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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To read a character I'm not sympathizing with is generally quite a good, attractive proposition because I've got somewhere to go, I've got work to do, to try to understand why they behave like they behave, to relate entirely and understand them and to be completely emotionally connected. That is much more fun 99 percent of the time.