The Power of Proactivity

By Angela Duckworth

You are someone.

Someone should do something about that.

Ten years ago, this thought went through Alex Freid’s head as he watched the sofas and microwave ovens, the dinner plates and coffee mugs, the refrigerators and rugs piling up and around the dumpsters on his college campus. Graduation was around the corner, and hundreds of seniors were busy purging their apartments and dorms.

So much waste, Alex thought to himself. Only a few months later, hundreds of first-year students would be arriving and, almost immediately, going out to buy new versions of what today was being carted off as trash.

Somebody ought to store all this stuff over the summer, Alex thought. And then sell it back cheap to the new students come fall. 

In a flash, Alex realized that he was the “someone” who should do something about the heartbreaking waste.

Taking action is what turns well-meaning bystanders into inspiring heroes. 

Here are four questions...

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The Salvation of Habits

By Angela Duckworth

How to make self-control effortless.

“I promise you, Mrs. Duckworth. Tomorrow, you’re gonna have my homework assignment on time. This is a whole new me. Just watch.”

When I taught middle school math, many of my struggling students would swear up and down that they were going to turn around their performance in my class. This year is going to be different. Some of them did exactly that. But many others did not.

Likewise, it’s possible you’re following through on every plan you made at the start of the new year—or you may have already fallen off the wagon.

In the long run, the superpower that enables people of all ages to realize their aspirations is habit.

What is a habit, exactly?

A habit is a behavior that, when repeated in the same situation over and over again, and reliably rewarded, becomes automatic. Unlike other kinds of behavior, a habit runs on autopilot when triggered. Why? Because mental links are gradually...

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What We Owe to Others

By Jenn Beatty

When I was 10 years old, I was given the opportunity of a lifetime. I began attending an elite, private school in Los Angeles on a full scholarship. I was one of two black students in my entire class, and one of only a few to wear second-hand uniforms and receive free lunch.

Although I’d been performing well in my previous school, the demands of the new curriculum were far greater than what I was accustomed to. I was overwhelmed. It felt like the demands I was facing exceeded my ability to meet them.

Have you ever felt this way? I think we all do, at some point or another. When we run into these problems, it can be difficult to ask for help. Either we’re embarrassed to ask, or we don’t know how. As a fifth grade girl, I was in the latter category. I had no idea that there were people that I could reach out to.  

Thankfully, I was blessed with a caring and perceptive 5th grade teacher who saw that I needed help and volunteered to tutor me....

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How to Find Clarity and Confidence in Yourself

By Shannon Thompson

“Don't ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive, and go do that, because what the world needs is people who have come alive.” 
~ Howard Thurman

Last summer, I spent a lot of time thinking. I’d been feeling confused about the unconventional way I work. My motives felt good, and my actions usually resulted in greater performance from, and connection with, my clients. And yet, I also realized that my approach to mental performance was unusual. Unusualness often invites suspicion, even when (maybe especially when?) you detect it in yourself.

I found clarity one evening, while wandering in the woods. I was listening to a series of podcasts. One was about self-trust, and the other was about the relationship between ambition and religion. The message of the first podcast was to treat yourself the way that you would a loved one when it comes to self-care and trust. The message of the second podcast was that...

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Lessons from Mamba

By Danny Southwick

“As you get older, you realize that championships come and go, but the most important thing you can do is to pay it forward.” —Kobe Bryant

On January 26th, at approximately 9:45 AM PST, the world lost a legend.

Kobe Bryant, along with eight other people, including his thirteen-year-old daughter, Gianna, tragically died in a helicopter crash in Calabasas, California.

Those words still don’t seem real.

How does the world process losing someone who seemed so invincible—someone whose tenacity for greatness made us believe in the impossible?  

What are we to do with the hurt we feel, especially the hurt we feel for Kobe’s family?

Everyone who loved and respected Kobe Bryant will deal with his loss in their own way, but I believe that there is one thing that everyone can do to honor his legacy: learn from the lessons he taught. 

