Changing These 4 Beliefs Will Make You Surprisingly Happy



Before we commence with the festivities, I wanted to thank everyone for helping my first book become a Wall Street Journal bestseller. To check it out, click here .


Traffic upsets you. People upset you. Your job upsets you… Wrong, wrong and wrong.

Actually, none of those things upset you. Your beliefs about them do. That’s what the ancient Stoic philosophers believed.

From The Daily Stoic :

“People are not disturbed by things, but by the views they take of them.” – Epictetus

Let’s say you expect something to cost $90. Turns out it costs $80. You’re thrilled. But if you expect it to cost $30 and it costs $80, you want to murder someone. Price didn’t change. Your belief did. And that determined your reaction.

Oh, and science agrees with the Stoics here. Big time. Albert Ellis was a psychologist and he took the ideas of the Stoics and weaponized them into some of the most effective therapies that professionals use today.

How big a deal was Albert? According to a survey of psychologists he was the 2nd most influential psychotherapist ever. Sigmund Freud came in third. Here’s what Wikipedia says about his system:

In general REBT is arguably one of the most investigated theories in the field of psychotherapy and a large amount of clinical experience and a substantial body of modern psychological research have validated and substantiated many of REBTs theoretical assumptions on personality and psychotherapy.

And Albert says your beliefs are what cause the majority of unhappiness, anger, and anxiety you experience. Problem is, some of these beliefs are sneaky.

You don’t even realize they’re there. If I told you that you believed them, you’d deny it. But they’re often dictating your reactions — and making you miserable in the process.

So what are some of the most common problematic beliefs Albert identified – and how do we fix them?

Let’s get to it…


#1: “This shouldn’t be happening!”

This is the big one. Here’s how Albert describes the #1 irrational belief we all too often hold:

“People and things should always turn out the way I want them to and if they don’t, it’s awful, terrible, and horrible, and that’s not fair.”

Sounds ridiculous. You would never say that, right? Problem is, you often believe it without realizing it.

Say I tell you this toaster over here almost never works. You try to use the toaster. It doesn’t work. Do you get furious and throw the toaster at me? No. Reality met expectations. No surprises. No emotional outburst. Now let’s apply that same logic in a different scenario…

You know the world is not always a fair place, right? But then something unfair happens and… you go ballistic. Does that make sense? Nope.

If you really believed the world wasn’t always fair and the world promptly delivered some unfairness, you wouldn’t get all bent out of shape. Reality met expectations. But what you really believe is the world shouldn’t be unfair to you. And that, my dear friend, is crazy talk.

Here’s Albert:

We know the world is not fair, yet we still get overly upset when it’s unfair to us. We start thinking, very early on, that the world should be fair to us in particular… The “upsetness” doesn’t make the problem go away or solve anything (as a matter of fact, you probably make poorer decisions, and deal with others less effectively), but you don’t question your reaction because it seems so natural.

So how do you stop getting angry when life (which you acknowledge is unfair) does exactly what you said it would (and acts unfairly)? You need to change that underlying belief — the one you didn’t know you had.

Next time you find yourself getting upset, notice it. Pause. And then:

  • Identify the underlying belief: “Uh-oh. I’m believing that this unfair life must treat me fairly, aren’t I?”
  • Dispute that belief: “Is this belief rational?” No. Uh-uh. No way, no how.
  • Replace the belief: So what’s a more reasonable stance? “I would prefer to be treated fairly, but I know things aren’t always going to be to my liking. I’m not surprised and I’m not going to lose my cool.”

(To learn more about the science of a successful life, check out my bestselling book here .)

Okay, so outside events aren’t always gonna go your way and holding an underlying belief that is aligned with that can make life’s ups and downs much easier to manage.

But what beliefs about your own behavior does Ellis say regularly cause you problems?


#2: “I Must Be Perfect.”

Here’s how Albert describes it:

“I must not fail at important tasks and if I do it’s terrible and I can’t stand it.”

Again, you don’t always realize this is your underlying belief. If I asked, “Are you human and prone to error?” You’d say yeah. But then you make a mistake and totally freak out. Does not compute.

If you really believed you were prone to error, you might be a little disappointed. You’d prefer to always get the A+. But you wouldn’t be surprised and get overly emotional. Remember, you don’t get angry when broken toasters act like broken toasters. You get angry when you expect broken toasters to act like working toasters.

And getting rid of your perfectionist beliefs doesn’t mean you’re suddenly going to become a slacker who half-asses everything. You can still be persistent. You just don’t have to hold silly beliefs that drive you nuts. Here’s Albert :

Searching for perfect solutions often will lead to stagnation and frustration. Perseverance, tolerance for less than perfection (but striving for it), the pursuit of improvement, and commitment to doing the very best you can, all are healthy, and most likely to yield the best results. Eliminating unreasonable demands for perfect solutions in no way reduces your commitment to doing or being the very best you can do or be.

And if that’s not enough, research says perfectionism can kill you:

Consistent with our hypotheses, findings demonstrated that risk of death was significantly greater for high scorers in perfectionism and neuroticism, compared to low scorers at the time of base line.

So how do you deal with that pesky need to always be the best? Again, you have to dispute the underlying belief. Next time you’re aiming for 110% and getting worked up, take notice.

Ask yourself if the belief is rational (nope) and replace it with something more realistic: “I’m going to work on the project for the next three hours and do my best. The amount of effort I expend is under my control but people’s reaction to it isn’t.”

(To learn the seven-step morning ritual that will make you happy all day, click here .)

Okay, you’re disputing and replacing irrational beliefs. Maybe you’re not doing it perfectly at first — but we don’t have to be perfect, now do we?

So what about when that irrational belief is like a song stuck in your head? And you just cannot make it stop?


#3: “I Should Worry About This.”

Here’s Albert:

“If I worry obsessively about some up-coming event or how someone really feels about me things will actually turn out better.”

Ridiculous, right? But sometimes that’s the belief we’re really holding. We worry and worry and worry some more. And if we stop worrying, we beat ourselves up for not worrying enough. It’s like we think anxiety is a magic spell that, if chanted constantly, will actually prevent the dreaded thing from happening.

For the record, it won’t. And you already knew that. But if you believed it deep down, you wouldn’t be biting your nails so much. Broken toaster theory all over again.

So how do you make the worry song stop playing in your head? You know the answer here: dispute and replace the belief. But with anxiety, it can be trickier because worry seems to operate on autopilot in the background. Time to bring out the big guns…

What is worrying? It’s your brain’s way of reminding you that something is a threat and needs to be dealt with. So what do you do if “dispute and replace” isn’t cutting it in the short term? Let your brain know you’re taking its reminders seriously.

Schedule your worrying . Seriously. Make a “worrying appointment.” This works:

For those concerned with shedding some of their anxieties, it seems planning a certain time every day to worry may help stop the stress-out cycle. When people with adjustment disorders, burnout or severe work problems used techniques to confine their worrying to a single, scheduled 30- minute period each day, they were better able to cope with their problems, a new study by researchers in the Netherlands finds.

Please make sure to tell co-workers, “I’d love to go to that meeting but 4PM is when I get all my worrying done for the day.”

And don’t just worry during the appointment  — dispute and replace. With practice, the worries will subside. Behavioral therapies like this are the most scientifically proven treatments for anxiety.

(To learn 6 rituals from ancient wisdom that will make you happy, click here .)

So you can finally get that worry song to stop playing in your head. But how do we deal with those beliefs about our past that have shaped us? The beliefs that we feel make us who we are?


#4: “It’s because of my past.”

Albert  explains the belief like this:

“It was my past and all the awful things that happened to me when I was a child or in my last relationship or in my last job that causes me to feel and act this way now.”

We make mistakes — often the same ones over and over — and we say it’s due to bad parenting. Or because we were teased in high school. Or because we dated the wrong people.

Yes, Albert acknowledged some traumas do leave lasting issues. But many, many people willingly accept more minor past problems as part of their identity and don’t really try to correct them. Here’s Albert:

There is no question that our past experiences have the potential to influence greatly our present behavior, if we let them… Past events won’t become any less real or valid; we can’t change the tapes of those events. We can, however, vigorously change how we think about them.

In most cases it’s not that the past event caused irrevocable damage; it’s that you are presently carrying an irrational belief about yourself that you took away from the event.

“I was bullied in school because I was weaker than the other kids. So I am a weak person.” And decades later you’re still running that buggy old code like it was the latest software update. Yeah, you may have had moments of weakness in the 4th grade. Does that mean you’re a weak person at 32?

Even though we’ve changed and our environment has changed, we cling to that outdated belief and it affects how we feel. Then confirmation bias kicks in and we stop noticing evidence to the contrary — while maintaining a keen eye for everything that validates that irrational belief.

“I got nervous during that presentation today. It’s because I’m a weak person. Yeah, I killed 37 ninjas with my bare hands on the way from the parking lot to the office this morning, but that was just dumb luck. I’ve always been weak and I’ll always be weak.”

From The CBT Toolbox: A Workbook for Clients and Clinicians :

Because of how our filters (beliefs) are set up, we often notice instances that support the unhealthy beliefs more than we notice those that may support our opposite, healthy beliefs; however, that “evidence” almost always exists as well.

So how do we fix this? Of course, dispute and replace. But this one can be tricky because of confirmation bias. We’re only noticing and remembering the times when the irrational belief seems to be true (nervous during presentation) and not the times when it’s proven false (single-handedly defeating hordes of expertly trained martial arts masters.) So you’re gonna need some help with this disputing process.

Sit down with an old friend and a piece of paper. Make your case. Write down all the events that happened over the years that prove your irrational belief true. “I am weak because…”

When you’re done, list all the events that contradict the belief. “I am not weak because…” And your friend gets to add to this list. You don’t get veto power over their contributions. Remember, you’re biased.

From The CBT Toolbox: A Workbook for Clients and Clinicians :

One valuable tool involves forcing ourselves to look back over those very same periods of life purposefully looking to see the evidence that supports our healthy beliefs. You may want to rely on family members or friends who were around during each period of life to help you “notice” such evidence. Even if they share things they see as “counting” that you don’t think “should count” write them down anyway…

If there is anything on the second list, then you are not cursed by your past forever — you’re cursed by an outdated belief that you still hold. Dispute and replace.

Are you weak at times? Probably. But that’s true of everyone. You’re human. Welcome to the party.

(To see the schedule that very successful people follow every day, click here .)

Okay, I now hold the underlying belief we’ve learned a lot about beliefs. Let’s round it all up — and learn the two words that signal you have some more disputin’ and replacin’ to do…


Sum Up

Here are the 4 irrational beliefs that cause you a lot of problems:

  • “This shouldn’t be happening!”: Do you really expect to always get what you want? No. But if you really believed that you wouldn’t be shouting.
  • “I must be perfect.”: Not possible. And it’ll kill you. You can control effort, not outcome. “I will do my best” is rational. “I must be the best” is not.
  • “I should worry about this.”: Set a time to worry, to dispute, and to replace. This lets your brain know it doesn’t need to be reminding you 24/7.
  • “It’s because of my past.”: If that’s really the case, then you should be in therapy. But your problems are rarely due to dire past traumas, they’re usually due to some outdated, irrational belief you still hold. Get a friend to help you dispute and replace.

You may have noticed two words that came up again and again: “should” and “must.” Albert Ellis hated those words. He felt they were at the core of so much of our emotional suffering.

Both imply that the universe needs to bend to your will. And that’s not going to happen. “Prefer” all you like, but “should” and “must” are like shaking your fist at the sky when you don’t like the weather. It “should” be sunny? Well, it’s not.

When you align your expectations with reality, you stay cool like Fonzie. And then you’re able to do something that might help you get what you “prefer.”

Whenever you hear yourself saying “should” or “must”, it’s a sign you might be working off an irrational belief. Time to dispute and replace — unless you like being unnecessarily stressed and angry. I don’t.

So out of supreme respect for Albert, I’m not going to say you “should” or “must” obey the above advice…

But doing so will make you much happier. That’s my underlying — and very rational — belief.

Join over 320,000 readers. Get a free weekly update via email here .

Related posts:

New Neuroscience Reveals 4 Rituals That Will Make You Happy

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How To Get People To Like You: 7 Ways From An FBI Behavior Expert

The post Changing These 4 Beliefs Will Make You Surprisingly Happy appeared first on Barking Up The Wrong Tree .

This Is The Best Time To Do Anything: 4 Powerful Secrets From Research



Before we commence with the festivities, I wanted to thank everyone for helping my first book become a Wall Street Journal bestseller. To check it out, click here .


We love to say “timing is everything” but often we sure as heck don’t act like it. (Bookstores have an entire “how to” section but not a “when to” section.)

As we’re going to find out, timing really can be everything. And often we’ve got it all wrong. Luckily, bestselling author Dan Pink has come to the rescue. His new book is When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing .

It’s loaded with information on the best time to do almost anything — including the best time to get married. (You might wanna tie the knot between 25 and 32.)

From When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing :

…an American who weds at twenty-five is 11 percent less likely to divorce than one who marries at age twenty-four, according to analysis by University of Utah sociologist Nicholas Wolfinger. …past the age of thirty-two – even after controlling for religion, education, geographic location, and other factors – the odds of divorce increase by 5 percent per year for at least the next decade.

And if you’re already married, try and be extra nice in March and August — that’s when divorce filings consistently shoot up.

Ever have to give someone “good news and bad news”? Dan reports that you should deliver the bad news before the good news.

From When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing :

Several studies over several decades have found that roughly four out of five people “prefer to begin with a loss or negative outcome and ultimately end with a gain or positive outcome, rather than the reverse.”

There’s no way I could cover all the great insights in the book, so we’re going to focus on how to use Dan’s findings to be more productive and effective during the day.

All your hours are not created equal — not by a long shot…


Do Think-y Stuff In The Morning

Anything requiring you to be at your most rational and analytical should be done early in the day. This is a very robust finding with mountains of studies to back it up.

Researchers usually just present data — they don’t often give explicit recommendations. But the writers of one paper Dan cites found their results so overwhelming they just came right out and told people what to do — make important decisions early.

From When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing :

“[A]n important takeaway from our study for corporate executives is that communications with investors, and probably other critical managerial decisions and negotiations, should be conducted earlier in the day.”

Maybe you’re thinking, “Meh. I’m sure it’s not that big a deal if I wait until after lunch.” Wrong.

You might as well pound a few beers before sitting down to work — that’s how big the performance difference can be.

From When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing :

“[T]he performance change between the daily high point and the daily low point can be equivalent to the effect on performance of drinking the legal limit of alcohol,” according to Russell Foster, a neuroscientist and chronobiologist at the University of Oxford.

