, robotic, going after pleasure avoiding pain right. Good. If the pleasure of avoiding pain, you know, throughout the day regularly, addictions, you know, things that manifest where we don’t feel we have governance over these behaviors, we feel like we are acting somewhat robotically, conventionally”

Why Do We Encounter These Behaviors Of Laziness? – 12:02
“I think a lot of it is about training in childhood. And or maybe you could call that parenting or what the early environment is like, and whether a person is in an environment that’s adequately challenging and adequately supportive for this kind of “can do” attitude or like a growth mindset can be learned. And I think that there are parents who succeed in helping children develop that”

Stepping Up To The Challenge: Knowing Your Worth – 15:11
“And I think there’s a self-worth piece to this whole thing, even in the baseball example. It’s like confidence, worth. Am I worthy? And am I confident enough to meet the challenge of getting hit by the baseball?”

Seeking Pleasure, Avoiding Pain – 20:47
“like we want to know that we’re hungry and go seek relief and get food, right, just very survival based mechanisms that need to exist in this way, sure. But when we get into our sort of higher-level behaviors that don’t need to be based in that system, and we ended up in the different spirals that send it into that system, such as shame or low self esteem, or purposelessness, or any of these things”

Great Hacks To Learn – 23:13
“it’s really necessary and valuable to keep practicing awareness, you know, and I don’t do it as consistently as I would like to think that I do. But when I get spun out, I’m dropping into, okay, what is the big Why? Why am I so committed to the thing in front of me that I’m struggling with staying on purpose with, and I have to go back to that well, frequently to reconnect and to update? Who am I now?”

Full Episode Transcript


Keith Kurlander, Dr. Will Van Derveer


Keith Kurlander  00:00

getting extremely clear on your biggest Why in the world is the foundation of having a high level of governance over your behavior. Thank you for joining us for the higher practice podcast. I’m Keith Kurlander with Dr. Will Van Derveer. And this is the podcast where we explore what it takes to achieve optimal mental health. Hi, there, welcome back to the higher practice podcast. Today, Will and I, my co hosts, we’re going to get into a discussion about laziness, about procrastination, and what discipline really comes from. And we thought it was really timely to do this conversation today, as we are approaching the end of the year, and a lot of people think about and reflect on their year and the year to come and changes they want to make. And obviously, a very challenging topic is how you change behavior, and how they get more efficient in our lives and in our behavior. So that’s where we’re gonna go, right? Yes, yeah, a lot of people are reflecting on 2020 and quite the year and really wanting to set a new set of goals and plans for 2021. So we thought this would be a good thing to get into at the moment. So I think a good starting point is just, I want to just say, for a minute a little bit about myself, I was actually a pretty lazy person. Historically, in my young adulthood, probably my 20s, I would say in terms of I watched a lot of TV, I screw around a lot. I was, you know, quote unquote, what we call laziness, I was definitely that, I would say, I lacked a lot of discipline in my health, my diet in my sleep. So I’m coming from a place of laziness early in my adulthood to honestly now being not lazy at all. You know, me pretty well.


Dr. Will Van Derveer  02:02

Definitely not a lazy guy. No,


Keith Kurlander  02:04

very disciplined, very strategic, very focused. So I just want to start there. As you know, I have a lot of compassion and experience for laziness.


Dr. Will Van Derveer  02:16

Yeah, I guess I’m coming from a different type of laziness.





Dr. Will Van Derveer  02:21

I remember about 20 years ago, and I was in a meditation retreat for the first time. And the teacher said something about sometimes busyness is a form of laziness. And that was the first time that I really connected with the feeling of laziness, because I realized how busy I was. And now I filled my life boy, things that were not that important to me, actually, deep down, but I was pretty good at camouflaging my laziness.


Keith Kurlander  02:49

Right? So you kept busy. Yeah, get busy. And it sort of brings up what is discipline? Right. You know, are we disciplined around purpose and focus versus sort of just being disciplined around being busy? Which was more your condition? Yeah. Right. Yeah. And, you know, I think it’s also good to say that, obviously, what you and I are up to right now with our institute and our clinic and everything we’re doing, we have to be very disciplined every day, tonight get sidetracked. And that’s also taken some work for us. Right. So there’s definitely some lessons here to share about how you come from a lack of focus, what we call laziness, in this culture to how to get disciplined and change Baker. Yeah, yeah, we’re


Dr. Will Van Derveer  03:39

definitely choosing to challenge ourselves more than I’ve ever challenged myself in my life to grow our clinic and the work we’re doing there. And then, you know, running this educational institute, and it’s taking way more focus than I’ve ever tried to ask before. So it’s interesting to be 50 years old and pushing myself to have more discipline and focus than I’ve ever had. So,


