You’re feeling motivated and you want to start your journey to success. The fire has been lit in you and you start working on the projects that will help you achieve your goals. After a few days, negative thoughts will fill your mind. You will doubt your success, you will be afraid of failure and you aren’t sure if it is going to be worth your time.
The objections will build and you will start to walk away from the work that you are doing. That’s a waste of good effort, because you have invested a lot of your time and resources for a project that you won’t want to finish. At the same time, the doubts and thoughts in your head are understandable. No one wants to waste their time, look silly or fail.
If you can’t fight against your objections, it will be difficult to motivate yourself to do anything worthwhile. Thankfully, overcoming doubts can be done if you are willing to take the time and think through each one. Your motivation won’t return overnight, but you can get it back.
Everyone is afraid of failing. It means you didn’t succeed at what you set out to do. It also looks like you’re not as good as other people who tried the same task and succeeded. However, you’re right in that you’re not going to succeed. Not in the beginning at least. Very rarely has anything worthwhile been successful on the first try.
You can learn from the mistakes of others, but you will inevitably make your own. Not everything you do will be a success, that’s why you learn to appreciate success. That’s not to say that failing for the sake of failing is productive. What it does mean is that every success has a few failures behind it. If it’s going to happen anyway, accept it and keep working. The success you achieve in the end will brush away all the feelings you had about your failures.
“I love it when people doubt me. It makes me work harder to prove them wrong” – Derek Jeter
You’re working on a project that is meaningful to you, but other people think that you’re wasting your time. Eventually you might look at your work and begin to believe you are wasting your time as well. It feels like other people could achieve success faster than you could, and you must be doing something wrong.
Is that really true? Success rarely occurs overnight. While you might see stories of people who have achieved overnight success, the stories never cover the hard work that happened behind-the-scenes. Success doesn’t have a time limit either. It’s not a race.
If it takes you 3 years to become successful instead of 2, that’s still better than not being successful at all. As long as you aren’t working without a purpose, you’re not wasting your time. You’re just approaching success at a pace that is right for you.
Some doubt may take the form of a pessimistic prediction. You know you’re working hard, you are dedicated to what you are doing, but you have encountered a lot of failure before. While you want this to succeed, deep down you have a feeling this won’t work and are trying to protect yourself from disappointment.
It’s understandable, as facing the full brunt of disappointment can be hard to swallow. However, betting against yourself before you’re finished doesn’t make a lot of sense. If you believe it won’t succeed, why would you put so much time and effort behind it? If you want to prevent yourself from feeling the pain of failure, do everything you can to make it a success.
Could you fail in the end? Yes. But rather than approach your work believing it could fail, pour your heart and soul into making it successful. If you do that, no matter what happens, you can stand up again with your head held high.
You might have had a great idea that was revolutionary and amazing a few years ago, but now it looks like it’s no longer special or someone has beaten you to the punch. Timing is important when it comes to success. It is very difficult to succeed if your ideas and plans haven’t kept up with the times.
While your idea might be amazing before, you feel that time has caught up and your idea isn’t as interesting anymore. That doesn’t mean you can’t make changes or update the idea. There are many products and services that are similar, and yet they still compete with each other. Maybe all your idea needs is a bit of new information to make it viable again.
Remember, success doesn’t have a time limit. If your ideas are out-of-date, update them. You can still catch up and be successful. Just don’t try to solve future issues with past solutions and you should be fine.
“Waiting patiently for the fatest bone is a dog’s lifestyle.” – Michael Bassey Johnson
It’s not easy to fight against the doubts in your mind. Everyone is scared of not doing their best, wasting their time or worrying about the future. Sometimes the best thing to do is to take a step back and think. Think about why you are scared and have answers to help you overcome those doubts. Then you can slowly regain your motivation and work hard again.
You can overcome the doubts in your mind. They are valid concerns, but ones that can be addressed. As long as you address them, you can fully dedicate yourself to the challenges ahead. When you have an answer for your doubts, you gain the confidence to keep moving forward.
Someone once said, “Holding onto anger is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die”. Anger destroys happiness, and letting go of anger and resentment is one of the main keys to living a happy life.
Negative thoughts can fester in a person’s mind like open wounds, and the quickest way to get rid of them is to change them into positive thoughts. When you find yourself thinking negatively of a person or situation, try to seek out the silver lining. Look for the good in that person or situation, and focus on that.