Teaching people to dream and do the impossible was, perhaps, Kobe’s chief aim in...

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Heart Rate Variability and Your Resilience

By Shannon Thompson

Decades of psychological research suggests that resilience is a key determinant of success in life. You most likely believe that’s true—or else you wouldn’t be reading a blog like this. But how do psychologists know this sort of thing? How are they able to pinpoint what “resilience” looks like in the first place? This blog will focus on the different ways that resilience can be measured, and how you can use this type of data to build resilience in your own life.

Psychology is often called a “soft” science. The term “soft” refers to the murkiness of the conclusions that can be drawn from data often subjectively reported by humans (“hard” science would refer to findings drawn from objective, measurable data). A great deal of psychology research is conducted using questionnaires involving Likert scales. Findings are established based upon patterns observed within these responses. As you can imagine,...

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How to Become Wiser

By Dr. Robert Biswas-Diener

Imagine this simple scenario: Your friend comes to you and asks your advice on an issue. Your friend doesn’t provide much by way of details but says, “a fifteen-year-old girl wants to get married and move out of her parents’ house. What would you recommend?” Again, you don’t have any additional information. What would you advise? This is precisely the type of situation that psychologists from Berlin have used for years to assess the concept of wisdom. The researchers reasoned—correctly in my opinion—that people’s answers will vary in sophistication. Some folks will offer thoughtful insights while others will offer poor advice. The difference between the two types of recommendations is a measure of the wisdom of the respective people participating in the study. 

So, you’re probably curious to know what a wise response to this scenario looks like; perhaps you are eager to see how your own...

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6 Nutrition Tips to Enhance Mental Performance

By Shannon Thompson

My professional specialty is mental performance enhancement. This means that it is my job to optimize the mental skills of people, and guide them in the direction of further skill growth. Most of my days are spent talking with individuals who are chasing meaningful goals. I address numerous mental challenges related to these goals, and work with them using a wide range of strategies. My techniques often aim to strengthen focus, manage emotions, increase motivation, reduce performance anxiety, or simply provide exercises to those wondering what they can do to maximize their efforts. 

Some of the people I work with respond better to my methods than others. I’ve always accepted this variation in responsiveness as inherent to the nature of any craft. One common factor that impacts responsiveness is underlying mental health issues. Lingering struggles with anxiety and depression certainly affect a person’s ability to utilize mental performance...

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Loving Expansively

By Shannon Thompson

Recently I was walking through the streets of Philadelphia on my way to breakfast with some friends. I noticed a man, about my age, crossing the street behind me. I smiled hello. 

“Why are you smiling so much?” he called to me.

“Because I’m soon to have coffee!” I joked. “The coffee’s that way!” I laughed and gestured in the direction I was heading.

“No one smiles,” the man said. “Are you spiritual?”

“Yes,” I said, turning and slowing, walking backward to meet him. “Are you?”

“Of course!” The man said. “I love you, have a good day!” he called.

“You too!” I said.

“No!” the man said, stopping to face me on the sidewalk. “I. LOVE. YOU.”

Honestly, I’d been unsure if what the man had called to me initially was “I love you.” If I’d been sure, I’d have said it back right away,...

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9 Reasons People Hold Secrets

By Shannon Thompson

What makes you want to keep a secret? Why are people slow to disclose details about themselves despite wishing to have close relationships? Confidentiality, trust, and secrets require discretion and judgment. Our secrets are tightly wired to our emotions and they pulse with a sensitive, intermittent charge along the boundaries of our familiar internal territory. 

Why does exploring our secrets feel threatening? Talking about them triggers the reactive armor that covers our vulnerable places.  Secrets guard our most defenseless reaches. We can be hesitant to explore these places because we fear the emotions that exposing our vulnerabilities might trigger. Often, our fear rises out of a lack of understanding the situation and our feelings about it. We’re not always clear why some things feel like they need to remain so secret. Most of us are afraid of what we don’t understand, and discussions in this territory can be uncomfortable. Perhaps...

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