TIME psychology

What Is Life All About? Using Business Strategy to Find Your Life’s Purpose

What is life all about?

What’s your five-year plan? Your ten-year plan?

If you’re anything like me, your answer is probably something along the lines of “I have no idea.”

And just being asked that question makes you feel inadequate. Like you’re always supposed to know what the future will hold.

In his powerful book, How Will You Measure Your Life?, Clayton Christensen reflects that so many of his students at Harvard Business School feel they should always be able to answer “What is life all about?”

They expect to have their whole lives mapped out — and if they don’t, something is wrong with them.

Via How Will You Measure Your Life?:

Starting as early as high school, they think that to be successful they need to have a concrete vision of exactly what it is they want to do with their lives. Underlying this belief is the implicit assumption that they should risk deviating from their vision only if things go horribly wrong.

Christensen points out a fundamental irony: these business students don’t realize that most businesses, well-planned as they may be, don’t really know what they want to be either.

A full 93% of all companies start out doing one thing and abandon that strategy because it wasn’t viable.

Via How Will You Measure Your Life?:

Professor Amar Bhide showed in his Origin and Evolution of New Business that 93 percent of all companies that ultimately become successful had to abandon their original strategy— because the original plan proved not to be viable. In other words, successful companies don’t succeed because they have the right strategy at the beginning; but rather, because they have money left over after the original strategy fails, so that they can pivot and try another approach.

Most companies have two forms of strategy: deliberate and emergent.

  • Deliberate is what’s in the business plan, the PowerPoint Deck, the list of goals. And that’s what ends up changing 93% of the time.
  • Emergent is what you find along the way. It’s when your baby nephew ignores the gift you bought him… but LOVES the shiny wrapping paper. The heart medication research… that ends up becoming Viagra. It’s unintended.

Your life is always a balance of deliberate and emergent — what you plan, and what pops up through serendipity.

So how do you know when to stick to the plan and when to change course with what comes along?

If your deliberate plan is paying your bills and you find it fulfilling, stay on the path. Pay less attention to the little things that pop up and double down on present course.

Via How Will You Measure Your Life?:

If you have found an outlet in your career that provides both the requisite hygiene factors and motivators, then a deliberate approach makes sense. Your aspirations should be clear, and you know from your present experience that they are worth striving for. Rather than worrying about adjusting to unexpected opportunities, your frame of mind should be focused on how best to achieve the goals you have deliberately set.

But what about when you’re not feeling fulfilled? Or when you have a dream but it’s not paying the bills and offering a lifestyle? When you really have no clue to “What is life all about?”

Christensen says this is like those 93% of companies — they need to experiment, to look around to see how to pivot.

You need to be trying to new things, to iterate. To realize that maybe the shiny wrapping paper is better than that gift.

Via How Will You Measure Your Life?:

But if you haven’t reached the point of finding a career that does this for you, then, like a new company finding its way, you need to be emergent. This is another way of saying that if you are in these circumstances, experiment in life. As you learn from each experience, adjust. Then iterate quickly. Keep going through this process until your strategy begins to click.

But what you can’t do either way is sit on your butt.

What’s rarely required is just more thinking. It’s testing and experimenting that leads to real opportunities.

Via How Will You Measure Your Life?:

But it’s rarely a case of sitting in an ivory tower and thinking through the problem until the answer pops into your head. Strategy almost always emerges from a combination of deliberate and unanticipated opportunities. What’s important is to get out there and try stuff until you learn where your talents, interests, and priorities begin to pay off. When you find out what really works for you, then it’s time to flip from an emergent strategy to a deliberate one.

More on answering “What is life all about?”:

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Related posts:

What 10 things should you do every day to improve your life?

What do people regret the most before they die?

What five things can make sure you never stop growing and learning?

This piece originally appeared on Barking Up the Wrong Tree.

TIME psychology

Creative Thinking Exercises: 8 Steps to Workplace Creativity

A while back I rounded up a lot of the research and posted my four fundamental rules for increasing creativity.

But those aren’t all easy to do at the office.

The list includes getting drunk, taking naps and showers, and other stuff that could lead to a visit from the HR Hitman.

What are some research-backed creative thinking exercises that address the challenges of the modern workplace?

Here are 8. They’re unconventional, but they work.

 

#1) Hide From The Boss

Yeah, you heard me. Creative thinking exercise #1 is run and hide from your boss.

Not 24/7, mind you, but definitely when you’re trying to knock out something new and original.

As Stanford MBA school professors Jeffrey Pfeffer and Bob Sutton point out,bosses can hurt creativity.

Via Hard Facts, Dangerous Half-Truths, and Total Nonsense: Profiting from Evidence-based Management:

…when a group does creative work, a large body of research shows that the more that authority figures hang around, the more questions they ask, and especially the more feedback they give their people, the less creative the work will be. Why? Because doing creative work entails constant setbacks and failure, and people want to succeed when the boss is watching–which means doing proven, less creative things that are sure to work.

 

#2) Actually, Hide from EVERYBODY

Research shows that individuals who generate ideas on their own and then meet with a group afterward come up with more (and better) ideas.

Via Imagine: How Creativity Works:

Not only did the solo students come up with twice as many solutions as the brainstorming groups but their solutions were deemed more “feasible” and “effective” by a panel of judges. In other words, brainstorming didn’t unleash the potential of the group. Instead, the technique suppressed it, making each individual less creative.

As group size goes up, creativity and effectiveness goes down.

Via Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking:

The “evidence from science suggests that business people must be insane to use brainstorming groups,” writes the organizational psychologist Adrian Furnham. “If you have talented and motivated people, they should be encouraged to work alone when creativity or efficiency is the highest priority.”

 

#3) Be Creative At The Office By Not Being At The Office

You’re more creative when you work from home.

If you can do creative projects there, you might be up to 20% more productive:

On the uncreative tasks, people were 6% to 10% less productive outside the lab. The fall-off was steepest among the least productive third of workers. (People who reported procrastinating on their homework were also, unsurprisingly, poor telecommuters—as were men.) On the creative tasks, by contrast, people were 11% to 20% more productive outside the lab.

 

#4) Mess Up Your Desk

Research shows an organized office might make you behave better but a messy office can lead to more creative breakthroughs:

Experiment 2 showed that participants in a disorderly room were more creative than participants in an orderly room.

 

#5) Do Not Procrastinate

What’s that you’re saying? You work better with that last minute time pressure?

Harvard’s Teresa Amabile says no, you don’t:

We found that on days of the most extreme time pressure, the professionals in our study were 45 percent less likely to come up with a new idea or solve a complex problem. Even worse, there’s a kind of “pressure hangover,” with lower creativity persisting for two days or more.

(Here are more tips on beating procrastination.)

 

#6) Relax, Get Happy, And Daydream

Watch comedy videos on YouTube. Seriously, it works.

(Tell people it’s another one of your “very serious creative thinking exercises.”)

Via Imagine: How Creativity Works:

After watching a short, humorous video— Beeman uses a clip of Robin Williams doing standup— subjects have significantly more epiphanies, at least when compared with those who were shown scary or boring videos.

More happy = More creative.

Via The Progress Principle: Using Small Wins to Ignite Joy, Engagement, and Creativity at Work:

Our diary study revealed a definitive connection between positive emotion and creativity. We looked at specific emotions as well as overall mood (the aggregate of a person’s positive and negative emotions during the day). Overall, the more positive a person’s mood on a given day, the more creative thinking he did that day. Across all study participants, there was a 50 percent increase in the odds of having a creative idea on days when people reported positive moods, compared with days when they reported negative moods.

