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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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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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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The Story of Success

By Dr. Robert Biswas-Diener

People love to muse about the qualities that distinguish humans from other animals. Humans make and use fire. Humans can plan for the distant future. Humans love Taylor Swift. Although, in fairness to animals, I understand that there are a number of cats who live with Taylor Swift and love her. Even so, people are clearly cut from a different cloth than that of squids, rhinoceroses, and sloths. One of my favorite differentiators is the ability to tell stories. Baboons and skunks don’t do that. In fact, some scholars have referred to humans as “the storytelling animal.” People write books, they tell jokes, they make movies, they regale each other with embarrassing personal anecdotes, and they create job resumes. Each of these is an example of our storytelling acumen. 

Interestingly, telling stories is as psychologically beneficial as it is natural. For example, stories entertain us and provide an interesting distraction from...

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Emotional Vibrancy Explained

By Elaine O'Brien

Would you like to experience, and generate, more joy and energy in your life? Do you want to wake up in the morning feeling ready to embrace a bright, beautiful new day? If the answer is “Yes,” you can actually learn to cultivate your emotional vibrancy.

Emotional vibrancy is the quality of harnessing zest, positive energy, and radiant, glowing health. Emotional vibrancy can offer us a sense of calm and inner peace even during life’s challenges. Becoming more emotionally vibrant can act as an antidote to distress, feelings of being lost in life, and help reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety. Having emotional vibrancy means having the energy to carry out your day-to-day activities, the strength and flexibility to be at home, work, and play, with vigor and enthusiasm.  

People with emotional vibrancy tend to engage in activities that bring them joy, rather than barely getting through the demands of the day before collapsing on...

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From Dreaming to Doing

By Gabriele Oettingen

Many have claimed that good intentions for the New Year are doomed to fail anyway. Indeed, in a carefully done study more than half of the participants reported that after only three months they had failed on their New Year’s resolutions. So, you might say, there’s no need to try, right? Since these resolutions don’t work, I better refrain from making them in the first place.  And another plus: I will not be disappointed when I fail to act on them. 

But, wait. I’ll argue that refraining from New Year’s resolutions is a mistake. You will forfeit your opportunity to have a better 2020. You’ll also miss out on your opportunity to start something new, to encounter a turning point, and to gain valuable insights. 

I will show you a five-minute mental exercise based on my decades-long research in the science of motivation. This exercise will help you to seize the opportunity of making an effective New Year’s...

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