Like it or not, our attitudes are the product of our thoughts adding up over time, and negative thoughts lead to anger and resentment. Positive thoughts, though, can at least lead to peaceful acceptance and tolerance, even if you never truly grow to like the person or situation itself.
According to the Mayo Clinic, “When your state of mind is generally optimistic, you’re better able to handle everyday stress in a more constructive way. That ability may contribute to the widely observed health benefits of positive thinking.” Start turning negative thoughts into positive ones, and you’ll find that anger and resentment (as well as the stress and unhappiness that they bring) are a lot less likely to form.
Self-help magazines, blogs, and books are filled with advice telling you how damaging it is to hold anger inside you, and they’re right. Anger and resentment never really goes away, it just builds and builds like pressure inside of a rocket until eventually it either explodes or severely damages your mental health and well-being.
The trouble is that people who hold back their anger most often do so because it feels like it’s the right thing to do. They don’t want to be confrontational or bothersome, and they may feel like bottling up their frustrations really is the best way to handle them.
In reality, though, bottling up your anger is one of the worst things you can do. While it’s not a good idea to lose your control, and you should certainly keep your temper in check, it’s important to vent from time to time.
Confront the things that are angering you head on, and say your peace. You’ll feel much better if you do.
“It is important that we forgive ourselves for making mistakes. We need to learn from our errors and move on.” – Steve Maraboli
We’re all a product of our surroundings. If you choose to associate with positive people, their optimism and positivity will wear off on you. If you choose to associate with negative people, though, their anger and resentment will inevitably wear off on you as well.
The motivational speaker and wildly successful entrepreneur Jim Rohn once said, “You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with”. If this is true, which evidence certainly seems to suggest that it is, what does that average look like? Hopefully, the average created from the five people you spend most of your time with would be a positive one.
If, though, it would be one that harbors anger, resentment, and negativity, it might be healthy for you to reevaluate the people you associate with the most.
You are your own priority. At the end of the day, what everyone else does and says is outside of your control. People who are unable to recognize or accept this often find themselves trying to control and fix situations that are beyond them. When it doesn’t work out like they’d hoped, they become angry and resentful.
Instead, focus on the one thing you have control of: yourself. Rather than becoming angry at someone else, shift your attention inward.
What can you do to make yourself happy at this moment? As long as you don’t use it as a crutch, a little self-indulgence from time to time can go a long way.
It’s a sad reality, but there’s an awful lot of hate in this world already. You don’t have to look very far to see instances of hate, resentment, and, in far too many cases, pure evil. It exists at national levels, cultural levels, and personal levels.
While we are working to change the hate that exists at larger levels such as national and cultural, we can also change the hate that exists at the personal level by refusing to add any more of it to the world ourselves.
By avoiding anger and resentment, we are doing our part to not only improve our own health and happiness, but also to make the world at large a better place. If just a small percentage of people on earth were to adopt this mindset, think how much better off the world would be?
Make a mental note to not add any more hate to the world through anger and resentment, and start making the world a better place one person at a time.
“It’s not an easy journey, to get to a place where you forgive people. But it is such a powerful place, because it frees you.” – Tyler Perry
Anger and resentment are two of the most harmful emotions a person can have. They are destructive not only to the person themselves, but also to everyone around them. Fortunately, we don’t have to be slaves to these emotions. Do everything you can to let go of any anger you might have, and start living a happier, healthier lifestyle.
Sadly, the vast majority of us have an unhealthy relationship with money. That’s why 70% of lottery winners lose all their money within five years. That’s why I, the daughter of a billionaire, spent most of my early adulthood living in a panic over how I would survive. And it is why millions of people born into poverty can work incredibly hard and never seem to accumulate more wealth.
In my experience, the core reason most people struggle in their relationship with money is because they are disempowered in this area of their life. Many people (particularly women and children) are taught a point of view that it is inappropriate or impossible for them to control their own financial situation. This drains them of all personal power around money and creates a situation where they will never be able to fully create wealth for themselves.
It is entirely possible for you to have and enjoy greater wealth. But in order to do so, you must first fully empower yourself in this area.
I was surrounded by wealth in my childhood, but I was always reliant on others to give me the funds I needed and wanted. I wasn’t taught how to understand or use the power of money. Instead, I was raised with the expectation that I would marry someone wealthy; someone who would continue to take care of my financial needs.
The details of your story are probably different to mine, but the essence could be similar. Many of us are raised to believe that someone, or something, outside of ourselves is the answer to our financial well-being. For me, this involved a wealthy husband. For you it may be the dream of a big lottery or gambling win, bail-out loans from family members or the continuing juggle of credit card debt.