People whose minds frequently wander are more creative and better problem solvers.

Via 100 Things Every Presenter Needs to Know About People:

Mind-wandering allows one part of the brain to focus on the task at hand, and another part of the brain to keep a higher goal in mind. Christoff (2009) at the University of California, Santa Barbara has evidence that people whose minds wander a lot are more creative and better problem solvers. Their brains have them working on the task at hand but simultaneously processing other information and making connections.

 

#7) Record Good Ideas In A Notebook

“Eureka!” moments are bunk.

Research shows strokes of genius emerge over time, and the greats often kept track of them in notebooks.

Via Zig Zag: The Surprising Path to Greater Creativity:

Creativity started with the notebooks’ sketches and jottings, and only later resulted in a pure, powerful idea…Instead of arriving in one giant leap, great creations emerged by zigs and zags as their creators engaged over and over again with these externalized images.

And don’t write down every idea “no matter how crazy.” Rules help.

Focusing your efforts on being as creative as possible reduces the number of ideas but increases the number of good ideas.

Via Group Genius: The Creative Power of Collaboration:

Researchers next looked for idea-generating rules that would work even better than Osborn’s. They told their subjects: “The more imaginative or creative your ideas, the higher your score will be. Each idea will be scored in terms of (1) how unique or different it is— how much it differs from the common use and (2) how valuable it is— either socially, artistically, economically, etc.” These instructions are very different from those given for classic brainstorming because people are being told to use specific directions in judging which ideas they come up with. Groups working with these instructions have fewer ideas than brainstorming groups, but they have more good ideas.

 

#8) Present Your Ideas To Colleagues — and FIGHT

This might be the shift from “creative thinking exercises” to “creative shoutingexercises.”

Don’t be open and accepting. When people debate, they’re more creative.

Via Imagine: How Creativity Works:

Which teams did the best? The results weren’t even close: while the brainstorming groups slightly outperformed the groups given no instructions, people in the debate condition were far more creative. On average, they generated nearly 25 percent more ideas.

(Here’s more on why everything you know about brainstorming is wrong.)

Join 45K+ readers. Get a free weekly update via email here.

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5 quick things you can do today to boost your creativity

This piece originally appeared on Barking Up the Wrong Tree.

TIME Business

10 Networking Tips That Will Make You a Success

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Dimitri Vervitsiotis—Getty Images

Everyone needs to network. And I mean everyone.

What determines whether a drug dealer dies or becomes a kingpin? Yup – the size of his network.

Networking is one of the 10 things I recommend people do every week.

Research shows networking is vital to staying employed, salary growth and job satisfaction. It also makes you more likely to land a job.

Via The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference:

In his classic 1974 study Getting a Job, Granovetter…found that 56 percent of those he talked to found their job through a personal connection.

It makes you more likely to be successful at your job.

Via The Happiness Advantage: The Seven Principles of Positive Psychology That Fuel Success and Performance at Work:

MIT researchers…found that the more socially connected the IBM employees were, the better they performed.

It makes you more likely to become an expert at your job.

Via Achieving Success Through Social Capital: Tapping the Hidden Resources in Your Personal and Business Networks:

As much as 70% of learning in the workplace takes place via informal interactions according to a 1998 study by the center for Workforce Development.

And it makes you more likely to be creative on the job.

Via Imagine: How Creativity Works:

…businesspeople with entropic networks full of weak ties were three times more innovative than people with small networks of close friends…

Having a big network even makes you luckier.

Alright, alright… Networking is essential. But how do we do it? I’ve read the books, talked to the experts and I’ve got some answers.

And if you’re one of those people who hates the word “networking” because it seems sleazy, rest assured I’ve got that covered too. Let’s get started:

 

1) If Connecting Seems Hard, Start By Re-Connecting

You hate networking. Or you’re bad at it. Or you’re hopelessly lazy and have the attention span of a gnat. Then just go play on Facebook.

I’m being serious. An excellent first step, backed by research, is toreconnect with old friends:

These findings suggest that dormant relationships – often overlooked or underutilized – can be a valuable source of knowledge and social capital.

Give and Take” author Adam Grant points to research showing in many cases friends you haven’t kept up with are even more helpful than current contacts.

(For a dead simple way to reconnect with people, click here.)

Okay, but this is supposed to be networking, right? How do you meet new people? Well, that can be crazy simple too.

 

2) Move Your Desk

Most people constantly make excuses: “I’m shy. Talking to new people makes me break out with hives, boils and open sores.”

It’s really not that hard and it needn’t be awkward. In fact, it can be as simple as moving your desk.

Via Achieving Success Through Social Capital: Tapping the Hidden Resources in Your Personal and Business Networks:

Jeffrey Pfeffer tells a powerful story of a manager who attributes his success to his decision of where to sit… He noted that during the course of the day, people walked to the cafeteria and to the washrooms. He found where the two paths tended to intersect, near the center of the open plan office layout, and took that position as his work location. He attributes much of his subsequent success to that simple move, since it gave him much better access to what was going on in his department.

Not good at going up to new people? Then situate yourself so they’ll come to you.

(For more insights on networking for introverts, click here.)

Okay, clever tricks. But what if we really want to scale this? And be strategic? Then it’s time to bring out the big guns…

 

3) Find Your “Superconnectors”

A disproportionate number of friends and opportunities came your way through a handful of people. These are “superconnectors.”

Who helped get you your current job? Your previous job? Through whom did you meet the majority of your friends? Seeing any patterns?

Brian Uzzi and Sharon Dunlap discussed this in the Harvard Business Review:

After you identify your key contacts, think about how you first met them. In the center column of the work sheet, write the name of the person who introduced you to your contact (if you met the person yourself, write “me”). This column will reveal the brokers in your network and help you see the networking practices you used to connect with them.

If you only send a few emails or make a few calls it should be to those people, because a small investment there can pay off big.

Who’s an easy first superconnector? Contact your mentor.

(Don’t have a mentor? All successful people have mentors. To get the perfect mentor for you, click here.)

So you’re starting to build up a healthy network now. But all these meetings might get expensive. And that can lead to second thoughts…

 

4) Start An “Interesting People Fund”

Set aside money so there’s no reluctance or guilt and you can jump on opportunities to meet new people.

Ben Casnocha, bestselling author of The Start-up of You and The Alliance, says designating this money can make networking much less stressful.

Pre-committing $100 or $1,000 reduces the likelihood that when it comes time to actually do the thing you know you ought to do, you bail.

What about making time? Top networker Keith Ferrazzi sums up the answer with the title of his bestseller: Never Eat Alone.

(For more on setting up an “interesting people fund”, click here.)

You’ve got a burgeoning network and have set aside time and money to meet with them. Great. But what do you actually say when you’re there?

 

5) Three Golden Questions

You want meetings to be friendly and personal but you also want to lay down the foundation of a relationship that is mutually beneficial.

Judy Robinett, author of How to Be a Power Connector has a great short list of questions to make sure you make the most of even brief meetings.

Via How to Be a Power Connector:

Before you leave any meeting or encounter, you always should ask what I call Three Golden Questions.

First, “How can I help you?” This gives you an opportunity to add value immediately with a suggestion, a referral, or an opportunity, and it will establish you as a giver and potentially someone they want to know.