And this jives with previous research. Dan Ariely of Duke University found that mornings really are magical for getting stuff done:

…it turns out that most people are productive in the first two hours of the morning. Not immediately after waking, but if you get up at 7 you’ll be most productive from around from 8-10:30.

You know what else Ariely’s research found? We usually waste most of that golden time with email and Facebook. Bad. Mornings are when you want to handle your most important tasks.

(To learn more about the science of a successful life, check out my bestselling book here .)

So mornings are magic. But what’s the latter half of the day good for?


Afternoons Are Sluggish — But Insightful

One study found that 2:55PM is very likely the most un-productive moment of your day.

Researchers refer to mornings as the “peak” and afternoons as the “trough.” You’re probably thinking about how that negatively impacts your work. Well, don’t just yet…

Think about how it affects other people’s work. I, for one, am never going to a doctor’s office in the afternoon for the rest of my life.

Anesthesiologists commit three times as many errors that result in patient harm during the latter half of the day. (Errors by a surgeon are pretty scary. Errors where somebody puts you to sleep and you never wake up are terrifying.)

The number of studies that show just how much stupider and less in control we are during the afternoon is staggering.

The #1 time for sleep-related car accidents is, unsurprisingly, late at night when people are exhausted. Guess when #2 is? Not rush hour or morning commute when the most cars are on the road — it’s between 2PM and 4PM. All around the world.

From When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing :

In the United Kingdom, sleep-related vehicle accidents peak twice during every twenty-four-hour period. One is between 2AM and 6AM, the middle of the night. The other is between 2PM and 4PM, the middle of the afternoon. Researchers have found the same pattern of traffic accidents in the U.S., Israel, Finland, France, and other countries.

After the morning ends, we’re a bit of mess. But there is an upside…

When your brain is tired, creativity jumps. Those misfiring neurons aren’t as rational but they’re much more likely to come up with new ideas.

From When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing :

Some have called this phenomenon the “inspiration paradox” – the idea that “innovation and creativity are greatest when we are not at our best, at least with respect to our circadian rhythms.”

So you might want to come up with new plans in the afternoon — and execute them the next morning.

(To learn the seven-step morning ritual that will make you happy all day, click here .)

I know there’s a group of people right now who are vigorously shaking their heads at all of the above: “I am not sharper in the morning; I’m a zombie. It’s takes four hours before my brain even starts working.”

I’m not talking about the sleep-deprived (they’re a mess all day long.) I’m talking about night owls. And guess what? They’re right…


“Strike That — Reverse It”

If you’re a night owl, take everything I just said and reverse it.

(Night owls who only read the very beginning of this post received some really bad advice. I feel no guilt. That’s what you get for not reading to the end. Nyah.)

“Larks” (early risers) and “third birds” (people who are neither extreme) peak in the morning, have a trough in the afternoon and then experience a period of recovery. For night owls, it’s recovery, trough, peak.

From When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing :

In short, all of us experience the day in three stages – a peak, a trough, and a recovery. And about three-quarters of us (larks and third birds) experience it in that order. But about one in four people, those whose genes or age make them night owls, experience the day in something closer to the reverse order – recovery, trough, peak.

And sure enough, night owls get into more car accidents during their morning commute.

From When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing :

…even though it’s obviously more dangerous to drive at night, owls actually drive worse early in the day because mornings are out of synch with their natural cycle of vigilance and alertness.

If you’re a child of the night, plan creative tasks for the morning and critical thinking for the afternoon. And don’t drive anywhere near where I’m at until 2PM.

(To learn how to stop being lazy and get more done, click here .)

While very interesting, all this information can also be upsetting. If you have little control over your schedule, you’re going to be doing a lot of stuff at suboptimal times. And if your job doesn’t involve much creativity, is half the day just wasted?

How do we turn that trough into more of a peak? The answer is simple: take breaks. But what’s really interesting is there is more than one type of break that we need…


The Two Types Of Breaks

You’re a night owl and you’ve got a big presentation at 9AM. Or you’re a lark and it’s scheduled for 2:55PM, the Productivity Minute of Doom. This is when you need what Dan calls a “vigilance break.”

Vigilance breaks are “…brief pauses before high-stakes encounters to review instructions and guard against error.”

Stop what you’re doing. Don’t just barrel forward with your brain feeling like mush. Take a moment to review everything that needs to be done and how you need to do it. A checklist made during your peak hours can really help here.

One year after the Veterans Hospital Administration implemented vigilance breaks for doctors they found that the surgical mortality rate had dropped by 18%.

Now if vigilance breaks are great for marshaling your defenses against errors, “restorative breaks” are what you need to recharge and improve performance. Instead of reviewing a checklist, you want to get some distance from your work and relax a bit.

Students that take standardized tests during their trough perform worse than those who take them during their peak. But when allowed restorative breaks, the afternoon group actually got better scores than the morning students.

From When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing :

Danish schoolchildren who take the tests in the afternoon score significantly worse than those who take the exams earlier in the day… When the Danish students had a twenty-to-thirty-minute break “to eat, play, and chat” before a test, their scores did not decline. In fact, they increased.

What’s the best restorative break? Combining the insights from many studies, Dan recommends “a short walk outside with a friend during which you discuss something other than work.” And another study showed that the highest performers usually worked for 52 minutes and then took a 17 minute break.

I know, I know: it might not be realistic for everyone. In that case you want to make sure to maximize the break that is built into everyone’s schedule — lunch. It can be a big performance booster if done correctly.

From When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing :

The most powerful lunch breaks have two key ingredients – autonomy and detachment. Autonomy – exercising some control over what you do, how you do it, when you do it, and whom you do it with—is critical for high performance, especially on complex tasks… Detachment – both psychological and physical—is also critical. Staying focused on work during lunch, or even using one’s phone for social media, can intensify fatigue according to multiple studies, but shifting one’s focus away from the office has the opposite effect.

If you leverage breaks properly, your trough can actually be more productive than your peak.

(To see the schedule that very successful people follow every day, click here .)

Okay, we’ve learned quite a bit about how to be more productive. Let’s round everything up and learn the best time to implement these changes…


Sum Up

Here’s the best time to get stuff done:

  • Think-y stuff in the morning: If you’re reading this at midnight, you’re breaking my heart.
  • Afternoons are sluggish — but insightful: Creativity peaks when you aren’t thinking straight.
  • Night owl? Strike that — reverse it: I wrote this post during the evening, but don’t worry — I’m a night owl. Hoot. Hoot.
  • The two types of breaks: Vigilance breaks are when you take a step back and review your checklist before an important moment. Restorative breaks are when you relax to recharge your dwindling batteries.

Okay, ready to make some big changes in your schedule? Want to feel like you’re making a fresh start? Dan has the right time for that as well.

Yes, you could begin implementing all this tomorrow but the research shows we are actually more likely to follow through when we start on what are called “temporal landmarks.”

These are natural turning points on the calendar when you can open a new mental account and feel like a “new you.” Best example is New Year’s Day, that time when most of us make resolutions — but it’s not the only one. There are two kinds: social and personal.

From When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing :

The social landmarks were those that everyone shared: Mondays, the beginning of a new month, national holidays. The personal ones were unique to the individual: birthdays, anniversaries, job changes.

So pick your temporal landmark and start fresh.

Align your schedule with how your brain naturally works and time really is on your side.

Join over 320,000 readers. Get a free weekly update via email here .

Related posts:

New Neuroscience Reveals 4 Rituals That Will Make You Happy

New Harvard Research Reveals A Fun Way To Be More Successful

How To Get People To Like You: 7 Ways From An FBI Behavior Expert

The post This Is The Best Time To Do Anything: 4 Powerful Secrets From Research appeared first on Barking Up The Wrong Tree .

This Is The Easy Way To Save Money: 6 Powerful Secrets From Research



Before we commence with the festivities, I wanted to thank everyone for helping my first book become a Wall Street Journal bestseller. To check it out, click here .


We’d all like to have more money. (That stuff is really useful, ain’t it?)

Being worried about makin’ the bacon can end your marriage, skyrocket your blood pressure, and even cause your brain to malfunction.

From Dollars and Sense: How We Misthink Money and How to Spend Smarter :

Money is the top reason for divorce and the number one cause of stress in Americans. People are demonstrably worse at all kinds of problem solving when they have money problems on their mind.

Thing is, we all make dumb money mistakes, many of which we’re not even aware of. And a lot of those are due to quirks of human psychology.

Luckily, Dan Ariely , a professor of behavioral economics at Duke University, has a new book out that explains some of the problems we’re prone to when it comes to moolah and what we can do about them. The book is Dollars and Sense: How We Misthink Money and How to Spend Smarter.

Let’s look at some of what Dan has to say and see how we can save some shekels…


1) “On Sale” Signs Are The Devil

More generally, Dan’s advice is “ignore relative comparisons.” Focus on what the thing costs, not how big a discount you’re getting.

Saving 90% on a bus pass isn’t a great deal if you never take the bus — but we make dumb purchases similar to that one all the time.

From Dollars and Sense: How We Misthink Money and How to Spend Smarter :

It seems that discounts are a potion for stupidity. They simply dumb down our decision-making process. When an item is “on sale,” we act more quickly and with even less thought than if the product costs the same but is marked at a regular price.

And we’re assaulted by these relative comparisons all the time…

You’d never have paid a few hundred dollars for heated seats — but when you’re shelling out tens of thousands of dollars for a car, that extra seems relatively cheap — and so you say, “Ah, what the heck… Sure.” You should judge add-ons separately by their value, not by comparison.

Similarly, paying percentages can be dangerous. 5% might seem small but, again, that can be deceptive. Change the percentage into a dollar amount and objectively ask: “Am I comfortable paying this figure for this service?”

(To learn more about the science of a successful life, check out my bestselling book here .)

So companies use tricky comparisons and we often fall for it. But what problems with money do we completely create on our own?


2) It’s Not A “Bonus.” Money Is Money.

Your paycheck goes toward bills and serious stuff. But that unexpected check you received in the mail? That money you won at the casino? That gift card aunt Phyllis sent you? Well, it’s okay to spend that money on frivolous goodies because that’s “different.”

No, it’s not. Money is money.

From Dollars and Sense: How We Misthink Money and How to Spend Smarter :

Every dollar is the same. It doesn’t matter where money comes from… just because in our mind the money belongs to the “bonuses” or “winnings” account—we need to pause, think, and remind ourselves that it’s just money. Our money.

Researchers refer to this as “emotional accounting.” Rationally, a dollar is a dollar. But as rationality-challenged humans, we feel the source of the money affects how we should use it. Bad idea.

From Dollars and Sense: How We Misthink Money and How to Spend Smarter :

People are likely to spend something like their salary on “responsible” things like paying bills, because it feels like “serious money.” On the other hand, money that feels fun—like $300 million in casino winnings—is likely to be spent on fun things, like more gambling.

Studies show that when $200 is called a “rebate” we’re inclined to deposit it in the bank. But when that $200 is called a “bonus” we’re more likely to buy a treat.

In fact, research shows people would prefer to receive money as a bonus versus additional salary for that very reason. It lets us feel like it’s okay to indulge instead of save.

From Dollars and Sense: How We Misthink Money and How to Spend Smarter :

…if we ask people how they would use a $12,000 lump sum versus an additional $1,000 a month, most say they would spend the lump sum on something special to make themselves happier. That’s because a lump sum payment would not arrive along with the usual monthly ebbs and flows of income and expenses—putting it outside of our regular account system. If, on the other hand, the money is received monthly, it would be categorized as salary—and most people would use it to pay normal expenses.

Many people treat a tax refund as a “bonus” that they can have fun with. Again, that’s tricky emotional accounting. You didn’t get a bonus; you gave the government an interest-free loan and they’re returning the principal.

How we get money often affects how we spend it. But it shouldn’t. Money is money.

(To learn the seven-step morning ritual that will make you happy all day, click here .)

Okay, you’re getting rid of your arbitrary categories. But how do we actually spend less without having to use any willpower? That’s easy. Make spending painful…


3) Use Cash More Often

Handing someone cash hurts your brain. Seriously. Neuroscience research shows it’s indistinguishable from physical pain.

From Dollars and Sense: How We Misthink Money and How to Spend Smarter :

The term “the pain of paying” was based on the feeling of displeasure and distress caused by spending, but more recently, studies using neuroimaging and MRIs have showed that paying indeed stimulates the same brain regions that are involved in processing physical pain.

But we ever-resourceful humans have found a way (many ways, actually) to spend a lot and not feel that pain. The biggest culprit? Credit cards.

From Dollars and Sense: How We Misthink Money and How to Spend Smarter :

Studies have found not only that people are more willing to pay when they use credit cards, but also that they make larger purchases, leave larger tips, are more likely to underestimate or forget how much they spent, and make spending decisions more quickly.

Ever find yourself treating foreign currency like it’s Monopoly money? Ever abuse that Amazon one-click button? Anything that makes transactions simpler and quicker or blurs the process of handing over greenbacks reduces the pain of paying — and makes you more likely to spend.

Writing checks doesn’t cause the same amount of ouch that forking over cash does, but it’s still pretty good because having to write out “five thousand dollars” will give you pause. But credit cards, gift cards, casino chips and nearly all online shopping is a financial opiate and dramatically reduces the pain that keeps your bank account flush.

There is an exception worthy of mention here. The vast majority of the time, increasing the pain of paying is a great idea. But there are occasions where it’s worth it to be pain-free. You don’t want to be saying “owwwww” repeatedly on your honeymoon or during other big milestones. You want to just enjoy the moment.

So whip out the plastic and have fun. But make those occasions rare.

(To learn the 3 secrets from neuroscience that will make you emotionally intelligent, click here .)

So what one word pretty consistently results in dumb financial decisions?


4) “Fair” Is A Four-Letter Word

It’s pouring outside so you’re going to get an Uber. But Uber is surge pricing. “That’s unfair! Forget it. I’ll walk.”

Maybe Uber is taking advantage of you. Maybe they’re not. But the real question is: would you pay the surge price to not arrive home soaking wet? Probably. So you’re not punishing them. You’re punishing yourself.

“Fair is a four-letter word.” That’s what my friend, Chris Voss , former lead international hostage negotiator for the FBI, likes to say. And Ariely’s research agrees.

The concept of “fair” messes with our heads and causes us to reject deals that still offer plenty of value.

From Dollars and Sense: How We Misthink Money and How to Spend Smarter :

Let’s not get caught up in whether something is priced fairly; instead, consider what it’s worth to us. We shouldn’t pass up great value—access to our home, a salvaged computer, getting a ride in winter weather—just to punish the provider for what we think is unfairness.

The concept of “fairness” runs very deep in the human psyche. Nobody likes to feel exploited. And nobody wants to be known as someone who can be exploited.

