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Tag: procrastination

August 8, 2016

“The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.”
― Aristotle

It is not uncommon for me to run into a potential client who is seeking to change a detrimental habit. The habit can range anywhere from issues with procrastination to substance abuse. In the process of gathering more information from the client. I encounter a pattern of unhealthy thinking and behaving that is prevalent in all areas of the clients’ life.

Upon bringing this to the attention of the client, I receive a response that the only thing he or she wants to work on is changing the specific habit they complained about, and nothing else. Well, this is a problem, because everything about us is interwoven. This means that while we are working on cognitive strategies to change thoughts and behaviors regarding the identified behavior, the client continues to engage in his established pattern of thinking and behaving in other areas of his life, which only reinforces the bad habit he wants to change.

The idea that we can departmentalize our behaviors is a misunderstanding, A misunderstanding because some people experience significant success in some areas of their lives than other areas of their lives. The simple reason for this is because in the areas they have experienced more success, they invested more time. Regardless, if you are experiencing negative consequences due to chronic detrimental behavior you engage in, it is based on your mindset, or simply put, an unhealthy mindset you adhere to. This means that for people who struggle with unhealthy behaviors, while simultaneously experiencing success in another area of their life, then they have experienced that success in spite of their unhealthy mindset. Furthermore, in the absence of the identified unhealthy mindset, they would achieve even more success in the area or areas they are already excelling in.

Ultimately, the ability to identify a need to change, and the preference to cherry pick what type of change will occur, is a primitive instinct. Meaning that we want to experience positive changes in our lives with little cost or sacrifice.

It is also important to note, that for those who embrace focusing on the whole versus the parts, the process of changing your entire life is counter intuitive in that you only focus on your mindset and become cognizant on when and how you practice change in all areas of your life.

 

Ugo is a psychotherapist and owner of Road 2 Resolutions PLLC.

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February 8, 2015

My best friend and my worst enemy all reside within me. Further, I believe this paradox applies to each one of us. This maybe upsetting to some people, particularly those who have experienced wrong doing at the hands of other people. Some might even see it as victim blaming.

However this is empowerment. You see, the idea that life would be better if people doing bad things would stop doing bad things, is a fallacy. This is because, in a perfect world even if every single human being stopped doing bad things, our personal challenges would still remain. Furthermore, just thinking about everyone choosing the path of goodness, brings to your awareness, just how unrealistic it is. At least for me it does.

Which brings me to my primary argument, the focus on other people in our lives being well behaved is a distraction from ourselves, specifically the issues we struggle with. Such as procrastination, depression, anxiety, etc. The types of issues we know deep down is keeping us from doing our best, as the years pass us by. The type of issues we intuitively know, that if we don’t improve, we would be at the mercy of life’s challenges. Yes, this includes people who enjoy victimizing others.

The important thing is to recognize that you are your own worst enemy, so that you can make friends with yourself (sooner than later) and start treating yourself well.

Ugo is a psychotherapist and life coach

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January 14, 2015

One of my favorite exercises to give a client who has announced his readiness for change, is the narrative exercise. The narrative exercise, involves a person writing out of narrative, or a story line where he lives out his desires, or the type of change he desires to experience in his life. This exercise is only as potent as the willingness of the writer to be honest, this is because what gets revealed in the first draft of a honest narrative, is a series of logical fallacies.

In case you are wandering, a logical fallacy simply means an error in reasoning. In the first draft of narrative exercises, I witness clients make logical fallacies whereby the logic they use in an attempt to construct a new reality for themselves, contradicts the existence of important variables they have not accounted for. As a result, the error in reasoning occurs when the person’s happiness becomes dependent on the outcome of his en-devour as opposed to his process of pursuing the en-devour.

An example would be a writer’s motivation for writing a book; if his motivation is primarily based on selling a lot of copies of the book and making a bestseller’s list, his process in writing the book would becomes difficult. As opposed to a more humble approach of writing a book solely for the benefit of a specific audience. The latter is more attainable, because little to nothing is compromised as the author uses his authenticity to connect with his targeted audience.

