The Real Reason Why Change Is Hard


By Jess Hopkins 

Change is a tricky topic. We all struggle with it in one way or another—on a personal or professional level. We say we want to change.  We feel motivated to follow through. And yet, invariably, we see little to no progress. What gives?  

Based on years of research, organizational psychologists Robert Kegan and Lisa Laskow developed the Immunity to Change model as a powerful framework for explaining why so many people struggle to make meaningful changes to their lives. The underlying concept is that each of us has an “emotional immune system” that exists to protect us from fear, anxiety, and emotional discomfort. On the whole, this system is invaluable to our day-to-day safety, but our commitment to the safe and familiar can rear up and get in the way of our change-goals. 

At the heart of the emotional immune system resides our underlying competing commitments—those safety-net beliefs and coping mechanisms that...

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How to Have a Difficult Conversation


By Shannon Thompson

There are few interactions that people dread more than a difficult conversation. Most of us have had one, or should have one. A difficult conversation surrounds the issues that you must address in order to productively move forward. These are the subjects that you fear will be received angrily, might hurt someone, or could reflect badly on you. I’m talking about the problems that stand in the way of real progress, genuine understanding, or true intimacy. No matter how well we live our lives, at some point, we all must face a difficult conversation. 

Why can these conversations feel so hard? Researchers from the Harvard Negotiation Project (a group dedicated to improving the theory and practice of conflict resolution) have studied difficult conversations extensively. They offer this statement in regards to why we feel so uncomfortable initiating difficult conversations and why we must have them: “One of the reasons you haven’t...

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3 Science-Backed Lessons for Perfect Timing


By Jess Hopkins 

There’s no shortage of how-to books circulating these days: how to create better habits, how to increase your productivity, how to leverage your strengths; the list goes on and on. Given that we face a lot of decisions about how to approach the various challenges and opportunities in our lives, learning about the tools and strategies that maximize potential is crucial. But simply knowing how to accomplish your goals isn’t sufficient for achieving top performance. New research is revealing another critical factor that often goes overlooked when considering how to achieve our desired results: timing. 

In his latest book, When: The Scientific Principles of Perfect Timing, Dan Pink synthesizes cutting-edge research into a compelling narrative that highlights the power of leveraging timing in order to amplify performance. Day-to-day, we are faced with a never-ending stream of “when” decisions: when...

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Screening for Success

 
By Dr. Robert Biswas-Diener

Yesterday my son and I enjoyed a hike along the Crooked River in Smith Rock State Park. Known as one of the “7 Wonders of Oregon,” Smith Rock is a stunning massif that towers above the desert around it. Bald Eagles float in lazy circles and it is not uncommon to see river otters playing. The silence of our hike was broken only by a couple who strolled a stone’s throw behind us. They were too far away to hear clearly, but the guy was incredibly passionate in whatever he was discussing. In fact, he talked nearly nonstop and I never heard his companion utter a word. We came to a wooden suspension bridge and stopped for a drink of water. It was here that I was able to steal a glance at the couple behind us. I was shocked: The man had been—and was continuing—to speak on his cell phone. He didn’t appear to be noticing the natural beauty around him, including his hiking partner! She caught my open-mouthed and...

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How to Raise Self-Compassionate Children


By Shannon Thompson

“For only as we ourselves, as adults, actually move and have our being in the state of love, can we appropriate models and guides for our children. What we are teaches the child far more than what we say, so we must be what we want our children to become.”

~ Joseph Chilton Pearce


In my work as a mental performance coach, I am constantly working with athletes who are too hard on themselves. One poor game, one bad moment, one let down in personal standards, and they fall apart. They begin to tell themselves that they’re no good and don’t deserve to win. In my work, I try to help these athletes see things differently and cut themselves a break. Unfortunately, many of them have learned unhelpful thought patterns long before we ever begin working together. Growing up, many athletes learn lessons that stifle their self-confidence and keep them from being their best selves—both on
and off the field. 

Sadly, I’ve found that some...