But most of the time it doesn’t pay to get hung up on the concept of “fair.” Think about whether you’re getting reasonable value for the money you’re paying. Otherwise the person who gets punished will probably be you.

(To learn an FBI hostage negotiator’s tips for how to lower your bills, click here .)

So far we’ve avoided talking about the thing most lists of ways to save money talk about first: self-control. How do we boost it? Okay, let’s discuss epic poems and time travel…


5) Try A “Ulysses Contract”

In Homer’s “The Odyssey”, Ulysses tied himself to the mast of his ship to resist the Sirens’ song. (I just use the “block number” feature on my iPhone, but whatever.)

When you’re thinking about the future you’re pretty rational. But when you’re in the moment, face it: you can be an impulsive moron. So do something now that constrains your behavior later.

Metaphorically, tie yourself to the mast of your ship with a Ulysses Contract. (Or “Odyssesus Contract” if you prefer the Greek. Hey, I’m open-minded.)

From Dollars and Sense: How We Misthink Money and How to Spend Smarter :

A Ulysses contract is any arrangement by which we create barriers against future temptation. We give ourselves no choice; we eliminate free will.

You probably already use a financial Ulysses Contract and don’t even realize it —  you call it a 401(k). You made the decision in advance to save for retirement and now your hands are tied.

So go into your online banking account and set up a recurring automatic transfer for every time you get a paycheck. When your salary gets deposited, X amount is immediately shuttled into savings. Research shows this will help you save — a lot.

From Dollars and Sense: How We Misthink Money and How to Spend Smarter :

A study by Nava Ashraf, Dean Karlan, and Wesley Yin found that one group of participants who had their bank accounts restricted—that is, they chose to have money automatically deposited in a savings account—increased their savings by 81 percent within a year.

And Ulysses Contracts aren’t just good for finances; they work for almost any future temptation. Hand your keys to a friend before you go drinking. Have a pal change your passwords on social media accounts when you absolutely need to focus.

(To learn the six rituals from ancient wisdom that will make you happy, click here .)

What’s another irrationality that screws up many financial decisions, from salary negotiation to buying socks?


6) Drop Anchor

“Anchoring” is a potentially devastating cognitive bias where the first number mentioned in a given scenario unconsciously influences your future choices.

Well-designed menus often have a very high-priced item at the top. It doesn’t make you more likely to buy the filet mignon but it does insidiously make everything else look like a bargain.

Few people pay the manufacturer suggested retail price for a car. But that number is always big and visible when you look at the specs. Whether you realize it or not, it’s affecting the offer you end up making.

So how do you resist an anchor? By having a different anchor in advance. Do your research and know what most people end up paying for that car and the MSRP will have less influence.

From Dollars and Sense: How We Misthink Money and How to Spend Smarter :

This finding—that anchoring has a weaker effect when we have some rough idea of value versus when we have no idea—is important to keep in mind. When we start with an established value and price range in our minds, it’s harder for outsiders to use anchors to influence our valuations.

The most ironic version of anchoring is when we do it to ourselves — when your previous bad decisions influence your future choices.

You have consistently overpaid for lattes and oil changes in the past so you mindlessly keep doing it. Stupidity as default.

Look at your regular purchases and ask if they really make sense and whether there are cheaper alternatives. Personally, I have not updated my phone plan in two decades and am still paying $9 a minute for calls.

(To learn the 4 rituals from neuroscience that will make you happy, click here .)

Okay, we’re no longer money morons. Let’s round everything up and find out what happens when we all get rich…


Sum Up

Here’s the easy way to save money:

  • “On Sale” signs are the devil: “Relative comparisons” mess with your head. Focus on the end price, not how good a “deal” it is.
  • It’s not a “bonus.” Money is money: How you got the cash should not affect how you spend it. Saying that “bonus” money doesn’t count feels good but being broke feels very very bad.
  • Use cash more often: Make spending painful and you’ll spend less. (Using cash is simpler than having a friend punch you in the face whenever you whip out your credit card.)
  • “Fair” is a four-letter word: Focus on value. The plight of moral justice in the economic universe can wait until after the electrician gets your lights back on.
  • Try a “Ulysses Contract”: Send me the deed to your house. If you don’t have more money in your savings account two months from now, I keep the deed. See? Saving is easy.
  • Drop Anchor: The only way to not be influenced by prices is to influence yourself ahead of time with other prices.

You’re going to be rich one day, right? I’ll roll with that. You’re a future zillionaire. Cool.

So then you won’t need to worry about these silly psychology quirks that affect your spending, right?


From Dollars and Sense: How We Misthink Money and How to Spend Smarter :

About 16 percent of NFL players file for bankruptcy within twelve years of retirement, despite average career earnings of about $3.2 million. Some studies say the number of NFL players “under financial stress” is much higher—as high as 78 percent—within a few years of retirement. Similarly, about 60 percent of NBA basketball players are in financial trouble within five years of leaving the game. There are similar stories about lottery winners losing it all. Despite their big paydays, about 70 percent of lottery winners go broke within three years.

The more you earn, the bigger your mistakes will be. So review the common problems your grey matter has with money and learn to make smarter choices. This way you can keep your millions.

Money isn’t the most important thing in life. But when you don’t have to worry about moolah, it’s far easier to focus on what does matter most.

Join over 320,000 readers. Get a free weekly update via email here .

Related posts:

New Neuroscience Reveals 4 Rituals That Will Make You Happy

New Harvard Research Reveals A Fun Way To Be More Successful

How To Get People To Like You: 7 Ways From An FBI Behavior Expert

The post This Is The Easy Way To Save Money: 6 Powerful Secrets From Research appeared first on Barking Up The Wrong Tree .

This Is How To Quit Bad Habits Without Willpower: 3 Secrets From Neuroscience

quit bad habits


Before we commence with the festivities, I wanted to thank everyone for helping my first book become a Wall Street Journal bestseller. To check it out, click here .


Got any serious bad habits? The extra-strength ones with the FDA warning. The kind you really beat yourself up about — but still engage in all the time?

Procrastination that screws up the quality of your work? Epic tidal waves of laziness? Or cardiac-threatening levels of overwork? Snapping at the ones you love? Or not speaking up even when you know you should?

We’re going to turn everything you know about bad habits on its head. For starters, here’s the good news: you’re not lazy, you’re not a screw up, and you’re not a bad person. In fact, you don’t actually have “bad habits” at all. Those tempting or nagging voices in your head aren’t evil. Actually, they’re trying to help you.

Yeah, I know: I have a lot of ‘splaining to do. But before it all makes sense, we’ll need to wade into a bit more crazy. Pixar films, neuroscience, multiple personalities, mindfulness, “Fight Club”, and boatloads of you talking to yourself like you’re nuts…

Yes, weird, but totally legit. In fact, there’s a whole system of psychology based around this: Internal Family Systems  (IFS.) It’s been shown to help people with everything under the sun from depression, to anxiety, eating disorders, addictions, and even some of the most serious stuff like PTSD.

From Internal Family Systems Skills Training Manual :

In the IFS Complex Trauma Study, only one subject out of 13 still qualified for a diagnosis of PTSD after finishing 16 weeks of IFS therapy.

This is a system that can help you overcome almost any bad behavior, deal with deep-seated issues and even help you love yourself a bit more.

We’re going deep here. Warning: we’re entering “the therapy zone.” It’s gonna get touchy-feely and a little awkward. I’m often skeptical of this kinda stuff myself. But when something works, it works.

Alright, hold my inner child’s hand and we’ll do this together. Let’s get to it…


You’re Not Lazy, Weak, Or Awful

I posted recently about “the modular mind .” Basically, this is the theory that there is no singular “you.” There are many different selves inside you that take turns running the ship and that’s why human behavior (including yours and mine) can be so random and frustrating. When you say, “I wasn’t myself” that’s far more accurate than you ever thought.

(I’m not going to rehash the entire theory because regular readers would rise up and slay me for repeating myself. If you want the full scoop, click here .)

There are many different yous in your head. William James was saying it back in the 19th century, and now every major division of psychology is on board with this idea, including neuroscience.

From The Body Keeps the Score :

Michael Gazzaniga, who conducted pioneering split-brain research, concluded that the mind is composed of semiautonomous functioning modules, each of which has a special role. In his book The Social Brain (1985) he writes, “But what of the idea that the self is not a unified being, and there may exist within us several realms of consciousness? . . . From our [split-brain] studies the new idea emerges that there are literally several selves, and they do not necessarily ‘converse’ with each other internally.” MIT scientist Marvin Minsky, a pioneer of artificial intelligence, declared: “The legend of the single Self can only divert us from the target of that inquiry. . . . [I]t can make sense to think there exists, inside your brain, a society of different minds. Like members of a family, the different minds can work together to help each other, each still having its own mental experiences that the others never know about.”

I know what some of you are thinking:

quit bad habits

And, yes, Inside Out  *is* based on this research. (In fact, Dr. Frank Anderson  acted as a consultant to Pixar during the making of the film and wrote one of the books I read to prepare for this post.)

So how does this relate to bad habits? You don’t have “bad habits” — you have different selves with different goals in your head, all trying to do what they think is best for the greater “you.”

The problem is they’re not always right about what’s best and the goals of Self 1 may conflict with the goals of Self 2. (Paging Tyler Durden. Tyler Durden please come to the front desk.)

IFS therapists refer to the different “yous” as “parts.”

From Self-Therapy :

Parts are entities of their own, with their own feelings, beliefs, motivations, and memories. It is especially important to understand that parts have motivations for everything they do. Nothing is just done out of habit. Nothing is just a pattern of thinking or behavior you learned. Everything (except for purely physiological reactions) is done by a part for a reason, even though that reason may be unconscious.

Through this lens, I see bad habits as an “autoimmune disorder of the mind.” And with that, crazy as it may sound, things actually start to make a lot more sense.

How can you procrastinate and feel guilty about it at the same time? Two different “yous” disagreeing. Part of you is afraid of being a loser and wants to accomplish things — but another part of you is afraid of being all stressed out and wants to watch Netflix and eat popcorn. Neither is “lazy.”

(It might also explain how a blogger’s ex can have both fear of abandonment and fear of intimacy, but that’s a story for another day, Bubba.)

You need to understand what other-you is trying to accomplish and find a better way to address the underlying need so you can both get on the same page.

(To learn more about the science of a successful life, check out my new book here .)

So who are these other selves? When it comes to problematic behaviors, there are three flavors we need to be concerned with…


Exiles, Managers and Firefighters

We all have fears. And we try to cope with those fears. And by “we” I mean the “we” in your head. Allow me to introduce the cast of characters that are causing the “problems”:


This is the annoyingly dramatic name that therapists give to the seat of your deep, dark fears and long-held negative beliefs. “I’m stupid.” “I’m a failure.” “I’m unlovable.” “I can’t trust anyone.”

Yup, this is the “inner child.” (It might be the first time you’ve heard the term in a non-mocking context. I mean, I’m going to mock it plenty because it’s a corny term, but this is its more proper usage.)

Bad stuff happens to us and we take away painful lessons that we don’t let go. And these fears often unconsciously guide our actions in frustrating ways.


So how do you still manage to function with those fears? Well, the inner child has an overprotective parent.  These are “Managers.” That nagging voice in your head. It says you’re not working hard enough. That you’re weak. That you need to do more. That the world is going to end if you don’t make everyone happy and live up to expectations.

It thinks if you gave in to the fears of the inner child you’d be paralyzed, so it harasses you endlessly and occasionally steers “you” to behave in ways that aren’t aligned with your goals.

From Internal Family Systems Skills Training Manual :

We call proactive parts “managers” because they try to manage our lives in ways that keep emotional pain out of consciousness. They often focus on motivating us to improve, work hard, be productive and be socially acceptable. At the extreme, however, these aims can devolve into tactics like perfectionism, intellectualizing, one-sided caretaking, obsessing about appearance, conflict avoidance at great personal cost and trying to control or please others.

At times, this is useful. You do need to go to work when you don’t feel like it, or you’ll lose your job and be miserable. Then again, Managers may also nag you to keep working until you pass out — also making you miserable.

Managers still see you as an irresponsible child and feel you wouldn’t wear clean underwear if they didn’t remind you 50 times a day.


Sometimes the Manager doesn’t do its job well. Or you just don’t listen. And the Exile’s fears get all wound up. Maybe the Exile is terrified of losing its independence — always being told what to do and feeling disrespected.

To prevent the Exile from totally freaking out, the “independence” Firefighter goes extreme to immediately solve the problem. “DON’T TELL ME WHAT TO DO!” And you procrastinate by eating ice cream and playing video games. (The independence Firefighter is, unsurprisingly, perpetually 15 years old.)

From Internal Family Systems Skills Training Manual :

(Firefighters) share the same goal as managers; they want to exile vulnerable parts and extinguish emotional pain. However, (firefighters) are emergency response workers. They get activated after the fact, when the memories and emotions of exiles break through despite the repressive efforts of managers. (Firefighters) tend to be fierce and use extreme measures that managers abhor, like alcohol and drug abuse, binge eating, excessive shopping, promiscuity, cutting, suicide and even homicide.

You’ve got fears, whether they’re remaining independent, or not being liked, or not feeling like a failure. The Managers try to solve them in one way. And when things really go south, the Firefighters try to solve them in the most immediate, extreme way possible. They’re all trying their best — but they’re not always effective.

So this dysfunctional family is fighting in your head and your behavior looks like a chaotic mess because you’re not even conscious of the conflicting goals everyone has.

You can’t “banish” any of these three so we gotta get them on the same page. That means keeping the Firefighters calm, getting the Managers to trust you, and figuring out what the Exile really needs to feel secure.

(To learn the seven-step morning ritual that will make you happy all day, click here .)

Alright, Dr. Jekyll, get everyone in the car. We’re going to therapy…


1) Get Calm

Sit down somewhere quiet. Take a few deep breaths. Relax. You want to be chill, centered and accepting.

Why? Because you want to make sure you’re you. Getting emotional is what signals the Manager to start nagging or — even worse– the Firefighters to start whacking at the front door with axes.

Now think about the primary “bad habit” or issue you’re dealing with. Picture the “Manager” behind it:

  • Is it an overprotective parent that pushes you to work too hard?
  • Or a slacker that’s always tempting you to procrastinate?
  • A nagging perfectionist voice that says you’re never smart enough or beautiful enough?
  • Or a critical voice that tells you not to trust people?

(To learn the 3 secrets from neuroscience that will make you emotionally intelligent, click here .)

Take a second and imagine that voice as a real, full-blown person. Because you’re about to have a conversation with them.

Look, I told you this was going to get weird…


2) Talk To Them… Um, I Mean, You

Yes, you’re going to talk to yourself like you have multiple personalities. Because, well, you do. It’s not quite as odd as you think, really.