Second, “What ideas do you have for me?” Asking for ideas allows the people you are talking with to add value to you as you have (hopefully) added value to them.

Third, “Who else do you know that I should talk to?” The very connection you need may be in this individual’s network, and the only way you can find out is with this question.

(For more on what to say and do in the moment, click here.)

But this is the kinda strategic behavior some people see as sleazy and shallow. What keeps networking sincere?

 

6) How To Not Be Sleazy

When it comes to business relationships, stop thinking about the word “business” and focus on “relationships.”

So what should we keep in mind when it comes to being a friend to new people we meet? I always think of “warmth, curiosity, and generosity.”

Research shows people evaluate everyone they meet in terms of warmth and competence. And of the two guess which mattered more? Yup, warmth.

And then there’s curiosity. Actively showing interest in other people is powerful — and kind.

Merely listening to what they have to say and asking them to tell you more is all it takes.

When people speak, the best responses are both active and constructive. What’s that mean?

It is engaged, enthusiastic, curious and has supportive nonverbal action. Ask questions. Be excited. Ask for details. Smile. Touch. Laugh.

People who create this kind of positive energy are higher achievers. They get promoted earlier and also improve the performance of those around them.

(For more on how being sincere and positive can boost your career, click here.)

Hey, there were three things: warmth, curiosity and generosity. Where’s generosity? That one is so important it gets its own section…

 

7) The Five Minute Favor

One of the most common problems people have in networking is how to follow up: Great, I met someone. Now what do I do?

The answer to that is: give. Think of the other person first.

Top Wharton professor Adam Grant, author of Give and Take, offers a piece of advice on how to network he learned from Adam Rifkin.

It’s The Five Minute Favor:

One of my personal favorites is probably Adam Rifkin’s idea of the “Five-Minute Favor” (if you can do something for someone that will take less than five minutes, just do it.) A lot of people look at the idea of helping others and say, “Gosh, that’s going to be time consuming, or exhausting, or put me at risk of being exploited.” I think that Adam’s idea enables us to a sense of, “What if I just took a couple minutes every day to try to help someone in a way that a small commitment to me, but could be of large benefit to them?”

You know that hippie-sounding bumper sticker “Practice random acts of kindness”? Corny as it may sound, you should actually do that.

(For more on the five minute favor, click here.)

You’re giving. You’re even making a game out of it, trying to figure out the best way to help others. Now it’s time to flip that on its head.

 

8) Cement A Relationship By Asking For A Favor

Asking people for favors can actually strengthen the bond between you.

My friend Michael Simmons mentions a great networking method used by none other than Benjamin Franklin.

There was somebody who really did not like Ben. And as much as Ben tried to be nice to the guy, nothing worked.

So instead of trying to help his detractor, Franklin took the opposite route — he asked his enemy for a favor. Ironically, that made them friends.

Via The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin:

Having heard that he had in his library a certain very scarce and curious book, I wrote a note to him expressing my desire of perusing that book and requesting he would do me the favour of lending it to me for a few days.

He sent it immediately – and I returned it in about a week with another note expressing strongly my sense of the favour. When we next met in the House, he spoke to me (which he had never done before), and with great civility. And he ever afterward manifested a readiness to serve me on all occasions, so that we became great friends, and our friendship continued to his death.

What happened? When someone does something for you they need to justify it — maybe by changing their mind about you.

How can you do this without coming off like a selfish taker? Judy Robinett says to stick to the “rule of two”: give two favors before asking for one.

And don’t be afraid. Research shows we tend to underestimate just how helpful people are.

(For more on how to be a giver the smart way, click here.)

Now it’s all starting to come together. What do the experts say we need to know when looking at the big picture?

 

9) Tips From The Best

Fortune Magazine called Adam Rifkin the most networked guy in Silicon Valley. He has a few things anyone can do to be a better networker:

1. Do something every single day. Make it a habit. The more of it you do, the better you can get at it. Every day is an opportunity to get better, but do not try to do too much at once. Take the longview, and connect with at least one person professionally every day. Could be following up with someone you already know; could be asking for an introduction from a mutual connection.

2. Once in a while, think of two people who should know each other but don’t, and introduce them. Follow through with them later to learn from whether that introduction was worthwhile, so you can get better at making introductions. Practice!

3. Imagine you got laid off today. Who are the 5-10 people you’d write to for advice? Make sure to invest in those relationships regularly, not just when you have an urgent need.

4. Look at the 5-10 people you’ve spent the most time with in the last 3 months. Are you happy with the way they’re influencing you? If so, find another person who belongs in that group and invest in that relationship. (If not, change the way you’re spending your time! How you spend your time determines so much in your life.)

(For more insights from networker extraordinaire Adam Rifkin, click here.)

So you’ve got tons of contacts now. But how can you possibly maintain them all? There just isn’t enough time. Unless you do something very fun…

 

10) PARTY!

Good networkers build bridges, becoming a linchpin between disparate networks. But as Michael Simmons notes, great networkers form communities.

They make sure that their contacts get to know each other, exponentially increasing the connections and opportunities.

And forming communities actually makes managing networks easier – have regular get-togethers with a rotating group of your contacts.

It’s a trend you see again and again among top networkers:

  1. Keith Ferrazzi, author of Never Eat Alone, throws a monthly breakfast, introducing his connections to each other.
  2. Adam Rifkin hosts his “106 miles” gatherings where Silicon Valley power brokers and newcomers mix and mingle.
  3. Harvard’s Gautam Mukunda regularly gathers the most interesting thought leaders in Boston for steak dinners.

I’ve attended the latter two and can’t say enough positive things.

(To learn more about how you can turn your network into a community, clickhere.)

So where does all this take you in the end? Let’s look at the key point that makes all of this so powerful.

 

Sum Up

Here are the ten networking tips that bring success:

  1. If Connecting Seems Hard, Start By Re-Connecting
  2. Move Your Desk
  3. Find Your “Superconnectors”
  4. Start An “Interesting People Fund”
  5. Three Golden Questions
  6. How To Not Be Sleazy
  7. The Five Minute Favor
  8. Cement a Relationship By Asking For A Favor
  9. Big Picture Tips From The Best
  10. PARTY!

Old people, economists and insurance adjusters all say the most valuable thing in life is relationships. They make you happier – and healthier.

Via Achieving Success Through Social Capital:

…according to a study reported in the Journal of the American Medical Association, “More diverse social networks were associated with greater resistance to upper respiratory illness,” conclude researchers from Carnegie Mellon University.

It’s the first day of kindergarten again, folks. Go make some friends.

What’s the best next step? Send these five simple emails.

I’ll have more tips from networking experts in my next weekly update so join the community of over 90,000 readers here.

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This piece originally appeared on Barking Up the Wrong Tree.

TIME psychology

Being a Good Person: 5 Things That Can Help You Make the Right Choices

Man standing hesitating to make decision
Getty Images

In case you aren’t getting your RDA minimum of irony lately, I’m here to inform you that ethics books get stolen more frequently than other books:

Overdue or missing, as a percentage of those off shelf:

  • Ethics: 21.0%
  • Non-ethics: 10.0%

Missing, as a percentage of those off shelf:

  • Ethics: 8.2%
  • Non-ethics: 6.4%

Research shows that in a multitude of ways bad truly is stronger than good.

