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Psychologists Explain How to Focus Your Mind

Frazzled. Confused. Stressed. Discombobulated. Scatterbrained. These are just a few ways of describing the tendencies of the human mind.

Indeed, it can be difficult to understand ourselves. It’s not altogether uncommon to wonder, “Where’d that thought come from?” It’s a fair question, too! Why do we produce random thoughts – and why are the majority of them self-defeating? To answer this question, we must look at the brain’s two modes: default and focused.

“My mind is like an internet browser. 17 tabs are open, 4 of them are frozen and I don’t know where the music is coming from.” – Unknown (source)

UNDERSTANDING YOUR MIND’S TWO MODES
By understanding your mind’s two modes, you’ll unlock the secret to better focus.

MODE 1: THE DEFAULT MODE

“A wandering mind costs you nothing but is very expensive.” – Amit Sood, M.D.

Did you know that “at rest” really isn’t resting much at all? Neurophysiologists state that the focused mind uses just five percent more than a mind doing nothing in particular. The paradox here is that your mind is always doing something – even when you’re doing nothing – and this comes at an energy cost.

It is when we’re bored that the brain enters its default mode. If the brain could talk, it would say something like this: “Is this something interesting that is worth my time? No? Leave me alone to brood.” This brooding always takes place when the brain is in default mode.

Most people will recognize when their brain is in its default state, but not all. Some people feel as if their attention rarely wanders or enters default mode. Unless you are a monk or a long-time meditation or yoga practitioner, this is probably untrue. But here are a few questions to answer if you think this is the case:

  • Do my family or friends complain that I’m often too distracted?
  • Do I arrive at home with little memory of the commute?
  • Have I become more forgetful?
  • Do I experience mind racing in the shower?
  • Have I ever read a book with no idea of what I just read?
  • Do my thoughts wander when someone is talking or giving a presentation?
  • Do I wake up to a mind whirling with thoughts?

If you’ve answered in the affirmative to any of the above questions, your brain was in its default state. Please remember this about the default mode: the default mode takes away from your enjoyment of life; in fact, it often contributes to the pain and suffering you sometimes feel.

MODE 2: THE FOCUSED MODE

“Concentration brings with it a natural job as the mind settles and is absent of distraction.” – Shaila Catherine (source)

The brain’s secondary mode – and unfortunately so – is the focused mode. It’s not a stretch to say that the focused mode is the answer to most of life’s ills. This mode is recognizable when you become absorbed in something and lose track of time. Activities that activate focused mode includes:

  • Eating a delicious meal
  • Reading a good book
  • Watching an enthralling movie
  • Staring at a newborn baby
  • Watching the sunset
  • Solving a meaningful problem

The focused mind is relatively free of distractions, including the inner distractions of anxiety, restlessness, boredom, and so forth. As such, the focused mind is a happy mind. The focused mind becomes activated while you are paying attention to anything interesting and meaningful.

While there aren’t any official statistics on how often a person spends their time in focused mode, it’s probably in the ballpark of 25 percent. But fret not. You can substantially increase the amount of time that you spend in focused mode by committing to do so. This process takes a bit of effort at first but quickly becomes rather effortless. More on this later.

THE HUMAN MIND IS BEAUTIFUL

How powerful is what you just read? Simply by knowing and being mindful of the brain’s two “modes,” you can live a happier, more peaceful, and more meaningful life. Your brain innately understands the differences between the two modes – and the above descriptions should help.

Remember the differences:

Default mode: anxiety, stress, depression, restlessness; internally-focused, directionless.  The majority of people spend most of their time in this state.

Focused mode: content, happy, peaceful; externally-focused, time seems to fly. Most of us only spend about 25 percent in this state.

“WHY CAN’T I STAY IN DEFAULT MODE?”

Listen up as this is a critical point: no matter how much you learn about the brain and its processes, you will never be able to remain in a state of complete focus. How often you can stay in focused mode depends upon your initial capacity for attention, as well as your willingness to learn mindful techniques like meditation.

But what are these things even required? Why can‘t you just stay in a focused state? Well, as great as being focused all of the time sounds, it would be counterproductive and even dangerous.

Our brain has evolved an autonomic system that responds to threats – real or perceived. How important is the autonomic nervous system? Have you ever involuntarily taken a breath or moved to avoid a collision with a car or person? Sure, you have – all of us do this. It’s called survival, and our brain and body are finely tuned to survive in even the most challenging scenarios.

The problem is that the brain doesn’t know the difference between real and perceived threats. It is when we are prone to mind-wandering that these threats become more challenging and profuse. Biologically, the human brain in its current state is not designed to allow conscious thought to dominate. Will the brain ever reach that point? That remains to be seen.

OVERCOMING RESISTANCE IN THE MIND

“What you resist not only persists but will grow in size.” – Carl Jung (source)

Read and re-read the following statement as often as you’d like: to resist wandering thoughts is futile. Go ahead, reread it.

One of the first things that someone does when trying to get into a more focused state is to suppress wandering thoughts. Not only does this fail, but it actually makes things worse. Think of trying to resist negative or wandering thoughts as tightening a spring – the harder that you try, the more it recoils.

What is the answer, then? To bring the wandering mind back to the task, whatever it happens to be – whether reading a book, writing a paper, having a conversation, etc. – over and over again without denying other mental states. It is this directing and re-directing of focus that allows your attentional muscles to grow.

Remembering to redirect your attention throughout the day can be challenging, but it isn’t the most challenging part. The hardest part is resisting the urge to criticize yourself for losing focus in the first place. You must try and get over this tendency as much as possible. Not only will self-criticism drain your mental energy, but it may very well derail any efforts to become more focused and mindful.

FINAL THOUGHTS ON THE HUMAN MIND: A BLUEPRINT FOR FOCUS

“Everyone in your life is vying for your attention.” – Isaiah Hankel, Ph.D. (source)

Here’ s another tidbit that you may want to keep in mind: distractions (i.e. mind wandering) further depletes your brain’s energy levels. In turn, this energy depletion makes it easier to succumb to distractions.

What to do? Here’s a four-point blueprint for maximizing focus.

POINT #1 – MONITOR YOUR ATTENTION.
You must track where your attention is going to make better use of it. When do you feel the most focused and attentive? What things cause you to lose focus on the task at hand? Track these things and prepare a plan of action.

POINT #2 – MANAGE YOUR EMOTIONS.
There is a correlation between mental and bodily emotions and energy. If you are feeling happy or content, your brain will be more alert and active than if you’re downtrodden and lethargic. Do the things that make you feel more of the former and less of the things that make you feel more of the latter.

POINT #3 – LEVERAGE TECHNOLOGY.
While it may sound downright paradoxical to call upon tech for more focus, the right type of technology can indeed help. Try downloading an app that blocks distracting websites. Or maybe one that tracks productivity and emails daily reports. Do whatever works for you.