Keith Kurlander  04:08

so this conversation has more performance, it’s sometimes called, right? It’s not necessarily the thing we most focus on in psychiatric and psychotherapeutic spaces that often like performance, efficiency, behavioral efficiency, right. But I think it’s very relevant. And obviously, a lot of people ask themselves, like, why can’t I be more disciplined? Why can’t I get more done? Or why can’t I get done? What I’m wanting to get done, right? Why am I doing behaviors that I don’t think I want to be doing, but I keep doing them? Right? And there’s all these shoulds of these different behaviors that I would want to be doing with my time. That’s what this talk is about. Right? It’s a fun topic.


Dr. Will Van Derveer  04:47

Yeah. Yeah. And the part about what I should be doing I think is especially juicy, right? We have these ideas about who we’re supposed to be, what kind of life we’re supposed to be living. One of the things that I’ve really had to really look at myself is concerned about what other people think, playing too big of a role in my mind, which, you know, if you’re focused on achievement, and if you’re like me, or sometimes you get sidetracked because you’re going after the next thing, rather than living the truth of who you are, and deeply connecting with your deepest purpose and mission.


Keith Kurlander  05:26

Yeah, I think you’re speaking to probably the single most, probably the biggest factor of my life around developing more discipline, and structure and governance over my behavior, which is really, I think the most important part of this conversation right, is around purpose. I think it definitely starts there in terms of what’s the starting point of the conversation, right. And the more I felt purposeful, the more I feel like I have governance over my behavior. I don’t know what you think about that?


Dr. Will Van Derveer  05:58

Absolutely. Yeah, I would just add to that, that, um, another way to say it, maybe, or how I might think about it is, the bigger the reason for the commitment of the discipline, the easier it is to stay focused. And what I mean by that is like, for me a few years ago, when I woke up to this deeper, bigger need to express myself in the world to have a bigger impact in the world. Beyond just working with individuals in my psychiatry practice, I woke up to a bigger reservoir of focus and discipline for that endeavor.


Keith Kurlander  06:36

Right. Right. And similarly, for me, also, and, you know, I think it’s worth noting that we use different terms for this, right? The big Y Yeah, it’s kind of big, like, yeah, term out there. And being why, right. And so, you know, asking yourself what your biggest the Why is in life, there’s so many things that can be it can be about, you know, being a better family member, it can be about providing the best care for the people, you know, your clients, it can be about wanting to be healthier, there’s there’s a lot of things that your big Y could be Right, right. But it seems to me at this point, getting extremely clear on your biggest Why in the world is the foundation of having a high level of governance over your behavior. Yeah,


Dr. Will Van Derveer  07:27

I mean, then that seems extremely clear to me now. Right. So that


Keith Kurlander  07:31

seems like the starting point, I don’t know that we’ll use our time today to just discuss in detail how to discover your big why if you’re confused there, or if your clients are confused there, if your provider listen to this, but it seems like that’s kind of the foundation, you’ve got to be very clear in your big why. And it has to be such an overruling reason in your life that you would actually be willing to change in order to accomplish it. Right, right,


Dr. Will Van Derveer  07:58

willing to grow, willing to learn new things. For me, it’s been true over and over again, that I noticed these plateaus in myself where I get really inspired about taking on a new challenge, or a bigger, why is another way to say it. And then there’s a plateau of inspiration. And then my discipline and my focus diminishes, or plateaus. And what I’ve learned now, just over the last few years is that’s a signal that I need to look at, is my wife big enough at that point in doing need to go bigger,


Keith Kurlander  08:41

right? So it’s almost like your y keeps evolving. That’s what you’re saying. It changes. It kind of grows, it elevates, it goes to a new level. Yeah. So you’re basically saying that, like it’s really important to keep relating to your big Y, noticing what if you’re plateauing. And the reason you’ve already hit the reason it needs to grow in some way. Exactly. Yeah.


Dr. Will Van Derveer  09:02

I used to think that once I got into trade, this is my big wide, and that’s what it would be from now on. Right. So it hasn’t worked out that way. Neither.


