In my experience their are not a whole lot of original ideas anymore. Most of the things we see, read, and hear are a collection of inspiration we’ve received from others. Many of the articles I write have been inspired by conversations with readers or friends, films I’ve watched, or articles others have written. In the case of todays post – books.
While the personal stories and lessons I share today are mine, the thoughts, ideas, and principles belong to Richard Wiseman and his book, “59 Seconds: Change Your Life In Under A Minute.”
What I share today is only a small portion of the genius that Wiseman shares in his text. I highly suggest picking up a copy of the book for yourself and more importantly applying the principles in it that relate most to you and your life.
Oh and if you’re reading this Richard I apologize for choosing that picture of your mug for the header but I really liked the bubbles.
EMBRACING NEGATIVE EMOTIONS
A few years ago I attended the play “Book of Mormon.” Now, regardless of your lifestyle choices, religious beliefs, or sense of humor I found it to be pretty hilarious. The songs themselves had my face hurting from laughing so hard.
One particular song, “Turn It Off” nearly had me falling out of my seat. An underlying theme of the song is to simply suppress your thoughts and feelings and eventually they’ll just magically go away. The advice offered in many self-help books is reflective of this. But as it turns out, research suggests that thought suppression may actually increase misery.
In his essay Winter Notes on Summer Impressions Russian author Fedor Dostoyevsky wrote:
Try to pose for yourself this task: not to think of a polar bear, and you will see that the cursed thing will come to mind every minute.
Harvard psychologist Daniel Wegner wanted to test the assumption that what you try to avoid may ultimately consume you. He asked participants in a research study to sit alone in a room and to not think about a white bear and every time they thought about a white bear to ring a bell.
The study began and bells rang like the frickin Original Carol of The Bells.
Attempting to suppress certain thoughts makes people obsess on the very topic that they are trying to avoid. Instead of trying to suppress your thoughts and emotions you can embrace them and one way to do this is through writing.
Everytime I mention journaling to someone they always say, “Yeah, I’ve tried that and it doesn’t work for me.” I usually ask them how long they’ve tried it for and their response usually goes something like this. “Off and one for a couple of weeks.”
Yeah, that’s why it didn’t work for you ya big dummy.
Are you going to be able to fit into the pair of jeans that you want or keep your belly from hanging over your board shorts next time you’re at the beach if you follow your exercise and nutrition plan, “on and off” for the next few weeks?
In another study conducted by Spera Buhrfeind and J.W. Pennebaker participants who experienced a traumatic event were asked to express their deepest thoughts and emotions related to the event by journaling. This included how it affected their personal and professional lives.
In doing so those that actively participated got a boost in psychological and physical well-being, including a reduction in health problems, self esteem, and happiness.
You may be thinking, “writing really isn’t my thing, how about I just talk it out with someone.”
How many times have you thought about the perfect thing to say to that crush of yours? Or how many times have you thought about what you’re going to say to someone that you’re really pissed of at?
Looking back, when you were put in that situation you thought so diligently about, were you able to express yourself verbally the way that you would have liked to? I’m willing to bet a big ol’cluster fuck of verbal vomit ensued which probably left you wondering what the hell you just said and asking yourself how the hell you forgot to say this, mention that, and express something.
Thinking is disorganized. We’ve got all kinds of file cabinets going on up there and trying to pull out the document that we need when we need it most is an arduous task. But writing has been shown to increase the creation of a storyline and to produce structure for your thoughts, emotions, and feelings. It makes sense of the chaos going on in your noodle.
Ed Diener from the University of Illinois revealed those on the Forbes 100 list of wealthiest people are only slightly happier than the average American. An increase in income does not necessarily result in a happier life. One main reason for this is that we get use to what we have very quickly.
Elizabeth Dunn, of the University of British Columbia gave an envelope containing either $5 or $20 and asked people to spend the money on either themselves or on someone else by 5pm that day. She found that those who spent it on others were far happier.
To expand on this University of Oregon macroeconomist William Harbaugh gave people $100 in a virtual bank account and had them lie down in a brain scanner. At first, participants saw money being given to help those in need via mandatory taxation. They were then asked whether they would rather donate some of the remaining balance to help others or keep it for themselves.