POINT #4 – DON’T GIVE UP.
For the vast majority, building up a cognitive reserve of focus is a timely and challenging undertaking. Don’t allow your emotions and negative self-talk (both forms of mind-wandering) to take you off track. If you put in the time and effort, you will be a more focused, happier, and productive individual!

source: https://www.powerofpositivity.com/focus-mind-psychologists-explain/ 

focus

 

Dealing with Uncertainty About What Path to Take

The amount of time we spend fretting over what path to take, when we’re feeling uncertain, can sometimes be staggering.
We’re entering into unknown territory, and we don’t know how to proceed. It happens all the time for many of us: we start a new job, launch a new venture, change careers, have to deal with incredible change, decide to write a book or create something online, put ourselves in a new social situation.
Some of the things we do in response to this uncertainty:
  • Extensive research, often to the point of very diminishing returns, sometimes to the point of being overwhelmed by how much information we’ve found.
  • Buy books, courses, programs, other materials that we think will guide us — this isn’t necessarily a bad idea, but in truth, none of this will give us certainty.
  • Try to find teachers or other people who will guide us, who have been there before — again, hoping that they’ll give us certainty, but often this isn’t a magic pill either.
  • Delay making a decision, putting it off over and over because it’s too hard to decide. Avoid, avoid. This might be the most common option, actually.
  • Give up because you don’t know if you can do it, don’t know what to do, don’t know what the hell you’re doing. This is pretty common too — in fact, most people give up before they even start.
  • These are very common reactions to entering into uncertainty, but usually not very helpful. They get in the way of doing the work and living the life we’d like.
So how do we deal with the uncertain path that we’d like to embark upon?
It’s not always easy, but I’ve found there to be a set of practices that can help tremendously.
The Mindset Shift
The first mindset shift to consider is that uncertainty is not bad, or something to be avoided. It’s a natural part of doing anything meaningful. In fact, feeling uncertainty is a great sign that you’re doing something challenging and meaningful.
Uncertainty can be embraced, opened up to, even loved. We can learn to cherish the uncertainty in our lives, if we shift our mindset and practice with it.
The second mindset shift is to see an uncertain path as a practice opportunity. It’s not something to run from, but a place to stay, so that we can grow, learn, and create.
Every time we feel uncertainty, it can be seen as a calling to open up and practice. To turn towards and try a new way of doing things, rather than indulging in old, unhelpful patterns.
The Uncertainty Practices
So let’s say you’re about to head down an uncertain path — starting a new job, moving into a new phase of your life, writing a book, launching a business or product …
How do you open to the uncertainty and practice with it?
Here’s what I’ve found to be useful, in writing books and launching programs, along with dealing with huge life changes:
  1. Stay in the uncertainty as a practice, and with devotion. You are staying in this place of uncertainty to practice with it, but also to serve those you care deeply about. They are worth it. Remind yourself of them, and that doing this for them is more important than your discomfort with uncertainty. Let yourself feel uncertainty in your body, staying with the sensations in the moment — and learn that it’s not a big deal to feel that uncertainty. With practice, this becomes easier and easier.
  2. Go with the gut (or the heart). If you’re unsure of what path to take (need to make some decisions), it’s easy to get frozen in indecision, because there’s not clear answer. You can ask a hundred people, and not get a clear way to make a decision. You can read a million articles and books, talk to experts, but there’s no right answer. And so, you have to learn to trust your gut. Or your heart. When I’m at a crossroads, what I try to do is sit still for a little while, contemplating the question. I feel into my heart, and decide what feels right. I don’t have any certainty, because there’s no right answer. Instead, I have to trust my gut or heart, and just go with it … the real trust is that even if it’s the wrong answer, I’ll be perfectly fine. More on that bit below.
  3. Embrace the not knowing. So you’ve used your heart to make an uncertain choice … but you don’t know exactly how it will go. That’s OK. In fact, you can embrace this not knowing … it’s like reading a book or watching a movie without knowing how things will unfold. That’s part of the fun! Not knowing is a beautiful thing, even though most of the time we really want to know. Can you take the next step without knowing, being completely open to how things might turn out? Being curious to find out more, without having a fixed idea of how it should be? Letting things be fluid and fresh? Try it and see!
  4. Let things unfold as you walk the path. As you move along this uncertain path, see how things turn out. Notice what you can notice, learn from this new information. For example, if I’m going to launch a new product, I don’t know how people will respond. I can launch it without knowing, and see how they respond, listen to their reactions, talk to them and find out more. If I’m dealing with a health issue, I can try different solutions, noticing how they affect things. I don’t know how things will unfold, but I can walk the path and find out.
  5. Get information, adjust the path. As you let things unfold, you’ll be gathering new information. You’ll learn whether things turned out as you expected or not. You’ll be open to all of this, but it might turn out that you need to make adjustments. For example, when I launched my Fearless Training Program, I didn’t know exactly what people would need in the program, or how they’d respond to the training. Listening to them has helped me to understand better, and I’ve adjusted the program a lot in the past 18 months. Over and over, I listen and learn and adjust. It’s good to build in regular reviews so you can make adjustments as you walk the uncertain path — weekly reviews are great.
  6. Learn to trust you’ll be fine. You might flop on your face — but what’s the worst-case scenario (of all likely outcomes)? Probably nothing too bad. You won’t die, in most cases. What I’ve learned is to trust that things will turn out fine. Not as I expect, but fine. I might fail, but I learn to deal with the failure. A failure is just a way to grow, learn, get better. It’s not the end of the world. Walking the uncertain path, let yourself develop trust in yourself to respond resiliently to whatever happens. With this trust, you’ll learn that you don’t need to avoid the uncertainty.
  7. Create rituals to support the uncertainty. All of this is great in an ideal world — but in reality, we’re likely to go to our old patterns. The way to work with this is through rituals designed to support these practices. For example, you might start your day with meditation, letting yourself feel the uncertainty in your body. You might set a focus session for first thing in your work day, where you let yourself push into uncertainty every day, at least once a day. You might set up a weekly review, where you make adjustments based on how things are unfolding. In that review, you might notice how things are going just fine, and let that cultivate trust in the process and in yourself to handle things. You might get a group of advisors and check in with them once a month, talking to them about your uncertainty. Figure out what rituals you need to support your practice with uncertainty, and set them up.
  8. This path of uncertainty isn’t anything you can’t handle. Many people have walked similar uncertain paths in the past, and are doing so now. You can do it just as well as anyone.
Our paths must contain uncertainty, because no one knows what the hell they’re doing. We’re making it up as we go along, learning as we go, and if we’re conscious about it, we can dance with the uncertainty with a smile on our face.
BY LEO BABAUTA
POSTED: TUESDAY, JANUARY 14, 2020


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The Practice of Letting Go

There are a number of times when our mind clings to something tightly, and it is rarely helpful:

  • I am right, the other person is wrong
  • That person is living their life in the wrong way, they should change
  • My preference is the best way, others are wrong
  • This is the thing I want, I don’t want anything else
  • I really don’t like that, it sucks
  • I should have that person in my life, loving me
  • I shouldn’t be alone, shouldn’t be overweight, shouldn’t be however I am, shouldn’t have this life

In all of these cases, and more, our minds are fixed in a certain viewpoint, and we often judge others. We complain. We are attached to what we want and what we don’t want.

It leads to stress. Unhappiness. Anger. Righteousness. Being judgmental. Distancing ourselves from others. Closed-offedness.

And it leads to being closed off to the beauty of this moment, as it is, full of openness and possibilities.

If you’d like to work on letting go, I would like to offer a simple practice.

mind

 

The Practice of Letting Go

You can actually practice this all day long, because even if we don’t realize it, we’re clinging and hardening and fixing upon viewpoints all day long.

Here’s how to practice:

  1. Start by realizing that you’re hardened. Notice that you are stressed, upset at someone, feeling like you’re right, complaining about someone or a situation, not open to other viewpoints, putting something off, avoiding, tensed. These are good signs that you are holding on, hardened in your viewpoint, fixed, attached, clinging. Get good at noticing this.
  2. Notice the tension in your body. It’s a tightening that happens from your stomach muscles, through your chest, into your throat, up to your forehead. Think of this as your central column, and it tightens up when you think you’re right, or someone else is wrong, or you really want something or don’t want something.
  3. Start to relax those tightened muscles. This is the heart of changing from holding on to letting go. Whatever is tight in your central column, relax. Try it right now. What is tight? Relax that. Soften.
  4. Open your awareness beyond yourself. Once you’ve done this (and you might have to repeat the relaxing, multiple times), you can open your awareness from just your own body and your self-concern, to the world around you. Become aware of the space around you, the people and objects, the light and sound. Open your awareness to the neighborhood around you.
  5. Become aware of openness & possibilities. With your mind opening, you can start to feel more open. Your mind is no longer closed, but has made space for possibilities. You are not fixated on one right way, but are open to everything. This is the beauty of not-knowing.
  6. Open to the beauty that is before you. Now that you are not fixated on rightness or your way or the way things should or shouldn’t be … you can take in the actual moment before you. You’ve emptied your cup, and made room for seeing things as they actually are, and appreciating the beauty of this moment, the beauty of other people, and of yourself.
  7. Step forward with a not-knowing openness. From this place of relaxing your fixed mind, of opening up … take the next step with a stance of not-knowing. You don’t know how things should be, let’s find out! You don’t know if you’re right or wrong, let’s explore! You don’t know the answers, you just hold the questions in your heart, and move into open possibilities.

