The Achievement of Meaningful Moments


By Shannon Thompson

The man stands wavering. His frame is so thin he appears lost in his clothes. His grey eyes bear the haze of starvation, and yet they flicker with the flame of bright thought. A concentration camp prisoner, he has witnessed atrocities and also achievement. Achievement? You might ask, what is there to achieve in a place where everyone has been stripped of every freedom? This man will turn and he will look at you with the severity of a final breath; he will speak to you with an edge in his voice that has been sharpened by suffering. Some of the most noble achievements of humankind, he says, happened right here in this place before his eyes.

This man, Viktor Frankl, is an exemplar of resilience. Many of you are likely familiar with his most famous work: Man’s Search For Meaning – a slim, searing account of Frankl’s years in Nazi camps, the majority of which he composed over two inspired weeks upon his release. Within it he wrote: “Everything...

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How Comparison Can Boost Confidence

 
By Dr. Robert Biswas-Diener

Graduate school prepares a person in many ways. Students learn how to ask great research questions, how to run ethical studies, how to conduct sophisticated statistical analyses, and how to write in a scientific way. But, if like me, you are a happiness researcher, there is something that graduate school does not prepare you for: the fact that everyone I meet has an opinion about happiness. Some people want to explain to me their views on the secret to happiness, or the relationship of money to happiness, or on common obstacles to happiness. Interestingly, among all the hundreds—if not thousands—of lay opinions I have listened to, there is one explanation of happiness that emerges time and again. People widely believe that happiness has something to do with “social comparison.”

Social comparison is just what it sounds like: it is the way that a person contrasts her own standing on some quality against that of other people. If...

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DIY Performance Psychology


By Shannon Thompson

“What can I do for you that would make the difference?” I ask myself this question every summer when I reflect on my work from the prior year. Professionally, I am a mental performance specialist. My job is to help you be who you want to be, consistently, whether you are an Olympian or a High School student.  Most of my clientele are high-level athletes, but really, my methods are applicable to anyone trying to achieve anything. 

 What if you’re hungry to realize your best, but you don’t have access to an expert to help you? Given that the majority of people fall into this category, I’m often asked what tips I would give to those who are unable to come speak with me personally. So here they are!  A summer of my recommendations for anyone wishing to experiment with performance psychology strategies on their own. Here is my most basic working framework, presented in a way that enables you to support yourself in...

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Psychologically Recession-Proof

 
By Dr. Robert Biswas-Diener

People are, understandably, worried about the prospect of a new economic recession. Knowing what to expect and how to prepare can be key to successfully becoming psychologically recession-proof. 

Part 1: Introduction

It occasionally strikes me as funny to write a blog about personal success. Sure, it feels good to share my expertise and it is rewarding to think that I might potentially impact a reader’s life. Even so, every once in a while I scratch my head and wonder at what I write. I find myself asking questions such as “Did I really just advise readers that ‘planning ahead’ is an important part of success?” Sometimes success advice can sound a bit obvious, which is why I hope you will forgive me if I offer the following advice: You should plan ahead. 

The idea of considering and preparing for the future is an age-old piece of wisdom. The Boy Scout motto is “be prepared,” deadlines at work help...

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Is Good Enough.....Enough?

 
By Dr. Robert Biswas-Diener

Introduction

I want you to imagine the following scenario. This is a true story, but I am fudging a few of the details to protect the identity of a friend of mine. I want you to imagine having the money to upgrade every element of your kitchen. Ever dreamed of seating for 12? Granite countertops? Expensive chrome appliances? My friend could afford all of these things and he took his outdated kitchen and modernized it. He had contractors remove the old wall-mounted telephone and install handsome wood cabinetry. He ordered a large kitchen island and beautiful floor tiles. In fact, he had so much work done that he went on vacation for two weeks to give the crews the space they needed to transform his home. When he returned, he dropped his suitcases in his entryway, and his mouth fell open. You might think that he was delighted by the state-of-the-art room before him but, no. Instead, he was upset that the floor tiles had been laid out on the...