Via Good Boss, Bad Boss:

In everyday life, bad events have stronger and more lasting consequences than comparable good events.

Being a good person can be soooooooo inconvenient at times.

Here are five research-backed tips that can help you be good when doing the right thing isn’t easy.

 

#1) Reminders

The first step to being a good person is establishing reminders.

Seems too simple but reminders have powerful effects.

  • Mentioning the Ten Commandments before a tempting situation reduced cheating on a test.

 

#2) Supervision

Obviously, a boss standing over your shoulder can keep you in line but justfeeling like you’re being supervised is quite powerful.

How do you pull that magic trick off? Have a mirror nearby.

From Willpower: Resdiscovering the Greatest Human Strength:

Charles Carver and Michael Scheier, who arrived at a vital insight: Self-awareness evolved because it helps self-regulation. They had conducted their own experiments observing people sitting at a desk where there happened to be a mirror. The mirror seemed a minor accessory—not even important enough to mention to the people—yet it caused profound differences in all kinds of behavior. If the people could see themselves in the mirror, they were more likely to follow their own inner values instead of following someone else’s orders. When instructed to deliver shocks to another person, the mirror made people more restrained and less aggressive than a control group that wasn’t facing a mirror. A mirror prompted them to keep working harder at a task. When someone tried to bully them into changing their opinion about something, they were more likely to resist the bullying and stick to their opinion.

 

#3) Get Enough Sleep

Lack of sleep is correlated with unethical behavior:

In a cross-sectional field study examining unethical behavior in a variety of work settings, low levels of sleep, and low perceived quality of sleep, were both positively related to unethical behavior…

 

#4) Hang Out With Good People

Seeing others behave dishonestly makes you more likely to be dishonest.

Seeing people behave altruistically makes you more likely to be altruistic:

…these results provide evidence that witnessing another person’s altruistic behavior elicits elevation, a discrete emotion that, in turn, leads to tangible increases in altruism.

Research shows you become like the people you surround yourself with, so spend more time with the type of people you want to be.

From Charles Duhigg’s excellent book The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business:

In a 1994 Harvard study that examined people who had radically changed their lives, for instance, researchers found that some people had remade their habits after a personal tragedy, such as a divorce or a life-threatening illness…Just as frequently, however, there was no tragedy that preceded people’s transformations. Rather, they changed because they were embedded in social groups that made change easier… When people join groups where change seems possible, the potential for that change to occur becomes more real.

 

#5) Think About Your Childhood

Being a good person can be as easy as keeping a teddy bear nearby.

No, I’m not saying you should carry around stuffed animals but reminders of children make you more honest.

Via Harvard Business Review:

Half the participants were either in a room with children’s toys or engaged in children’s activities. Across the board, those participants lied less and were more generous than the control subjects.

Taking a minute to recall memories from your childhood can improve your behavior.

Four experiments demonstrated that recalling memories from one’s own childhood lead people to experience feelings of moral purity and to behave prosocially.

Join 45K+ readers. Get a free weekly update via email here

Related posts:

What 10 things should you do every day to improve your life?

What do people regret the most before they die?

What five things can make sure you never stop growing and learning?

This piece originally appeared on Barking Up the Wrong Tree.

TIME

Negotiation Tactics: The 10 Minute MBA Course on Negotiation

Want to learn the negotiation tactics of an MBA?

I’ve cleaned up and distilled notes from the excellent negotiating course I took in MBA school taught by MIT lecturer John Richardson.

 

Preparation

  • Always, do your homework. Success in negotiation is strongly correlated with time spent preparing.
  • Preparing in a group helps; others will come up with things you didn’t.
  • Be ambitious. There’s usually a connection between aspiration level and what people get. (Obviously, you can go too far, so look at your benchmarks.)
  • It’s very valuable to have things you don’t want in a negotiationso you can give them away for things you do.

 

Early In The Negotiation

  • Focus on influencing them, not being passive and waiting for them to decide. If you want to influence them be clear and consistent. Influencing is like teaching. You are teaching the other group to negotiate. Explicitly talk with the other side about not just substance (making money) but also process (rules of the game.)
  • Act with a purpose, don’t react. Most people act without thinking. Decide how you want them to act and what you need to do to encourage that. People’s behavior is not to be predicted, it’s to be affected.
  • Small talk before a negotiation is good.
  • Be careful what behavior you reward.
  • Your first goal in every negotiation should be to find out more.
  • Always begin with the frame “Should this deal be made?” not “How should I make this deal?”

 

Smart Things To Do

  • Any time someone presents a benchmark number, evaluate it, don’t just accept it. Ask “Where did that number come from?” If they don’t have a good reason, they’ll need to come up with another number. If you’re not sure about it, a good response is always “Let me look at this and call you back.”
  • In ongoing relationships concealing things becomes very stupid because the chance of getting caught and retaliation are too big. Be less concerned with what you get in any one round. If either side wins all the time it will not be a successful ongoing relationship. You should want to win each one, but not to win them all.
  • Being perceived as fair is key. People don’t respond well to being treated unfairly, even if the alternative is, objectively, even worse.
  • Sometimes people don’t know what their problem is; you need to figure it out and solve it for them. Being purely positional and transactional can hurt you here. Making efforts to understand them and help them solve their problem can be win-win.
  • Let them talk and explain their story. If you can show them you understand their reasons, you take away the “you don’t get it” defense. And if you still disagree with them after, it makes them curious to know where you’re coming from.
  • If you can explain their argument even better than they can it shows you understand and they’ll be much more receptive to your POV. Don’t make their argument sound stupid.
  • Always attach a fairness argument to whatever you propose: “Here’s what I’m offering and here’s why it works for you.” This is much better than a positional “I want $100,000 because I deserve it.” A fairness argument allows you to be flexible. If they give you new information, you can alter your reasoning versus being stuck with an arbitrary number that no longer makes sense.
  • In salary negotiations: using third party information, verify what other comparable people in the field are making. It will make it much harder for them to justify giving less. If they can’t do better, work on bonuses and perks.
  • What should you ask for? The most aggressive thing you can request with a straight face. And you need a reason why it’s fair.

 

Things That Help In A Negotiation

  • Accurate information sharing.
  • Structure the negotiation so there is no incentive to bluff (starting with what you don’t want works here).
  • Simultaneous revelation (write down and show offers at same time).
  • Keeping commitment for the end.
  • Creating multiple options.
  • Both sides like each other and want the other person to be happy.

 

Fisher’s 7 Elements Definition Of Success

  • You want no deal or a deal that meets your interests, not your positions. Interests are why you want things, positions are what you say you want. (Interests: “I want a job that makes me happy”, Positions: “I want 100K a year.”) Failure is when the result fulfills your positions but not your interests (“Got the salary but also got a crappy boss, little vacation time and a dead-end role.”)
  • Leverage negotiation tactics that create value. Work with the other person to create more options and opportunities for both sides to be happy, not just settling on the first thing everyone says.
  • All proposals should be supported by valid criteria. What’s the story of why this offer makes sense?
  • Know your alternatives and make sure this deal is better than those alternatives.
  • Use negotiation tactics that build a working relationship. You end up dealing with the same people often so lay the groundwork for smooth negotiations going forward.
  • You want a deal that leads to a clear reliable commitment. The result has to be something they can and will do, not something that will fall apart.
  • You want to reach a deal with efficient communication so everyone is on the same page.