Keith Kurlander  09:11

Not. It’s not static. It’s definitely something that evolves. I think also, if we juxtapose to, we’re talking about what’s the ground in order to have governance over behavior. There’s other things we could talk about, right? Sure. But this is sort of the psychological ground, right? For governance over behavior so that we can be efficient, strategic, and optimized, those guignard slides are right. So if we juxtapose to the opposite, when we say when we talk about laziness, we’re not talking about a personal judgment. We’re not talking about self judgment here. We’re just talking about when we are not efficient nonstrategic impulsive, robotic, going after pleasure avoiding pain right. Good. If the pleasure of avoiding pain, you know, throughout the day regularly, addictions, you know, things that manifest where we don’t feel we have governance over these behaviors, we feel like we are acting somewhat robotically, conventionally. And there’s some signal in ourselves, right that say, there’s a more efficient way I could be moral, right? We could take the sort of view of like, well just accept your life as you are. But that’s not what today is about today is more about how you get more efficient, right? So there’s some signal in yourself saying, Wait a second, I know something’s off, I could be more efficient. I feel like I’m wasting my time, quote, unquote, on a lot of things that don’t actually bring me that much fulfillment, right. So that’s what we’re calling laziness, right? That’s what we’re calling procrastination. When we hesitate, we can’t get tasks done throughout the day avoidance right now, not to be too idealistic. But there might be another term for this, which is ADHD. Not sure. But there’s definitely something about right attention deficits, not being able to stay on a single task. Right, right.


Dr. Will Van Derveer  11:08

Yeah, like purpose Deficit Disorder versus right and attention deficit disorder.


Keith Kurlander  11:14

So I think it’s worth just discussing a little about outside of, you know, getting to the baseline of purpose, knowing what’s happening, when we are in these more habitual behaviors. Where some little bird on our shoulder is saying to us, like, wait, there’s something else that’s more fulfilling, I’d rather be doing with my time, but I’ll still do this anyways. Hmm. And we talked about that a little bit. Sure. What’s going on there?


Dr. Will Van Derveer  11:42

That sounds really good. And I think there’s also a related topic that’s really interesting, which is like, Okay, if I am on purpose, but there are lower priority tasks that I actually have to master in order to create the life for I get to live more into my purpose, how do we navigate that territory? Right as well,


Keith Kurlander  12:02

things that we don’t want to do? Yeah. But we need to do them. Exactly. Right. Why don’t we start off with just the concept here of how do we end up in all these behaviors, we all do this, we end up into all these behaviors where, and I’m not talking about the rest and restore software, it’s like, I can just, you know, like, watch a movie like this, when I kind of enjoy myself and relax, I’m talking about more of the habitual ways that we find ourselves in really impulse driven behaviors. And, again, the little bird the signal is there’s something saying, like, really like, do you really want to be doing this for the rest of your life? Five hours a day? Why does that happen? Right? So let’s start there.


Dr. Will Van Derveer  12:45

What are your thoughts on how we get into these kinds of patterns? In my mind I think a lot of it is about training in childhood. And or maybe you could call that parenting or what the early environment is like, and whether a person is in an environment that’s adequately challenging and adequately supportive for this kind of can do attitude or like a growth mindset can be learned. And I think that there are parents who succeed in helping children develop that. But I think that’s actually pretty unusual. And so I think that people end up often, I would say, in my view, more than half of the population grew up in situations where they’re having to numb themselves out to what the emotional impairment is, what the level of intensity is, or the level of deprivation is. And so learning how to dissociate and avoid your life is something that I think a lot of children are having to rely on quite a bit. And I think that those neural networks are necessary and helpful coping strategies in childhood, but they can be very limiting in adulthood.


Keith Kurlander  13:53

Yeah. So we have to understand what you’re saying correctly, on one side, you’re speaking to certain overwhelming experiences as children, and we often go into coping behaviors that allow us to release that overwhelm. And they’re probably pleasure seeking behaviors usually, right, or we’re avoiding this overwhelm somehow through these habitual behaviors. That might be more impulse driven, short term gratifying behaviors, right? Right. Sure.


Dr. Will Van Derveer  14:25

So, you know, let’s take, for example, an experience I had in childhood where I was playing peewee baseball, and I went up to the plate for the first time and got hit by pitch and I started crying, and I walked off the field, and I never went back in I ended up playing t ball, which I loved. But it was for the kids who were too scared to play baseball. So that became an experience in my mind that had me doubting whether I could actually compete at the level that my friends were playing baseball or it could be All right. And I learned in that moment that to avoid that high level of challenge, rather than going in icing my arm and then getting back on the field, just one example.


Keith Kurlander  15:11

Yes, a good example. And it actually, I think what I’m hearing too is it brings us into kind of another aspect of the conversation. So we’re not so much on purpose right now. And maybe we’re overwhelmed to some degree, how we make choices in our life based on overall. But I think we’re also talking right now about confidence and self worth. And I think we can often get into distracting behaviors and inefficiency and passivity and these kinds of behaviors. Often it’s tied into not feeling worthy as a human being, having worth as a human being that we should be driving those behaviors into behaviors that could create value, right? And I think there’s a self worth piece to this whole thing, even in the baseball example. It’s like confidence, worth and right. Am I worthy? And am I confident enough to meet the challenge of getting hit by the baseball? right? Exactly.