It’s that simple. And of course, it takes a lot of practice. You can do this at any moment, but it’s helpful to have a short time of day when you set a reminder and then take a few moments to sit still and practice with whatever you’ve been clinging to today.

When we practice like this, we are shifting from our habitual patterns of self-concern and shutting out all possibilities, to openness and not-knowing, to unlimited possibilities and seeing the breath-taking beauty of the world in front of us.

BY LEO BABAUTA     FEBRUARY 4, 2019

zenhabits.net

Obstacles That Stop Us from Decluttering
—And How to Overcome Them

Years ago, Cas Aarssen would spend hours looking for lost items, cleaning and tidying, and dusting items she didn’t even like.
Sound familiar?
Sometimes, we get so entrenched in our routines that we don’t see the belongings that no longer belong in our homes. Or we feel too busy, too overwhelmed, too exhausted to tackle a big project such as decluttering. We think it’ll require energy and effort we just don’t have.
Another obstacle to decluttering is actually letting items go. “We are especially reluctant to declutter things that were expensive, have sentimental value, or things that we perceive as being useful ‘someday,’” said Aarssen, an author and professional organizer. “Unfortunately, almost everything can land in one of these categories and by holding onto too many ‘useful’ items, we are making the spaces in our homes ‘useless.’”
We also don’t get rid of items because our stuff starts to represent different possibilities. And that stuff ends up replacing our actual habits. For instance, professional organizer and ADHD coach Debra Michaud, M.A., worked with a client who had a growing yoga DVD collection, which she didn’t use. “What she really wanted was the habit, but she found herself instead buying more and more DVDs.”
Basically, our clutter can personify the people we want to be. The person who lifts weights and runs on the treadmill. The person who always looks put together in fancy (and uncomfortable) shoes. The person who uses cookbooks to make elaborate dinners for their family. The person who does arts and crafts and makes beautiful things.
“Unfinished projects are a very common cause of clutter,” Michaud said. You might be surrounded by broken things you’re planning on fixing one day and piles of magazines you’ll read next week or the week after that or the week after that or….
“People often hang on to [these items] as some sort of albatross, almost a punishment for not getting everything done.”
All of these are super-common obstacles—which you can absolutely overcome. These tips will help.
clutter
Have a clear vision
“The best motivator to declutter is to have a clear vision of what is beyond it,” Michaud said. She suggested asking yourself: What do you really want? What would you really miss?
Remind yourself regularly why you’re decluttering. For instance, clutter robs us of our time and causes a lot of needless stress, said Aarssen, bestselling author of Real Life Organizing and Cluttered Mess to Organized Success. It also zaps our energy, makes us inefficient, and prevents us from living in the present, Michaud said.
Start small
So overwhelm doesn’t stop you from starting, Michaud always suggests tackling clutter in small chunks. Really small. For instance, you might identify one item per day you’re going to donate.
Michaud also recommended using a timer, and starting with five-minute sessions. “Five minutes of focused decision-making is more productive than two hours of wheel-spinning and moving things around.” In fact, she defines clutter as “the interest we pay for deferred decisions (or projects).”
And because of the decision-making required, pick a time when you can focus, Michaud said. “At the end of a tiring workday, for example, will probably yield a frustrating and inefficient organizing session.”
Start with garbage
Aarssen suggested grabbing a garbage bag and filling it as quickly as possible with things you can throw away without any hesitation. For instance, this might include old receipts, expired medications, stale food, empty boxes, and old magazines.
Address your guilt
Michaud always tells her clients “wouldn’t you rather [an item] go to someone who needs it and uses it, than have it sitting in the back of your closet?” She also asks them if the giver would really want them to feel burdened by their gift. And, of course, they wouldn’t.
When it comes to unfinished projects, remind yourself that no one gets to everything. “In a way, letting go of clutter is…coming to terms with the finiteness of life,” Michaud said. However, “ironically, it’s when we let go that we start to feel in control.”
Self-reflect
If your stuff represents different possibilities, wishes and people, consider if those are still true for you. Consider if you even want to do these things, if you’d even enjoy them. Do you want to lift weights and run on the treadmill? Maybe you don’t—and that’s OK. Maybe you love to take walks. Maybe you actually prefer to cook quick meals, and don’t like cooking from recipes.
Either way, you’ll feel so much lighter once you let go of the stuff that represents your unrealized and unwanted dreams—along with those no longer-relevant dreams.
Donate 21 items
“I love this decluttering technique because it is a big enough number that you need to push yourself, but small enough that it isn’t overwhelming and won’t take you more than a few minutes to accomplish,” Aarssen said. Again, the key is to go quickly, and make it into a game.
Create a time capsule
According to Aarssen, when you’re really struggling to relinquish certain items, pack them in a box and write an expiration date on it: “If Not Used By September 2018, DONATE This Box.” Keep your box somewhere in your home. When that date arrives, if you haven’t missed or needed anything in the box, donate its contents, she said.
Get help
“Sometimes the biggest impediment to decluttering is just knowing when to reach out for help,” Michaud said. She suggested hiring a professional organizer or finding a neutral “clutter buddy.” This might be a close friend or a member of Clutterers Anonymous.
Whoever you pick, it’s important that they’re not judgmental and can ask you thoughtful questions, such as: “Do you love it? Do you use it? Realistically will you use it in the next 2 years? Would you buy it again today? Would you miss it?”
Decluttering does take time and energy and effort—but it’s time and energy and effort that aren’t a waste. It’s worthwhile, and it’s absolutely freeing. As Michaud said, “We often don’t even realize how much clutter is weighing on us until it’s gone.”
By Margarita Tartakovsky, M.S. 
Associate Editor        8 Jul 2018


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The Top 3 Reasons Why You Self-Sabotage and How to Stop

Faulty thinking and fear of failure play a part.

It’s easy to sabotage yourself when you’re trying to meet an important goal, like developing healthier habits, getting assignments done on time, saving money, managing weight, or building healthy relationships. Self-sabotage isn’t just one thing — it can have many causes — but the end result is that you get off track, mess up relationships, don’t get things done, or don’t perform as well as you would like. All of this can lead to feeling bad about yourself and expecting to fail, which leads to more self-sabotage to avoid facing failure head-on, which perpetuates the cycle.

Below are some of the ways in which you may sabotage yourself and suggestions for what to do instead. My colleague and fellow Psychology Today blogger Alice Boyes has an excellent new book out called The Healthy Mind Toolkit, which provides simple, practical psychological tools to help you stop self-sabotaging and develop healthy habits and attitudes instead.

Why do you sabotage yourself?

There are many reasons for self-sabotage, but three of the most important ones involve your thinking patterns, fears you may have in intimate relationships, and the tendency to avoid things that are difficult or uncomfortable. Read on to find out more.

1. Faulty thinking

Our human brains tend to be wired to cling to the familiar, to overestimate risk, and to avoid trying new approaches. This tendency, known as the familiarity heuristic, leads us to overvalue the things we know and undervalue things that are unfamiliar. And when we are under stress, we tend to rely on the familiarity heuristic even more. When our brains are tired, we resort to old habits and ways of doing things, even if they don’t work well. We are drawn to go with the familiar, even when a different option offers a clear advantage.

In one study, researchers asked subjects to do a complicated word puzzle. One group performed under time pressure, while the other was told to take as much time as they needed. After the puzzle was done, subjects were told they had to do another puzzle, but were given a choice between a longer puzzle invented by the same person who designed the first puzzle or a short puzzle designed by somebody they did not know. The group who performed under more stressful conditions (time pressure) were more likely to choose the longer puzzle, even though this would put them at a disadvantage. It’s as if their brains got confused trying to compare the advantages of length versus familiarity, and so they resorted to the “familiarity heuristic.”