 

Strategies and Dealing With Dirty Tricks

  • Remember Schelling: One of the most powerful negotiation tactics can be to make it impossible for you to do the deal on terms less than you want (“The money is in the hands of a third party who will not release the funds unless you do XXX”) But there is a cost to doing this, which is you throw away ability to change your mind.
  • Paint a vivid picture of their pain.” Explain what it might be like if they lose this deal. What’s better is to paint a picture of how bad it will be for both of us if this does not work out… “Nobody wants this result.”
  • You need to have a strategy for un-committing people who use self-limiting options. People will back themselves into a corner, “I absolutely cannot go lower than $50!” But they can. You have to allow them to save face so they can reverse that statement, otherwise you both lose.
  • How do you know if they’re lying? Make them talk a lot. Long, involved lies are harder to tell than short lies.
  • If someone says “take it or leave it”, don’t respond. Wait. If they’re still there a minute later, you know it wasn’t legit. A good strategy here is to change the subject because you don’t want them to feel embarrassed and then have to do something even more stupid.

 

How To Keep Improving As A Negotiator

  • Review your negotiations afterward. Make it a habit to prep, do, review.
  • After a negotiation, always ask, “What did the other side do well that I can learn?”
  • Practice with a partner, don’t just read theory.
  • Get feedback from the opposition.
  • Have a particular skill goal in mind that you want to work on and improve.

 

Want To Learn More?

To get my exclusive full interview with former head of FBI international hostage negotiation Chris Voss (where he explains the two words that tell you a negotiation is going very badly), join my free weekly newsletter. Click here.

Related posts:

My interview with Robert Cialdini on the six ways to influence people

6 hostage negotiation techniques that will get you what you want

What are the 6 things that can make you dramatically more persuasive?

This piece originally appeared on Barking Up the Wrong Tree.

TIME psychology

Creativity at Work: 6 Ways to Encourage Innovative Ideas

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Harvard’s Teresa Amabile, author of The Progress Principle: Using Small Wins to Ignite Joy, Engagement, and Creativity at Work, says there are three components to creativity at work:

  • Expertise (People who aren’t any good at physics rarely come up with relativity theory.)
  • Creative thinking skills (Are you even trying to think outside the box?)
  • Motivation (Personal interest like curiosity beats monetary bonuses.)

Her research produced 6 things that companies and managers can do to support and inspire creative work:

 

1) Challenge

It’s all about assigning the right person to the right project — but most companies don’t bother to get to know their employees well enough to do that.

Via The Innovator’s Cookbook: Essentials for Inventing What Is Next:

Of all the things managers can do to stimulate creativity, perhaps the most efficacious is the deceptively simple task of matching people with the right assignments. Managers can match people with jobs that play to their expertise and their skills in creative thinking, and ignite intrinsic motivation. Perfect matches stretch employees’ abilities. The amount of stretch, however, is crucial: not so little that they feel bored but not so much that they feel overwhelmed and threatened by a loss of control.

That final sentence, I think, is key. Amabile doesn’t reference the word, but it sounds like what this does is help engineer “flow“.

creativity-at-work

 

2) Freedom

Companies should define goals but let workers have some autonomy in how to get there.

Via The Innovator’s Cookbook: Essentials for Inventing What Is Next:

When it comes to granting freedom, the key to creativity is giving people autonomy concerning the means–that is, concerning process–but not necessarily the ends. People will be more creative, in other words, if you give them freedom to decide how to climb a particular mountain. You needn’t let them choose which mountain to climb. In fact, clearly specified strategic goals often enhance people’s creativity.

 

3) Resources

Too little time or money can both dampen creativity at work.

Via The Innovator’s Cookbook: Essentials for Inventing What Is Next:

Organizations routinely kill creativity with fake deadlines or impossibly tight ones. The former create distrust and the latter cause burnout. In either case, people feel overcontrolled and unfulfilled–which invariably damages motivation. Moreover, creativity often takes time…They keep resources tight, which pushes people to channel their creativity into finding additional resources, not in actually developing new products or services.

 

4) Work-Group Features

Companies kill creativity by encouraging homogenous teams.

These groups do find solutions more quickly and have high morale–but their lack of diversity doesn’t lead to much creativity.

Via The Innovator’s Cookbook: Essentials for Inventing What Is Next:

If you want to build teams that comes up with creative ideas, you must pay careful attention to the design of such teams. That is, you must create mutually supportive groups with a diversity of perspectives and backgrounds. Why? Because when teams comprise people with various intellectual foundations and approaches to work–that is, different expertise and creative thinking styles–ideas often combine and combust in exciting and useful ways.

 

5) Supervisory Encouragement

Support and recognition by bosses isn’t just nice, it’s essential to creativity at work.

Via The Innovator’s Cookbook: Essentials for Inventing What Is Next:

Certainly, people can find their work interesting or exciting without a cheering section–for some period of time. But to sustain such passion, most people need to feel as if their work matters to the organization or to some important group of people.

 

6) Organizational Support

Companies that mandate information sharing and collaboration while discouraging politics will see creativity thrive.

Via The Innovator’s Cookbook: Essentials for Inventing What Is Next:

Most important, an organization’s leaders can support creativity by mandating information sharing and collaboration and by ensuring that political problems do not fester. Information sharing and collaboration support all three components of creativity… That sense of mutual purpose and excitement so central to intrinsic motivation invariably lessens when people are cliquish or at war with one another. Indeed, our research suggests that intrinsic motivation increases when people are aware that those around them are excited by their jobs.

 

Final Note

Of the three big factors in creativity that Amabile calls out, where most companies go wrong is motivation.

They either ignore it or try to achieve it by money — a very inefficient mechanism at best.

The best employees are motivated from inside and companies that nurture that passion see the best results.

Amabile calls upon Michael Jordan as a perfect example.

Via The Innovator’s Cookbook: Essentials for Inventing What Is Next:

And Michael Jordan, perhaps the most creative basketball player ever, had “a love of the game” clause inserted into his contract; he insisted that he be free to play pickup basketball games anytime he wished.

For more tips on creativity from “Family Guy” writer Andrew Goldberg sign up for my free weekly email update here.

Related posts:

Creative companies: What are the 10 secrets of innovative offices?

Checklist: Are you doing these five things to be more effective at work?

What seven things can geniuses teach us about being more creative?

This piece originally appeared on Barking Up the Wrong Tree.

TIME psychology

Knowing Yourself: 3 Keys to Leveraging Ancient Wisdom

“Know Thyself”

The Oracle at Delphi said “Know thyself.” And that is deep and profound.

It’s also a pain in the ass because as with every cliche, the difficulty is in the execution and nobody ever bothers to tell you how to do it properly.

I guess they’re too busy brainstorming new fortune cookie wisdom while we sit around thinking they’re smart for coming up with it and we’re dumb for not being able to follow through.

Knowing yourself is the hardest thing in the world because nobody lies to you about you more than you do.

We need answers. Good answers. Ones we can achieve simply — without a PhD, a wrench or elective surgery.

What does “knowing yourself” really take?

 

What “Knowing Yourself” Means

It’s amazing to me how much real insight about life is coming from business books and business schools these days.

In Management Challenges for the 21st Century, Pete Drucker, probably the most influential thinker on the subject of management, says to be successful throughout your entire work life — one that will likely span numerous jobs, multiple industries and wholly different careers — it all comes down to knowing yourself.

And knowing yourself, in terms of achieving what you want in life, meansknowing your strengths.