In other words, chances are that the reason you are reluctant towards practicing the changes you desire in your life is because it simply makes no sense to your subconsciousness. If you can agree that your subconsciousness only understands information on a prescriptive level, versus a descriptive level, the nuances of what you really desire to accomplish will become lost to the subconsciousness, if the information for the change you desire contradicts itself on a prescriptive level.

A narrative exercise will expose the irrationality of your beliefs and desires and will become the first step in your guidance towards producing a healthier and more believable story.

Believable stories we tell ourselves, motivate us in following through with our commitments.

Ugo is a psychotherapist and life coach.

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January 19, 2014

You have to be at work by 9am in the morning, you are just now waking up at 8:20am. Knowing fully well that it takes you about thirty minutes to get ready for work, you spring out of bed. Regardless of what excuses you give yourself, the reality is that you premeditated this. How? You premeditated your oversleeping because you did not set the intent to wake up at a specific time where you would have had plenty of time to perform your morning routine and arrive at work on time. Prior to going to bed the night before, you knew that you were running into trouble once you did not visualize what your routine in the morning was going to be like and you probably lied to yourself.

If you recall all the times you have successfully followed through with an endeavour, what you will most likely recall is that you visualized it happening before it happened. You knew what you were going to do, you anticipated obstacles in your path and how you were going to get around those obstacles. So what happens when we procrastinate? What happens when we fall short from achieving our desired goals, not because of things not going our way, but due to our failures in following through on certain things?

What happens is fear, and even more specifically our unwillingness to acknowledge our fears. Let’s say for example that you have a fear of speaking in public, and your supervisor recently confided in you about management’s interest in you for a new leadership position. You get excited about the job, then it dawns on you, this leadership position requires a lot of public speaking and presentations. You want the job, for all the perks that come with the job, but you do not want the burden of dealing with your fear of public speaking. So you choose to take the passive route by not making any decisions, and you instead give management the impression that you are interested in the job. Not only to you fail to make a solid decision to yourself, you also fail to visualize yourself thriving in that role.

In the absence of a conscious intention for what you want, your subconsciousness will default to  making the best decision on your behalf which is designed to protect you from fears. Hence chronic episodes of procrastination. Using the example given at the start of this post, after several occurrences of tardiness, management will take you less seriously for the new job and you would have successfully sabotaged yourself.

This is the story of how procrastination usually occurs, there is fear or reluctance to engage in something, but due to social pressure you go along with it. However you make no plans in your head, nor do you set any intention to follow through, it’s as if you have decided that you will go along with the flow of things and whatever happens will simple happen.

The reality is that as human beings we all have power, specifically the power to influence the world around us. It is important to note that the feats we have achieved in our lives, were achieved because we wanted to achieve them, no one can bring us happiness in our lives but ourselves. This is why it is important to honest with ourselves regarding what we desire and do not desire.

So how do you overcome procrastination? You overcome procrastination by fearlessly setting your intention for what you want to accomplish. If you are having difficulty visualizing it in your mind then write it down as a narrative. In this post, I discussed the importance of using narratives in creating the futures we desire. Writing down your intention as a narrative allows you to play out potential obstacles you are most likely to encounter in a virtual world, which gives you leverage in predicting and developing plans for how to overcome certain obstacles prior to experiencing them.

Once your fears have been acknowledged and you have planned accordingly using the narrative technique, you will find that it becomes easier to set your intentions visually.

Ugo is a psychotherapist and life coach.

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January 8, 2014

Which came first the chicken or the egg?  This is a question that plagues us in all facets of our lives, and all fields of study notwithstanding. Take for example, the field of psychology. It is not uncommon to read about most medical professionals and biologist identify dopamine, a neurotransmitter produced in the brain as a primary determinant for how motivated a person is. There is truth to this, for example if you used a positron emission tomography (PET) scan to identify and measure dopamine production in the brain of a healthy person, you will find increased dopamine production and activity in response to the anticipation of a reward.

This then raises the question, is motivation based on genetic factors that predispose people to a certain type of chemical disposition, or does experience in a person’s natural environment, or environment of origin influence the chemical disposition of a person’s brain? Consider this study by Vanderbilt University, where researchers using a PET scan, determined that a person’s willingness to work hard was determined by his or her dopamine levels. The problem I have with this study is that the researchers did not go in depth into why the differences in dopamine levels existed in the first place, they simply measured dopamine activity on certain tasks, drew their conclusions and called it a day.