Research shows talking to yourself can make you smarter , improve your memory , help you focus and even increase athletic performance . And talking to yourself in the second person (saying “you” instead of “I”) makes a difference :

Altogether, the current research showed that second-person self-talk strengthens both actual behavior performance and prospective behavioral intentions more than first-person self-talk.

Beyond that, we’re talking about “bad” behavior here. You need to get your ego out of the way. It’s a lot easier to honestly answer questions about bad habits you aren’t proud of when you can ask “someone else” why “they” do that instead of why “I” do that.

So play along. Stay relaxed. Don’t try and get this voice that’s been bothering you to go away. We want to hear what they have to say. Be curious and compassionate, not all judgy. Remember: they’re just trying to help (in their annoying, ineffective way.)

Ask them questions. A few good ones are:

  • What’s your role in my life?
  • What are you trying to protect me from?

And the big money question:

  • What are you afraid would happen if you didn’t do this job anymore?

How would that Manager respond? Really inhabit the role. It’s not that hard — you’ve probably been hearing this voice in your head for years. A “Procrastinating Manager” might reply with something like this:

My role in your life? I have to make sure you relax and don’t get all stressed out about work. I’m trying to protect you from treating every project at the office like a life or death scenario. If I didn’t do my job you’d be a basket case. So I encourage you to have some fun on the internet and play with your phone to relax. And, frankly, you treat me like some slacker when all I want is to make sure your head doesn’t explode from stress.

Accept and acknowledge what they say to you. Don’t get in an argument with yourself (although, from my perspective, that would be really funny.)

If you feel like you understand one another, next you want to ask for permission to talk to the Exile. Yeah, this is odd. Like some sort of therapy séance. But it works. That Manager’s voice has been chattering at you for years. It’s a person. If you don’t give it some respect, you’ll just get more stress.

(To learn the 4 rituals from neuroscience that will make you happy, click here .)

Did you get permission? Okay, here’s where it gets really interesting. And weird. But interesting…


3) Talk To The Exile

Meet your inner child. Aren’t they adorable? They look like you but smaller and probably scared out of their wits — which is why you’re here.

You know what the Manager is doing to achieve its goals, whether that’s making you work too hard, not work enough, or occasionally screaming at the people who love you most. So now we’re getting to the meat.

Ask the kid what they’re afraid of. Inhabit the role. What fear is so powerful that this kid actually has employees running around to protect him?

Be gentle. If the kid (and, again, that’s you) gets worked up, you may have those Firefighters smashing your windows as you go all emo and need to spend the evening on the couch eating ice cream and watching reruns of your favorite tv show. So stay calm. Be gentle. And listen:

I’m afraid of failing. Doing the work makes me think about it not turning out well. And then I’ll be a loser and no one will like me.

So you know what the kid’s afraid of. And why the Manager does what it does to protect them. And so rather than a failure of willpower, you know why — deep down — you’re engaging in those “bad habits.”

The kid’s fears might be totally extreme or unfounded. But they’re your fears. And you’re acting on them. So, in that sense, they’re real and need to be taken seriously. Don’t dismiss anything.

You want to start addressing these underlying concerns that your inner rugrat has. Fix those and the bad habits take care of themselves. Assure the kid and the Manager that you’re going to work on this. You’ll make a plan. That you’ll be accountable. Maybe even involve a friend.

Sound ridiculous? What’s ridiculous is endlessly trying different ineffective ways to stop procrastinating when you could be addressing the underlying issue. If you get rid of the fear, the Manager (let alone the Firefighters) don’t need to do their jobs anymore and they go away. (Or maybe your mental HR department reassigns them to another role like making you unable to get a song out of your head. Who knows.)

Of course, if you’re dealing with extremely serious issues you want to do all this with a therapist, not off a blog post written by some random guy on the internet. I hope that’s obvious but I have an internal Manager with a law degree who insisted I type it because my own inner child’s deep-seated fear is getting sued.

You don’t need willpower or more self-control or discipline. You need to get to know yourself a little better. So ask. And listen. And you’ll be amazed what you’ll tell yourself.

(To learn the six rituals from ancient wisdom that will make you happy, click here .)

Okay, your time in therapy is up. Let’s do a quick review and find out the best part about talking to Managers, inner children and the rest of the circus in your noggin…


Sum Up

Here’s how to quit bad habits without willpower:

  • There are no bad habits, just different selves with conflicting goals: You can read this post for more, or you can go watch Inside Out . (One of these is a far more effective option. The other was written by me.)
  • Exiles, Managers and Firefighters: The three big categories of voices in your head. Exiles have deep-seated fears, Managers make sure those don’t get triggered, and when they do get triggered, Firefighters put out the fire (and destroy your house in the process.)
  • Stay calm and talk to the Manager: Find out why they do what they do by asking… well, you.
  • Talk to your inner child: I’m cringing that I typed that. But, corny as it sounds, it really does help. Discover your fears. That’s what’s driving your “bad behavior.”

This won’t be quick. It won’t be easy. I have oversimplified the process because some people are already whining that this post is too long. (Whatever. They only read the “Sum Up” anyway.)

You probably have multiple Exiles, and a bunch of Managers and a squadron of Firefighters — complete with their own adorable Dalmatian. (You don’t need to have a conversation with the Dalmatian, but if you’re feeling really creative you may mentally pet him.)

Understand what’s really driving your behavior and you can really fix your life. Find out what your fears are. Get to the root of the issue and you won’t need 37 new ineffective lifehacks every week. (Did I just put myself out of a job? Crap.)

You hear a lot about “knowing yourself,” “loving yourself” and “being your own best friend.” Those sayings are warm and fuzzy. They’re also vague platitudes that you have no idea how to actually get started on. Well, we just changed that.

There are multiple yous. You can get to know them by talking to them, as awkward as the process may be. And instead of rejecting nagging or tempting voices, you can befriend them, because as misguided as their actions are sometimes, they really do want the best for you.

From Self-Therapy :

Loving yourself really means loving each of your parts. Befriending yourself means developing a relationship with each of your parts and having them trust you.

Get to know yourself so you can love yourself. All your selves.

Join over 320,000 readers. Get a free weekly update via email here .

Related posts:

New Neuroscience Reveals 4 Rituals That Will Make You Happy

New Harvard Research Reveals A Fun Way To Be More Successful

How To Get People To Like You: 7 Ways From An FBI Behavior Expert

The post This Is How To Quit Bad Habits Without Willpower: 3 Secrets From Neuroscience appeared first on Barking Up The Wrong Tree .

This Is How To Make Emotionally Intelligent Friendships: 6 Secrets



Before we commence with the festivities, I wanted to thank everyone for helping my first book become a Wall Street Journal bestseller. To check it out, click here .


We all want good, close friends. Problem is, while high school sure had gym class, it didn’t have “Emotional Intelligence 101.”

So what part of emotional intelligence is critical for friendships? Emotional intimacy.

From Breaking the Male Code: Unlocking the Power of Friendship :

Sociologist Ray Pahl states that friendships today are based primarily on trust and emotional intimacy.

So what is emotional intimacy?

From Breaking the Male Code: Unlocking the Power of Friendship :

Emotional intimacy is the experience of being deeply connected to another person who knows and understands your most important feelings and who shares his or her own with you.

Yeah, that sounds nice but it’s still at Hallmark Card levels of pleasant vagueness. So we can probably recognize the concept better by looking at its opposite.

From Breaking the Male Code: Unlocking the Power of Friendship :

If there were a label for this problem in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, it might read something like “Emotional Intimacy Deficiency—a problem characterized by a sense of shallowness in one’s relationships with others, associated with a failure to recognize or express feelings, to reveal personal details about oneself, to be vulnerable or let anyone help you, to comfortably share attention or let go of control, and to listen without having to solve a problem.”

This won’t shock you at all, but research shows men are far worse at this than women. Both sexes can certainly struggle, but this is a department where men really lag behind.

And that causes a lot of problems for men. Serious problems. Not just unfulfilling relationships — it’s more akin to a chronic emotional illness that affects every area of life.

From Breaking the Male Code: Unlocking the Power of Friendship :

(Men who lack emotional intimacy) take longer to recover from minor illnesses, have lower resistance levels, and have reduced survival times when diagnosed with terminal illness. They are 50 percent more likely to have a first-time heart attack, and twice as likely to die from it, than men with strong social ties. When depressed, these men have significantly lower rates of recovery than those who have close relationships… Wives who cite their husband’s “emotional unavailability” as the primary cause of divorce initiate two out of every three divorces today. At the far end of the life cycle, older men without close relationships have 20 percent lower ten-year survival rates compared with those who do.

That said, women’s friendships aren’t perfect either. We’re going to dive into the research and see the most common ways both sexes struggle with friendship, what they can do about it, and how they can learn from each other to improve.

So how do you increase emotional intimacy and build emotionally intelligent friendships? It comes down to six steps. Let’s get to it…


1) “Know Thyself”

The thing everybody skips. Knowing yourself means you know what you want and need, and this is critical for both picking new friends and strengthening existing relationships.

How many friends would you optimally have? What level of closeness do you need? How frequently do you want to communicate? You want to ask yourself, “What features of a friendship will be most fulfilling to me in the long run?”

Research shows this is critical for women. We live in a world largely run by men, so women know they need close friendships to provide the things their often male-dominated-environments don’t give them.

From Buddy System :

By forming relationships with a group of women, women escape having their relationships defined by men’s way of interacting. By defining relationships for themselves, women are able to construct them in a way that is more consistent with their own beliefs.

So take some time to think about what you want and need. (No, that 2 seconds between sentences doesn’t count. Really sit down and take a half hour and think. And write stuff down.)

If you just rely on serendipity to bring you friendships and to move them forward, well, that’s what got you where you are now. Time to be a little more deliberate.

(To learn more about the science of a successful life, check out my new book here .)

So before we go to work on developing emotional intimacy, let’s find out what’s been getting in the way of it. In the modern world, what’s the biggest obstacle to adult friendships?


2) Make The Time

Actually, you can’t “make time.” We all have 24 hours in a day. The more accurate thing to say is “make time with your friends a priority.” What friendships need to grow intimate and strong is hours.

What are the most common friendship fights about? Time commitments.

Via Friendfluence: The Surprising Ways Friends Make Us Who We Are :

Daniel Hruschka reviewed studies on the causes of conflict in friendship and found that the most common friendship fights boil down to time commitments. Spending time with someone is a sure indicator that you value him; no one likes to feel undervalued.

And the research shows this is where men make a big mistake. Whether it’s due to the longer hours men spend working or simply not making friendship the priority that women do, guys often don’t put in the time.

From Buddy System :

From the responses, it appears women were less apt to say they did not have time for friends. Although the majority (60%) of men say they have enough friends, 40% do not have enough or are unsure, a greater number than the women. It may be that some men are pulled by work and cannot find the time to balance friends, work, and family.

Unsurprisingly, in adulthood the biggest thing that takes away friend-time is family-time. And while no blogger in his right mind would ever type, “You should spend less time with your family,” he might be able to get away with saying something like the far more acceptable, “Balance is critical.”

Research has shown that in the modern era we have become far too reliant on spouses to provide all of our emotional needs — and that simply doesn’t work. So what’s a feasible solution?

Including friends in family time is not only a way to kill two birds with one stone, it also improves both relationships.

Via Friendfluence: The Surprising Ways Friends Make Us Who We Are :

Most intriguing was how couples rated their own relationships more positively after interacting with other pairs. Married partners fall into routine interactions and often fail to make the effort to entertain and please as they did when they were winning each other over. Putting your best self forward for new friends allows you to shine and to see your partner through new eyes as she shines, too. Maintaining older mutual friendships also strengthens the bond between long-term partners: Having people around who think of the two of you as a unit, who admire your relationship, and who expect you to stay together can sustain you through times of doubt or distance.

So you want to make friendships a priority and give them the time they need to become emotionally intimate. And if you’re lacking hours, invite friends to join you for family time.

(To learn how to make friends easily, click here .)

Okay, so you know what you want and you’re making pals a priority. But which of your friends do you need to focus on building emotional intimacy with?


3) Must, Trust, Rust, And Just

Looking at the research , the types of friends that men and women have fall into the same four categories: must, trust, rust and just.

  • “Must” friends: The inner circle. The closest of the close.
  • “Trust” friends: Not inner circle, but people you trust, share confidences with and know are there for you.
  • “Rust” friends: They’re pals simply because you’ve known them a long time. (If it had more than that, they’d be “must” or “trust.”)
  • “Just” friends: Closer than acquaintances and you may see them regularly with a group, but you’re not tight with them and don’t have a big shared history.

What’s critical here when it comes to emotional intimacy is those “must” friends. And “trust” friends are important because they can, with work, be promoted to “must” friends.

First and foremost, you want to work on strengthening those “must” friendships and devoting more time to them. And you want to evaluate which of your “trust” friends meet with your “know thyself” criteria and might be worthy of elevation. “Rust” and “just” friends are good for rounding out your social circle but should receive less attention and investment.

(To learn more about the types of friends everyone needs, click here .)

What’s the first step in strengthening those “must” and “trust” friends — or finding totally new ones?


4) Be Proactive

You’re going to need to do some legwork. You need to be proactive and initiate contact.

And you need to make concrete plans. I live in Los Angeles and in this city saying, “We should get together sometime” is pretty much synonymous with, “I have no intention of ever seeing you again.”

Specify places and times or your friendships will be determined by serendipity, which is the euphemism lazy people use for “dumb luck.”

The optimistic angle here is that if you’re being passive you can pretty much be certain other people are being passive too. So if you lead, some will follow. Organize a group, throw a party, or just invite a friend to coffee.

And what should you look for when meeting new folks who might become future “must” or “trust” friends? All the research agrees: similarity is key. Not only does it draw us to people, it also makes friendships more likely to last.

From Buddy System :

Similarities also occur when tastes and interests match up, and similarities make friendships easier to maintain. And, unless you are interested in hanging out with people who make you feel bad about yourself (not a good interest to have), finding someone who conveys that you are likeable to them will be very reinforcing to your self-esteem.

Beyond similarity, you should also look for people you want to learn something from . Since you took the time to sit down and “know thyself,” think about the person you want to be. Your best self.

Who do you want to rub off on you? To make you a better spouse, parent, worker or human being?

(To learn more about how to make friends as an adult, click here .)

Okay, you know what you want, you’re making time, and you’re proactive. So what’s the real key to developing emotional intimacy with your friends?


5) Communication

Yeah, you hear “communicating is vital” constantly from experts but few ever break it down so you know how to actually do it. (These experts must not be good communicators.)

You want to focus on four primary elements: creating safety, vulnerability, emotional expressiveness, and active listening.