But the reason I like Drucker is because he doesn’t stop there or just bury you in self-help platitudes. He gives a definition:

What are you good at that consistently produces desired results?

It’s not necessarily what you enjoy or what a test says you have aptitude for, it’s the things you do that result in crossing the proverbial finish line.

These are your strengths. Other research I’ve posted shows they’re tightly tied to happiness and fulfilling work.

You need to know what your strengths are to make the right choices.

 

Ignore Weaknesses. Double Down On Strengths.

If you’re one of those people who is skeptical about change, or who find it really hard, Drucker is for you.

He doesn’t believe we can overhaul who we are, turning introverts into extroverts and thinkers into feelers.

He believes in doubling down on the areas where you’re strong, bringing up the areas that get in the way of executing your strengths, and utterly ignoring the places where you show little aptitude.

There’s no sense striving for mediocrity in multiple categories. Figure out what you’re naturally good at and go all in.

Via Management Challenges for the 21st Century:

…do not try to change yourself — it is unlikely to be successful. But work, and hard, to improve the way you perform. And try not to do work of any kind in a way you do not perform or perform poorly.

It’s only by having a clear vision of your strengths that you can make good decisions.

You know those people we’re all jealous of who can confidently pick something, say they are going to be awesome at it, and then calmly go and just be awesome at it?

This is their secret: They’re not good at everything but they know where their strengths lie and choose things that are a good fit.

Via Management Challenges for the 21st Century:

(This) enables people to say to an opportunity, to an offer, to an assignment: “Yes, I’ll do that. But this is the way I should be doing it. This is the way it should be structured. This is the way my relationships should be. These are the kind of results you should expect from me, and in this time frame, because this is who I am.”

 

How To Do It

Drucker calls it “Feedback Analysis” but I think that’s way too formal and intimidating a term.

From now on when you undertake projects, write down what you expect to happen, then later note the result.

Yes, as I’ve mentioned time and again, notebooks are powerful. They are a shield against poor memories, rationalization and outright lying to yourself.

Just as a great first step for networking is to trace back your relationships to the handful of “superconnectors” you know, looking at successful and unsuccessful projects will tell you what makes you achieve and fail.

Review the results and think about 3 things:

  • What your strengths are.
  • Under what conditions you perform well.
  • What your values are.

 

Knowing Yourself Helps Everything

That vague Oracle was right. Knowing yourself benefits your whole life.

And while Drucker’s method is only focused on career, you’d be smart to extend it to romantic relationships, happiness, friendships, etc.

  • HappinessI’ve noted the things that make me happy over time. I’ll schedule time to do them more often.
  • RelationshipsMy good dates/great relationship moments all had these things in common so I’ll make those things deliberate from now on.
  • FriendshipsAll my close friends have these things in common. I’ll use that to know who to spend time with.

So what’s the next step? Get that notebook.

Then develop your strengths with Cal Newport’s expert advice.

Join 45K+ readers. Get a free weekly update via email here.

Related posts:

What 10 things should you do every day to improve your life?

What do people regret the most before they die?

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This piece originally appeared on Barking Up the Wrong Tree.

TIME psychology

Team Building: How to Use Moneyball at the Office to Build Great Teams

Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap… and Others Don’t, his exhaustive study of great teams and leaders.

He holds Nucor up as a prime example of perfect team building. These guys were so devoted they chased lazy employees out of the factory.

Via Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap… and Others Don’t:

The Nucor system did not aim to turn lazy people into hard workers, but to create an environment where hardworking people would thrive and lazy workers would either jump or get thrown right off the bus. In one extreme case, workers chased a lazy teammate right out of the plant with an angle iron.

And the best people are worth it.

Yes, they’re that much better. There are Michael Jordans in every industry.

Via Hard Facts, Dangerous Half-Truths And Total Nonsense: Profiting From Evidence-Based Management:

There are enormous and well-documented differences between the best and worst performers in numerous endeavors. Psychologist Dean Keith Simonton, who has spent his career studying greatness and genius, concludes: “No matter where you look, the same story can be told, with only minor adjustments. Identify the 10 percent who have contributed the most to some endeavor, whether it be songs, poems, paintings, patents, articles, legislation, battles, films, designs, or anything else. Count all the accomplishments that they have to their credit. Now tally the achievements of the remaining 90 percent who struggled in the same area of achievement. The first tally will equal or surpass the second tally. Period.”

Office workers are no different.

Via Hard Facts, Dangerous Half-Truths And Total Nonsense: Profiting From Evidence-Based Management:

…superior workers in jobs requiring low skill produced 19 percent more than average workers, superior workers in jobs requiring high skill were 32 percent more productive, and for professionals and managers, superior performance produced 48 percent more output than average performers.

And the above is probably just worthless and depressing information to almost everyone reading this.

You know why?

 

Most people don’t work with the top 2 percent

You’re probably shocked some of your co-workers can dress themselves and find the door out of the house in the morning.

With good reason. A lot of people are just plain dumb.

Via Competitive Advantage Through People: Unleashing the Power of the Work Force:

In an article reporting the declining position of the United States in world trade in telecommunications equipment, the New York Telephone company reported that “it tested 57,000 job applicants in 1987 and found 54,900, or 96.3%, lacked basic skills in math, reading, and reasoning.” A human resource planning document prepared at the Bank of America in 1990 reported that “Chemical Bank in New York must interview 40 applicants to find one who can be successfully trained as a teller”; “at Pacific Bell in Los Angeles, 95% of the 3,500 people who recently took a competency test for entry-level jobs not requiring a high school education failed”; and “at Motorola,80% of its applicants cannot pass a simple 7th grade English comprehension or 5th grade math test. At Bell South in Atlanta, fewer than 1 in 10 applicants meet all qualification standards.”

This is why team building can be a nightmare and most advice is useless: Everyone says “get the best” and that’s rarely an option.

What’s a far more realistic approach?

How do you find diamonds in the rough?

How can you do Moneyball in the average workplace and find the undervalued players who already surround you?

 

Look For The Round Peg In The Square Hole

Research shows we give too much weight to individual personality and efforts and too little to context.

Put an A player in an impossible role and PRESTO! — watch them become indistinguishable from a C player.

This is what the investigative commission realized after the Columbia space shuttle tragedy — NASA was so badly organized that it made good employees into poor performers.

Via Hard Facts, Dangerous Half-Truths And Total Nonsense: Profiting From Evidence-Based Management:

…the Columbia Accident Investigation board was dismayed to see that, although most of the people had been changed, the same system produced the same mistakes 17 years earlier–it was a system that made it difficult for smart people to do smart things.

Look for the obviously bright people who are struggling in spots where they’re all but set up to fail.

When you’re team building, those are the people you want to steal.

This is how Brad Bird made the Pixar film “The Incredibles.” He targeted the brilliant but floundering.

In an interview with McKinsey Quarterly he said:

I said, “Give us the black sheep. I want artists who are frustrated. I want the ones who have another way of doing things that nobody’s listening to. Give us all the guys who are probably headed out the door.” A lot of them were malcontents because they saw different ways of doing things, but there was little opportunity to try them, since the established way was working very, very well. We gave the black sheep a chance to prove their theories, and we changed the way a number of things are done here.

And with that he made a great movie and helped keep innovation alive at Pixar.

 

He Makes Ten Times As Many Errors? PERFECT!

