To-do lists should banish everything in this system. Crucial here is the most concrete next action that may not be "buy gift for X", but "go to the store Y and Z search".
Positive thinking makes life easier, but the key to success is discipline. Fortunately, one can practice discipline by training one's willpower.
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I didn't study science beyond high school level, but I'd been reading a lot of science books by people like Richard Dawkins, Matt Ridley and Daniel Dennett. I also spent a year working on a fellowship in a research centre - the Allan Wilson Centre - where I got a hands-on look at their work sequencing DNA.
The rise of the presidency began with the Louisiana Purchase, which in 1803 doubled the land mass of the United States. History taught the framers that, just as Rome changed from republic to empire with conquest of new lands, territorial acquisition would lead to the centralization of political power.