Dr. Will Van Derveer  16:06

Yeah. And do I, like you’re saying around self worth in that moment of Do I have something that this team really needs? Right, that they’re not going to have the same kind of success without what I’m bringing? Right, like that worth? Right. And


Keith Kurlander  16:19

Am I worthy enough to pursue success? Yeah, you know, that ambition? Really, this is like a question of ambition in that moment, right? It happened for me in the opposite way. With baseball, I think I’ve told you this before, which is that I was actually a really good baseball player. And when I was 12, I was a pitcher. And I hit a kid and injured him. Alright, really bad. I wasn’t trying to hit him in the head. And he totally freaked out. Like he was screaming and really got hurt and told me he was gonna kill me from the plane. Yeah. And very shortly thereafter, I quit baseball and did not return to it well, and think again, it was a it brought me out of an experience of self worth as the pitcher into an experience of low self esteem essentially, and shame. In that moment, though, I think these defining moments, it’s not a bad thing that happened to me. But it’s an example of how I lost governance a little bit over my behavior around baseball, because I was purposeful. I was there. Like, I like baseball, I was really good at it. But I lost a little governance over my choice in that moment, because my self worth and confidence came into question into low self esteem and shame.


Dr. Will Van Derveer  17:39

Yeah, and tying it back to what we were talking about before of dissociation, from intensity, I think shame and dissociation are linked. And there’s a way that when we collapse into shame, which happens all the time, it’s part of the human experience. There’s a feeling, I’m curious if you have this experience, in my experience, when I go in shame, I disconnect from what’s happening. And I go into some kind of black hole inside of myself.


Keith Kurlander  18:03

Yeah, I go into what shame I yeah, I mean, for me, it’s shame, guilt, low self esteem, all these places, I go into kind of like a little ball inside my mind. And it’s like, nothing else exists. Exactly. There’s nothing outside of that. I don’t need to know that a world exists.



assuming it’s just like, I’m like on the Death Star. And I’m the only one on that


Keith Kurlander  18:28

big rise. So we’re just walking around that thing. And it’s like, there’s nothing else


Dr. Will Van Derveer  18:33

so brutal, just the Death Star, right? And we’re completely alone,


Keith Kurlander  18:37

completely alone. So again, like tying this back to our conversation, to me, there’s a big loss in governance over behavior. One more in pockets of low self esteem, shame, guilt. These things do not always, but can cause a loss of choice.


Dr. Will Van Derveer  18:59

Yes, you’re absolutely right. So, we’re really talking about her Exactly, and loss of choice. One example is like losing governance over the narrative of what’s actually happening, right as shame or dissociation or low self worth floods in it sort of overrides our authority over our narrative, right? And that’s where I think we lose self determination and self actualization.


Keith Kurlander  19:27

Yeah. So to link it back to well, how does that relate to these habitual short term gratifying behaviors? When we’re on the Death Star? That’s all there is in the world. We’re obviously going to seek something the shortest term gratifying experience we could have on the Death Star. We’re not going to like to take the time on the Deathstar to do behaviors that might take us years to get off the desktop. Right, right. We’re like, Okay, how do I get off the Deathstar right now and get on the Millennium Falcon Today, right with my crew to feel something good and smile together. Right? Right. And so you know, we often then do these very, very short term gratifying behaviors, and we do them over and over and over until they become ritualistic and habitual in the brain, right? And then we’ve lost governance and choice, then it’s just sort of now an operating procedure and the brain, right, that is moving and going and going, and someone will, we have to put a wrench in that operating procedure if we want to change those, because now they’re just doing their own thing. It’s like learning how to drive. Yes, like these implicit structures that allow us to just operate in the world, we’re running teams, so they gotta learn how to drive the car, and the way they put a wrench in the plan and the operating system. Right,


Dr. Will Van Derveer  20:47

There’s a really a lot of disempowerment there that can become very individualized, of not even knowing that you’re going for pleasure and avoiding pain. And, you know, there can be a perspective that that’s all there is in life, right? Right. Get me out of here, right? I want to go feel something good right now, cuz I’m in pain,


Keith Kurlander  21:06

right? And there’s obviously reasons to have this response system of seeking pleasure and avoiding pain, like we want to know that we’re hungry and go seek relief and get food, right, just very survival based mechanisms that need to exist in this way, sure. But when we get into our sort of higher level behaviors that don’t need to be based in that system, and we end up in the different spirals that send it into that system, such as shame or low self esteem, or purposelessness, or any of these things. And there are others that send it back into the system, right of this seeking pain, avoiding pleasure, we end up creating long term operating procedures. So we then need to awareness is the first step in my mind,


Dr. Will Van Derveer  21:52

right, slowly, definitely being able to develop the witness of the whole process that you’re describing to separate just a little bit from it. So you can actually see it is a huge empowerment, but it’s not the last word and getting empowered and really driving your purposefulness. But I think it is the first step. Yeah, I agree.