You might want to consider that employee who makes ten times as many errors.

Seriously.

Teams that reported 10 times the number of errors had the best leadership and best coworker relationships.

Via Hard Facts, Dangerous Half-Truths And Total Nonsense: Profiting From Evidence-Based Management:

In the mid-1990s, Harvard Business School’s Amy Edmundson, and the Harvard physicians funding her research, were flabbergasted when nurse questionnaires showed that the units with bestleadership and best coworker relationships reported making 10 times more errors than the worst.

Huh?

Everybody makes errors. These teams actually reported them all. So they learned. And got better. And trusted each other.

The real danger was the people who were sweeping errors under the rug — but those are the people who got the best reviews from bosses.

Via Hard Facts, Dangerous Half-Truths And Total Nonsense: Profiting From Evidence-Based Management:

Edmondson and colleague Anita Tucker concluded that those nurses whom doctors and administrators saw as most talented unwittingly caused the same mistakes to happen over and over. These “ideal” nurses quietly adjust to inadequate materials without complaint, silently correct others’ mistakes without confronting error-makers, create the impression that they never fail, and find ways to quietly do the job without questioning flawed practices. These nurses get sterling evaluations, but their silence and ability to disguise and work around problems undermine organizational learning.

We rarely get the obvious A players.

But the true A players are not always obvious.

Join 45K+ readers. Get a free weekly update via email here.

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10 Research-Backed Steps To Building A Great Team

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This piece originally appeared on Barking Up the Wrong Tree.

TIME psychology

7 Ways You Can Easily Increase Your Willpower

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Hand reaching for chocolate chip cookie jar Mike Kemp—Rubberball/Getty Images

In general, people have an overly positive vision of themselves and their abilities.

But what’s the one thing surveys show most everyone will admit they have a problem with?

Self-control.

And who is most likely to give in to temptation?

Ironically, it’s the people who think they have the most willpower.

Via The Willpower Instinct: How Self-Control Works, Why It Matters, and What You Can Do To Get More of It:

Research shows that people who think they have the most willpower are actually the most likely to lose control when tempted. For example, smokers who are the most optimistic about their ability to resist temptation are the most likely to relapse four months later, and overoptimistic dieters are the least likely to lose weight.

So how can we really increase willpower? What does science have to say?

I’ve posted a lot about the subject — from research to interviewing the foremost expert on the subject. Let’s round it all up and make it useful.

Here are 7 ways you can increase your own willpower and live a better life:

 

1) “Keystone” Habits Are A Magic Bullet

Everyone wants a magic bullet. One pill that fixes everything. The closest thing in the area of willpower is what are called “keystone habits.”

The primary one is exercise. What’s so special about running or lifting weights? It doesn’t just give you more discipline at the gym…

It also makes you eat better. And helps you use your credit card less. And makes you more productive at work. And more patient with loved ones.

Exercise leads people to create other, often unrelated, good habits:

When people start habitually exercising, even as infrequently as once a week, they start changing other, unrelated patterns in their lives, often unknowingly… “Exercise spills over,” said James Prochaska, a University of Rhode Island researcher. “There’s something about it that makes other good habits easier.”

Going to the gym is too much for you? Try food journaling. Just write down everything you eat, every day. It’s another powerful keystone habit.

(For more on why this works, go here.)

So if you’re going to do anything, keystone habits get the best bang for your buck. What else should you do every day?

 

2) Do Important Things Early

Leading self-control researcher Roy Baumeister, has found that willpower is limited.

It’s highest early in the day but as we make more decisions, it empties like a gas tank.

This leads to a simple answer: do the most important things first. As the day goes on it will only get harder to face big challenges.

When do most self control failures happen?

At night. Roy explains:

The longer people have been awake, the more self-control problems happen. Most things go bad in the evening. Diets are broken at the evening snack, not at breakfast or in the middle of the morning. Impulsive crimes are mostly committed after midnight.

(To see the schedule that the most productive people use, click here.)

So your willpower is limited. What else can this tell us about the best way to use it?

 

3) Improve Willpower By NotUsing Willpower

Productivity guru Tim Ferriss says willpower is overrated. We have a limited amount of it, so relying on it is a bad idea.

Research shows we don’t use much willpower when something is a habit, when our behaviors are automatic.

How do you build good habits? Here’s a fantastic interview with Charles Duhigg, author of The Power of Habit:

Building new habits is too hard, you say? Then try this:

Manipulate your environment so as to make what you should do easy and what you shouldn’t do hard.

Hide the cookies and put your running shoes next to the bed.

Via The Happiness Advantage: The Seven Principles of Positive Psychology That Fuel Success and Performance at Work:

Lower the activation energy for habits you want to adopt, and raise it for habits you want to avoid. The more we can lower or even eliminate the activation energy for our desired actions, the more we enhance our ability to jump-start positive change.

People who think they have a lot of willpower expose themselves to more temptation — and eventually cave. So don’t rely on willpower.

(More on building good habits here.)

Now comes the part where I contradict myself…

 

4) Use Willpower To Build Willpower

I know, I know… I just told you not to use willpower, now I’m telling you to use willpower. What gives?

Baumeister compares willpower to a muscle. When you use it too much, it gets tired and gives out.

But by exercising it, over time it gets stronger. So you don’t want to rely on willpower for everything. You want to rely on habits.

But you want to make sure to tap into willpower a bit every day, always pushing yourself a bit to grow that muscle over time.

How simple can your daily self-control exercise be? Merely working on your posture can produce willpower benefits.

From Willpower: Resdiscovering the Greatest Human Strength:

Unexpectedly, the best results came from the group working on posture. That tiresome old advice—“Sit up straight!”—was more useful than anyone had imagined. By overriding their habit of slouching, the students strengthened their willpower and did better at tasks that had nothing to do with posture.

(For more self-control exercises go here.)

Simple is good, right? Want to know other crazy simple things that can help? Want to improve willpower in your sleep?

 

5) Fundamentals: Eat And Sleep

Yes, improving willpower is as easy as eating and getting enough sleep.

When I asked Roy Baumeister the easiest way to quickly boost self-control he simply replied, “Just eat something.

Want to wake up full of willpower? It’s as easy as getting more sleep at night.

From Willpower: Resdiscovering the Greatest Human Strength:

We shouldn’t need to be told something so obvious, but cranky toddlers aren’t the only ones who resist much needed naps. Adults routinely shortchange themselves on sleep, and the result is less self-control.

(More on how to get a great night’s sleep here.)

Eating and sleeping not easy enough for you? Here’s something even easier.

 

6) Procrastinating Can Improve Willpower

Ever been so lazy you put things off that you actually enjoy? This can actually boost self-control.

You don’t even have to say no to every temptation to gain discipline. Just postponing them can help too.

Research shows telling yourself “Not now, but later” is far more powerful than “No, you can’t have that.”

From Willpower: Resdiscovering the Greatest Human Strength:

…people who had told themselves “Not now, but later” were less troubled with visions of chocolate cake than the other two groups… Those in the postponement condition actually ate significantly less than those in the self-denial condition…

Anything other than just giving in helps strengthen your willpower muscle.

Delay, distraction, or even caving in a defined way can help increase discipline.

(Learn how to beat procrastination here.)

Okay, now’s the time for the bad news…

 

7) You’re Going To Screw Up… But That’s Okay

You’re going to give in to temptation. That’s not defeatist; it’s reality. But what matters is what you do after.

