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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The #1 Trait that Sabotages High Performance


By Jess Hopkins 

High performers are often lauded for their impressive feats and extraordinary accomplishments. But behind closed doors, many top performers struggle with a debilitating character trait: perfectionism

Perfectionism is not black and white, but rather this quality exists on a continuum: for some, perfectionism emerges only when they’re feeling especially vulnerable, for others, perfectionism can be habitual, persistent and paralyzing. To better understand what perfectionism is and isn’t, I’ll turn to the wise words of Brené Brown, a researcher and storyteller who’s work on topics like vulnerability, shame and worthiness has profoundly impacted our understanding of how to strive for excellence without sacrificing wellbeing. In her book, The Gifts of Imperfection, Brown explains:

 

Perfectionism is not the same thing as striving to be your best. Perfectionism is not about healthy achievement and growth. Perfectionism...

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The Missing Ingredient to Success: Self-Care


By Dr. Robert Biswas-Diener 

Introduction: If you don’t love your life, who will? 

In the annals of self-development books, there are some that have achieved classic status. Norman Vincent Peale’s The Power of Positive Thinking is one example. Another is Dale Carnegie’s How to Win Friends and Influence People. I can remember the first time I came across another: The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. My father had just finished it, and he had left it on our kitchen table. Over breakfast, I picked it up and casually flipped through it. I was curious to know what these keystone behaviors were that set the most successful people apart. Almost instantly, my attention was drawn to the seventh habit, which I found particularly interesting. If you haven’t read the book, I’ll bring you up to speed.

Stephen Covey, the author, calls this habit “sharpen the saw.” It is his code word for “self-care.”...

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Fear Hides Here: Four Thoughts To Examine Closely Before Believing Them


By Shannon Thompson

 

In the world of performance psychology, fear is the primary foe. The examples of this are numerous and fairly obvious. Athletes can be afraid of performing badly at an important event, of becoming injured in a risky sport, or of letting their teammates down with a poor performance. Very similar fears are rampant within non-sporting domains. Executives might fear an important presentation, the failure of a risky initiative, or a disappointing performance review. Fear is present in relationships. We fear rejection when we pursue a love interest, and sometimes how our partner will react to a mistake, or perceived personal failing. Fear is everywhere in our lives.

 

A great deal of my work is centered around helping people overcome fear. Often fear of a poor outcome causes someone to alter their behavior so that the reality of a poor outcome actually becomes more likely. My job is to teach people how to recognize their fear, it’s effect on them, and...

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The Real Trip Finder


By Dr. Robert Biswas-Diener

People often think of vacation as an opportunity to relax. Instead, it can be an opportunity to develop.

 

 

Have you ever heard the following sentiment expressed? “I wish everyone could experience what it’s like to work as a server in a restaurant.” I’ve heard some variation of this expressed often; perhaps even on an annual basis. To a person, my friends and colleagues who espouse this idea have worked in restaurants themselves. When they imagine a world in which everyone takes a turn carrying dishes and taking orders, I wonder what—exactly—they are trying to say. I think that some of them are wishing that restaurant patrons would have more empathy for the tough work of serving. I think, for others, that this notion is based in social class: they wish that middle- and upper-class people could appreciate what it’s like to be underpaid. Whatever the reason, they seem to want to promote a greater general...

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Not All Practice Hours are Created Equal: Deliberate Practice Versus Naïve and Structured Practice

 
By K. Anders Ericsson, PhD and Robert Pool, PhD

As the authors of a book about deliberate practice, we are delighted to see that the term has gotten to be so popular. Everywhere you look, it seems, you find “deliberate practice” this and “deliberate practice” that, and the idea that deliberate practice is the key to excellence in almost any field is now widely known.

At the same time, though, we think it is crucial that we remind people about our criteria for deliberate practice since some important details are getting lost. Too often we see people lumping all sorts of practice activities together and calling it “deliberate practice” when it really is not, or expecting other types of practice to have the same results as deliberate practice. And this is not just in popular accounts but, unfortunately, in the scientific literature as well. 

This sort of confusion creates several problems. It keeps individuals from getting the maximum...

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Measuring High Performance: The High Performance Indicator Development and Validation

HPI is delighted to publish its research and findings on our ongoing efforts to academically measure and validate high performance.

The abstract is below, and you can view the entire report here.

Measuring High Performance: The High Performance Indicator Development and Validation.

By Alissa J. Mrazek, Michael D. Mrazek, University of California Santa Barbara; Daniel A. Southwick, University of Pennsylvania; Brendon Burchard High Performance Institute

Abstract:
The desire to maximize potential and performance is one of the greatest motivators of the human spirit. Philosophers, scientists, and personal development leaders have long sought to understand the attitudes, behaviors, and traits that enable people to excel, succeed over the long term, and make the most of their lives. However, despite their mutual interest in the topic, little has been done to synthesize efforts across fields. Under the direction of Brendon Burchard, scientists and high performance...

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