As a clinician who believes in neuroplasticity, (the brains’s ability to rewire itself based on stimuli), I suggest that the brain’s ability to produce certain levels of dopamine is influenced by  the beliefs of the participants. For example, people who believe that they are capable of completing a hard task and earning a reward, are probably most likely to have increased dopamine activity as opposed to people who view themselves as incompetent when it comes to completing difficult tasks. Proof of the brain’s ability to rewire itself can be found in this study where, cocaine addiction, followed by chronic relapses was determined to have been caused by cocaine-induced neuroplasticity changes in the brain. Where chronic abuse of cocaine led to the brain to rewire itself to become dependent on cocaine for motivation.

So if neuroplasticity is true, (which it is) how does one increase their level of dopamine production naturally without resorting to unhealthy habits? One technique would be to visualize the outcome of your goals and embrace the process towards realizing these outcomes. Life in the modern world is more complicated than life in the wilderness, which humans beings originally evolved to thrive in. The reason for this is that the process of stalking and hunting game, foraging for food or cultivating food is more linear and straightforward than finding employment in a high salary paying job. With the latter, not only do you have to be qualified for the job, but you also have to have a good relationship with someone high up in the hierarchy in the industry, not to mention experience. So while hunting for game in the wilderness might require patience, it would be fueled by certainty if you have an understanding of the game you are hunting, such as knowing where to find them. With finding a high paying job, despite your qualifications, you may become intimidated if you were not raised in the same socio-economic background as the people you would need to apply to for the job, and this level of intimidation might reduce your dopamine levels, thus reducing your level of motivation in applying for said high salary job.

Personally, I think motivation is relative, which leads me to suggest that dopamine levels are also relative. For example, for experiences in which I have excelled at, my dopamine levels become increased when faced with a goal to accomplish, versus experiences in which I have had little success at, in which my brain responds by producing reduced levels of dopamine. In following through with the technique mentioned in the previous paragraph, if you are faced with a need to follow through on a goal in which you have little experience in, it becomes a matter of recollecting the best of your previous achievements, regardless of how different that goal was, applying the work ethic you used towards your visualization of success with the new and foreign  goal, and following through with faith in yourself.

Ugo is a psychotherapist and life coach.

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December 30, 2013

One thing about chronic procrastinators is that they are extremely thoughtful. So thoughtful that if you ever find yourself discussing with any of them why why they have yet to initiate a task, they tell you in some detail how they believe their partaking in the task is going to turn out. Usually the story transitions into how the process would turn out to be a waste of their time due to circumstances they are certain that they wouldn’t overcome.

The following is a technique that was inspired by my transition into using Linux as my primary operating software. Given the the number of issues I kept encountering with my windows software in spite of spending good money on  anti virus software, I debated going over to Mac, but was reluctant to ditch my computer all together. So I explored the idea of Linux Ubuntu. Before I installed Ubuntu on my pc, I installed Ubuntu virtually into my windows environment, so I could compare the pros and cons before making my final decision. Needless to say I was  so impressed, that Ubuntu became my primary operating system.

The virtual installation of Ubuntu in my Windows program was enabled by a software called the virtual box, which pretty much enabled me to test run any software before properly installing it on the computer. I found this process to be ingenuis because in the event issues with the software were to be detected, my computer would not be compromised.

So that what’s this anti procrastination technique is based on, you pretty much create a narrative of what you are specifically going to do accomplish any long term or short term goal. Without experiencing any unpleasant consequences, until you actual implement the narrative.

So let’s say that you are planning to write a short novel, and you are procrastinating on starting the project. What most procrastinators would do in regards to their thoughts about this project would be to think through to the completion of the novel, and determine how difficult it would be for them to get published and then never start the project.

With the virtual narrative technique, instead of worrying about rejection letters you are going to receive from agents and publishers, you instead focus on the story you are going to write. So you  begin with some research by asking by asking yourself and answering a few questions. Such as, why will you be writing this story? For whom will you be writing this story for and what evidence you have that they will be willing to spend money on reading this story?