It’s not always easy to tell when your brain is relying on a heuristic. Try to make important decisions when you’re not stressed and to consider the pros and cons of each choice, rather than just going with something that intuitively sounds like the best choice (but may not be).

2. Fear of intimacy or fear of rejection

We all know people who sabotage relationships when they reach a certain level of intimacy. Some people cheat, others pick fights or get controlling to push the person away, still others reveal all their insecurities or become too needy and clingy. These are all unconscious ways in which our brains fear getting trapped or rejected if we get too close. Many of these patterns are based on childhood relationships with caregivers. If you have “insecure attachment,” you may unconsciously fear repeating the past. Perhaps your parent was rejecting or neglectful, critical, inconsistent, or you had to be the “parentified child.” Parts of our brains remember this pain and begin to act in adult relationships as if we are with our parent (or perhaps do the complete opposite in an extreme way, which gets us into trouble as well).

If your fear of intimacy or rejection is strong, it is better to mindfully allow your insecure or fearful feelings to be there, while actively working to find healthy, mature ways of talking about them, rather than running away or pushing people away. You need to remind yourself that you are an adult now and have a much greater capacity to tolerate stress and rejection and to take care of yourself than you did as a child. Also remind yourself of what you have to gain by staying engaged. Try to be more self-aware and to notice the effects of your behavior patterns on your relationship happiness.

success

3. Procrastination and avoidance

A third way you may self-sabotage is by not dealing with problems until they get so big that you are forced to deal with them. Or not being able to discipline yourself to get work done on time. There are several potential reasons for procrastinating and avoiding. You may never have learned the skills to break tasks up into smaller pieces, or you may be too tired to plan out a schedule for doing the work. Alternatively, you may feel overwhelmed by the magnitude of the task or feel like an imposter who doesn’t have what it takes to succeed. Self-sabotaging by not getting started, staying up too late, or going out with friends or watching television instead of working is a very common pattern. In the short term, you manage to avoid the discomfort of an anxiety-provoking or boring and unrewarding task. But in the long term, the things you’ve put off come back to bite you.

You may also procrastinate and avoid because you are perfectionistic, overthink things, or can’t decide where to begin. All of these tendencies tend to have an anxiety component. You can counteract them by giving yourself a time limit to choose or by allowing yourself to make an imperfect choice. It helps to see yourself as being able to learn from experience and improve over time. This is what researcher Carol Dweck calls a “growth mindset.” A growth mindset makes the possibility of failure less scary, whereas if you see your abilities as fixed, you are more likely to avoid performance situations or sabotage  yourself so your weaknesses won’t be clearly exposed.

Procrastination and avoidance (as well as addictive behavior) can also be ways of not taking responsibility for your actions. These behaviors allow you to blame outside factors, like not having enough time, if you do poorly, rather than admitting your role in not using your time well. Some of us fear success, because we shun the limelight or fear that others will expect more from us than we can deliver. But rather than facing this fear head-on, we tend to set ourselves up for failure instead.

Take-Home Message

When it comes to self-sabotage, one size doesn’t fit all. You may be too tired and stressed to think through complex choices and instead rely on easy (but inaccurate) heuristics. You may sabotage relationships, because you fear closeness and intimacy or fear rejection. Or you may procrastinate and avoid, because you fear failure or lack planning and time management skills. The solution differs depending on the area of self-sabotage. Getting enough rest and not taking on too much can help you think more clearly and make better choices. Understanding the roots of your fears of intimacy and rejection and taking small steps towards more closeness can help in the relationship arena. And taking more responsibility for planning and motivating yourself and adopting a growth mindset can help with procrastination at work.

References
Boyes, Alice (2018). The Healthy Mind Toolkit. TarcherPerigree

Jun 11, 2018

Melanie Greenberg Ph.D.


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13 Things You Should Give Up If You Want To Be Successful

Somebody once told me the definition of hell:

“On your last day on earth, 

the person you became will meet 

the person you could have become.”  

 -Anonymous

Sometimes, to become successful and get closer to the person we can become, we don’t need to add more things — we need to give up on some of them.

There are certain things that are universal, which will make you successful if you give up on them, even though each one of us could have a different definition of success.

You can give up on some of them today, while it might take a bit longer to give up on others.

1. Give Up On The Unhealthy Lifestyle

“Take care of your body. It’s the only place you have to live.” — Jim Rohn

If you want to achieve anything in life, everything starts here. First you have to take care of your health, and there are only two things you need to keep in mind:

1. Healthy Diet
2. Physical Activity

Small steps, but you will thank yourself one day.

2. Give Up The Short-term Mindset

“You only live once, but if you do it right, once is enough.” — Mae West

Successful people set long-term goals, and they know these aims are merely the result of short-term habits that they need to do every day.

These healthy habits shouldn’t be something you do; they should be something you embody.

There is a difference between: “Working out to get a summer body” and “Working out because that’s who you are.”

3. Give Up On Playing Small

“Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people will not feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. It is not just in some of us; it is in everyone, and as we let our light shine, we unconsciously give others permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our fear, our presence automatically liberates others.” – Marianne Williamson

If you never try and take great opportunities, or allow your dreams to become realities, you will never unleash your true potential.

And the world will never benefit from what you could have achieved.

So voice your ideas, don’t be afraid to fail, and certainly don’t be afraid to succeed.

4. Give Up Your Excuses

“It’s not about the cards you’re dealt, but how you play the hand.”― Randy Pausch, The Last Lecture

Successful people know that they are responsible for their life, no matter their starting point, weaknesses, and past failures.

Realising that you are responsible for what happens next in your life is both frightening and exciting.
And when you do, that becomes the only way you can become successful, because excuses limit and prevent us from growing personally and professionally.

Own your life; no one else will.

5. Give Up The Fixed Mindset

“The future belongs to those who learn more skills and combine them in creative ways.” ― Robert Greene, Mastery

People with a fixed mindset think their intelligence or talents are simply fixed traits, and that talent alone creates success — without effort. They’re wrong.

Successful people know this. They invest an immense amount of time on a daily basis to develop a growth mindset, acquire new knowledge, learn new skills and change their perception so that it can benefit their lives.

Remember, who you are today, it’s not who you have to be tomorrow.

6. Give Up Believing In The “Magic Bullet.”

“Every day, in every way, I’m getting better and better” — Émile Coué

Overnight success is a myth.

Successful people know that making small continual improvement every day will be compounded over time, and give them desirable results.

That is why you should plan for the future, but focus on the day that’s ahead of you, and improve just 1% every day.

7. Give Up Your Perfectionism

“Shipping beats perfection.” — Khan Academy’s Development Mantra

Nothing will ever be perfect, no matter how much we try.

Fear of failure (or even fear of success) often prevents us from taking an action and putting our creation out there in the world. But a lot of opportunities will be lost if we wait for the things to be right.

So “ship,” and then improve (that 1%).

8. Give Up Multi-tasking

“You will never reach your destination if you stop and throw stones at every dog that barks.” ― Winston S. Churchill

Successful people know this. That’s why they choose one thing and then beat it into submission. No matter what it is — a business idea, a conversation, or a workout.

Being fully present and committed to one task, is indispensable.

9. Give Up Your Need to Control Everything

“Some things are up to us, and some things are not up to us.” — Epictetus, Stoic philosopher

Differentiating these two is important.

Detach from the things you cannot control, and focus on the ones you can, and know that sometimes, the only thing you will be able to control is your attitude towards something.

Remember, nobody can be frustrated while saying “Bubbles” in an angry voice.

10. Give Up On Saying YES To Things That Don’t Support Your Goals

“He who would accomplish little must sacrifice little; he who would achieve much must sacrifice much; he who would attain highly must sacrifice greatly.” — James Allen

Successful people know that in order to accomplish their goals, they will have to say NO to certain tasks, activities, and demands from their friends, family, and colleagues.

In the short-term, you might sacrifice a bit of instant gratification, but when your goals come to fruition, it will all be worth it.

11. Give Up The Toxic People

“You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.”
― Jim Rohn

People we spend the most time with, add up to who we become.