If your future wealth is reliant on the decisions or whims of someone or something other than yourself, then you are disempowered in your finances. It’s time to understand your financial destiny is in your hands, and yours alone.
“If you are born poor its not your mistake, But if you die poor its your mistake.” – Bill Gates
When I was in my late twenties, I began to have money I could call my own. But, because my upbringing had disempowered me in this area of my life, I believed I was too ignorant to manage my finances. I believed I wasn’t capable or worthy of making the right decisions.
So I did what I believe many people do – I allowed other people to control my potential for wealth. In my marriage, I deferred to my husband in all financial matters, and my personal investments were left in the hands of fund managers. Sadly, I didn’t educate myself, ask questions or push back on questionable decisions. Because of this, I allowed myself to be financially abused by those who I trusted.
If you are going to create the prosperity that you deserve, you have to have oversight of what your money is doing. You have to be educated and aware of how your money is working for you, and you have to be bold enough to stand your ground if you see others making decisions that are undermining your wealth creation.
When you are financially disempowered – as many are – it is easy to feel like a victim. It can feel like your money situation controls you, not that you are in control of your money. Therefore, one of the most important factors in empowering yourself financially is to understand that wealth creation is a choice.
I recently fell in love with an antique couch and could have found the money required to buy it and refurbish it to its full, exquisite beauty. But I have chosen at this time to invest half of my income – I know that it will be best for my financial future. So, I made the choice to not buy the couch. The key thing is that I didn’t allow my emotions to control my decision, I empowered myself to make the choice that is best for me.
By the same token, I teach my clients that the first step in creating wealth is to put away 10% of your earnings. In this way, you will always feel like you have money. But making this commitment is a choice – you have to choose to put yourself first regardless of other influences that may sway your decision otherwise.
“Be aware of little expenses; a small leak will sink a great ship.” – Benjamin Franklin
When it comes to creating wealth, it doesn’t matter who your parents were or how you were raised. Neither does it matter whether others have empowered you financially, or not. All that matters is that you know you are capable, courageous and committed enough to have a prosperous and sustainable relationship with money. To know that you can empower yourself.
Success is not limited to the few. It is something that can be obtained by those who put their mind to it, take action, and develop good behaviors.
When we aren’t finding success in our lives there is a reason or reasons we can’t get past the hurdles. Sometimes we come up with excuses because, after all, they are the easy way out. However, it often boils down to behaviors. Our behaviors can be the reason why we succeed or don’t succeed. To be healthy we need good eating and exercise habits. To be great in business we need to have resilient behaviors to get over failures.
Many times we have developed bad behaviors which hold us back from leading successful lives. These behaviors hold us back from great careers, building businesses, cultivating relationships, and much more. Bad behaviors prevent us from achieving the success we desire.
Today it is easy to get caught up in jealous behaviors because we live in a social world. We get notifications when someone gets a huge promotion, we see every picture from our “friends” two week cruise, and we read the posts about fairy tale relationships.
The problem with jealousy is it can be consuming and ruin your life. It limits success because instead of working on your dreams, you are spending time being envious of others.
Instead of being jealous of others, be grateful for what you have in your life. It helps you be more productive and happier.
Self-limiting beliefs includes thinking you are too inexperienced for a job, believing you shouldn’t take a risk because you’ll fail, thinking it is too late, or you don’t need more money because you are comfortable.
All of these thoughts keep us from success. Don’t come up with reasons why you shouldn’t, think of reasons why you should do something great because you might actually succeed!
It is hard to drive a car by looking in the rear view mirror, but there are many people who live life like this. They live by always bringing up the past and fail to move forward.
This includes living in the past by riding prior successes and past failures. We all see people who seem to be on the fast track to success, but hit a plateau because they are living on that one big sale they got two years ago. We also know people who can’t recover from failure or overcome someone who wronged them.
Whether you are living in the past from a success or failure, you need to move forward. Moving forward and setting goals is the only way to achieve and sustain success.
If you are in business and have a bad behavior of gossiping, then you won’t be in business long. When we gossip to others and say bad things about others; it makes you look bad.
People will stop doing business with you, it will be difficult to rise higher in a company, and you will get a bad reputation. There is no reason to gossip because it can destroy all of your success and limit future success.
As the old saying goes, don’t worry about those who talk behind your back, they’re behind you for a reason. If you want to get ahead, then talk positively about others. It goes much further than gossip.