  • Creating safety: Is my friend going to feel comfortable opening up to me? Am I being too judgmental? Or, at the opposite extreme, too nosy and pushy?
  • Vulnerability: Are you sharing personal thoughts and feelings with them? Reciprocity is powerful and this is vital to helping both of you. Quick litmus test: are you scared to talk about the subject? Then you’re being vulnerable.
  • Emotional expressiveness: Don’t just talk thoughts. Talk feelings. Yours and theirs. (Guys, if you’re recoiling at this, you’re proving the point that you need to work on it.)
  • Active listening: Good listeners don’t just hear; they make the other person feel heard. Nod, acknowledge, and summarize what your friend said for confirmation. As former FBI hostage negotiator Chris Voss advises, if they respond “Exactly” — you’re doing it right.

Women are much better at this than men. They spend more time communicating and focus more on emotional support.

From Buddy System :

When asked the question concerning what they did with their friends, giving emotional support also was more common for women than for men.

Much of male communication is teasing the other guy (which, taken too far, is the opposite of safety.) Men feel being vulnerable is the worst thing they can do (and to be fair, the cultural ideal of the “strong, silent type” and phrases like “man up” aren’t helping any.) Males are taught not to be expressive. And guys tend to focus on problem-solving instead of listening during conversations.

From Breaking the Male Code: Unlocking the Power of Friendship :

We have found in our Friendship Labs that men are often willing to trade zingers and even enjoy mutual sparring, but only in limited doses. And while most will put up with it, they definitely will not open up when it’s coming at them.

That said, women face challenges here too. Because they are taught to put others at ease and say supportive things, the issue of trust can become a problem: “Does she really mean what she’s saying, or is she just being nice?”

From Buddy System :

Sociologist Lillian Rubin cites one woman as saying that, because women are so expressive and afraid of hurting someone’s feelings, compliments are never assumed to be true. “‘How can I believe she means I look good when she says it automatically, every time I see her?’”

The solution for both sexes is, you guessed it, more and deeper communication. Doing the things necessary to make the other person feel safe — and then vulnerably discussing tough subjects gently and respectfully.

(To learn more about how to handle the most difficult of conversations, click here .)

So you have the tools to build emotional intimacy. But once you have it, how do you keep a solid friendship alive?


6) Upkeep

Friendships require upkeep, like a plant. Yes, some friends are succulents that require little watering but you’re probably forgetting all the ones that turned brown and ended up in the trash.

You need to stay in regular contact. Research shows for solid friendships, every 2 weeks is the minimum. In general, women are much better at this than men.

From Buddy System :

Women maintain friendships largely through communication and staying in frequent contact… In contrast, only 10% of the men maintained friendships through frequent contact…

But ladies face problems as well. Due to the amount of communication and openness, women are more likely to damage their friendships than men. Survey results show women were more likely to say they lost a friend because of something they said or did (65% vs 50% for men.)

That said, women are more likely to make efforts to repair damaged friendships, while men are more likely to let the relationship dissolve.

So women might want to put more effort in to not getting offended. And given how difficult it can be for men to make “must” friends, they should learn from the ladies and make more attempts to fix a troubled friendship rather than just moving on.

(To learn how neuroscience can teach you to be more emotionally intelligent, click here .)

Alright, we’ve learned a lot. Time to round it all up and see how all this leads to a more meaningful life…


Sum Up

This is how to make emotionally intelligent friendships:

  • Know thyself: To get the friendships you want, you have to know what you want.
  • Make time: More accurately, make it a priority. We all waste time. So, uh, just don’t waste time alone.
  • Must, Trust, Rust, Just: The first two are key. Strengthen the “must” and try to elevate the “trust.”
  • Be proactive: In case you need confirmation, waiting for the phone to ring does not, in fact, make the phone ring.
  • Communication: Create safety, be vulnerable, be emotionally expressive and use active listening. And a sincere compliment never hurt either, beautiful.
  • Upkeep: You’re not too busy to send a text message every two weeks. If you think you’ll forget, put it in your calendar.

Research shows your friends often know you better than you know yourself. So not only does being closer to friends make your life better, it’s also the path to getting to know yourself better.

So do what it takes to improve your relationships with friends and you’ll also improve the one relationship that’s key to happiness in life…

The one you have with yourself.

Join over 320,000 readers. Get a free weekly update via email here .

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The post This Is How To Make Emotionally Intelligent Friendships: 6 Secrets appeared first on Barking Up The Wrong Tree .

Stoicism Reveals 4 Rituals That Will Make You Confident



Before we commence with the festivities, I wanted to thank everyone for helping my first book become a Wall Street Journal bestseller. To check it out, click here .


Ever feel like you’re not good enough? Something bad happens and your brain plays a YouTube highlight reel of every mistake you’ve ever made. Your confidence crashes and your self-esteem flatlines.

You’re not alone. People have been feeling like this as long as there have been people. It’s an old problem and there are old solutions — old solutions that work pretty darn well, as a matter of fact.

I’ve talked about how psychologists steam-cleaned and science-tized ancient Buddhism into modern mindfulness . Well, some very smart people have also dusted off Stoicism and weaponized it into Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) — which is the most empirically supported treatment for the majority of psychological conditions.

Mindfulness is the gentle cousin that steps back, examines thoughts, and lets the problematic ones float away. But it’s not for everybody…

CBT, on the other hand, is the aggressive cousin that asks negative thoughts if they’d like to step outside and settle this in the alley behind the bar. Having honed Stoic principles into a martial art called “rationality”, CBT righteously whoops some tuchus on the ideas that bring you down.

So when you’re feeling not-so-large-and-in-charge and need a boost, how do you use the modern version of ancient Stoicism to manufacture more mojo?

Let’s get to it…


CBT = “Scientific Stoicism”

There’s a lot to Stoicism (if you want the full whack, go here ) but for our purposes we’re gonna Zeno in — whoops, I mean “zero in” — on one key concept:

Your feelings come from your thoughts.

The boulder falling on your Honda didn’t make you sad. And the moron who called you a moron didn’t make you angry. Your thoughts, judgments and beliefs about what happened are what creates your emotional reactions.

From The Daily Stoic :

“It isn’t events themselves that disturb people, but only their judgments about them.” – Epictetus

And it’s that idea that forms the core of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy.

From The CBT Toolbox: A Workbook for Clients and Clinicians :

CBT (Beck, 2011) is based on the principle that thoughts influence feelings, feelings influence actions, and actions influence our results, or life circumstances. In other words, situations don’t make us feel certain ways. People don’t make us feel certain ways. It’s how we interpret (or think about) situations or things people say or do that influences how we feel.

Some people are probably rejecting this idea out of hand: Thoughts are responsible? No way. I didn’t even have time to think. He called me a moron and that’s what made me feel angry.

Sorry, no. If I pull a gun-like object out of my jacket and you believe it’s a water pistol, you don’t get scared. If I pull a gun-like object out of my jacket and you believe it’s really a weapon, you’re petrified. Very different emotional reaction. But what changed? Nothing but your beliefs.

Maybe you hated that Honda and would prefer to have the insurance money. Maybe you know that moron is a moron and his opinion means nothing to you. Beliefs determine how you feel and react.

The Stoics realized that we need to question irrational or unhelpful beliefs so we can see the world and ourselves more clearly and live a better life.

From The Daily Stoic :

“Today I escaped from the crush of circumstances, or better put, I threw them out, for the crush wasn’t from outside me but in my own assumptions.” – Marcus Aurelius

But getting rid of the irrational, negative thoughts doesn’t mean you should just try to fill your head with positive affirmations. That’s replacing one inaccurate thought with another because being overly positive can be delusional. We want rational thoughts.

(To learn more about the science of a successful life, check out my new book here .)

Okay, out with the unhelpful, irrational thoughts and in with the useful, rational thoughts… but how do we do that?


1) Identify And Challenge Distorted Thoughts

When you’re feeling unconfident or your self-esteem plummets, that voice in your head, what is it saying? Because we want to get under the feeling to the belief that’s causing it. So answer this question:

“I felt unconfident because I thought…”

You probably have a few “go to” thoughts like, “I’m an idiot” or “I’m a complete failure.” Once you’ve identified them we go to part 2: challenging the thoughts. Stoics knew this second part was critical.

From The Daily Stoic :

“First off, don’t let the force of the impression carry you away. Say to it, ‘Hold up a bit and let me see who you are and where you are from – let me put you to the test…’” – Epictetus

So what does CBT recommend you do? For every “distorted thought,” provide a “rational response”:

  • Distorted: “Because I screwed up this project, I will never amount to anything and I am a complete failure.”
  • Rational: “I’ve done great on other projects in the past, so it’s not fair to say that I am a complete failure. And it’s likely I will have successes in the future.”

Don’t let those irrational, overreaching negative thoughts slide by unquestioned. Correct them and, with time, you’ll be thinking the more rational responses instinctively.

(To learn the six rituals from ancient wisdom that will make you happy, click here .)

That’s fine for the occasional negative thought but what if you’re someone who is always feeling low self-esteem and always lacking confidence? We gotta dig deeper…


2) Test Your “Core Beliefs”

If you chronically feel down about yourself it may not be an issue of a negative thought here or there; it may be that your “core beliefs” about yourself are negative.

Ideas like “I’m unlovable” or “I’m a loser” might be at the bottom of most of the decisions you make. So that’s where you need to start.

Challenging such a fundamental idea can seem daunting. That concept has a really good lawyer in your head who is constantly presenting tons of evidence to prove his case that you’re a loser.

So it’s probably not hard at all for you to make a list of all that “proof.” Okay, do it. Yeah. Write that stuff down. Seriously. No, it’s not fun. But it’s important. I’ll wait…

Done? Ouch. Not feeling so hot now. But here’s how we fix things. The prosecution presented it’s case. But what you’ve been lacking is a “defense lawyer” on the other side.

From The Daily Stoic :

“This is the true athlete – the person in rigorous training against false impressions. Remain firm, you who suffer, don’t be kidnapped by your impressions! The struggle is great, the task divine – to gain mastery, freedom, happiness, and tranquility.” – Epictetus

With only the “I’m a loser” side having someone aggressively presenting evidence, you’ve got a bad case of negativity confirmation bias — you’re only seeing the stuff that agrees with the idea that you’re awful.

So sit down and make a second list. A list of reasons you are not a loser — why the first lawyer is wrong.

From The CBT Toolbox: A Workbook for Clients and Clinicians :

Because of how our filters (beliefs) are set up, we often notice instances that support the unhealthy beliefs more than we notice those that may support our opposite, healthy beliefs; however, that “evidence” almost always exists as well. One valuable tool involves forcing ourselves to look back over those very same periods of life purposefully looking to see the evidence that supports our healthy beliefs.

Is the no-self-esteem lawyer still winning? Probably. You’re not used to challenging that idea and you probably discount all the awesome things you do, if you notice them at all. So what’s the magic secret here? You need co-counsel.

CBT says that having a friend remind you of all the great stuff you do that makes you important and valuable can help you remember and stop you from dismissing solid evidence.

From The CBT Toolbox: A Workbook for Clients and Clinicians :

You may want to rely on family members or friends who were around during each period of life to help you “notice” such evidence. Even if they share things they see as “counting” that you don’t think “should count” write them down anyway…

Having that list of reasons you are pretty darn awesome will help you dismiss that negative core belief and replace it with something more honest, accurate and rational.

(To learn how to use CBT to never be frustrated again, click here .)

Okay, you dug deep and addressed those core beliefs. But everything is not going to change overnight. (Sorry.) How do you keep reprogramming the computer and make sure those old bugs in the code don’t pop up again?


3) Have An “Evening Confidence Ritual”

The Stoics knew you needed to take some time to reflect each day in order to keep improving.

From The Daily Stoic :

“I will keep constant watch over myself and – most usefully – will put each day up for review… Let us balance life’s books each day…” – Seneca

So you went back and countered the “I’m a loser” case with evidence from the past that you are not a loser. Well, this is a court case that never ends. Every day, take some time at night to think about what you did well. Keep accumulating evidence.

From The CBT Toolbox: A Workbook for Clients and Clinicians :

Another important tool for developing more healthy beliefs and thus becoming less reactive, is an ongoing evidence log. Whereas previous tools required you to review your life and look for “evidence” from the past, ongoing evidence logs ask you to be mindful of evidence in your everyday life.

With time, you’ll notice the positive more often. And you’ll associate it with who you are. And your self-concept will become more positive.

From The Daily Stoic :

“Your mind will take the shape of what you frequently hold in thought, for the human spirit is colored by such impressions.” – Marcus Aurelius

(To learn the seven-step morning ritual that will make you happy all day, click here .)

Alrighty, you’ve identified and challenged, you’ve dug deep, and you’re following it up with an evening confidence ritual each night… So what’s the final step toward solid Stoic self-esteem?


4) Use A “Cognitive Cue Card”

Keep monitoring that negative chatter in your noggin and don’t immediately accept it. ABC, kiddos: Always. Be. Challenging.

From The Daily Stoic :

“When you are distressed by an external thing, it’s not the thing itself that troubles you, but only your judgment of it. And you can wipe this out at a moment’s notice.” – Marcus Aurelius

So how can you make the challenging smoother so you don’t spend all day arguing with yourself back and forth like an insane person?

Have a set response to challenge the negative thoughts you’re accustomed to hearing. In fact, it’s a good idea to write it down on a card.

When you’re too tired to self-argue, and you know your brain is headed in the wrong direction, use your “cognitive cue card” to make sure your interpretations are rational and not negative.

From The CBT Toolbox: A Workbook for Clients and Clinicians :

One tool that can assist us in doing better “in the heat of the moment” is flashcards… Cognitive cue cards are designed to help us think differently in those situations. So the idea here is, in your calm moments, write down on a 3×5 note card what you believe you need to hear during the less-calm moments.

The message on your card should take the structure of: “Just because ______ doesn’t mean ______.”

Maybe you’re socially awkward and beat yourself up about it: “Just because I said something silly doesn’t mean I’m a loser. Everyone makes mistakes and I’m making fewer of them since reading that absolutely wonderful, fantastic blog post.”

Keep at it. Have that card in your pocket and be compassionate with yourself. It’s going to take time, but with practice you’ll internalize the message. Why? Because it’s rational. It makes sense.

(To learn the four Stoic secrets to being more productive, click here .)

