Willpower is the energy that people use for self-control and making decisions. When energy is low, self-control doesn't work as well, decisions are avoided or made in a less careful, more error-prone fashion, actions become more impulsive, and emotions are more likely to run out of control. Hence much is to be gained by increasing willpower. But how to do that?
Positive psychologists compiled a list of 24 character strengths that improve life. Self-control was one of them. Surveys of over five million people have concluded that self-control is often a problem area. It is the least likely of the 24 to be named as “one of my five best strengths” and most to be listed among one’s biggest weaknesses. Apparently, plenty of people think they would be better off if they had more willpower.
Fortunately, research has begun to show that people can improve their willpower, even just over a period of weeks. This is welcome news, partly because...
“It is the host’s job to make the guest feel at home. It is the guests job to remember that she is not.”—Common Saying
Part One: Welcome
My earliest experience as a well-being researcher was studying the happiness of people living in slums in Kolkata, India. I can vividly recall my first day visiting one of these settlements. I stepped across an open sewer and into a cramped courtyard. Clotheslines spanned the space like prayer flags and children darted in and out of various doorways. A stray dog tore at a discarded rag and—inexplicably—a broken plastic chair leaned against a crumbling brick wall. The lack of privacy, the non-hygienic conditions, and the lack of material abundance were all expected. What was unexpected was the level of hospitality offered to me.
As I conducted my interviews, I was led to a house—a two room concrete shack, really—and was offered both tea and lunch. This was largesse coming...
“…to give us back to ourselves—there lies the great, the singular power of self-respect.”
~ Joan Didion
Some time ago a romantic relationship that meant a great deal to me came to an end. Yes, this is a perfectly common human scenario. There was no fight. He just did not share my feelings, and our time together had run its course. I open with this story because of its universality. Although I consider unrequited love to be one of the healthiest wounds one can receive, it may also be one of the most painful. I’m guessing that most of you have experienced the recovery process: sadness, loneliness, confusion, doubt, all of these made their way through my days. Any strategy to ease these feelings was greatly appreciated, and I found one by accident: self-respect. This article is the story of how I found my own self-respect, used it to flourish, and how you can too.
Around the same time that my personal life was struggling,...
I want to talk about water – but not the kind you’re thinking – the water of words and the motion of listening and presence. Speech and body language are like water; they flow between us and carve our moments and connections. The practice of deep listening (listening with the primary purpose of understanding another person, as opposed to listening with your primary focus on your response) is possibly the most powerful tool for forging strong relationships. Deep listening cultivates feelings of safety and trust, essential for secure human bonds. Secure bonds are obviously what close intimate relationships are built on, but the same could be said for any situation where people need to interact, communicate, educate, learn, and perform together.
Deep listening is a skill, and takes time and attention to learn. My work as a mental performance consultant has provided me with many opportunities to learn to listen. I’ve found the...
So you have some fears about your life? Great. Welcome to the club.
Seriously, it’s kind of silly (and dare I say borderline narcissistic) to think that you might be the only one who has ever been afraid of __X__. There are over 7 billion people on the planet— how likely is it that no one has ever felt the same way that you do? And yet, most people operate from this exact mindset, getting so isolated in their fears that they wind up completely paralyzed and stuck.
To give you some perspective, I’ve logged nearly 10,000 client coaching hours and I can honestly say that I’ve yet to hear a fear that is truly unique. A fear that is so unusual that there is absolutely no way that someone else has felt the same way, let alone figured out how to forge ahead anyway.
The reality is that we all feel fear, and I’ve noticed some pervasive and consistent themes.
I’m afraid I:
“Our bodies change our minds, and our minds change our behavior, and our behavior changes our outcomes.”
~ Amy Cuddy
I’m curious, how are you positioned right now? Are you leaning forward, hand at your chin, the other arm folded in front of your computer? Are you reclining, with a tablet perhaps? Or, are you scrolling down your phone with part of your attention on a clock, or a closed door, or an approaching bus?
If I were watching any of these scenarios I would make differing judgments as to how interested you are in this article. If you’re leaning forward, I would assume you’re fascinated, and perhaps hoping to learn something useful. If you’re reclining, I’d guess you’re reading for leisure. If you’re scrolling on your phone, I’d presume you’re killing time until something more important to you comes along. I would glean all of this information without you saying a word—by reading...
“The heart has reasons of which reason knows nothing.” ~ Blaise Pascal
I’ve always been guided by my intuition. Every major decision of my life has been directed by a “knowing” that came from a mysterious place within. I used to compete horses professionally. Upon my first glimpse of two of the most important horses of my past, I knew they would be mine one day. I knew this despite the fact that I had no money with which to buy a horse, and was not looking for one at the time.
The same thing happened when I read about the Masters of Applied Positive Psychology program at the University of Pennsylvania (where I attended grad school). I knew instantly that MAPP was the program for me. I knew this despite the fact that I was only one online course into my Bachelors degree, and had no reason to believe I’d ever be accepted into such a competitive program.
When I met a group of Flagstaff runners at a race in Colorado,...
When we picture the attributes of a high performer, we commonly think of words like confidence, influence, energy, and other associated ideas.
But in all our excitement about these high-performance buzz-words, we may overlook foundational attributes that are just as (or possibly more) important. In this blog, I’m suggesting that humility is one of these overlooked attributes.
For starters, let’s empirically establish the idea that we think of humility a whole lot less than those other terms as it relates to high performance. An easy way to do this is to do a google search coupling the phrases “high performance” (in parentheses) with each term. This type of analysis has shown to be a surprisingly useful way of learning how words and ideas relate to one another. Below is a chart that shows how often humility is paired with “high performance” compared to other terms:
Google Search Phrase
“People always say “be true to yourself” but that’s misleading, because there are two selves. There’s your short term self, and there’s your long term self. And if you’re only true to your short term self, your long term self slowly decays.” (Anonymous)
Our goals in life have an inherent future focus. However, it’s action in the present that is the foundation for future-self’s success. This creates an interesting tension between present-self and future-self which can be problematic at times.
The problem arises because we are not the mechanical rational agents that some economic theories portray. In fact, the economist Richard Thaler from the University of Chicago won the Nobel prize in 2017 for demonstrating the cognitive flaws and biases inherent in human thinking that undermine our rational goal pursuit. In a television interview I saw with Thaler about retirement savings, he...
We’ve all heard it. “Practice makes perfect.” But in the real world things work somewhat differently. Indeed, it is often the case that a person will work at the same job or carry out the same leisure activity—playing the piano, for instance, or golfing—for ten or twenty years and not be much better than after one or two.
The reason is simple: When people are first introduced to a job or a leisure activity, it takes them a certain amount of practice to reach an “acceptable” level of performance—one where there are no obvious failures and no glaring areas that need improvement—and then it takes a bit more practice to reach the point where they can execute that performance relatively effortlessly. But once they have reached this level of rather effortless achievement, improvement stops or slows to a crawl. We see this, for example, in school teachers who teaching...
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