Keith Kurlander  22:14

Well, maybe we should now kind of transition to spending five or 10 minutes on sort of a hacks to move from one system of behavior, which we can kind of remember the call like this pleasure seeking pain avoidance behavior system that can become habitual addictions can show up here and some hacks to move from that system into more of this efficient strategic disciplined, focused on a purpose system, which we can, you know, call the executive center, maybe, to some degree, more frontal brain kind of activity. Right, right.


Dr. Will Van Derveer  22:53

We’re flowing energy and the brain networks not being stuck in kind of fight or flight or more habitual pattern, right?


Keith Kurlander  23:02

more of an integrated brain, we could say, yeah,


Dr. Will Van Derveer  23:04

integrated brain not going for dopamine, or what we sometimes call the shiny object syndrome. Yeah, getting distracted. Right with purpose.


Keith Kurlander  23:13

Right. Right. So I think the, you know, one hack that’s helped me a lot is first awareness, that after awareness, which is, you know, be aware of what might be the problem, which we’re framing right now, one of the issues, there’s many but and then, you know, one hack that’s really helped me is just linking behaviors. So once it seems, you know, your purpose. That’s the starting point, right,


Dr. Will Van Derveer  23:35

yeah. And just to say a little more about that, before going into linking, which is so powerful. As for me, it’s really necessary and valuable to keep practicing awareness, you know, and I don’t do it as consistently as I would like to think that I do. But when I get spun out, I’m dropping into, okay, what is the big Why? Why am I so committed to the thing in front of me that I’m struggling with staying on purpose with, and I have to go back to that well, frequently to reconnect and to update? Who am I now? Who am I today? What’s happening, and sometimes that feels a little bit uncomfortable to acknowledge that from day to day, there’s constant evolution happening in my system. It feels a lot more secure, to kind of just claim that it’s a static thing and never have to go update it. But that just isn’t how my life has unfolded.


Keith Kurlander  24:29

Yeah. Well, I mean, I think bringing it back to awareness before we go to linking is actually really important. Because I would agree that actually well linking is great, but it’s almost secondary because awareness, I think mindfulness and awareness is a huge component to shifting the narrative around this laziness, procrastination, hesitation, I think is a huge part. And I feel like that I have to every time I’m sort of moving from one you’ve kind of spoken To this kind of one level of efficiency to the next level of efficiency in my life, I have to start that awareness practice up again in a big way to even notice, where I’m still just kind of acting habitually when I don’t even want to be. It’s like, I have to just generate more awareness through my day and at night. And when I wake up in the morning, and really look at like, what are my behaviors? Where am I behaving not going toward my big why, and they’re actually just old behaviors that have been doing, maybe since I was, you know, at least verbal, some of these behaviors that just are still around, they’re hanging around. And that’s fine. But like, I have to kind of wake up again, to a new degree each time of like, looking at myself for the day and practicing awareness, and starting to just label. So awareness practice for me, we do meditation practices of labeling thoughts. And sometimes I just start labeling behaviors of like, kind of, I do it in different ways. But sometimes I’ll label myself as old behavior, behavior and like different things I’ve done. Yeah. First, just like get the ground of like, how my framing the problem. And like, Can I start to bring awareness when these behaviors are happening, that these are the papers I actually want to shift? And where are they coming from? So for me, I’ve done old behaviors. I’ve done habitual behaviors, I’ve labeled them sometimes I label that addictive behaviors, but I’m careful there, because there’s a lot of stigmatization. I want to go into shame, because I know that’s not going to help me change that behavior very much.


Dr. Will Van Derveer  26:40

Right? Yeah. I mean, I think government as work, we love caviar, is so helpful around addiction and those kinds of statements and really asking the question, why the pain, rather than why the addiction is kind of relevant here. In terms of like, looking at what making the assumption that a person on the Death Star is looking for pleasure, because they’re in so much pain, as opposed to they’re an addict, or they’re a bad person, or they’re weak as it used to be the frame around addiction, before the conversation about trauma, enter the conversation. Yeah, I think it’s a continually evolving experience, to keep looking at the ways that we hold ourselves back. And if we want to keep accomplishing more, we have to learn more, we have to embrace more, we have to get uncomfortable to learn how to hold more, right?