Okay, you’ve earned your toga — and some self-esteem. Let’s confidently round everything up…


Sum Up

Here are the four rituals from Stoicism and CBT that will make you confident:

  • Identify And Challenge Distorted Thoughts: (Why did I use the word “distorted”? It’s a lousy word. And I’m a lousy person… Um, hold on a second willya? I have challenging to do…)
  • Test Your Core Beliefs: The prosecution has been assembling evidence that you’re “useless” for years. Time for the defense to present their case. And make sure to have co-counsel assist you.
  • Have An Evening Confidence Ritual: All you have to do is sit back for two minutes and think about all the great stuff you did today. Best homework ever.
  • Use A “Cognitive Cue Card”: In high school, having the answers on a card in your pocket was called cheating. In life it’s emotionally healthy and will not get you detention.

Reprogramming your grey matter with Scientific Stoicism takes time. You’ll screw up. That’s okay. Yeah, the Stoics knew that too.

From The Daily Stoic :

“Well-being is realized by small steps, but is truly no small thing.” – Zeno

Focus on “progress, not perfection.” You’ll never feel confident 100% of the time.  (That would be… kinda scary.) But I believe you can get better. I believe you can be much better.

And our beliefs create our feelings. So it’s rational to feel good.

Join over 320,000 readers. Get a free weekly update via email here .

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The post Stoicism Reveals 4 Rituals That Will Make You Confident appeared first on Barking Up The Wrong Tree .

This Is How To Use Mindfulness To Make Better Decisions



Before we commence with the festivities, I wanted to thank everyone for helping my first book become a Wall Street Journal bestseller. To check it out, click here .


A lot of the time you know what the smart thing to do is. But you’re still worried about how it might turn out. Or regrets about a past decision are making you overthink things.

Your brain is telling you all kinds of negative stories about how stuff might go wrong and you end up more focused on alleviating those concerns than making choices based on your values.

So you play it too safe. Or you get reckless and swing for the fences. Or you’re paralyzed and procrastinate. But there’s a way out of this loop. Cue the trumpets:

Mindfulness. That thing everybody these days thinks is so darn cool but nobody can tell you what it means.

Alright, quick definition for our purposes: awareness of your thoughts and feelings without being consumed by them.

(Yeah, I know, that clarifies nothing for you… yet. Well, gimme a second here. We’re just getting started, okay? Jeez.)

A lot of smart psychologists took mindfulness and science-tized it and created ACT (Acceptance and Commitment Therapy.) Let’s see how ACT can help you deal with your negative thoughts so you can make smarter decisions based on what’s really important to you.

Mindfulness to the rescue. (And, no, I’m not gonna make you meditate.)

Let’s get to it…


How To Stop Negative Thoughts Forever

You can’t. The end.

Seriously, you are so not in charge of your brain it’s not even funny. Go ahead and delete that memory of the time you embarrassed yourself in front of that cute person you liked in high school. Go ahead. Try.

Any luck? Didn’t think so. And the result of trying to suppress thoughts is even worse.

From ACT Made Simple :

…research shows that suppression of unwanted thoughts can lead to a rebound effect: an increase in both intensity and frequency of the unwanted thoughts (Wenzlaff & Wegner, 2000).

So mental whack-a-mole doesn’t work. But here’s some good news: the negative thoughts aren’t really the problem when it comes to decision-making.

Your brain makes thoughts. That’s what it does. And some of those thoughts will always be negative because your grey matter lives by the motto of “better safe than sorry.”

Thousands and thousands of years ago, Caveman #1 thought a snake was a stick, got bitten, died and didn’t reproduce. Caveman #2, who walked around petrified that every stick was a snake, had lots of kids and now we’re stuck with brains that create problems even when there aren’t any. Thanks, evolution.

But that doesn’t have to lead to poor decisions and bad behavior. Your thoughts don’t immediately control your actions. You get to decide. At times, you’ve been worried but still made the correct choice anyway, right? Right.

(To learn more about the science of a successful life, check out my new book here .)

So what is the problem here? In ACT, they call it “fusion.” No, we’re not talking about nuclear reactors…


You Are Not Your Thoughts

Your brain produces thoughts. They just bubble up all the time. Some are utterly ridiculous (“What if I filled surgical gloves with butterscotch pudding?”) and you just dismiss them.

But sometimes you take that storyteller in your head all too seriously. So seriously, in fact, that you think that negative voice in your head is you and you run with whatever it says:

  • “I’m such an idiot.”
  • “This will never work.”
  • “I’m no good at this, it’s gonna blow up in my face and be shown on national television.”

This is fusion. It’s when an idea pops into your head and you take it as fact, when it’s just another goofy possibility your noggin is bubbling up.

From ACT Made Simple :

In a state of cognitive fusion, we’re inseparable from our thoughts: we’re welded to them, bonded to them, so caught up in them that we aren’t even aware that we are thinking…. Cognitive fusion basically means that our thoughts dominate our behavior. Thus in ACT, we may talk with clients of being “pushed around by your thoughts” or “allowing thoughts to tell you what to do,” or we may talk of thoughts as bullies, or we may compare the mind to a fascist dictator, or we may ask, “What happens when you let that thought run your life?” Similarly, when our thoughts dominate our attention, we often talk about being “hooked,” “entangled,” “caught up,” or “carried off” by them.

Things don’t go your way and the grey matter pops out: “Life sucks!” And you believe it. That’s you fusing with a judgment.

There are many different ways to interpret what’s going on. But you’re identifying with this negative one and saying, “Yep. I heard it in my head. It must be true. That voice has never ever ever been wrong in my entire life so it is fact.”

When you fuse with bad memories you get regrets. When you fuse with scary visions of the future you get worried. These often end up affecting your decision making. And rarely for the better.

(To learn the seven-step morning ritual that will make you happy all day, click here .)

So how do you stop fusion? Oh, that’s “defusion”…


Defuse The Bomb

You’ve done this before and didn’t realize it. Have you ever stepped back from your negative thoughts and said, “Whoa, what’s with all this worrying in my skull?”

It’s like you pulled off the VR goggles and realized that what’s being projected on them isn’t the only way to see the world.

From ACT Made Simple :

Fusion means getting caught up in our thoughts and allowing them to dominate our behavior. Defusion means separating or distancing from our thoughts, letting them come and go instead of being caught up in them. In other words, defusion means looking at thoughts rather than from thoughts; noticing thoughts rather than being caught up in thoughts; and letting thoughts come and go rather than holding on to them.

When you experience fusion, that thought in your head is The Truth. It must be immediately reacted to. And you cling to it even if it makes you miserable.

But when you give defusion a try, a thought is just an idea. Maybe it’s true, maybe it’s not. You don’t have to obey it, you can merely consider it.

So when you’re mindful — when you choose to defuse — worries and other negative thoughts cease to be a blaring fire alarm that you must react to. Instead, they’re a smartphone notification that you can choose to ignore.

(To learn the 3 secrets from neuroscience that will make you emotionally intelligent, click here .)

Great. So how do you do it?


Ask “What is my brain telling me right now?”

Ha! I just tricked you into defusing. See how “my brain” is built into the sentence?

You’re acknowledging that the negative thoughts are not “you” — they’re your brain. You didn’t say “I’m such a loser” — your brain did. You’re creating some distance there. And you can use that distance to question the thought.

Yeah, often you’ll question the thought and come back with, “But it’s true. I am a loser. I screwed this up last time and I’ll screw it up again.”

Now you and I could go round and round with me telling you it’s not true and you saying it is true. But is it really true? Here’s the thing:

I don’t care.

And neither should you. When it comes to mindfulness, “Is it true?” is the wrong question.

The right question is: “Is it useful?”

Is telling yourself you’re a loser going to help you do the things that will make you not-a-loser? Nope.

From ACT Made Simple :

…what we’re interested in is not whether a thought is true or false, but whether it’s helpful. When that thought pops into your head, does it help you to get all caught up in it? Does it motivate you to exercise, or eat well, or spend time doing the things that make life rich and rewarding?

So defuse. Step back. Say, “I notice I’m having the thought that I’m a loser.” That gives you distance. It puts the thought on trial.

And often (but not always) that takes some of the sting out of it. You can observe it rather than immediately running with it — and making the kind of decision a real loser would make.

And then hit it with the important question: “Is it useful?”

If you run with this idea as truth, is it going to get you where you want to go? Will it help you take effective action? Is this thought going to help you be who you want to be?

Then make a decision based on what’s really relevant — not your worries, regrets or fears.

(To learn more about the neuroscience of mindfulness, click here .)

Okay, let’s round it up and learn how to quickly keep negative thoughts at a distance — and make even better decisions going forward…


Sum Up

This is how to use mindfulness to make better decisions:

  • You can’t prevent negative thoughts: Stop trying. Wrestling with them only makes them worse.
  • The real problem is “fusion”: When you treat your negative thoughts as indisputable facts and not merely ideas produced by your brain, that’s when they cause problems.
  • Ask “What is my brain telling me right now?”: Get some distance from your thoughts. Treat them as possibilities, not The Truth.
  • Ask “Is it useful?”: Doesn’t matter if they’re true. It matters if the thoughts help you get where you want to go.

Over time, you want to make note of the thoughts you regularly fuse with. (Maybe it’s “I can’t handle this” or “I’m going to embarrass myself.”)

And then gently make fun of it: Oh, so we’re playing the “I’m not good enough” song again?

It takes practice to not get swept away by your thoughts. You’re going to have to spend time at it.

Maybe you’re looking at all this mindfulness stuff right now and thinking, “I’ll never be able to do this. I’m an idiot.” No problem.

Take defusing to the meta-level. Say, “I notice I’m having the thought that I’ll never be able to do this and I’m an idiot.”

Is that useful?

Join over 320,000 readers. Get a free weekly update via email here .

Related posts:

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The post This Is How To Use Mindfulness To Make Better Decisions appeared first on Barking Up The Wrong Tree .

This Is The Fun Way To A Meaningful Life: 3 Secrets Backed By Research



Before we commence with the festivities, I wanted to thank everyone for helping my first book become a Wall Street Journal bestseller. To check it out, click here .


Sometimes we all feel anxious. Sometimes lonely or disconnected. Sometimes unhappy, and maybe even a little crazy. You know what might fix all of this?

Would you believe me if I said… a war?

From Tribe: On Homecoming and Belonging :

The positive effects of war on mental health were first noticed by the great sociologist Emile Durkheim, who found that when European countries went to war, suicide rates dropped. Psychiatric wards in Paris were strangely empty during both world wars, and that remained true even as the German army rolled into the city in 1940. Researchers documented a similar phenomenon during civil wars in Spain, Algeria, Lebanon, and Northern Ireland. An Irish psychologist named H. A. Lyons found that suicide rates in Belfast dropped 50 percent during the riots of 1969 and 1970, and homicide and other violent crimes also went down. Depression rates for both men and women declined abruptly during that period, with men experiencing the most extreme drop in the most violent districts. County Derry, on the other hand—which suffered almost no violence at all—saw male depression rates rise rather than fall.

Hold on a second before you send me that angry email. I’m not really suggesting war as a solution to any of our emotional ills. God forbid.

But, that said: what the heck is going on here? Wars are supposed to be bad, right?

Why are people feeling less depressed, less crazy, less violent and less suicidal when something we can all agree is horrible and life threatening is happening around them?

Because war and natural disasters force people to unite together. To help others. To act as a community.

From Tribe: On Homecoming and Belonging :

“When people are actively engaged in a cause their lives have more purpose… with a resulting improvement in mental health,” Lyons wrote in the Journal of Psychosomatic Research in 1979. “It would be irresponsible to suggest violence as a means of improving mental health, but the Belfast findings suggest that people will feel better psychologically if they have more involvement with their community.”

We need a community to feel good. And community is something we sorely lack in the modern world. Sadly, we often only feel it these days when forced to.

From Tribe: On Homecoming and Belonging :

Modern society has perfected the art of making people not feel necessary.

Many of us live alone. We’re often surrounded by strangers rather than family or friends. We communicate by text rather than face to face. We hire a service instead of getting the help of a buddy.

These are new developments in the existence of Homo Sapiens. And while efficient and effective, they don’t contribute to the feeling of community we all need to feel whole. So it’s no surprise that empathy  is dropping:

A recent study at the University of Michigan revealed a dramatic decline in empathy levels among young Americans between 1980 and today, with the steepest drop being in the last ten years. The shift, say researchers, is in part due to more people living alone and spending less time engaged in social and community activities that nurture empathic sensitivity.

And when you feel like you don’t belong to a group, health and self-control plummet. If that doesn’t register with you maybe that’s because when you feel disconnected, your IQ drops too:

When people’s sense of social connectedness is threatened, their ability to self-regulate suffers; for instance their IQ performance drops (Baumeister, Twenge, & Nuss, 2002). Feeling lonely predicts early death as much as major health risk behaviors like smoking (Cacioppo & Patrick, 2008).

I know what some people are thinking: But I have friends. Got a bunch of ’em, actually.

That ain’t the issue, Bubba. We’re talking about a community. A group. A band of brothers. A syndicate of sisters. Your fantasy football league. Your sewing circle. Your drug cartel.

But they’re all relationships, right? Maybe the difference isn’t clear. So what’s the difference?

Well, I’m so glad you asked…


It’s All About Danish Churches

Research shows Denmark is home to the happiest people in the world. (Hamlet was, apparently, an exception.) And pretty much everywhere, religious people are happier than the nonreligious.

Both are due to being in a community. 92% of Danes are part of some kind of group :

The sociologist Ruut Veenhoven and his team have collected happiness data from ninety-one countries, representing two-thirds of the world’s population. He has concluded that Denmark is home to the happiest people in the world, with Switzerland close behind… Interestingly enough, one of the more detailed points of the research found that 92 percent of the people in Denmark are members of some sort of group, ranging from sports to cultural interests.

And the happiness effects of religion?

We find little evidence that other private or subjective aspects of religiosity affect life satisfaction independent of attendance and congregational friendship.

Membership has its privileges and we ain’t just talking about smiles. Seems like everybody is yakking about “grit” these days.  (Apparently, the subject of grit promotes grit, but only when it comes to talking about grit more often.)

What promotes that resilience ? Groups.

Belonging to groups, such as networks of friends, family, clubs and sport teams, improves mental health because groups provide support, help you to feel good about yourself and keep you active. But belonging to many different groups might also help to make you psychologically and physically stronger. People with multiple group memberships cope better when faced with stressful situations such as recovering from stroke and are even more likely to stay cold-free when exposed to the cold virus.

And if happiness and resilience aren’t enough for you, let’s talk about the ever-popular benefit of not dropping dead :

Julianne Holt-Lunstad, Ph.D., professor of psychology at Brigham Young University, did a meta-analysis of 148 studies and concluded that a lack of social support predicts all causes of death. People with a solid group of friends are 50 percent more likely to survive at any given time than those without one.

Okay, groups are good — to say the least. But maybe the local bowling league doesn’t seem that appealing…

(To learn more about the science of a successful life, check out my new book here .)