There are people who are less accomplished in their personal and professional life, and there are people who are more accomplished than us. If you spend time with those who are behind you, your average will go down, and with it, your success.

But if you spend time with people who are more accomplished than you, no matter how challenging that might be, you will become more successful.

Take a look at around you, and see if you need to make any changes.

12. Give Up Your Need To Be Liked

“The only way to avoid pissing people off is to do nothing important.” — Oliver Emberton

Think of yourself as a market niche.

There will be a lot of people who like that niche, and there will be individuals who don’t. And no matter what you do, you won’t be able to make the entire market like you.

This is entirely natural, and there’s no need to justify yourself.

The only thing you can do is to remain authentic, improve and provide value every day, and know that the growing number of “haters” means that you are doing important things.

13. Give Up Your Dependency on Social Media & Television

“The trouble is, you think you have time” — Jack Kornfield

Impulsive web browsing and television watching are diseases of today’s society.

These two should never be an escape from your life or your goals.

Unless your goals depend on either, you should minimise (or even eliminate) your dependency on them, and direct that time towards things that can enrich your life.

source: medium.com


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The Best Mindset To Preserve Memory And Judgement

The best mindset to ward off cognitive decline can be cultivated using exercises such as visualising your best possible self.

Older adults with a more optimistic outlook experience fewer memory and judgement problems, new research finds.

Optimism has also been linked to desirable health behaviours like:

  • Eating more healthily.
  • Exercising regularly.
  • Lower risk of heart conditions and stroke.

For the study, researchers followed around 500 older adults over four years to see if they experienced any cognitive impairments.

The results showed that the best mindset was optimism, which was linked to a lower risk of developing cognitive impairment.

Ms Katerina Gawronski, the study’s first author, said:

“We felt like this was an important topic to investigate and to our knowledge, it’s the first study to examine the link between optimism and cognitive impairment in older adults.
We found that optimism was indeed associated with better cognitive health over time.”

optimism

Best mindset can be learned

The good news is that optimism is not fixed in stone.

Exercises such as visualising your ‘best possible self‘ have been shown to increase optimism.

Here is how I’ve previously explained the exercise:

Visualising your best possible self may sound like an exercise in fantasy but, crucially, it does have to be realistic. 

Carrying out this exercise typically involves imagining your life in the future, but a future where everything that could go well, has gone well. 

You have reached those realistic goals that you have set for yourself. 

Then, to help cement your visualisation, you commit your best possible self to paper. 

This exercise draws on the proven benefits of expressive writing.

Dr Eric Kim, a study co-author, said:

“Therefore, optimism may be a novel and promising target for prevention and intervention strategies aimed at improving cognitive health.”

The study was published in the journal Psychosomatic Medicine (Gawronski et al., 2016).
source: PsyBlog


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How to Argue the Right Way

Everyone knows just how taxing a fight with a loved one can be on us emotionally. But new science is showing just how bad arguing is for our physical health. A 20-year study from the University of California, Berkeley, has started to pinpoint some of the negative long-term health effects of arguing. Researchers found that while “outbursts of anger predict cardiovascular problems… shutting down emotionally or ‘stonewalling’ during conflict raises the risk of musculoskeletal ailments such as a bad back or stiff muscles.” These findings come just a couple years after a Dutch study concluded that frequent arguing can lead to premature death. Even though it may feel like arguing is just a part of life, the way we react to conflict and choose to communicate at these stressful moments is actually a matter of life and death.

Fortunately, there are a few very important, highly effective practices we can implement in order to not feel overwhelmed when a conflict arises. All of these practices involve getting to know ourselves and our partner better. When we understand the specific patterns and behaviors that cause us to fly off the handle or completely shut down, we can learn to take pause and take more control over our actions and reactions. We can avoid building cases against our partner and start living more mindfully, thereby removing some of the drama and intensity from our arguments and communication. Here are five key tips for arguing the right way:

1. Be mindful

Practicing mindfulness can help in almost any situation in which we feel triggered emotionally. Mindfulness teaches us to slow down in the moment. Although, this is most challenging in those instances when we’re provoked, it’s essential that we take pause and avoid reacting out of conditioned responses. Instead, we can take a breath (or take a walk or count to 10) in order to calm down, so we can pay attention to what’s going on inside us. When we name the feelings we’re having, we help tame them. Rather than lashing out or ruminating on our thoughts, we can notice that we feel angry or hurt without judgment or justification.

Once we’re in a calmer state, we can choose our responses based on the outcome we desire. As Dr. Pat Love puts it, we can feel the feeling but do the right thing. In addition, practicing patience and compassion toward ourselves helps us do the same with our partner. When we’re operating from a mindful place, we’re better able to tune in to our partner and see the situation from his or her unique perspective.

2. Be open to being wrong

In every relationship, it’s mutually beneficial to be open to the possibility that our perception isn’t necessarily right or wrong but just different. For example, if your partner didn’t call you while he or she was away on a short business trip, you may feel hurt. You may then start to tell yourself stories about why he/she didn’t call. You’ll start to listen to a negative inner dialogue or “critical inner voice” coaching you about what’s going on. “She’s tired of you! She’s happy to get away.” Or, “He doesn’t even think about you. He’s so inconsiderate.” By the time your partner comes home, you may be ready for a fight. However, your partner’s experience is likely very different from yours.

When you attack your partner for everything you’ve been imagining, he or she will most likely retaliate, accusing you of being ridiculous, too sensitive, or needy. Unfortunately, a confrontation in which neither person is willing to hear out and empathize with the other tends to have a snowball effect. If instead you own your reactions and present your feelings without blame or righteousness, your partner is more likely to be able to take in your experience and empathize with your feelings.  You can then be open to hearing their experience and seeing how it looked from their perspective.

shouting
whoever shouts loudest, wins

3. Consider why you’re triggered

When something triggers us emotionally, our brains are often flooded with cortisol making us more likely to lash out. If we take a mindful approach to our responses, we can reflect on the sensations, images, feelings and thoughts that we were having in the moment in which we were triggered. For example, if you were to feel extremely pained by your partner’s lack of communication on his or her trip, there may be more to that feeling than just the hurt or disappointment you felt when he or she failed to call you.

Our emotions tend to be heightened when we’re triggered, often because an event from our present provokes feelings from our past. If you felt abandoned or forgotten early in your life, you may have a tendency to react strongly to any perceived rejection in the present. The same goes for your partner. If he or she had to deal with a parent or caretaker who was erratic or temperamental, he or she may grow up feeling on the defense. He or she may react negatively to feedback when there’s a lot of emotion involved.

When we can get ahold of our triggers, and reflect on the early roots of our strong emotional reactions, we can have a clearer perspective on our interactions and react more appropriately in our current lives.

4. Listen to Your Partner

As most of us know, dynamics like these can play out in countless ways, which is why it’s so important to really get to know ourselves and our partner on a deeper level. We can start by understanding why we get triggered and be more sensitive in our communication. To do this, we have to stop making a case and just look at our partner as the person they he or she really is. That means hearing our partner out when he or she has something to say. It means not putting words into our partner’s mouth or assuming what he or she thinks.

When we think we can “mind read,” we tend to pile a lot of our own projections onto what we perceive to be reality. We may assume certain behaviors carry certain meanings that are way off. For instance, you may attribute your partner not calling you to a lack of caring. You may assume you don’t mean much to him or her or imagine that he or she is losing interest. You may worry yourself with thoughts that he or she has met someone else. Without realizing it, we often project our worst fears onto our loved ones, and then react to them as if we know exactly what’s going on in their heads.

Instead of making assumptions, we should approach our loved ones face-to-face and ask them to share their experience. As we listen, we have to remember that our partner is a separate person with a sovereign mind, so it’s likely that his or her perception of the situation won’t match ours exactly. Instead of focusing on any flaws in the communication, we can look for the kernels of truth in what our partner says to us. This doesn’t mean we have to agree with everything, but it does benefit us to try and imagine why our partner perceived it that way. When we stay calm and open-minded within ourselves, we create a safe space for our partner to be able to open up and be honest about his or her experience.