This would be the first phase of your narrative creation, which you will document. The next phase of your narrative creation would to determine the actual process you will use to write the story and how long the process will take. For example, you could start by dedicating forty-five minutes of your time every day to writing your story, with the intention of sticking to this writing schedule for twenty-one consecutive days. The twenty-one days is actually the meat of the plan, because most people would look at forty-five minutes for twenty-one days as a small sacrifice. Heck,  that’s sacrificing some television time, particularly those mind numbing reality shows.

After the twenty-one days, anything is possible, meaning that you will become more proficient at writing that you will probably develop the discipline to write longer, write more in  forty-five minutes or more than likely, a combination of both. I have found that the combination of researching into the how and why a goal is going to be accomplished, coupled with the twenty-one day commitment, is enough to motivate most people into taking action.

Why? Probably because they realise on a deeper level that regardless of whether or not they set out to accomplish what they intended in the long run, that they will inevitably accomplish something about themselves in the twenty-one days. A big part of the reason is that the twenty-one day period becomes somewhat of a mystery to them. They know that they are going to experience some cognitive changes from the commitment of practicing a skill everyday for the next twenty-one days, but to what extent?

I have also found that for clients who have properly honored their twenty-one commitment, close to the end of the twenty-one day trial they usually will come to the appointment with clearer definitions regarding what they are going to be specifically doing for the next thirty to two sixty days. In short, they learn to embrace the process.

Ugo is a psychotherapist and life coach.

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November 4, 2013

Would you knowingly expose yourself to an infectious disease? If you are sound of mind, chances are that you will say no. Further, the reason you will most likely say no is because you have an appreciation for how vulnerable your physical self is.

 

Our awareness of our vulnerability as human beings, (on a physical level)  alters the choices we make. Collectively, so few of us willingly take risks that  puts our physical being in  danger.

So what about the mind? Is the mind vulnerable? Should we take the same precautions? The answer is yes, understandably the vulnerability of the mind is a concept that some people struggle to grasp. This is because while their mental state is something that can be experienced, it is not something that they can touch and see when they are mentally wounded by a bad idea.
Ideas are the equivalent of nutrition for the mind, good ideas that we come to believe help us to become successful in experiencing peace of mind, while bad ideas we come to believe, lead us into creating a world of continued crisis in our lives.
Here are three examples of common bad ideas that some people buy into.

Bad idea #1: You lack intellect.

During my time in the military, I discovered the true meaning of intellect, and that is truth. This is why the defense industry invents so much in technology and people when it comes to “gathering intelligence”.  This is a term that is used so often by the military when commanders talk about wanting the learn more about what is really going on in a foreign territory. With this in mind, imagine how ridiculous it sounds when  someone suggests that you lack the ability to gain awareness for the truth. This is exactly what people say when they suggest that others are of lower intellect,  simply because they don’t display cognitive abilities that are subjectively valued.

No two brains are the same, and everyone has the ability to gain awareness of truths in and out of their lives to solve their problems. When people buy into the idea that they are not intelligent, self fulfilling prophecy takes precedence. They lose interest in seeking the truth and live a life where they transition from one crisis to another where, due to their difficulty in making predictions, they would have been able to make if they possessed awareness of the truth.

Bad idea #2: You are a villain.
My first child was born in a hospital, which turned out to be a terrible experience, while my second child was born at home. The reason my wife and I choose for her to have a home birth was due to the terrible experience she experienced at the hospital, and myself as well. After her doctor had failed to show up for the birth, another doctor showed up for the birth and kept looking at his watch the entire time. I thought he was counting the contractions until he mentioned  to one of the nurses that this was taking too long and he would be upset if he missed his golf game. My wife and I ended being talked into my wife taking an epidural medication when she had insisted on wanting a natural birth. I regret going along with the doctors and nurses, but it was my first child and I thought it best to go with the advice of professionals. So this was the insult my wife experienced.
My insult came about ten minutes after my son was born, I was watching my son by the heating lamp as a nurse tended to him,  when I overheard another nurse quietly ask my wife if she felt safe with me in the home. Of course my wife said she felt safe with me,  and the nurse left. I found this offensive to say the least. The next morning, prior to picking up my wife and our latest addition, I made a complaint with the charge nurse of the maternity ward. She apologized and explained to me that they were mandated by state law to ask new mothers this question. I seized upon the opportunity to point out how badly my wife was treated and then myself coupled with the irony of the question.
When people, due to basis of personal prejudice attempt to portray you as a villain, while you certainly have a right to speak up for yourself, overreacting to the accusations only makes their accusations come to life.