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You Can’t Do Anything, But You Can Do a Lot More Than You Think

 
By Dr. Robert Biswas-Diener

I’ve often wondered how good a singer I could become. You should understand that I have a terrible voice, no real ear for music, and no training whatsoever. Even so, I think it might be kind of fun to be able to belt out a song or two without making children cry and cats run away. The question of how good a singer I could be is at the heart of a wider issue: potential. People often talk about potential; we lament it when an athlete does not live up to his or her promise, we place kids into “gifted” programs based on their potential, and we get married (or otherwise commit to a romantic relationship) based on the potential we see in partnering. For as intuitive a notion as potential is, I have found in my conversations with friends, that people have only the loosest understanding of this topic. 

On occasion, I teach courses in positive psychology to university students. I enjoy posing the question of potential to them (and by...

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The Power of Paradox


By Shannon Thompson

 

“I am haunted by the density of reality.”

~ Oliver Sacks

      In general, humans like clarity.  We feel uncomfortable when presented with ambiguous or complex situations. In ambiguous circumstances, it’s normal to rush to judgment simply because we wish to resolve the discomfort we feel when dealing with complicated, multifaceted scenarios. Related to this is our tendency to clasp resolutely to one side of an apparent paradox without allowing room for its counterpart in our awareness. For example, a person might claim that a restaurant is “good” or “bad.” Or, someone will describe a project  “easy” or “hard,” when in fact the most accurate description of both is more lengthy and nuanced. Perhaps the restaurant offers few salads but serves particularly flavorful french fries. Or, the project involves a great deal of thoughtful writing, but the reading...

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How to Become a Super Learner

 
By Dr. Robert Biswas-Diener

Part One: Introduction

Across my academic career, I have researched a wide range of topics: happiness, friendship, coaching, social support, pleasure, generosity, and hospitality. Because each of these is positive—they are all topics that deal with people at their best rather than at their worst—they fall within the sub-discipline known as “positive psychology.” Positive psychology is a refreshing antidote to a world that seems politically tense and a profession (psychology) that has long focused on negatives. 

One of the monumental achievements of positive psychology is the study of character strengths. In the early days of the field, scholars were curious to see whether it was possible to develop a counterpoint to the diagnosis of mental illnesses such as anxiety and depression. Simply put, they wanted to create a basic checklist to identify people who were good at things. Folks who are generous, or wise, or creative,...

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Five Transformative Mindfulness Exercises to Try


By Shannon Thompson

     As a mental performance coach for elite athletes, my job is to see the best in people, and to help them to see this in themselves. My job is also to help people perform at their best when it is important to do so. The most powerful skill a person can learn in order to perform their best—and to learn to see the good in themselves—is the ability to control one’s attention. I am constantly teaching people strategies designed to strengthen their attention control. This piece will outline five easy strategies you can use to strengthen yours. We’ll begin by learning the basics of mindfulness meditation itself, and then move on to some specific mindfulness strategies. For the greatest benefit, I encourage you to practice these strategies daily. Research has found that practicing mindfulness for six minutes a day is related to an increase in the size of the parts of the brain associated with attention control. 

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The Positive Impact of Friendship on Your Happiness (and Success!)


By Dr. Robert Biswas-Diener

Friends can challenge and inspire you. They may be an overlooked aspect of personal success.

 

Part One: Introduction

One distinct set of memories I carry from my adolescence is being warned not to hang out with some of my friends. Teachers, neighbors, my parents, and a couple school administrators all took me aside from time to time to express their concern. In each case, it seemed that they saw me as a basically good kid who was “getting mixed up with the wrong crowd.” The implicit message was that of “guilt by association.” Even good and talented people, the thinking goes, can be dragged down by the bad and lazy. Needless to say, I was not impressed with these adult admonishments. What did stick with me, however, was a curiosity about the potential social and psychological impact of friends. Indeed, in the decades since I was a teenager, I have come to value friendship as a sometimes-overlooked ingredient in success. 

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