Keith Kurlander  27:27

The and is sort of this delicate balance around challenging oneself to face where we want to shift and move our life and actually feel that discomfort and the delicate balance of not just going on the desktop or have low self esteem by looking at that. And then just continuing to do behaviors. You know, there’s this balance of like, waking up to saying like, Okay, I’m gonna delta phi, this is the problem that I want to create a solution for, right? versus, you know, going into this whole psychological warfare experience. Yeah, like, yeah, we’ll get me a piece of crap, because somebody’s not behavior done. Right?


Dr. Will Van Derveer  28:08

Yeah. For me, the metaphor that helps me with that dilemma is the metaphor of the ego and the capitalist self for the Divine Self, that which is connected, in my experience to the witness that perceives the thing that needs to be changed without judgment, when I’m judging what needs to be changed. I’m not operating from that self, capital itself place. It’s like, the ego is judging itself, which kind of unfolds on itself, right, and runs the hamster wheel in my mind. So getting really comfortable with identifying the somatic experience of perceiving my challenges from that self place is really useful to me.


Keith Kurlander  28:47

Yeah. Yeah, I’m glad you brought up the somatic experience. I think that’s a part of what we’re trying to get away from is the somatic experience of our just comfort around the way sometimes that we live our lives? Exactly. And we don’t have to make anything about our lives wrong. But we can feel discomfort because it’s just asking us to look at something, right. But we have to be willing to enter that discomfort to look at what’s going on. Exactly,


Dr. Will Van Derveer  29:13

which is why cultivating that witness is critical to be able to do that.


Keith Kurlander  29:17

Right. So then I for me, again, like we’ve got this ground of awareness practice in order to recognize like, Where are you and where do you want to go? Right? Yeah, where are you headed? And where are you now? Right? And both are right, there’s a both it’s not right or wrong, right. There’s acceptance in where we are, where we’re going. And I do take a stand of like, we’re all capable of continually evolving and fulfilling our life’s mission more and more and more throughout our lifetime. It doesn’t mean more. It’s always looking like the version of success in the Western world or, or different parts of the world where we label success, but I’m a big supporter of we all have more potential inside of us. And we can keep actualizing that potential. And so knowing the ground is awareness from there to go to just kind of a simple hack around behavior, which is linking. Yeah. And that’s one of our mentors, John demartini really turned us on to this. And, you know, linking such a powerful thing, which is that the concept here, right is that certain behaviors are already linked to a goal, whether it’s completely in a consciousness or not, they are linked to a goal, certain behaviors and other behaviors, the goal might simply be pleasure, right? All right. So certain behaviors are linked to more of a strategical, which hopefully is around our big why. And other behaviors are actually not consciously linked to a strategic goal. And they’re more linked to literally seeking pleasure and avoiding pain. Some of those we need, like the example was food, that’s fine. And those can even get out of hand also. But so the thing where we go with this is that if we have a lot of behaviors that were being habitual, right, they’re not linked to a larger why in our lives, and they are behaviors that we’re waking up to saying, you know, this is not taking me where I want to go, what we do is we start to create choice around these behaviors that are more just unconsciously linked to seeking pleasure, procrastination entertainment, or you know, the overuse of entertainment, or whatever it is, addictions, the overuse of substances, it could be anything. And we start to create a moment, right around the behavior and ask the question of, is this the behavior that’s going to take me on the path to where I want to go? Or is there a different behavior that I want to do right now to take me on the path wherever I go?


Dr. Will Van Derveer  31:46

Right, yeah, yeah. And I’m reminded of this experiment that was done with children that I think illustrates this point really well. It’s like, do you want a marshmallow right now? Or do you want two marshmallows in an hour?



You know, yeah.


Dr. Will Van Derveer  31:58

And it’s like, bringing, you’re talking about bringing awareness to that moment? So yeah,