Many people never achieve success because they give up too soon. When there is a bump in the road or an obstacle, they resort to backing down rather than persevering.
We must be willing to keep going. We need mind sets like Walt Disney, Abraham Lincoln, and Michael Jordan who all fought on through failures to achieve wild success.
We are wired to persevere. When we were younger and learning to walk, we all overcame obstacles. Many of us fell and got hurt while we were trying to go from crawling to walking. However, we all got back up and learned to walk.
Negative thinking is a dangerous behavior because it can be detrimental to our lives. When we have a bad case of what Zig Ziglar calls “stinkin thinkin“, we limit our success significantly.
This behavior is bad because we start to think the world is out to get us, things will never get better, or we expect everything to turn out bad. Turn your negativity around. Think about what is good in your life and what you are possible of accomplishing.
Take a self-assessment of yourself and determine if any of these behaviors may be keeping you from success. If you are suffering from one of them, then change it.
Every parent dreams of the polite little child who says “please” and “thank you.” After all, your child’s behavior reflects on you. Manners come easily to some children while others struggle. Understanding the basis of good manners will help you teach your child good manners. Good manners, after all, are necessary for people to live together in this world. Gracious manners reflect a loving and considerate personality.
Believe it or not, you begin to teach your child good manners at birth, but you don’t call them that. The root of good manners is respect for another person; and the root of respect is sensitivity. Sensitivity is one of the most valuable qualities you can instill into your child — and it begins in infancy. The sensitive infant will naturally become the respectful child who, because he cares for another’s feelings, will naturally become a well-mannered person. His politeness will be more creative and more heartfelt than anything he could have learned from a book of etiquette. In recent years it has become socially correct to teach children to be “assertive.” Being assertive is healthy as long as it doesn’t override politeness and good manners.
Even two-year-olds can learn to say “please” and “thank you.” Even though they don’t yet understand the social graciousness of these words, the toddler concludes that “please” is how you get what you want and “thank you” is how you end an interaction. At least you’ve planted these social niceties into your child’s vocabulary; later they will be used with the understanding that they make others feel good about helping you. When you ask your toddler to give you something, open with “please” and close with “thank you.” Even before the child grasps the meaning of these words she learns they are important because mommy and daddy use them a lot and they have such nice expressions on their faces when they say these words. Children parrot these terms and understand their usefulness long before they understand their meaning.
From age two to four, what Johnny hears, Johnny says. Let your child hear a lot of “please,” “thank you,” “you’re welcome,” and “excuse me” as you interact with people throughout the day. And address your little person with the same politeness you do an adult. Let your child catch the flavor of polite talk.
We have always made a point of opening each request by using the name of our child: “Jim, will you do this for me?” Our children picked up on this social nicety and address us by title: “Dad, may I…” or “Mom, would you…” When he was eight, our son Matthew made all of these language tools part of his social self. Matthew concluded that if he timed his approach for the right moment, looked me in the eye or touched my arm, addressed me as “Dad…,” and adds a “please” or “may I,” he could get just about anything he wants. Even when I know I’m being conned, I’m a pushover for politeness. Although Matthew didn’t always get his politely-presented wish, I always acknowledged his use of good manners.
The old adage “children should be seen and not heard” was probably coined by a childless person. Include your child in adult goings-on, especially if there are no other children present. When you and your child are in a crowd of mostly adults, tuning out your child is asking for trouble. Even a child who is usually well-behaved will make a nuisance of herself in order to break through to you. Including the child teaches social skills, and acknowledging her presence shows her that she has value.
Stay connected with your child in situations that put her at risk for undesirable behavior. During a visit with other adults, keep your younger child physically close to you (or you stay close to him) and maintain frequent verbal and eye contact. Help your older child feel part of the action so that he is less likely to get bored and wander into trouble.
Language is a skill to be enjoyed, not forced. While it’s okay to occasionally dangle a “say please” over a child before you grant the request don’t, like pet training, rigidly adhere to asking for the “magic word” before you give your child what he wants. The child may tire of these polite words even before he understands them. When you remind a child to say “please,” do so as part of good speech, not as a requirement for getting what he wants. And be sure he hears a lot of good speech from you. Overdo politeness while you’re teaching it and he’ll catch the idea faster. “Peas” with a grin shows you the child is feeling competent in her ability to communicate.