 

Bad idea #3: You are worthless.

I am going to again use my wife’s bad hospital experience as an example for this one. It was my wife’s idea to have a baby at home. We argued over this  and I was initially upset with her. You see our medical insurance doesn’t cover home births and I knew this,  but my wife wouldn’t budge on the issue. I was upset with her because I thought she was being spoiled, we already hired a doula to assist us in the hospital and now we had to pay for the services of a mid wife. I grudgingly agreed to the home birth.
The home birth was a success, with the help of the doula, the mid wife and her two assistants. It was on the day that my daughter was born that I came to realize just how right my wife had been. Why put yourself in a situation where you know you are going to be treated poorly when you don’t have to. Growing up in Nigeria, I had become so accustomed to poor treatment, that I would consider anyone who complained about poor treatment to be spoiled.
While I am not entitled to be liked and considered in good graces by anyone, I am certainly entitled to not put myself in such a situation, and to remove myself from such a situation should I find myself in it. The home birth was success on many levels, our daughter was born healthy, the professionals where not in a hurry, they were compassionate towards my wife, and not once did I feel any of them regarded me as a villain.

 

How to prevent yourself from buying into bad ideas.

Seldom are bad ideas sold directly to anyone,  they are usually subtly suggested. However, if you are paying attention you can smell the waste. Here are three ways you can prevent your self from buying into bad ideas that lead you into practicing more harm than good in your life.

 

Prevention method #1:

Politely and assertively disagree. Don’t be afraid to disagree even if you are outnumbered. It is important to keep in mind that your goal is not to convince anyone, but yourself. There is power in disagreement, all the more reason that your disagreement shouldn’t be nasty and disrespectful. Also, don’t worry about you accepts you or otherwise, if someone is intent on having you buy into a harmful idea, they clearly don’t care about, so nothing is lost if you disagree and practice the next prevention method.

 

Prevention method #2:

Identify sources and people who spread bad ideas and keep your distance. For example, I cut of my cable years ago and the programs our children watch are very limited and hand picked by my wife and I. The brain is vulnerable to infection from bad ideas through the simple act of repetition. For example, youth who are habitually exposed to music with unhealthy messages eventually adopt those messages as their beliefs and values, this is what happens when the brain is exposed to only one type of message on a consistent basis.

 

Prevention method #3:

It’s not enough to disagree with those who spout bad ideas,  you also have practice good ideas. Your thoughts create your reality, and when you practice what you believe, you bring about self fulfilling prophecy and more importantly you surround yourself with people who agree with you and are supportive of you.

 

Ugo is a  psychotherapist and life coach.

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November 1, 2013

This Therapist’s Blog is changing names. The change means from here on forward, This Therapist’s Blog will become Road 2 Resolutions.

Change is this case is a good thing, and we plan on bringing you the same short but meaningful and insight provoking posts.

Also, the previous posts from This Therapist’s Blog will remain available on Road 2 Resolutions Blog.

Thanks for reading.

Ugo

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October 21, 2013
What is stress? There is a short story circulating around the Internet about a psychologist who walks before an audience with a glass half filed with water. She asks members of the audience to guess the weight of the glass, and after several missed guesses, she tells them the answer. The answer is irrelevant, however she proceeded to explain to the audience that the longer she holds the glass of water, the weaker her arm would become, while the weight of the glass of water remains the same.

Her analogy was simple,  stress we hold unto  for a short time, isn’t a bad thing. However stress we hold unto for a significant period of time weighs on the mind,and leads to cognitive issues accompanied by poor health.

“Reality exists in the mind before it is experienced.”