Keith Kurlander  32:03

yeah. So bringing awareness to the moment. So yeah, that’s an interesting experiment. Where right, so basically, well, then the experiments were really interesting because they followed this group of kids. Right? Yeah. And there were sort of success metrics that they were looking at. And the children that do that, right. The children that sustained for taking the two marshmallows had, they were more likely in the success metrics to achieve than the children that took the marshmallow, because I remember, that’s what I remember. I don’t think the study totally might have been something like that. So yeah, so that’s what I’m talking about creating choice. Right? So it’s like, do you want your marshmallow right now? Or do you want to do a different behavior? That will give you more later, you’ll have fulfillment right now. But it’s, it might come in a different form than a quick dose of pleasure. Right? At this moment. Yeah. Right. And that’s the choice point. So then it’s about linking the new behavior is how we’ll talk about right now, there’s also a linking process for old behavior. So we won’t do that right now. So thinking about the new behavior that you might do, and linking it to your big why, right, and that’s the wrench in the plan. That’s the wrench of all these work, quote, unquote, lazy behaviors on disciplined procrastination, hesitation, frustration, apathy, whatever they are, that we’re labeling that way. And we go, we give a moment, and we say, is there a different behavior that will more likely get me what I actually want? Which is my big why. Yeah, I think if we leave the listener with one tool, this one tool is huge. I’ve done this with a lot of people, I do it myself all the time. It’s a big tool, because as soon as we do a behavior, and this is I’ll talk about my own experience, once we’re doing a behavior that is consciously linked to our big reasons. And the big, why can be multiple things. Also, we do a behavior that’s so linked to these big reasons. And I’ll give an example for me like, I have a few big reasons. One of my big reasons is like I really love spending quality time with my family. Another one is that I want to help change the conversation in mental health care, saying that



differently right


Keith Kurlander  34:18

but now, those are a couple reasons. But if I do a behavior, let’s say one behavior was I’m going to go back to my old pattern, which is I’m going to watch like movies. And I’m going to watch you know, an hour to three hours if it’s my old pattern of the day and I’m doing that and then I asked myself the question in the moment like well, do I want to watch this movie right now? Or do I want to go be with my daughter downstairs and have a moment with her or do I want to finish that email that I want to send out? That’s you know, gonna communicate with 1000s of people around a new conversation about mental health or do I want to you know, XYZ, that session, man of intervention, and it’s helped me so much in my life. And for me, it’s become more of almost an unconscious method now, like, I don’t tend to have to ask this question very directly anymore. It’s like, I think for me, it started very discursive explicit thinking of like, here’s the thought, I’m going to think about the question around, what’s the behavior that will be around my big reason? What’s the reason now, like, it’s so second nature for me, that if I’m like, all of a sudden having that discomfort signal, you talked about around these kind of ways of being that feel old, I just kind of settled down, and then all of a sudden, like the alternative behavior arises, and a more of a sudden spikes, I feel right back on mission. So it’s become more second nature for me now, but I think it’s very good to start with a conscious question.


Dr. Will Van Derveer  35:47

Yeah, absolutely. I agree. Here’s my version of that in my life is exercise. So the reason for exercise has changed a lot. In the past few years, I used to be a three or four hour or three or four days a week mountain biker, and it was a big thing for me. And it was also a way that I avoided facing the challenge of moving forward in my life, it was a way that I was coping was the way that I was dealing. And I kind of knew it, too. And so when I found a bigger expression, and a bigger purpose that I was living for, when I entered the conversation of Look, I want to help revolutionize mental health care globally. Around the time you and I joined forces together, all of a sudden, the way I was exercising didn’t make any sense anymore. And I stopped exercising for like a year, pretty much I didn’t ride my bike for over a year. And it was weird, because I was wondering, like, where didn’t motivation go? And then I had to really take this moment that you’re talking about of why am I exercising at all. And what came back was, well, you know, you need to have a body that actually is in really good condition, so that you can fulfill your mission. So you can actually help revolutionize mental health care and have a healthy brain in a healthy body to make that journey. Over the next however many years, I get to do that. So I had to get a lot more clear about what the hell was I doing there. And when I did that, it was interesting, because the level of the number of hours a week that I had been riding my bike before that was like, you know, 1215 hours a week. And that didn’t really work with the bigger mission that I was in now. It wasn’t even something I wanted to do anymore. But I did want to maintain my body and my health. So then I started learning about how to do that more efficiently. So that I could fulfill my mission more effectively using regular exercise as a component of that. Yeah,