As a Little League baseball coach, I learned to “chew out a child” — politely. When a child made a dumb play (which is to be expected), I didn’t rant and rave like those overreacting coaches you see on television. Instead, I keep my voice modulated, look the child straight in the eye, and put my hand on his shoulder during my sermon. These gestures reflect that I am correcting the child because I care, not because I am out of control. My politeness showed him that I value him and want him to learn from his mistakes so he becomes a better player, and the child listens. I hope someday that same child will carry on these ball field manners when he becomes a coach.
Have you ever wondered why some children are so polite? The main reason is they are brought up in an environment that expects good manners. One day I noticed an English family entering a hotel. The father looked at his two sons, ages five and seven, and said, “Now chaps, do hold the door for the lady,” which they did. I asked him why his children were so well-mannered. He replied, “We expect it.”
The sleep habits of Yahoo! CEO Marissa Meyer were ridiculed on Twitter when she missed a meeting with ad execs because she overslept. While humorous on the one hand, the incident actually proves that lack of sleep affects every level of today’s workforce. It’s estimated that 35 percent to 40 percent of Americans have sleeping problems, and CEOs of mega conglomerates are no exception.
“People are not typically good judges of their own fatigue and impairment; they get used to the problems associated with fatigue and come to believe their lethargy, lack of focus, even ‘micro sleeps’ are normal,” said Dr. Dave Sharar, managing director of Chestnut Global Health, a Bloomington, Illinois, company that provides employee assistance programs.
Employees deal with increased workloads, stress and time-shifting, all of which undermine sleep quality.
What can companies do to help employees assess their sleep and improve both its length and quality, improving their employee’s alertness, productivity and preventing worksite accidents?
“Since poor sleep accounts for more than 30 percent of traffic and industrial accidents, sleep hygiene should be part of a company’s employee health program as much as diet, etc.,” said Dr. Murray Grossan, an ENT and founder of the Grossan Institute.
“For better sleep schedules, companies should require a number of hours worked, rather than a strict schedule where one needs to be at the office at a specific time in the morning,” said Kenny Kline, founder of Slumber Sage, an online mattress and sleep resource.
People prefer different sleep schedules, and have different obligations in the evening and morning that could force them to cut back on sleep if they don’t have worktime flexibility.
Nutrition also can have a big impact on sleep, and eating unhealthy options throughout the day may hinder quality sleep. Workplaces should have healthy snacks available and/or encourage their consumption.
“Companies can also encourage employees to pick a time and place for a restorative, 15-minute, onsite nap,” said Pam Kouri, Chestnut’s Health and Wellness director. “While it’s not always practical at more conventional workplaces, employees can increase the benefits of napping by picking the right time and keeping to it (usually just after lunch) and arranging suitable napping conditions—quiet, dark and cool.”
Senior management could also embrace sleep management as a productivity tool. “A well-rested employee is prepared, alert and performs at a high level, with lower risk of accident and injury,” Kouri said.
The key is both promoting the benefits of self-directed sleep management plans and providing employees with tools and proper guidance, and offering more robust company-sponsored programs that involve in-depth assessments, a personalized treatment plan and counseling to address the underlying problems that might be exacerbating sleep disorders.
You have chosen to teach in higher education because you are a subject-matter specialist with a tremendous knowledge of your discipline. As you enter or continue your career, there is another field of knowledge you need to know: teaching and learning. What we know about teaching and learning continues to grow dramatically. It includes developing effective instructional strategies, reaching today’s students, and teaching with technology. Where is this knowledge base? Books, articles in pedagogical periodicals, newsletters, conferences, and online resources provide ample help. Take advantage of your institution’s center for teaching and learning or other professional development resources.
Much has been written about underprepared students who enter college. Since more students attend college now than ever before, it is only rational that some are not as prepared as we might expect. Institutions are dealing with this issue, but instructors must do some rethinking about how they teach, in order to meet the needs of all learners in their classrooms. Ungraded pretests and interest inventories can be used to see what your students already know about the content you will be teaching next. Students in all classes need help learning how to learn the material. You may not have imagined that you would be teaching how to learn vocabulary in your college courses, but that may be just what your students need. Above all, students should not be berated if they don’t know things that weren’t taught in high school. Accept students where they are and help them to go forward. They need a college education!
For decades, college instructors never thought of classroom management as something they had to plan, but times have changed and today’s college students need to know what’s happening. Posting a visual outline of what will be done during the class helps students follow the lesson and stay on task. Various aspects of teaching, such as distributing papers, taking attendance, and making time for students to ask questions, need to be part of course planning. Put policies in the syllabus about attendance, disturbances, cell phones, etc., and then review those policies with students. You set the tone of the class, and management procedures are needed.