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Nurture Your Greatest Ally

 
By Dr. Robert Biswas-Diener

 

You cannot solve the problem if the problem is you.

You may be familiar with the concept of a side hustle. You know, the real estate agent who restores and sells antique clocks in his spare time. Or the department store manager who moonlights as an Uber driver. You don’t know me well, so I will admit to you that I only have side hustles. Sometimes I write books, or publish research, or advise on public policy, or conduct workshops. And sometimes I coach. It is the coaching that I want to address here because it is in coaching that I have learned a great deal about people’s intuitions about success. 

Over the years, I have coached a diverse range of people. I have worked with corporate executives and with start-up entrepreneurs. I have coached therapists and school principals. I have coached retirees and venture capitalists. They have brought all sorts of issues into our coaching sessions. Some of them bring really unique...

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8 Myths of Mental Toughness


By Shannon Thompson

Most of us are familiar with urban myths. You know what I mean; fables similar to the tale that alligators live in New York sewers. Every so often there is a trace of truth in myths of these type (for example, in the 1960’s there was a faulty television that emitted radiation that damaged eyes). However, in the vast majority of cases these stories are not supported by evidence. Within my profession of performance psychology, I’ve learned that there are psychology myths as well. The examples that I will highlight as myths carry more truth than the alligators in New York sewers (none have ever been spotted). For example, I will warn you against getting too “pumped up” prior to a major performance, when in fact it can sometimes be advantageous to raise your intensity. However, to cling to these beliefs as rules of thumb, or to consider them to be universally reliable practices, would be a mistake. In fact, to cling to any of these too tightly...

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Create Your Own Brand of Creativity

 
By Dr. Robert Biswas-Diener

Part One: Introduction

When I teach the science of positive psychology to students, they sometimes get confused. Specifically, they tend to stumble over two seemingly contradictory points. On the one hand, studies reveal that having a “growth mindset” is helpful. That is, believing you can improve on personal qualities such as intelligence or athleticism. On the other hand, people also harbor a strong intuition that personal growth must not be exactly the same for all people and in all areas. Sure, you could improve with a couple of cello lessons but Yo-Yo Ma almost certainly fared better during his initial lessons. 

One place this tension rears its head is in the topic of creativity. Make no mistake, all people have some amount of creativity even as they have some modicum of humor, intelligence, and empathy. Even so, it is pretty clear that there are real differences between people in how funny, smart, or compassionate they are....

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The Truth Behind Trust


By Shannon Thompson

 Again, he crouches on the start line. His heart and eyes are wide as he considers the danger and possibility that awaits him. Somehow, a volatile relationship with the track has not killed his willingness to return. Memories flare and doubt curls in his throat. The unknown is alight within him. But, he bravely accepts the innocence of this new moment and offers his trust back to the race.

In the world of high performance trust is essential. Trust is the pillar around which all hopeful striving turns, and the foundation that consistent excellence is built upon. Specifically where trust is placed is a personal choice. Some trust their own abilities gained through experience and training. Others trust a wise leader who has proven to be previously trustworthy. Many place their trust in a Higher Power considered to be religious or spiritual. Regardless of its placement, trust is the weight, the anchor, the rudder that holds the course. It is the focusing force...

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Success is a State of Mind

 
By Dr. Robert Biswas-Diener

Part One: Introduction

There are a number of concepts that come from the field of medicine that typically get a bad name among lay people. For example, you have probably heard someone denigrate using alcohol as “a crutch.” While I am not advocating alcohol use, this snooty view of crutches has always been a bit perplexing to me. Since when have crutches been anything other than helpful? Similarly, I have heard folks criticize many medications for “masking symptoms.” Again, while I favor treating the root cause of illness, I also see some occasional benefit in dealing with painful, difficult, or inconvenient symptoms. Finally, I have long been curious about the way that people so consistently dismiss the “placebo effect.”

The placebo effect is when a person experiences a real benefit from taking a substance with no known real benefits. For example, when a person swallows a simple sugar pill but then her headache...

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