So how do you start your own little community? What’s it take to form a group of friends and get all those wonderful benefits? Here’s what the research says:


1) Regular Meetings

Drinking Tang once does not make you an astronaut. And one get-together is not a community; it’s a party.

If you don’t have regular, consistent meetings, the thing is probably going to fall apart and you certainly won’t get the bonding, trust and all them good “feels” that you’re wanting.

Two of the biggest boosters to overall well-being are exercise and religious attendance . It’s because both give consistent, scheduled benefits:

We suggest that while major events may not provide lasting increases in well-being, certain seemingly minor events – such as attending religious services or exercising – may do so by providing small but frequent boosts: if people engage in such behaviors with sufficient frequency, they may cumulatively experience enough boosts to attain higher well-being.

It’s comical when you think about it. We have set work hours. Hair appointments get scheduled. But often when it comes to relationships — you know, that one thing that pretty much every variety of religion, philosophy and scientific paper all agree makes life worthwhile — that’s the area where, ehhhh, we just kinda wing it… Does that make any kind of sense?

Priorities, people, priorities.

Seeing friends and family regularly is the equivalent of making an extra $97,265 per year :

So, an individual who only sees his or her friends or relatives less than once a month to never at all would require around an extra £63,000 a year to be just as satisfied with life as an individual who sees his or her friends or relatives on most days.

So make a plan. Set a schedule. Once a week, once a month, whatever. But consistency is key.

(To learn the 3 secrets from neuroscience that will make you emotionally intelligent, click here .)

Okay, you’ve got a schedule. But who is coming? Time to play recruiter. For a solid group, what kind of people do you want to invite?


2) Who makes you feel good? Whom do you admire?

You want people who make you feel good. Yeah, I know. Obvious. But it’s worth repeating.

You know why old people are so happy and mellow? The research shows it’s because they’ve deliberately pruned their social circles over the years:

Other studies have discovered that as people age, they seek out situations that will lift their moods — for instance, pruning social circles of friends or acquaintances who might bring them down.

Often times we include people because we “should” and this can lead to problems. Spending time with fake friends — or “frenemies” — is worse than spending time with real enemies :

Friends that we feel ambivalently about raise our blood pressure more — cause more anxiety and stress — than people we actively dislike.

And you want to have people in the clan who you admire. People you aspire to be like. Because you are going to become similar to the people around you — like it or not.

The Longevity Project , which studied over 1000 people from youth to death had this to say:

The groups you associate with often determine the type of person you become. For people who want improved health, association with other healthy people is usually the strongest and most direct path of change.

When I spoke to Stanford professor Bob Sutton for my book , he told me his #1 piece of advice to students was this:

When you take a job take a long look at the people you’re going to be working with — because the odds are you’re going to become like them, they are not going to become like you.

Who do you like and who do you look up to? There’s your squad.

(To learn the seven-step morning ritual that will make you happy all day, click here .)

Alright, we know you want to be surrounded by people you want to be like and people you feel good around. So what’s the next step?


3) Struggle, Help, And Celebrate

So what’s your group gonna do? Hopefully something you all enjoy. But if you want to accelerate the bonding process, make it something with a touch of struggle to it.

Sports, games, volunteer work, or building something all qualify. I’m not saying you all have to get together to have an Amish barn raising… but it’s not a terrible idea, either. Do something interactive and struggle a bit :

Anthropologist Dimitris Xygalatas (say that three times fast) found that groups that went through “high-ordeals” bonded far more than those that went through “low-ordeals.” Struggling together made people closer. This is why fraternities haze. Why soldiers feel like they are kin.

And help each other. You surrounded yourself with people you admire, right? Great. They’re gonna rub off on you. But there’s almost always a way for you to give back and bring value to their lives as well.

And this may surprise you but the people who live the longest aren’t the ones who receive the most help — they’re the people who give the most help:

Beyond social network size, the clearest benefit of social relationships came from helping others. Those who helped their friends and neighbors, advising and caring for others, tended to live to old age.

And after you struggle, after you’ve given and received help, celebrate your successes. It’s no big shocker, but leading happiness researcher Sonja Lyubomirsky has shown that sharing our achievements with others and celebrating boosts well-being :

Sharing successes and accomplishments with others has been shown to be associated with elevated pleasant emotions and well-being. So, when you or your spouse or cousin or best friend wins an honor, congratulate him or her (and yourself ), and celebrate.

(To learn the 4 rituals from neuroscience that will make you happy, click here .)

Okay, we’ve covered a lot on what your little group needs to survive and thrive. Let’s round it up and see how this plays out in the long term…


Sum Up

You can build a great group by:

  • Consistent get-togethers: Leaving happiness to chance is an excellent way to be unhappy. If you can make a dentist appointment, you can make an appointment to enjoy “Game of Thrones” together every week.
  • Recruit people you like and people you look up to: If you don’t like anyone and think everyone is beneath you, create an Antisocial Narcissists Club. (Nobody will come but everyone will think they deserve to be the leader.)
  • Struggle, Help and Celebrate: Build or make something. Engage in friendly competition. Help each other. And when you succeed, party like rockstars.

Nobody wants deathbed regrets and everyone would like a good life.

When people are dying, what do they regret the most ? Coming in at #4 is: “I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.” A group is a way to solve the problem efficiently and on a consistent basis. Oh, and it’s a lot of freakin’ fun.

How do you live a good life? Well, The Grant Study  has followed a group of 268 men for over 80 years. They have learned a lot about what does and doesn’t make for a good life.

George Vaillant led much of their work. He was asked, “What have you learned from the Grant Study men?” Vaillant’s response ?

That the only thing that really matters in life are your relationships to other people.

So make a plan to get together regularly with your community…

Waiting for the next war is just so lazy.

Join over 320,000 readers. Get a free weekly update via email here .

Related posts:

New Neuroscience Reveals 4 Rituals That Will Make You Happy

New Harvard Research Reveals A Fun Way To Be More Successful

How To Get People To Like You: 7 Ways From An FBI Behavior Expert

The post This Is The Fun Way To A Meaningful Life: 3 Secrets Backed By Research appeared first on Barking Up The Wrong Tree .

These Are The 8 Friends You Need To Be Happy In Life



Before we commence with the festivities, I wanted to thank everyone for helping my first book become a Wall Street Journal bestseller. To check it out, click here .


Do your friends sometimes disappoint you? Ever feel like there is something missing in your relationships?  You’re not alone.

Tom Rath and the Gallup organization discovered something interesting: the vast majority of the time, no one pal offers you everything you need from your relationships.

Some of your friends are great listeners… but they’re not always there when you need them. Others are intensely loyal… but just not that great at helping you out of a jam. And so on.

We get different things from different friends. And sometimes even with a sizable group you’re still not getting all the things you want in order to feel truly supported in life. Kinda like how to be healthy you need the four different food groups — you can’t just eat cookies for every meal.

“Friendship” is a pretty vague word. You generally don’t even know everything you want from your relationships to feel whole — you just know something’s missing. There’s a gap.

So Rath and Gallup got to work. They surveyed over a thousand people to find out what the types of “vital friends” were — someone who if they vanished, your life satisfaction would noticeably decrease.

What did these types of friends offer? How do they round out your life? What are those things we all want from a group of friends to feel truly fulfilled?

Rath breaks down the results of their research in Vital Friends: The People You Can’t Afford to Live Without .

It turns out there are 8 types of “vital friends.” Many of us don’t have all of them in our squad, and that’s why we often feel disappointed or like we’re not getting everything we need. (You have to collect all the different Pokemon to win at the game called life.)

So let’s break down the 8 and get the basics on what they are, learn where you might meet the ones that are missing, and find out how to strengthen your relationships with the ones you already have. We’ll also look at what you should do to be better at the role which you play in the lives of others.

Okay, time to get friendly…


1) The Builder

Just because you’re not in Little League anymore doesn’t mean you don’t need a coach. Someone who motivates you and encourages you to take it to the next level. That supportive friend who believes in your potential and won’t let you rest on your laurels.

From Vital Friends: The People You Can’t Afford to Live Without :

Builders are great motivators, always pushing you toward the finish line. They continually invest in your development and genuinely want you to succeed — even if it means they have to go out on a limb for you. Builders are generous with their time as they help you see your strengths and use them productively. When you want to think about how you can do more of what you already do well, talk to a Builder. Much like the best coaches and managers, these are the friends who lead you to achieve more each day.

Lacking a Builder in your life? We all need that person who nudges you to be all that you can be. Start asking more people for advice, then vet based on who gives solid answers and supports you. Who checks in with you a week later to see how things are progressing? That’s your new Builder.

Want to make the Builder you have better? Tell them your goals and what you’re struggling with. Tell them you appreciate their support… and give them permission to nag you if you slack.

What if you’re a Builder? How can you be more helpful to your friends? Pay attention to what they’re up to and offer help. Check in with them if goals they said were important do a vanishing act. Some people need a supportive voice in order to follow through.

My friend Jodie is a Builder par excellence. I tend to only do things that interest or excite me. So my life can get a little unbalanced. (That is a tsunami-sized understatement, by the way.) When I neglect things that, oh, “keep me breathing” or “make life worth living,” Jodie offers reminders, support… and then nags me relentlessly. So I always do what she says…


(To learn more about the science of a successful life, check out my new book here .)

Builders motivate you and keep you going. Who sings your praises to others?


2) The Champion

We all need a friend who isn’t afraid to break out the pom-poms and play cheerleader. Somebody who roots for you and describes you to others in a way that makes you blush.

From Vital Friends: The People You Can’t Afford to Live Without :

Champions stand up for you and what you believe in. They are the friends who sing your praises. Every day, this makes a difference in your life. Not only do they praise you in your presence, a Champion also “has your back” — and will stand up for you when you’re not around. They accept you for the person you are, even in the face of resistance. Champions are loyal friends with whom you can share things in confidence. They have a low tolerance for dishonesty. You can count on them to accept what you say, without judging, even when others do not. Champions are your best advocates. When you succeed, they are proud of you, and they share it with others. Champions thrive on your accomplishments and happiness.

Need a Champion in your life? Look for the people who are always praising others. They’re usually very humble and kind. So say hi.

Want to help your Champion help you? Regularly keep them abreast of what you’ve been doing and what your goals are. And don’t forget to thank them when their help pays off. Champions live for that.

If you’re a Champion, how can you improve? Ask your friends what they’ve been up to and how you can help. Think about different ways you can promote them. Maybe you’ve spread the word about their great work at the office — but have you ever complimented them in front of their spouse?

Luckily, I have Andy . Andy says things about me to other people that would make me want to meet me if I didn’t already know myself. And he does this for all his friends. I can tell you that they are all very lucky people. But Andy would just tell you how awesome they are.

(To learn the 3 secrets from neuroscience that will make you emotionally intelligent, click here .)

So maybe you have someone swinging pom-poms for you. But do you have that person to conspire with on that passion project?


3) The Collaborator

Who loves that same strange thing that you love? Who is that friend that the moment you see each other you roll up your sleeves and get to work on the next big caper?

From Vital Friends: The People You Can’t Afford to Live Without :

A Collaborator is a friend with similar interests — the basis for many great friendships. You might share a passion for sports, hobbies, religion, work, politics, food, music, movies, or books. In many cases, you belong to the same groups or share affiliations. When you talk with a Collaborator, you’re on familiar ground, and this can serve as the foundation for a lasting relationship. Indeed, in those conversations, you often find that you have similar ambitions in work and life.

How do you find yourself a Collaborator? Let the people around you know more about your interests and see who else happens to be into cryptozoology or 19th century pre-existentialism. Attend events where fellow enthusiasts gather.

What’s a good way to encourage your current Collaborator? Send them articles about your mutual interest. Meet for coffee to discuss.

And what should you do to be a better Collaborator if you are one? Your mission, should you decide to accept it… Schedule a regular time to meet and work on your shared plan for Global Domination.

My buddy Mike is a grandmaster of all things visual. Mike and I don’t do stuff together — we make stuff together. When I said I wanted to send my publisher some ideas for my book’s cover, Mike fired up Photoshop. When I needed an author photo for said book , Mike’s the one who took it. And per my above recommendation, I really should set a regular time to meet with him…

(To learn the seven-step morning ritual that will make you happy all day, click here .)

You have the Bonnie to your Clyde. Do you have the person you can call late at night when the worries get serious and you’re having a dark teatime of the soul?


4) The Companion

Simply put: a best friend. They won’t just help you move; they’ll help you move bodies. The person who will still be there when everyone else has very wisely run for cover.

From Vital Friends: The People You Can’t Afford to Live Without :

A Companion is always there for you, whatever the circumstances. You share a bond that is virtually unbreakable. When something big happens in your life — good or bad — this is one of the first people you call. At times, a true Companion will even sense where you are headed — your thoughts, feelings, and actions — before you know it yourself. Companions take pride in your relationship, and they will sacrifice for your benefit. They are the friends for whom you might literally put your life on the line. If you are searching for a friendship that can last a lifetime, look no further than a Companion.

How do you find a Companion? Think about which of your current friends you might want to have a deeper relationship with. Spend more time with them. Open up and be vulnerable.

How do you strengthen your relationship with a current Companion? Cut the small talk. Discuss the deep stuff in your life: your fears, your dreams, your future.

How can you be a better Companion? Create a safe place for your friend to discuss anything. And when times get tough, reach out. Don’t wait for them to ask for help.

Jason is my best friend. If there is anything in this life I should be envied for, it is that. He is the person who frequently says things like, “Eric, that thing you are about to do is insane, has little chance of success, and is illegal in most NATO countries. I know you’re going to do it anyway. If it works out, I will be thrilled for you. If it crashes and burns, call me no matter how late. I’m here for you.” And often I call. And he always picks up.

(To learn the 4 rituals from neuroscience that will make you happy, click here .)

Best friend acquired. But who is introducing you to new friends?


5) The Connector

No matter what the issue, they know somebody who can help. They make friends more often than most people make excuses. Even if they were locked in solitary confinement with no one to talk to, they’d end up best pals with the prison guard.

From Vital Friends: The People You Can’t Afford to Live Without :

A Connector is a bridge builder who helps you get what you want. Connectors get to know you — and then introduce you to others. These are the people you socialize with regularly. Friends who play the role of a Connector are always inviting you to lunch, dinner, drinks, and other gatherings where you can meet new people. This extends your network dramatically and gives you access to newfound resources. When you need something — a job, a doctor, a friend, or a date — a Connector points you in the right direction. They seem to “know everyone.”

What’s it take to add a great Connector to your life? Look for the people who know everybody in a given situation. Don’t be afraid to introduce yourself — these folks obviously like to meet new people.

How do you best leverage your Connector? This one’s easy: just ask them for introductions.