Study the literature and learn about approaches such as learner-centered teaching, guided inquiry, active learning, lecture, group work, and online discussion. Use what works best given your content and your students’ learning needs. The best advice is to be visual, followed by keeping students actively thinking, writing, comparing, and applying new knowledge. Students learn more easily when they’ve been given the rationale for what they are learning, and when they understand why the teacher has chosen certain instructional methods and learning activities.
Today’s students are used to checking their grades online so they know where they stand at any given time in the semester. Grading policies need to be clear and grading scales easy to use. Share your grading policy in writing on the syllabus and then show exactly how it works after the first big exam, paper, or assignment. Remind students that assessment is more than the assigning of a grade. Assessment helps them to understand their achievement and helps teachers meet their needs.
It is very easy to become disheartened by student complaints, lack of administrative support, budget cuts, and job insecurity. However, what is it that drew you to your discipline originally? For most of us, it was a true passion for the subject, a desire to learn all about it, and a further desire to then share that knowledge. In higher education, we have opportunities to learn, research, teach, and shape the future of our disciplines and influence the larger world through our disciplines. Successful college teachers recognize that many of today’s college students have learning needs. Taking actions like these helps them to meet those challenges successfully.
If you Google “time management,” you’ll instantly have access to over 91 million entries. While I have only read through a few, I’m sure that the vast majority of them tout the benefits of time management and offer ways to improve yours. Much of it is good stuff, well worth learning. But beware… there is a dark side to time management.
As you increase your focus on effectively using your time, you may pull your attention away from other priorities. That’s not always a problem – but it can be. Consider the following:
The more you treat time like a commodity to be managed, the less you may appreciate its true value. Time offers an opportunity to enjoy, appreciate, and engage meaningfully in life. But as people increasingly hone their ability to get more done in less time, they often lose a connection with each moment. For instance, this spring, you may efficiently buy and plant your favorite flowers in a single morning, freeing you to move on to other chores. Though this is efficient, think about what you’ve lost by not taking time to enjoy the planting process or to absorb the flowers’ beauty.
The more you focus on getting things done, the less time you may allot for feeding your soul. Accomplishments and checking things off your lists can be gratifying. But if you fail to do the things that bring you pleasure (things that are more about being than doing), you may find that a feeling of emptiness or rootlessness creeps into your heart. Instead, you might find great meaning and satisfaction in enjoying your heart’s delight without accomplishing a thing. This could be playing an instrument for your own pleasure, reading poetry, taking a long bath, or even gazing at the walls as you let your mind run wildly free.
As you become more efficient at managing your time, you may fail to prioritize friends and loved ones. Or, even if you spend time with them, you may fail to slow down enough to truly connect. A sure sign of this is if you are texting or responding to emails most of the time you are with others. Other signs that you are disconnected from others are feeling alone, isolated, like something is missing, or even feeling depressed.
Holding fast to the idea that doing more is better can lead you to feel like a failure. You may have a false sense that you can do it all, if only you manage your time well enough. That’s simply not true. Perhaps you are not fitting it all in because you have taken on too much. Instead of trying to (yet again) rearrange everything on your plate and perhaps add a little more, think about whether the better response is to take something off your plate – either moving it to someone else’s plate, or even leaving it right there on the table.
All of that said, of course time management skills are important. It is good to have direction and can help to be efficient in your endeavors. But if you judge yourself based on how much you cram into a day, pay attention. Think about whether you feel satisfied with how you choose to spend your precious time, and with how well you appreciate that time. If you feel good about it all, then keep right on going. But if you are managing your life rather than living it, you may want to do less and be more.
Happiness doesn’t just fall into your lap – it’s not like finding a winning lottery ticket. Yes, some people are born with a happier temperament than others, but if you’re not one of them, there is a lot you can do to increase your happiness. A lot of “happiness-increasing” behaviors relate to lifestyle, like exercising regularly, eating a healthy diet, getting enough sleep, and engaging in meaningful work. And one of the most significant actions you can take is to increase your social interactions – with family, friends, and even strangers.