A common reason people struggle with stress is due to a refusal to accept that they are dealing with circumstances out of their control. Often times we have a narrative in our heads regarding how we believe certain experiences should unfold and how we will respond accordingly. This is both a strength and a weakness, because our ability to practice foresight allows us to plan ahead and prepare for the future. While on the other hand, we have a tendency to think ahead of ourselves and develop unrealistic expectations on how things should unfold simply because we planned ahead. It also doesn’t help that we are inherently pleasure seekers and often times the realities we create in our heads are designed for us to feel good about ourselves and the situation. This also presents with an irony of us being unprepared to deal with circumstances we believed we were prepared to deal with.
So what is stress? Stress is a phenomenon that occurs when people over a significant period of time continue to respond to the same life challenges with antiquated strategies that they have repeated tried in the past with limited to no success. After repeated attempts at addressing the problem, they then brood over the matter consistently, only to attempt using the same ineffective strategies once again. In such circumstances, a cruel thing can occur. The situation can resolve itself only to reoccur again, leading the stressed person to believe that the strategies they employed actually were effective, when they were not.
An example would be a panic attack sufferer coming to believe that his or her hyperventilating and overreaction to the episode of panic is what led to the end of the panic episode,  when in fact the panic episode coming to end was caused by the depletion of adrenaline in the person’s body. This then begins a vicious cycle, as the person now develops anxiety due to his or her attempts to anticipate when the next panic episode is going to occur.
The solution to stress is to practice accepting life on life’s terms, this process involves internalizing a great deal of humility in coming to accept when narratives we tell ourselves on how our lives should unfold are proven to be flawed. When we come to accept our narratives are flawed, then next step is to make revisions to the new narrative based on new information acquired from our experience.
If I were an audience member when the psychologist in the short story was giving the presentation, I would have raised my hand to catch her attention. If she had noticed me, and called for me to speak, I would have recommended that she drink the water, and then put the glass down. This for me would represent the metaphor of coming to accept reality for what it is (drinking the water) and exercising the courage to rewrite your narrative, (putting down the glass).
Ugo is a psychotherapist and a life coach.
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October 18, 2013

Over the years I have noticed a trend with people who struggle with anger management, they are usually people pleasers. They bend over backwards most of the time to please others,  mostly because they are fearful of conflict. They desire to not ruffle any feathers, they prefer to get along for the sake of getting along with others even though,  getting along with a specific group will cause them anguish.

That is, until the last straw breaks the camels back, then  they explode. They then take on the label as angry people. It is only after they have internalized anger management skills that the passivity that’s to present itself. It then turns out that they suffer from codependency and that they need to learn self advocacy.

Self advocacy is the process where people learn to set healthy boundaries in their relationships. They learn to say no when they need to say no, and they learn to accept that other people are responsible for their own emotions, negative or positive.

Often, people who struggle with passivity, grew up with one or more abusive care givers, where as a child they learned to survive by predicting when a caregiver would become upset and using manipulative techniques to manage the emotions of that caregiver. Unfortunately that attitude carries over into their adult years, where they attempt to please people in their lives, for fear of being ostracized. Given that it is not possible to please anyone, they find themselves experiencing plenty of frustration in their personal relationships, with periodic episodes of restorting to poor anger management.

So how do these people develop self advocacy skills?

With self advocacy, there are two specific habits to practice, and these habits are getting into the habit of accepting when others are in a bad mood and setting healthy boundaries for self. The process of practicing these healthy boundaries involves the same skill set, with the practice of not being reactive to negative feelings.

So when a person who struggles with passivity or co dependency feels the urge to pacify an adult who is angry, they practice becoming mindful of this urge and doing nothing. When this same person is setting a healthy boundary with others, they will practice becoming aware of their fear of being rejected by the other person, leading to the urge to set no boundaries. They will then choose to set their boundaries regardless of their fears.

Being mindful and not being reactive to negative feelings, is something that can be practiced in imagined scenarios. I have found that when clients practice self advocacy in imagined scenarios, they become better prepared to practice self advocacy in unexpected real life scenarios.

Ugo is a psychotherapist and owner of Road 2 Resolutions PLLC.

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