If you’re a Connector, how can you better help your friends? Be proactive. Don’t wait for them to ask for help. Think about who might be good for them to know and offer an introduction. Or just throw a party and get everybody talking to each other.

My buddy Gautam knows more fascinating people than I know people. Not only is he the subject of one of the stories in my book , he also introduced me to two other people whose stories I told in my book. While I was typing this, Gautam has made 6 new friends.

(To learn how to make friends as an adult, click here .)

So you know somebody who always knows somebody. But have you got a friend who just makes you feel great?


6) The Energizer

That fun friend. The person you’re always laughing around. The one who always knows the great place to go or the awesome thing to do.

From Vital Friends: The People You Can’t Afford to Live Without :

Energizers are your “fun friends” who always give you a boost. You have more positive moments when you are with these friends. Energizers are quick to pick you up when you’re down — and can make a good day great. They are always saying and doing things that make you feel better. Energizers have a remarkable ability to figure out what gets you going. When you are around these friends, you smile a lot more. You are more likely to laugh in the presence of an Energizer.

How can you find your own shiny, new Energizer? Look for the person who is the life of the party in any situation. Bask in their neon glow and introduce yourself.

Want to further energize your current Energizer? Let them know how much you appreciate their enthusiasm. Reciprocate the positivity.

Want to be a better Energizer? Just like with Connectors, be proactive. Look for those who are feeling down and work your magic.

My friend… Oh, crap. I don’t think I have an energizer. Well, that explains a lot. Better introduce myself to the life of the party, STAT…

(To learn an FBI behavior expert’s tips for getting people to like you, click here .)

So you have a friend who always keeps you smiling. But who is always introducing you to new ideas?


7) The Mind Opener

They send you interesting articles. They get you to question your assumptions. Talking to them makes your brain do things straight out of the dream sequences from “Inception.”

From Vital Friends: The People You Can’t Afford to Live Without :

Mind Openers are the friends who expand your horizons and encourage you to embrace new ideas, opportunities, cultures, and people. They challenge you to think in innovative ways and help you create positive change. Mind Openers know how to ask good questions, and this makes you more receptive to ideas. When you are around a Mind Opener, you are unguarded and express opinions aloud, especially controversial ones that you might not be comfortable sharing with other friends. These friends broaden your perspective on life and make you a better person.

How do you find someone who will open your mind? Share your ideas with more people. See who regularly offers new perspectives and invite them to crowbar your cranium.

What’s the best way to help your Mind Opener work on your noggin? Encourage them to play devil’s advocate with your ideas — and never shoot down their responses. Noodle on their suggestions for a while to fully explore them and to show respect.

What if you’re the Opener of Minds? Listen — and offer suggestions. Send friends ideas you have and stuff they should check out related to their interests.

My friend Nick never met an idea he couldn’t challenge. We go on absurdly long walks and he responds to everything I say with, “But what if…?” He always makes me think really hard.

I like him anyway.

(To learn more about how to be someone people love to talk to, click here .)

So you have someone to challenge you. But who helps you plan how to get to that next stage in life?


8) The Navigator

Sometimes it feels like you’re in Hell, Dante — and you are gonna need a Virgil. Sometimes they’re a mentor, sometimes they’re a sounding board, but they’re always your GPS system for when you don’t know which exit to take on the highway of life.

From Vital Friends: The People You Can’t Afford to Live Without :

Navigators are the friends who give you advice and keep you headed in the right direction. You go to them when you need guidance, and they talk through the pros and cons with you until you find an answer. In a difficult situation, you need a Navigator by your side. They help you see a positive future while keeping things grounded in reality. Any time you’re at a crossroads and need help making a decision, you can look to a Navigator. They help you know who you are — and who you are not. They are the ideal friends to share your goals and dreams with; when you do, you will continue to learn and grow.

Need to create a new Navigator in your life? Ask people around you about themselves. Find out more about what they’ve done and what challenges they’ve overcome. You’d be surprised how many have been in your shoes — or had an analogous experience that might offer insight.

Want your current Navigator to have improved GPS? Tell them when you’re facing big decisions. Share your goals and dreams. Ask them how they would go about getting from here to there.

As a Navigator, how can you help guide your pals? Again, be proactive. Offer help and advice where they’re struggling with an area you have expertise in.

This year would have been inconceivably harder without my friend Ryan Holiday . He’s offered guidance on releasing a book, what new projects to explore, and how to handle the big issues in life in a way that would make the ancient Stoics proud. He’s the only person I know who goes through more books than I do and, unlike me, his lips don’t move when he’s reading them.

(To learn the lazy way to an awesome life, click here .)

Okay, that’s a lot of different friends. Let’s round it all up…


Sum Up

These are the 8 friends you need to be happy in life:

  • The Builder: If you were a sports team, they’d be the “Coach.”
  • The Champion: Pom-poms not included.
  • The Collaborator: The unindicted co-conspirator.
  • The Companion: They’ll be at the police station at 3AM with bail money. Again.
  • The Connector: This is the friend you and I probably have in common.
  • The Energizer: (I’m currently taking applications.)
  • The Mind Opener: If they sent you this blog post, I’m flattered.
  • The Navigator: Like a high school guidance counselor, except useful.

Some of your friends may play multiple roles. And you might play different roles to different friends of yours. That’s fine.

To most of my friends, I’m a Mind Opener. But to others I’m a Collaborator or a Companion.(After 4 espressos I might be an Energizer.) Figure out what you are to your friends. And then make yourself a better one.

Find the roles that are missing in your group of friends and work on strengthening the relationships with the ones you have. It’s like a heist movie where you need a safecracker, a wheelman, a computer expert and the comic relief in order to pull off the job.

Life is hard enough. You’re gonna need love and support to make it through.

Join over 320,000 readers. Get a free weekly update via email here .

Related posts:

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The post These Are The 8 Friends You Need To Be Happy In Life appeared first on Barking Up The Wrong Tree .

This Is How To Create Happy Memories That Will Last A Lifetime: 3 Secrets From Research



Before we commence with the festivities, I wanted to thank everyone for helping my first book become a Wall Street Journal bestseller. To check it out, click here .


Your first kiss. Graduation. Your first job. Your wedding day. Birth of your first child.

These are the big memories that we all cherish. But there are other little memories that stick out because they had such a powerful emotional impact on you. Moments that enriched your life, bonded you with others and helped you define who you are.

Well, the latter are just “magic”, right? Serendipity. Can’t engineer that. They just “happen”…

*Writer rolls his eyes so hard he gets a migraine.*

Yeah, and sometimes they don’t. More often than not, one day rolls into the next, one month rolls into the next, you blink your eyes and you’re staring down the barrel of another New Year’s Day saying: where the heck did the time go?

Serendipity can be a bus that never arrives. So why do we leave special moments to chance? And why do we not do more to create those special memories for others — the way we’d like them to make some for us?

We get tired. We get lazy. And then boom — suddenly CVS is loaded with Christmas ornaments and it signals the end of another year. No good. If we want great memories we have to make them.

But how do you do that? What makes some little moments so powerful? And others the epitome of “meh”?

Chip and Dan Heath have a new book that lays out the science you need to know — The Power of Moments: Why Certain Experiences Have Extraordinary Impact.

Time to learn how to construct more events that will restock your reminiscence reservoir. Boost your nostalgia number. Fill your flashback fund.

Let’s get to work…


1) Create Moments of Elevation

Parties. Competing in sporting events. Taking off on a spontaneous road trip. What do they have in common?

From The Power of Moments:

Moments of elevation are experiences that rise above the routine. They make us feel engaged, joyful, amazed, motivated.

If you feel the need to pull out a camera, it’s probably a moment of elevation. (Unless you’re taking a selfie. In that case, just put it away, you narcissist.)

So what is it at the core of a moment of elevation that we can add to any event to make it more special? Remember the 3 S’s: sensory, stakes, and script.

Boost sensory appeal: This is why concerts, museums and great meals stick in your memory and why sitting on the couch is so forgettable. Engaging the senses more intensely makes moments stand out.

Raise the stakes: Competing in a sporting event is more exciting than watching one. In fact, betting on a sporting event makes watching one more entertaining. If there’s something to gain or lose, you’ll be paying attention.

Break the script: Don’t do the usual thing. Don’t just get coffee or have dinner. Boring. Take your default and flip it on its head. Defy expectations and strategically surprise people.

Southwest Airlines broke the script by tweaking their normal flight safety announcement. One of the lines they added was:

If you should get to use the life vest in a real-life situation, the vest is yours to keep.

People loved it. In fact, those who heard the new messages actually flew more. And that resulted in an extra $140 million per year for Southwest. Breaking the script produces delightful moments.

The Heath brothers write, “The most memorable periods of our lives are when we break the script.” Sounds kinda pat and corny – but it’s true.

Research shows that when older people look back on their lives, a disproportionate number of their big memories happened in a very narrow window: between ages 15 and 30.

That’s not even 20% of the average lifespan. Is this because our memory is sharper then? Or because young adulthood is a “magic” time? Heck, no…

It’s because after 30 life can get pretty darn boring. After their third decade has passed, most people don’t do anything as novel as falling in love for the first time, leaving home, going to college, or starting their first job.

So months and years blur together because nothing new and shiny happens. But neuroscientist David Eagleman says that when you inject novelty into your life, you prevent the blur. Surprise stretches time. So break the script and interrupt the blur with moments of elevation.

(To learn more about the science of a successful life, check out my new book here .)

So boosting sensory appeal, raising the stakes and breaking the script can turn little moments into big memories. What else has that power?


2) Celebrate Moments of Pride

A graduation party. The ceremony where you received your black belt. Or that special session when the parole board declared you “rehabilitated.”

You want to commemorate achievements. When you have your skill noticed by others, you can puff your chest out and take a second to feel really good about yourself. And this is not a “nice to have.” Research shows we need these.

From The Power of Moments:

Carolyn Wiley of Roosevelt University reviewed four similar studies of employee motivation conducted in 1946, 1980, 1986 and 1992. In each of the studies, employees were asked to rank the factors that motivated them. Popular answers included “interesting work,” “job security,” “good wages,” and “feeling of being in on things.” Across the studies, which spanned 46 years, only one factor was cited every time as among the top two motivators: “full appreciation of work done.”

According to one survey the Heath brothers found, the #1 reason people leave their jobs is “a lack of praise and recognition.” So take the time to appreciate what you’ve accomplished and to let others celebrate with you.

Now I know what some people are thinking: But I don’t achieve big stuff very often…

But you’ve already made big strides that you never took the time to revel in. Surface the milestones that already exist. How long have you and your BFF been friends? Ever celebrated that? Didn’t think so. (No, that does not make you a bad friend. I still like you. You’re cool.)

The Heath brothers tell the story of one couple that even looked back and actually celebrated fights the two of them had during their first year of marriage. Why? Because they got past them. They overcame the obstacles. That’s worth appreciating.

And for extra credit, set goals. Build milestones on the road ahead. Why? Because the more finish lines you set, the more moments of pride you’ll be able to celebrate. Not only does that feel good, it will motivate you.

George Wu at the University of Chicago looked at the data on how long it took over nine million runners to complete marathons. Most took about 3.5 to 5 hours. But the results weren’t evenly distributed. There’s this huge spike right before the 4 hour mark. Why? 4 hours is arbitrary, right?

Yeah — but it’s a nice round number. And for many it is achievable if they push themselves. People saw that “arbitrary” time limit approaching and kicked in the afterburners so they could say, “I finished in under 4 hours.” And so many did.

Celebrate moments of pride. You don’t have to win a Nobel Prize. In fact, celebrating a silly milestone “breaks the script” and may be even more memorable. Set goals so you have more moments of pride to motivate you to achieve and have more things to celebrate in the future.

(To learn the seven-step morning ritual that will make you happy all day, click here .)

So you’ve elevating and celebrating milestones. Great. But relationships are what brings us the most happiness. (And ice cream. Ice cream brings happiness, too.) So how do we make memories that deepen our relationships with others? (And may involve ice cream?)


3) Build Moments of Connection

Vacations. Reunions. Holidays. The times that bond us with others where we feel all kinds of warm fuzzies.

These are the moments when some of the most powerful memories are formed. What does the research say deepens the connections you feel with others?

Struggle. Yeah, struggle. No, I’m not saying you should get in an argument with Uncle Jack again.

Anthropologist Dimitris Xygalatas (say that three times fast) found that groups that went through “high-ordeals” bonded far more than those that went through “low-ordeals.” Struggling together made people closer. This is why fraternities haze. Why soldiers feel like they are kin.

So what the heck does this have to do with relaxing vacations and get-togethers with friends?

Less watching movies and more playing board games as teams. Less shopping and more touch football. If it ends with high-fives, you’re probably in the ballpark.

And even better if it’s a team activity that is connected to meaning. Yes, that even means helping your friend paint their new kitchen and having beers after. You’re helping them turn “that house” into “their home.”

Even if it sounds like a chore beforehand, we often look back fondly on those times…. especially if your friend paints himself into a corner.

(To learn the 4 rituals from neuroscience that will make you happy, click here .)

Okay, we’ve learned a lot. Hopefully it was a memorable moment — but just in case, let’s round it all up and learn how to make the most powerful memories of all…


Sum Up

This is how to create happy memories that will last a lifetime:

  • Create moments of elevation: Boost sensory appeal (light some fireworks.) Break the script (don’t wait for the 4th of July.) Raise the stakes (hope you don’t get arrested.)
  • Celebrate moments of pride: If your first book comes out and someone insists you go someplace special that night, do it. Otherwise you wouldn’t have a vivid memory. You wouldn’t have photos. All you would have is some random date to remember like in 8th grade history class.
  • Build moments of connection: Struggle. Working together on something, especially something meaningful, bonds us together. So just help Gary move this weekend and stop whining.

How do you make the most powerful memories of all? You don’t have to use just one of the tips above to improve a moment — you can use them all.

Celebrate a friend’s “moment of pride” with the “struggle” of a paintball match and “break the script” by also making it a costume party with everyone getting decked out in full military regalia — from the Revolutionary War.

Now that’s memorable. And insane. But insane is memorable. And not boring.

You now know how to make great memories that can last you the rest of your life. You can make them for friends as well – even better, share them with friends…

But usually we don’t. We do the hum-drum and the days blur together. Life becomes stale and boring and we die a little inside. But you don’t have to.

Break the script. Don’t let the script break you.

Join over 320,000 readers. Get a free weekly update via email here .

Related posts:

New Neuroscience Reveals 4 Rituals That Will Make You Happy

New Harvard Research Reveals A Fun Way To Be More Successful

How To Get People To Like You: 7 Ways From An FBI Behavior Expert

The post This Is How To Create Happy Memories That Will Last A Lifetime: 3 Secrets From Research appeared first on Barking Up The Wrong Tree .