Keith Kurlander  37:49

That’s a great example. Yeah, you’re reminding me of another example. That’s current for me, which is diet food. And I’m glad you brought up the exercise because it reminds me of this and I have similar exercises. But what’s interesting is because how I eat is a work in progress. Like I’m absolutely still going into old habitual ways with food. And you know, relatively speaking my diet is pretty good. Like relatively speaking, right, like I’m eating organic, I don’t eat a lot of processed food, my sugar tastes pretty low, it’s pretty good. But I absolutely go into a lot of habitual ways with food. And there’s, when I lean into this comfort, I’m very well aware, this is happening. And so what I’m realizing I’m glad you brought this up with exercise, because what I’m realizing is that I have a new reason surfacing for food that I didn’t know about, and I didn’t have it until now. And it’s starting to come up, and I’m starting to make the link slowly. And the new reason is, I actually want to live into old age as long as I can on longevity. And I now know that one of the indicators is going to be how I eat, especially if I want to have all my senses and hopefully not get a nerve degenerative disease. And like, there’s a lot of research now about food with this stuff. So like, is a new why the new big why that’s actually surfacing and it’s still fresh. I still like working with it. But obviously, it’s a long game. Right? I’m talking hopefully, about, you know, 40 years, like, like, it’s a very long game. But the reasons are getting big enough that I’m actually starting to really dial in my diet to the next level slowly. So I just it made me think that like, I think as we’re starting to wrap up, like don’t bear big why’s sometimes that aren’t in our awareness that are relevant to the things we’re trying to shift. And those wise changes, like you said over time, and I also again, like as we’re wrapping up here, I just want to leave to whoever’s listening that it’s like we’re only going to find out what we’re capable of, if we test ourselves and actually go look and see. And we’re all capable of so much. And the gift that we each have equally here on this earth is we need that gift. And the more we lean in and grow and challenge ourselves, in my experience, it’s like life just gets more and more fulfilling, actually, it’s more fulfilling to take on the challenge of growth than it is to kind of submit to the kind of passivity of staying stagnant. Absolutely, I


Dr. Will Van Derveer  40:33

I mean, in a way it’s sort of like finding the right set of challenges that I’m looking for ways to, I guess I should back up and give them a frame here. There’s sort of like this dopamine seeking component of what we’ve been talking about called the ego or the monkey mind, or you know, the lower self or whatever you want to call it. And, you know, because our brain is wired to look for novelty, and automate what is more familiar as quickly as possible, so we can go look for more novelty. If we’re channeling that inherent desire to go look for novelty, before channeling that into purpose? And who am I now and what do I want to give the world then your mind is less likely to go looking for short term dopamine, because you’re giving your mind a framework to go looking for dopamine in a way that’s ultimately more beneficial to the world. And more beneficial to us personally, more sustainable, more sustainable? Yeah. It’s a little bit like saying, Okay, well, I’m gonna go, you know, hate a, I’m going to eat more fat and more protein and you know, less sugar. I’m going to do that psychologically, because it keeps my energy and my purpose more level over time. So I can have a more sustainable life.


Keith Kurlander  41:51

Right? Yes. It’s kind of like, do you just want spikes of moments, just mini spikes of these like heightened kind of pleasure stakes? Or do you want to grow an ever increasing bandwidth that keeps getting wider fulfillment and inspiration and stability? And, you know, Joy?





Keith Kurlander  42:12

I think more and more, I’m voting for the latter. Always still vote for the former? Yeah.



But yes, we all do.


Keith Kurlander  42:22

Well, let’s wrap up here. So I just want to really encourage if this episode really inspired you or spoke to something that really resonated with you, or somebody you know, share this episode, go share it with someone else that could also feel that level of awareness and inspiration that you’re feeling and insight. You sharing episodes is really the way to get this relevant information into other people’s hands right





Keith Kurlander  42:51

and the world can definitely use as much education as possible right now.



Absolutely. Thanks. Well,


Keith Kurlander  42:58

thanks. We look forward to connecting with you again on the next episode of the higher practice podcast where we explore what it takes to achieve optimal mental health.

Keith Kurlander, MA, LPC

Keith Kurlander, MA, LPC is the Co-Founder of the Integrative Psychiatry Institute (IPI) and Integrative Psychiatry Centers (IPC), and the co-host of the Higher Practice Podcast. He graduated Naropa University in 2005 with a master’s degree in Transpersonal Counseling Psychology, and he has practiced integrative psychotherapy and coaching with individuals, couples and groups for over 15 years. After years of treating highly complex patients, as well as a personal journey of overcoming complex trauma and mental illness, he turned toward integrative psychiatric practices as a key component to achieving mental health and understanding the healing process. He brings a professional and personal passion toward innovating the field of mental healthcare.

Dr. Will Van Derveer

Will Van Derveer, MD is co-founder of Integrative Psychiatry Institute, co-founder of the Integrative Psychiatry Centers, and co-host of the Higher Practice Podcast.

Dr. Van Derveer is a leader in the integrative revolution in psychiatry and is passionate about weaving together the art and science of medicine. He has published in the field of psychedelic medicine, and he has provided MDMA – psychotherapy for chronic treatment resistant PTSD in clinical trials with MAPS, the multidisciplinary association for psychedelic studies.

As medical director of the Integrative Psychiatry Centers, he oversees a busy ketamine assisted psychotherapy practice.

Dr. Van Derveer is a diplomate of the American Board of Integrative Medicine (ABOIM). He studied medicine at Vanderbilt University and earned his bachelor’s degree from the University of Pennsylvania.