So, if you want to a happier life, here are some things you can do:
1. Simply spend time with others: People are social creatures, so simply being with others often leads to feeling happier. This simple observation has led Chuck McCarthy, an actor in Los Angeles, to “walk people” for a living. The Guardian UK reported that McCarthy has said that he is hired not just to walk with people who are friendless, but also those who can’t coordinate time with friends or have jobs that leave them feeling isolated. While a sense of deep connection is important, just having someone to chit-chat with is also important.
2. Expose yourself to a broad network of people: Researchers at Harvard Medical School have found evidence that happiness spreads through social networks. One person’s happiness not only makes their friends happy, but it also spreads to that person’s friends, and those people’s friends. In addition, the effect of this lasts up to a year! However, it works best with people who live close by – for instance, you will be more affected by a next-door neighbor than someone who lives down the road. It’s also important to note that sadness does not spread as much as happiness (so, your happiness does not depend on staying away from people who are sad).
3. Smile at others as you go through your day: When you smile at others, they very often smile back at you. Research has shown that not only do people often mimic the facial expressions of others, but they also tend to feel the emotion that goes with that expression — in the case of smiling, this means happiness. So when others smile back, you will also probably feel happier.
4. Be kind to others: It feels good to be good to other people. To support this self-evident idea, there is some evidence that being habitually altruistic raises dopamine levels in the brain. This leaves people feeling calmer, having greater self-worth, and being generally happier.
Practically speaking, you might find the results of research by Sonja Lyubomirsky to be enlightening. It showed people who do all of their acts of kindness in a single day benefit more than those who do small acts through the week. That said, you can still get a “boost” from being occasionally generous.
5. Express gratitude: Research has shown that expressing gratitude tends to make people happier. So, you might want to consider thanking your spouse, keeping a gratitude journal, writing a thank-you letter to a friend, or even just being mindful of your gratitude for others.
6. Use technology to connect: While excessive time on the computer or social media has led many to feel unhappy and lonely, it can also be used to help people feel happier. One study has shown that taking selfies and sharing them with friends can make you happier. Another study has shown that receiving personal posts or comments on Facebook often makes people happier. The takeaway seems to be that consciously using social media to connect personally with friends can make you happier.
Whatever you do to try to bring happiness into your life, make sure that you reach out to the world of people around you. Those connections – both superficial and deep – can brighten your mood and improve your life.
Whatever your political opinion, everyone should agree that a more informed and more engaged population is a good thing. For that to happen, we need to figure out a way of talking about politics without coming across like screaming lunatics.
In November 2016, I was travelling around the US with my girlfriend and so we were there in the build up to (and the aftermath of) the 2016 election. Needless to say, politics came up a lot. In hostels filled with young 20-somethings from across the world (albeit, mainly economically developed countries), political arguments bubbled up as people threw facts at each other.
Facts are a vital tool for debate; that much is obvious. Still, like every great tool, they need to be used properly. The temptation is to bombard your fellow interlocutor with the facts that you have so as to bury them with information. You already have an answer to every counter-argument they have with a list of statistics you’ve memorised and you know exactly why you’re right.
Everything is going great until the person you’re talking with pulls up a different fact, from a study you’ve not heard of, and it throws you because it upsets your worldview. The kneejerk reaction is a response that everyone should avoid:“That’s a lie.”
“If you’re going to assume I’m lying, then there’s no point in us having this conversation.”
If you ever doubt what someone is saying to you, your job is to research the truth for yourself. It’s true that sometimes people are wrong because they misinterpret information, and sometimes people are wrong because they misremember information. And yes, sometimes people will straight up lie to you.
Still, you have to start each conversation with the assumption that people won’t lie to you. Politely fact-checking is one thing, but assuming someone else is a liar just because you don’t agree with them is quite another.Society is built on trust. Restaurant owners trust that customers will pay the full amount before leaving; car owners trust that engineers have built sturdy roads and bridges; and debaters need to trust that the other isn’t lying to them. Otherwise, “there’s no point in us having this conversation.”
This might seem like a complete contradiction, but it really isn’t. When we’re debating with someone we disagree with, we tend to assume that they’re wrong. When we’re debating with someone we agree with, we tend to assume that they’re right. This is confirmation bias,1 while it’s something that everyone is guilty of, that doesn’t make it okay.
When we read the news, we’re often just looking for the information that helps us to confirm our existing beliefs. It requires less mental effort to think, “I am right and they are wrong” than to recognise that the reality is much more nuanced. We tend to fact-check when we think people are lying, but we don’t tend to do it when we think people are telling the truth. What we should be doing is fact-checking indiscriminately. If you give every statistic you agree with the same dose of healthy scepticism that you give every statistic you do agree with, you’ll begin to understand why other people think the way they think.