5. Keep calm and tell your story

When we really listen to our partner, communicating both curiosity and empathy, the other person tends to soften and feel more open to us. We can then tell our story, making sure to own our experience by describing it without laying blame. Instead of saying, “You didn’t even reach out to me once. You made me feel like I don’t even matter. You don’t seem to care about me. My whole week was ruined” you could say, “When I didn’t hear from you, I noticed myself feeling less confident. I don’t know how you felt, but I was disappointed not to connect.” Pay attention to what you communicate, not just in the words you say, but your body language and tone. Saying “it’s no big deal,” while giving the cold shoulder is sending the message that it is in fact a big deal.

By being more open and direct, we’re not putting words into the other person’s mouth or provoking our partner to be on the defense. We’re simply telling our truth and expressing what we want directly without blaming, complaining, or being victimized. This act of vulnerability is much more likely to elicit a warm, more compassionate and loving response. By taking each of these steps, our partner is more likely to soften, reciprocate and respond to us in a calm and mindful way. And when one of us gets triggered and has an off moment, the other can help by responding with sensitivity, patience, and honesty. By finding this new way of “arguing,” we give our partner and ourselves a great gift, improving the quality (and even the quantity) of the days of our lives together.

Lisa Firestone Ph.D.    Posted Aug 26, 2016
Read more from Dr. Lisa Firestone at PsychAlive.org
Lisa Firestone, Ph.D., is a clinical psychologist, an author,
and the Director of Research and Education for the Glendon Association.


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This One Shift Will Change The Way You See Yourself (& Others!)

  • The Challenge: We often assume our abilities and behaviors cannot (or are too hard to) be changed.
  • The Science: You are, indeed, capable of change! It’s all about the way we look at it!
  • The Solution: Cultivating a growth mindset can create positive change and new opportunities in your life!

We are often taught from a young age and through a variety of influences that ability is fixed. Either we’re smart or we’re not.  We’re athletic or we’re not. We’re artistic or we’re not. And certainly, we all differ to some extent in the types of things that seem to come more naturally to us.

Sometimes we’re standing in our own way

The problem is, this way of thinking can become a self-fulfilling prophecy. For example, if a young child does poorly on a math test and thinks “I failed this test because I’m not good at math,” she is less likely to study as much for the next test (thinking it’s not worth the effort, since she’s not good at math).  Consequently, she also does poorly on the next test, which reinforces the belief in her lack of mathematical ability.

However, if this same child, after doing poorly on the first math test thinks instead, “I must have failed this test because I didn’t study enough, or didn’t have the right kind of help” then she is more likely to seek out the help she needs the next time, and spend more time studying – thus increasing her chances of doing better on the next test.

What is your type of mindset?

This example illustrates the difference between what Carol Dweck calls a “fixed” mindset and a “growth” mindset. People who have a fixed mindset tend to believe that abilities and talents are fixed traits, and that that they are stable over time. In other words, people are born a certain way and don’t change.

People who have a growth mindset, on the other hand, tend to believe that with dedication and intentional practice, we can improve our abilities and learn new skills and behaviors.  In other words, people can change.

Believe you can develop new skills

What seems like a simple and perhaps inconsequential distinction has big implications for what we can achieve. Research shows that students who believe (or are taught) that intellectual abilities can be developed (as opposed to being characteristics that are fixed) are more likely to succeed in challenging classes, and show high achievement through challenging transitions. In sum, if you believe that your abilities can be developed, you’re more likely to develop them.

Your mindset in the workplace

Not only does a fixed or growth mindset influence our personal behavior, but it also influences the way we see and treat others. A 2008 study of managers found that those who assumed personal qualities to be fixed traits (i.e. a fixed mindset) were less likely to recognize positive changes in the performance of their staff. They were also less likely to coach their employees about how to improve performance. However, managers who received an intervention designed to cultivate a growth mindset subsequently provided more useful coaching to their employees, and more accurate performance appraisals.

growth-mindset

 

How our mindset also affects our relationships

Mindset affects our friendships and romantic relationships as well. A 2012 study of romantic couples revealed that people who do not think their partner is capable of changing (a fixed mindset) are much less likely to notice their partner’s genuine efforts to improve the relationship when these efforts do happen. People who believe their partner can change (a growth mindset) and recognize that s/he is making efforts to improve (even small efforts) are more likely to feel happy and secure in their relationship.

These kind of interactions happen every day. For example, think of that friend of yours who never follows through on what he promises. If you have a fixed mindset, then you likely believe this person will never change (i.e. “that’s just the way he is”).  Because of this mindset, the research shows that you are less likely to engage with him, to give him feedback that might be useful, or to help him find strategies that might make follow-through easier. Perhaps most importantly, you are much less likely to notice any improvements in this person’s behavior if he makes them.  In other words, because you think he can’t change, you’re not able to see changes when they happen, even if they’re right in front of your face.

What you can do:

1) Don’t write yourself off! Catch yourself making blanket statements about your own abilities, and try to reframe them.

  • Instead of saying, “I’m not athletic,” reframe by saying “I haven’t spent a lot of time playing sports.”
  • Or try adding the word “yet” onto the end of those blanket statements, and open the door of possibility. For example, “I’m not a good artist…yet” or “I can’t speak well in front of people…yet.”

2) Notice change and effort. Be on the lookout for positive changes in others’ abilities and behavior, no matter how small these improvements may be. Point them out and show appreciation and encouragement for people’s effort; noticing and appreciating the changes people are striving to make will strengthen your relationships.

3)Cultivate a growth mindset. Believe that we all can further develop our abilities and skills with dedication and practice. We can learn new things if we work at it!

The moral of the story?

Adopting a growth mindset has the potential to open up new opportunities in your own life. It will also allow you to see other people differently (and often in a more positive light), and open up possibilities for new and improved relationships. Start noticing your mindset today!

Katie Conlon, M.A., MAPP is a Trainer, Coach, and Consultant. She works with the Center for Leadership and Organizational Change at the University of Maryland and runs her own private practice, The Phoenix Nest. She is an Assistant Instructor in the Masters of Applied Positive Psychology program at the University of Pennsylvania, and a member of the faculty of the Flourishing Center’s Certificate in Applied Positive Psychology. Katie also develops curriculum for George Mason University’s Center for the Advancement of Well-Being. She earned a master’s degree in applied positive psychology from the University of Pennsylvania and a master’s degree in counseling and personnel services from the University of Maryland.

By Katie Conlon             July 1, 2014

 


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5 Ways Hope Improves Your Success

The Challenge: We all want to find inner peace and perform at our best -how can we do it?
The Science: Hope is a little-known secret to getting ahead and improving well-being! 
The Solution: Implementing a hopeful mindset in life gives you 5 serious advantages!

Psychologists have proposed lots of different vehicles to success over the years. Grit, conscientiousness, self-efficacy, optimism, passion, inspiration, etc. They are all important. One vehicle, however, is particularly undervalued and underappreciated in psychology and society. That’s hope.

Hope often gets a bad rap. For some, it conjures up images of a blissfully naïve chump pushing up against a wall with a big smile. That’s a shame. Cutting-edge science shows that hope, at least as defined by psychologists, matters a lot.

Here are 5 reasons hope gives you a serious advantage:

Hope Gives You Willpower

Why is hope important? Well, life is difficult. There are many obstacles. Having goals is not enough. One has to keep getting closer to those goals, amidst all the inevitable twists and turns of life. Hope allows people to approach problems with a mindset and strategy-set suitable to success, thereby increasing the chances they will actually accomplish their goals.

In 1991, the eminent positive psychologist Charles R. Snyder and his colleagues came up with Hope Theory. According to their theory, hope consists of agency and pathways.  The person who has hope has the will and determination that goals will be achieved, and a set of different strategies at their disposal to reach their goals. Put simply: hope involves the will to get there, and different ways to get there.

hope

Hope Makes You a Better Learner

Hope is not just a feel-good emotion, it actually makes you a more resilient and better learner:

Hope leads to learning goals, which are conducive to growth and improvement. People with learning goals are actively engaged in their learning, constantly planning strategies to meet their goals, and monitoring their progress to stay on track. A bulk of research shows that learning goals are positively related to success across a wide swatch of human life—from academic achievement to sports to arts to science to business.