What Harbaugh found was those that decided to donate some or all of the remaining balance had heightened activity in their caudate nucleus and nucleus accumbens – regions of the brain that also get tapped into when your basic human needs like food and being valued by others are met.
So retail therapy may actually have more to do with giving to others than it has to do with giving to yourself. And if you don’t have a whole lotta green to part with Sonja Lyubomirsky suggest that you can experience similar effects by picking nonfinancial acts of kindness to practice each week for the next 6 weeks. This can include things like thank you notes, giving blood, or helping a friend move.
When you first visit the Limitless homepage I ask you a question. “How would your life be different if you became the healthiest version of yourself?”
Have you ever fantasized about it – what your life would be like if you had your ideal body, fitness, and health? The things you’d do with it, the way you’d feel mentally, physically, and emotionally?
I’ve fantasized about what it’d be like if I had my ideal job and made my ideal amount of money. I’d be making it rain all over the place. Treating friends to dinners, traveling everywhere, spending more time with family, wearing gold chains and teeth… I kid I kid, I’ll leave that to this guy.
Gariele Oettinggen and Thomas Wadden from the Universtiy of Pennsylvania conducted a study with a group of obese women participating in a weight loss program. These women were asked how they’d respond if they were put into hypothetical food-related scenarios, like going to a friends house and being tempted. Their responses were classified as either highly positive or negative. Women with positive fantasies lost on average 26 pounds less than those that had negative fantasies.
As it turns out fantasizing like this might not be so great for you. Those that fantasize about how wonderful life could be are ill-prepared for setbacks that frequently occur along the road to success that they dream of. Instead of taking action and dealing with problems they’re intentionally detaching and avoiding their current situation.
This is know as escapism and it can be a tricky little son of a bitch. Often times we’ll practice this thinking that we’re actually taking action and doing something good for ourselves. I for one use books to escape – I’ll often read something with the intention of using it to make my life better. Telling myself I’m learning ways to improve myself. But then I never end up applying anything I’ve learned from the book. Instead, I just open up another one or write an article about it like this.
Oh shit, I did it again.
HOW TO NOT SCREW UP YOUR RELATIONSHIPS
I’m going to come clean here. I don’t do so well in relationships. It’s a long story and I don’t want to get into the details but let’s just sum it up by saying that I struggle mightily.
Something that I’ve noticed and was confirmed for me in the book was that it’s much easier to remember our fuckups then it is our successes. Or a more PG way to say it is that we remember the negative easier than the positive. And this actually has an impact on the way we think and act on a daily basis.
“Put people in a bad mood and they find it easier to remember the painful events like the end of a bad break-up, getting fired – cheer them up and they have a hard time remembering their first kiss, a great vacation.”
I recently broke up with a girlfriend or rather she broke up with me – well shit, lets just say it was a mutual agreement. Regardless, I take full responsibility. 2 years ago when we first started dating I lied about what I was doing one evening and who I was doing it with.
In my mind I justified it by telling myself and her that I lied about it because I didn’t want to upset her or the person I was with – she’s not a fan of this person. Terrible justification and word to the wise, just don’t lie.
As it turns out, single acts of dishonesty like this can have a huge effect on a person’s image and can even outweigh years of good behavior. In my case I thought this was something that we had overcome and the years of good behavior before and 2 years of good behavior after the incident would override this seemingly insignificant blemish on my record.
Turns out, fuck no.
John Gottman has dedicated his life to discovering the key factors that predict whether a couple will stay together or not – much of which includes comments made by couples when they chat together about their relationship.
- Positive: reflecting, agreement, understanding, or forgiveness
- Negative: involving, hostility, criticism, or contempt
By tracking the frequency of positive and negative comments made by couples Gottman has been able to successfully predict the outcome of a relationship with some pretty crazy accuracy. To sum up his results positive comments have to outweigh negative comments by about 5 to 1.
University of Texas at Austin researchers Richard Slatcher and James Pennebaker conducted a study using over 80 couples that show evidence similar to that of Gottman. Slatcher and Pennebaker had half of the couples in their study spend 20 minutes a day, for 3 consecutive days writing about their thoughts and feelings concerning their relationship. The other half wrote generally about how their day went.