Feeling the urge to beat yourself up over your lack of willpower? Don’t do it. No Mea Culpas are necessary.

Blaming yourself reduces self-control. Showing self-compassionincreases it.

Via The Willpower Instinct: How Self-Control Works, Why It Matters, and What You Can Do To Get More of It:

Study after study shows that self-criticism is consistently associated with less motivation and worse self-control. It is also one of the single biggest predictors of depression, which drains both “I will” power and “I want” power. In contrast, self-compassion— being supportive and kind to yourself, especially in the face of stress and failure— is associated with more motivation and better self-control.

People who cut themselves slack go on to keep trying — and end up succeeding.

(For more on increasing your resilience, click here.)

So how does all of this fit together?

 

Sum Up

Give the 7 a try:

  1. “Keystone Habits” Are A Magic Bullet
  2. Do Important Things Early
  3. Improve Willpower By Not Using Willpower
  4. Use Willpower To Build Willpower
  5. Fundamentals: Eat And Sleep
  6. Procrastinating Can Improve Willpower
  7. You’re Going To Screw Up… And That’s Okay

I’m sure to some people this sounds hard and lonely. But it doesn’t have to be a solitary thing.

Relationships improve willpower: the best way to accomplish any change is by having a supportive group of friends around you.

And the reverse is true as well: willpower improves relationships:

…the more total self-control, the better the relationship fared. Multiple benefits were found for having mutually high self-control, including relationship satisfaction, forgiveness, secure attachment, accommodation, healthy and committed styles of loving, smooth daily interactions, absence of conflict, and absence of feeling rejected.

Willpower is one of the first steps in improving any area of life — and it’s good to know that self-control isn’t selfish.

Join over 90,000 readers and get a free weekly update via email here.

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How To Be Resilient: 8 Steps To Success When Life Gets Hard

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This piece originally appeared on Barking Up the Wrong Tree.

TIME psychology

What Can You Learn From the Toughest Leadership Job on Earth?

ANTARCTICA-BRAZIL-NAVY
Brazilian navy captain Sergio Lucas (R) looks on aboard the Brazilian Navy's Oceanographic Ship Ary Rongel as it goes through the Beagle Channel on its way to Antarctica on March 2, 2014. VANDERLEI ALMEIDA—AFP/Getty Images

Imagine you’re heading up a team stationed in Antarctica. And your relationship with some of the crew members goes sour.

There’s nobody else to enforce your authority. In fact, there’s no one for hundreds — if not thousands — of miles.

And you can’t fire anyone. Everyone has a critical role. How do you even punish them?

How can you take things away in a situation where everyone only has the minimum amenities to begin with?

And there’s no one to get much advice or counsel from.

Do you take a stereotypical military perspective and crack the whip? Apply the pirate model and have someone walk the plank?

Research has been done on the subject — and the tough guy stuff wasn’t effective.

What worked? Being democratic and listening. In the harshest conditions you need the softest touch.

Via Bold Endeavors: Lessons from Polar and Space Exploration:

During the early 1960s, the Navy Medical Neuropsychiatric Research Unit (now the Naval Health Research Center) conducted a series of studies concerning leadership at small Antarctic stations. In that research program, Nelson (1962) found that esteemed leaders tended to possess a relatively democratic leadership orientation and a leadership style characterized by greater participation in activities than traditional for a military organization. Further, the esteemed leaders developed individual relationships with each of their crew members and reportedly sought the opinions of individual crew members about issues directly concerning them.

Now even the extraordinary leaders didn’t just play mom toward the team.

Good leaders were still aggressive, industrious and emotionally disciplined — but they were focused on group harmony.

Via Bold Endeavors: Lessons from Polar and Space Exploration:

Popular leaders tended to be more self-confident and alert, but they differed most from unpopular leaders by exhibiting greater emotional control and adaptability and maintaining harmony within the group. The latter trait again emphasizes the motivational component of effective leadership; that is, the esteemed leader takes the time to speak personally with crew members and do whatever is necessary to preserve group solidarity. Many ineffectual leaders probably know that they should make these efforts, but they refrain because of insufficient motivation.

Crew members didn’t expect a leader to be a superman who had all the answers — in fact, that was a bad sign.

When there was a technical problem they wanted the expert in that area to make the decision.

They wanted policy decisions to be made by the leader — but only after input from the group.

And the only time they really wanted a take-charge, decisive dictator was in times of crisis.

Via Bold Endeavors: Lessons from Polar and Space Exploration:

In general, Nelson found that a specific leader’s status and esteem in a small Antarctic group were determined by the manner in which three types of decisions were made. First, crew members expected technical or task specific decisions to be based on consultations with the appropriate specialists and individuals involved. Second, crew members expected decisions about general or routine station policy matters that would affect all personnel, such as scheduling of housekeeping and recreational activities, to be made by the leader following consultation with the entire group. Third, crew members expected leaders to make decisions regarding emergency matters as quickly and autocratically as necessary under the circumstances.

So in the toughest place in the world, tough leadership didn’t work. It was those who listened and collaborated who thrived.

 

So What?

You don’t lead a group in the Antarctic, you say? I think we all do now.

The autocratic, military style doesn’t work in the modern office either.

What’s most people’s biggest problem in the workplace? Hands down — their boss.

Via Hard Facts, Dangerous Half-Truths And Total Nonsense: Profiting From Evidence-Based Management

Researchers have been studying organizational climate for more than 50 years and routinely find “that 60% to 75% of the employees in any organization — no matter when or where the survey was completed and no matter what occupational group was involved — report that the worst or most stressful aspect of their job is their immediate supervisor.”

And bad employee-boss relationships have negative effects on the whole company.

People who hate their boss take more sick days, do less work and are more likely to quit.

Via Nice Companies Finish First: Why Cutthroat Management Is Over–and Collaboration Is In:

There’s a growing body of research indicating that bad bosses hamper productivity, which results in smaller profits and lost business. University of Florida researchers found that people who work for abusive bosses are more likely to arrive late, do less work, and take more sick days even though they may be physically fine… this kind of employee-manager abusive relationship resulted in a workforce that “experienced more exhaustion, job tension, nervousness, depressed mood and mistrust.” These workers were also less likely to take on additional tasks, such as working longer or on weekends, and were generally less satisfied with their jobs. Also,employees were more likely to leave if they were involved in an abusive relationship than if they were dissatisfied with their pay — proving the old maxim that people quit bosses, not companies.

Even extraordinary leaders must learn the best ways to fight their number one enemy: hubris.

The military style dictator attitude won’t fly anymore. In fact, that style probably never even worked that well in the military.

Research shows the best Navy leaders have been supportive, not harsh.

Via The Happiness Advantage: The Seven Principles of Positive Psychology That Fuel Success and Performance at Work:

This isn’t only true in corporate settings. In environments thought to be even more stoic than corporate America—like the military—leaders who openly express their positivity get the most out of their teams. In the U.S. Navy, researchers found, annual prizes for efficiency and preparedness are far more frequently awarded to squadrons whose commanding officers are openly encouraging. On the other hand, the squadrons receiving the lowest marks in performance are generally led by commanders with a negative, controlling, and aloof demeanor. Even in an environment where one would think the harsh “military taskmaster” style of leadership would be most effective, positivity wins out.

So even the toughest guys know that being tough isn’t always what gets results.

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This piece originally appeared on Barking Up the Wrong Tree.

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