Bias exists everywhere and news outlets are both the agents of this phenomenon and the victims of it. News outlets are businesses. Imagine you owned a business whose job was to report the events of the day. You would end up expressing your opinion on the news you were reporting even if you tried not to. Every word you choose to use (or not use) and every detail you choose to focus on (or not focus on) reveals your bias. Even if all the words you say are true and all the details you focus on are relevant, your bias is still there.The idea of “objective” or “neutral” news is a fallacy. Objectivity exists in the realms of physics and mathematics, but the real world (and the language we use to express ourselves in the real world) is too chaotic and fluid to be understood objectively.In linguistics and computing, this is known as the symbol grounding problem2 and it’s essentially the reason why we’ve not been able to create consciousness in robots. To simplify, the symbol grounding problem is the notion that no matter how basic you make a symbol, people are still able to disagree about its meaning. Take this symbol, for example:
Is it the letter “I” or is it the letter “l”? Or is it an image? If so, an image of what? Is it a pole? Is it a building? Is it a road?
There’s no correct answer. That symbol could be a whole host of things depending on the context or on your point of view. When you realise how difficult it is to get people to agree on what one symbol means, then you can understand why things become problematic when those symbols become words, those words become sentences, and those sentences become political news coverage.
It sounds obvious enough, and yet so much televised political debate features politicians belittling other politicians. From Prime Minister’s questions in the UK to the primary and presidential debates in the US, politicians are bent on insulting each other.
We all know the reason for this; they’re trying to make the other person look weak in order to gain votes. Evidently, it must work. Otherwise, they wouldn’t keep doing it. But why do we do it? Why do we insult each other when we talk about politics?
As an unashamed science-fiction fan, I am reminded of an episode of Doctor Who. When trying to stop yet another alien from destroying the planet, he pleads with them: “I just want you to think. Do you know what thinking is? It’s just a fancy word for changing your mind.” When we talk politics, that’s all we’re trying to do deep down. All of the heightened rhetoric, all of the grandstanding, and all of the raised voices: it’s all just to try and get someone else to change their mind.
In that sense, political debate and marketing is the same thing: the art of persuasion. As someone who works for a digital marketing agency, I have long known that nastiness doesn’t persuade anyone of anything. People don’t choose Coca-Cola over Pepsi because Coca-Cola said that the people who drink Pepsi are idiots who don’t know what’s “really” going on. Rather, Coca-Cola wooed people by talking about their product’s benefits.
Good marketing is about creating a nice image for a product or service, whereas good political debate should be about a lot more than that. Sometimes this is not the case. Sometimes politicians are charming and polite and extremely courteous to the opposition while also being utterly incorrect. As an informed voter, your job is to see through that.
By extension, if a friend is being uncharming and impolite and extremely discourteous to you, they might still have a valid point. Don’t rise to their anger, but do engage with their ideas.
Debating politics is hard and so most of us avoid it completely. You might think that you’re debating politics because you share something online and then talk about it with your friends. Heck, sometimes you might talk about a story with your friends offline as well. You express your opinion and they express their opinion. That’s debate, right?
Possibly. Though, chances are, your friends have pretty much the same political views you do. Sure, a few of them might have dissenting views here and there, but most of the time you agree. Otherwise, you wouldn’t be friends.
Even if this is not the case offline, social media helps to create bubbles3 which ensure that this is the case online. Facebook, for example, only shows you content from the people and pages that you like and engage with.4 If you don’t like it or engage with it, it won’t be shown to you. In other words, if you do happen to have a friend who has views that you don’t agree with, you’ll rarely see those views on your Facebook feed.
The only real solution to this, aside from not using social media, is to engage with the other side. Leap across the political divide rather than settling comfortably into your own biases and simply dismissing the other side as full of crazies. It’s easy enough to throw around the word “extreme” when describing someone’s political views, but they probably don’t see their own views as extreme. To them, you’re the extremist.
This is a philosophy created and endorsed by the Vlogbrothers5 and it’s essential to discussing politics. In order to have better conversations about politics, you need to imagine others complexly. Understand that the process that led someone else to their political opinion is as complicated and nuanced as the process that led you to your political opinion.If you manage to do that, alongside everything else I’ve mentioned, let me know how you managed it. You’ll be a bigger and better person than I am for sure. What’s more, you just might be able to debate politics without being a complete jerk.