At the end of the study – 3 months later – 77% of the couples that wrote about their thoughts and feelings concerning the relationship were still together compared to 52% of the group that wrote generally about their day.
What’s even cooler is that the researchers examined the text messages between the couples during this time and noticed that during the study the positive comments outweighed the negative comments made by those practicing expressive writing.
It all comes back to writing, does it not?
HOW TO NOT F-UP YOUR GOALS
We’ve all got goals. Whether they’re losing weight, earning a certain amount of income, pursuing a specific career path, or traveling all over the world. Regardless of what they are their are 4 key things you can do to dramatically increase your odds of success.
Plan – When you set goals I bet you do so like this. Lose 20 pounds, get a new job, save 20,000 dollars, take a trip to Spain. In order to increase the odds of you actually doing these things they have to be broken up into smaller subsets of action steps to help remove ambiguity, fear, and hesitation.
If you’re goal is to lose 20 pounds describe how you plan to do that. Maybe you’ll exercise 30 minutes per day, 5 times per week, using a combination of weight training and HIIT, at 5pm, in the comfort of your own home. The more specific you can get the better.
A goal that’s been popping up in my email lately from some L365 readers is to “enjoy life more.”
What the hell does that even mean? It’s so vague. Does it mean traveling, reading more books, learning a new language, taking better care of your health, spending more time with loved ones? All of the above?
If you just changed 1 thing what would have the greatest positive impact on your life and the lives of the people you care the most about? Focus on that single are and use the planning process above to break it down into actionable steps.
Accountability – Students were asked to estimate and the distance between lines on a piece of paper and to either make a public or private commitment about their answer. The group that made a public commitment wrote down their answer down on paper, signed it, and turned it into an instructor. Those students that made a public declaration were far more likely to stand by their answer than those students that did not.
What you can take from this is that in order to achieve a goal there must be some sort of accountability. Whether it be checking in with a coach or friend, using apps like stickk or beminder, or tracking consistency using a simple calendar. Find a method that works for you and run with it.
Benefits – How will your life be different if you achieve this goal and how will the lives of the people you care most about benefit from you achieving this goal? Define it as clearly as possible and constantly remind yourself. Running through a simple daily checklist is an easy way to do this. Just be careful not to focus on how failing to achieve your goal will affect your life and the lives of others.
Reward – If you achieve your goal how will you reward yourself? Just make sure that the reward does not conflict with the goal. For example, if losing 20 pounds is your outcome based goal it doesn’t make sense to reward yourself with an ice cream bender.
I like to track my consistency towards a goal that I’m trying to achieve. For example, on my 35th birthday I set a goal of saving 30,000 from 35 to 36 years old. I broke this down by figuring out how much I’d have to save each month, then week, and then day.
I cut some expenses and started an automatic savings plan that withdrawals the exact amount of money I’d need to save each day and transfers it to a savings account at a separate bank. I did this so I’d be less likely to withdraw money. I cross off the days on the calendar that the money withdrew. At the end of the week I reward myself for 7 consecutive days by having a glass of wine – simple, yes. But I hardly drink and 1 glass of wine for me per week is a wonderful reward.
Note: I don’t keep this calendar anymore. The withdrawals (this makes me sound like a drug addict) have become such a habit that I don’t even think about it anymore and don’t need to reward to keep me from cancelling the withdrawal.
Review (bonus step) – After establishing your goal, setting up your accountability system, and establishing the benefits and rewards it’s a good idea to elaborate on the possible obstacles you may have to deal with and the ways you plan to overcome them.
If you’re trying to lose weight do you have some travel coming up, work projects that may take up your time, family obligations, friends that may influence your decision making?
PS: If you’d like to learn more about Richard you can visit him here or check out his book below.
PPS: What are some books that have influenced your life? Let me know in the comments below.
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From mood to memory, persuasion to procrastination, resilience to relationships, Wiseman outlines the research supporting the new science of “rapid change” and, with clarity and infectious enthusiasm, describes how these quirky, sometimes counterintuitive techniques can be effortlessly incorporated into your everyday life. Or, as he likes to say: “Think a little, change a lot.”