Those lacking hope, on the other hand, tend to adopt mastery goals. People with mastery goals choose easy tasks that don’t offer a challenge or opportunity for growth. When they fail, they quit. People with mastery goals act helpless, and feel a lack of control over their environment. They don’t believe in their capacity to obtain the kind of future they want. They have no hope.

Hope Improves Performance

In one study, researchers looked at the impact of hope on college academic achievement over the course of 6 years. Hope was related to a higher GPA 6 years later, even after taking into account the original GPA and ACT entrance examination scores of the participants. High hope students (relative to low hope students) were also more likely to have graduated and were less likely to be dismissed from school due to bad grades.

In fact, in more recent research, Liz Day and her colleagues found that being a hopeful person was related to academic achievement above and beyond IQ, divergent thinking (the ability to generate a lot of ideas), and Conscientiousness!

In another recent study with athletes, hope predicted GPA and, among female cross-country athletes in particular, the state of having hope predicted athletic outcomes beyond training, self-esteem, confidence, and mood.

Hope Improves Creativity

Rebecca Görres at University College Utrecht found that when people were made to think hopefully, their creativity improved! In her study, participants who were instructed to think hopefully were better at making remote associations, generated a higher quantity of ideas, and added more details to their ideas, compared to those who weren’t instructed to think hopefully. This link between hope and creativity makes sense because hope involves coming up with a number of different strategies for obtaining a goal.

Hope is one of the most powerful mindsets for success & well-being.

Talent, skill, ability—whatever you want to call it— can help you get to your goal but aren’t enough to get you there. A wealth of psychological research over the past few decades show loud and clear that it’s the psychological vehicles i.e. mindsets that really get you there. You can have the best engine in the world, but if you can’t drive it, you won’t get anywhere.

And hope is superior to other psychological vehicles, such as self-efficacy and optimism. Self-efficacy refers to your belief that you can master a domain. Optimism refers to a general expectation that it’ll all just ‘be alright’. Hope, self-efficacy, and optimism are all incredibly important expectancies and contribute to the attainment of goals. Even though they all involve expectations about the future, they are subtly, and importantly, different from each other. People with self-efficacy expect that they will master a domain. Optimism involves a positive expectancy for future outcomes without regard for one’s personal control over the outcome.

So how does hope stack up against other vehicles of success? Philip R. Magaletta and J.M. Oliver measured hope, self-efficacy, and optimism and found that hope stood head and shoulders above the other vehicles.  In contrast to both self-efficacy and optimism, people with hope have both the will and the pathways and strategies necessary to achieve their goals. The scientists also found specific effects: the will component of hope predicted well-being independent of self-efficacy, and the ways component of hope predicted well-being independent of optimism.

In another study Kevin Rand and his colleagues found that hope, but not optimism, predicted grades in law school above and beyond LSAT scores and undergraduate grades. Interestingly, LSAT scores were not even a significant predictor of law school GPA. Seems like if you want to predict law school performance, a 12-item measure of Hope is more predictive than looking at a person’s LSAT scores! Additionally, both hope and optimism uniquely predicted greater life satisfaction at the end of the first semester.

Important psychological studies show that ability is important, but it’s the vehicles that actually get people where they want to go. Oftentimes, the vehicles even help you build up that ability you never thought you had. And hope—with its will and ways—is one of the most important vehicles of them all.

By Scott Barry Kaufman        October 2, 2014
Scott Barry Kaufman is Scientific Director of The Imagination Institute and a researcher in the Positive Psychology Center at the University of Pennsylvania, where he investigates the nature, measurement and development of imagination. In his book, Ungifted: Intelligence Redefined, Kaufman presents a holistic approach to achievement that takes into account each person’s ability, engagement, and personal goals. Kaufman is also co-founder of The Creativity Post, and he writes the blog Beautiful Minds for Scientific American Mind.


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12 Toxic Behaviors that Push People Away From You

Your behavior is a little thing that makes a big difference.

Let’s be honest – we’ve all acted in toxic, damaging ways at one time or another.  None of us are immune to occasional toxic mood swings, but many people are more evolved, balanced and aware, and such occurrences happen only rarely in their lives.

Whether your toxic behavior is a common occurrence, or just a once in a blue moon phenomena, it’s critical for your long-term happiness and success that you are able to recognize when you’re behaving negatively, and consciously shift your mindset when necessary.

The twelve most common toxic behaviors are:

mirror mirror
  1. Being envious of everyone else. – Don’t let envy (or jealously) get the best of you.  Envy is the art of counting someone else’s blessings instead of your own.  There is nothing attractive or admirable about this behavior.  So stop comparing your journey with everyone else’s.  Your journey is YOUR journey, NOT a competition.  You are in competition with one person and one person only – yourself.  You are competing to be the best you can be.  If you want to measure your progress, compare yourself to who you were yesterday.
  2. Taking everything too personally. – People are toxic to be around when they believe that everything happening around them is a direct assault on them or is in some way all about them.  The truth is that what people say and do to you is much more about them, than you.  People’s reactions to you are about their perspectives, wounds and experiences.  Whether people think you’re amazing, or believe you’re the worst, again, is more about them.  I’m not suggesting we should be narcissists and ignore all feedback.  I am saying that so much hurt, disappointment and sadness in our lives comes from our taking things personally.  In most cases it’s far more productive and healthy to let go of other people’s good or bad opinion of you, and to operate with your own intuition and wisdom as your guide.  (Read The Four Agreements.)
  3. Acting like you’re always a victim. – Another toxic behavior is persistent complaining that fuels your sense of victimization.  Believing you’re a victim, that you have no power to exert and no power over the direction of your life, is a toxic stance that keeps you stuck.  Working as a life coach with people who have suffered major trauma in their lives but found the courage to turn it all around, I know we all have access to far more power, authority, and influence over our lives than we initially believe.  When you stop complaining, and refuse to see yourself as a helpless victim, you’ll find that you are more powerful than you realized, but only if you choose to accept this reality.
  4. Hoarding pain and loss. – One of the hardest lessons in life is letting go – whether it’s guilt, anger, love or loss.  Change is never easy – you fight to hold on and you fight to let go.  But oftentimes letting go is the healthiest path forward.  It clears out toxic thoughts from the past.  You’ve got to emotionally free yourself from the things that once meant a lot to you, so you can move beyond the past and the pain it brings you.  Again, it takes hard work to let go and refocus your thoughts, but it’s worth every bit of effort you can muster.
  5. Obsessive negative thinking. – It’s very hard to be around people who refuse to let go of negativity – when they ruminate and speak incessantly about the terrible things that could happen and have happened, the scorns they’ve suffered, and the unfairness of life.  These people stubbornly refuse to see the positive side of life and the positive lessons from what’s happening.  Pessimism is one thing – but remaining perpetually locked in a negative mindset is another.  Only seeing the negative, and operating from a view that everything is negative and against you, is a twisted way of thinking and living, and you can change that.
  6. Lack of emotional self-control. – An inability to manage your emotions is toxic to everyone around you.  We all know these people – those who explode in anger and tears over the smallest hiccup or problem.  Yelling at the grocery store clerk for the long line, screaming at an employee for a small error she made, or losing it with your daughter for spilling juice on the floor.  If you find that you’re overly emotional, losing your cool at every turn, you may need some outside assistance to help you gain control over your emotions and understand what’s at the root of your inner angst.  There’s more to it than what appears on the surface.  An independent perspective – and a new kind of support – can work wonders.  (Angel and I discuss this in detail in the “Happiness” chapter of 1,000 Little Things Happy, Successful People Do Differently.)
  7. Making superficial judgments about others. – Don’t always judge a person by what they show you.  Remember, what you’ve seen is oftentimes only what that person has chosen to show you, or what they were driven to show based on their inner stress and pain.  Alas, when another person tries to make you suffer in some small way, it is usually because they suffer deep within themselves.  Their suffering is simply spilling over.  They do not need punishment or ridicule, they need help.  If you can’t help them, let them be.
  8. Cruelty (or lacking empathy and compassion). – One of the most toxic behaviors – cruelty – stems from a total lack of empathy, concern or compassion for others.  We see it every day online and in the media – people being devastatingly unkind and hurtful to others just because they can.  They tear people down online in a cowardly way, using their anonymity as a shield.  Cruelty, backstabbing, and hurting others for any reason is toxic, and it hurts you as well.  If you find yourself backstabbing and tearing someone else down, stop in your tracks.  Dig deep and find compassion in your heart, and realize that we’re all in this together.
  9. Cheating and cutting moral corners simply because you can. – Cheating is a choice, not a mistake, and not an excuse!  If you decide to cheat, and you succeed in cheating someone out of something, don’t think that this person is a fool.  Realize that this person trusted you much more than you ever deserved.  Be bigger than that.  Don’t do immoral things simply because you can.  Don’t cheat.  Be honest with yourself and everyone else.  Do the right thing.  Integrity is the essence of everything successful.
  10. Hiding your truth. – People cannot connect with you if you’re constantly trying to hide from yourself.  And this becomes a truly toxic situation the minute they become attached to your false persona.  So remember, no matter what age, race, sex, or sexuality you are, underneath all your external decorations you are a pure, beautiful being – each and every one of us are.  We each have light to shine, and missions to accomplish.  Celebrate being different, off the beaten path, a little on the weird side, your own special creation.  If you find yourself feeling like a fish out of water, by all means find a new river to swim in.  But DO NOT change who you are; BE who you are.  Don’t deny yourself, improve yourself.  (Read The Untethered Soul.)
  11. Needing constant validation. – People who constantly strive for validation by others are exhausting to be around.  Those men and women who get caught up in the need to prove their worth over and over and over, and constantly want to win over everyone around them, are unintentionally toxic and draining.  Know this.  Over-attaching to how things have to look to others can wear you out and bring everyone else around you down.  There is a bigger picture to your life, and it’s not about what you achieve in the eyes of the masses.  It’s about the journey, the process, the path – what you’re learning, how you’re helping others learn too, and the growing process you allow yourself to participate in.
  12. Being a stubborn perfectionist. – As human beings, we often chase hypothetical, static states of perfection.  We do so when we are searching for the perfect house, job, friend or lover.  The problem, of course, is that perfection doesn’t exist in a static state.  Because life is a continual journey, constantly evolving and changing.  What is here today is not exactly the same tomorrow – that perfect house, job, friend or lover will eventually fade to a state of imperfection.  But with a little patience and an open mind, over time, that imperfect house evolves into a comfortable home.  That imperfect job evolves into a rewarding career.  That imperfect friend evolves into a steady shoulder to lean on.  And that imperfect lover evolves into a reliable lifelong companion.  It’s just a matter of letting perfectionism GO.

If you can relate to any of these toxic behaviors, remember, you are not alone.  We all have unhealthy personalities buried deep within us that have the potential to sneak up on us sometimes.  As stated above, the key is awareness – recognizing these behaviors and stopping them in their tracks.

WRITTEN by MARC CHERNOFF
This article was co-written by Marc and Angel and Kathy Caprino, and inspired by Kathy’s insightful work which can be found here.


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14 Things Pressure-less People Do (and You Can, Too)

An active imagination helps. So does a confident stride.

Posted Aug 06, 2015      Hendrie Weisinger Ph.D. Hendrie Weisinger Ph.D.       Thicken Your Skin

I’ve studied how pressure affects performance, and the best way to manage it, for more than 20 years. I’ve interviewed elite athletes, Navy SEALs, entrepreneurs, ER doctors and nurses, hedge fund managers, air traffic controllers, and others who perform their best in pressure moments more often than not. These individuals do not “rise to the occasion,” as conventional thinking instructs; rather they do their best by depressurizing—lessening the pressure of the moment.

Here are 14 things these pressure-less people do to optimize performance:

1. They apply a positive mindset.

Pressure-less individuals perceive their pressure moments—situations in which they have something at stake and the outcome is dependent on their performance—using words like opportunity, challenge, and fun. This allows them to approach the moment with confidence instead of trepidation.

2. They believe they get second chances.

Pressure-less people believe that no matter how important the presentation, sales call, audition, game or match, other opportunities will come their way. Because they believe this, they can relax and avoid “do or die” thinking that intensifies pressure feelings.

3. They are control freaks.

Pressure-less people stay focused on what they can control in the moment. This allows them to avoid distracting and worrisome thoughts that distort their thinking and disrupt their performance.

4. They practice a mindset of excellence.

Pressure-less people realize it heightens pressure to always try to be Number One or to beat the competition. They know it is unrealistic to think you can always be Top Dog. Instead, their mindset is to focus on developing their own excellence. Being their personal best is more important than beating others, so competitive pressures are lessened.

5. They use positive imagination.

Pressure-less individuals consciously imagine themselves in all sorts of successful situations. Scoring a winning touchdown, being a Hollywood star, curing cancer, contributing to world peace—these might border on fantasy but they serve the function of creating positive feelings and emotions, like confidence and enthusiasm, two enemies of pressure.

6. They share pressure feelings.

To make sure they don’t burst from pressure, pressure-less people disclose their feelings of pressure with others. They have learned, unlike those that bottle up their feelings, that sharing stressful feelings helps alleviate them and, more often than not, helps generate solutions to tackle the pressures they are facing.

confidence

7. They avoid distraction.

Whether it’s taking a test, interviewing for a job, making a putt, or making a critical decision, pressure-less people stay focused on the task. Rather than become anxious about the outcome of a negative performance, they stay in the moment so their memory, attention, and judgment are not comprised. They do this in a variety of ways, such as tuning into their senses and remembering that their mission is to do their best.

8. They walk like a champ.

Pressure-less people already know what science now touts as neurological fact: Your posture and gait affect how you feel. Pressure-less people have some Marine in them—they stand up straight and walk with a confident swagger.

9. They celebrate micro successes.

Pressure-less people boost their confidence by recognizing their small successes and by doing so, fuel their enthusiasm and belief that they will accomplish their goal—two factors that reduce feelings of pressure and keep them motivated. They implement this strategy by being process-oriented, not outcome oriented. For example, according to their logic, a success is a good interview; continually having good interviews will eventually land a job.

10. They regulate their arousal.

Pressure-less people keep themselves calm so they never panic in a pressure moment, not even when an unexpected glitch occurs. Consciously tuning to their breathing in the moment and practicing disciplines such as relaxation training, yoga, and meditation on a weekly—if not daily—basis provides them with the skill of keeping their heart from zooming and butterflies out of their stomach.

11. They prepare for the worse.

Pressure-less people can think on their feet because they are in the habit of anticipating possible glitches that might occur. They solve these glitches before they arise and mentally rehearse scenarios to practice their execution, paying particular attention to the consequences of their response and how they will continue to respond. If and when the glitch occurs, the pressure-less person still feels in control and is able to attend to task completion.

12. They flashback their successes.

Pressure-less people experience less pressure because they know they have been successful in similar situations. In a pressure moment, they frequently flashback on a specific time they performed well under pressure. That visual image, and the positive thoughts it evokes, surges confidence within them and relaxes them, too.

13. They affirm their worth.

Pressure-less people experience less pressure because they feel they have value even if they fail in the moment. This feeling prevents them from being “overly attached” to the outcome—a pressure intensifier. Pressure-less people frequently remind themselves of their positive attributes that are independent of their job. Doing so prevents them from defining their worth in how they perform. Pressure-less people frequently remind their children that they are great kids and that they are proud of them independent of how well they perform in school or other activities. Their kids feel less pressure, too.

14. They march to their own beat.

Pressure-less people use their own values and interests to navigate their lives. They are more concerned with living up to their own expectations and following their own dreams than trying to please others, a source of pressure for most.