TIME advice

Frozen Songwriter Kristen Anderson-Lopez on Her ‘Aha’ Moment

Songwriter Kristen Anderson-Lopez speaks at the TIME and Real Simple's Women & Success event at the Park Hyatt on Oct. 1, 2014 in New York City.
Songwriter Kristen Anderson-Lopez speaks at the TIME and Real Simple's Women & Success event at the Park Hyatt on Oct. 1, 2014 in New York City. Larry Busacca—Getty Images for Time Inc.

The Oscar-Winning songwriter opens up at the Real Simple/TIME Women & Success Panel in New York City

Frozen songwriter Kristen Anderson-Lopez, Today Show host Tamron Hall and former CEO of WWE Linda McMahon spoke with Real Simple editor Kristen van Ogtrop about her path to success and the advice she’d give to young women. Here’s what she said:

On the wrong approach to success:

When I look back in my 20s, I was so obsessed with success. I used to call it ‘my ticket out of hell,’ I used to think ‘if I got this thing, that one thing, then I would be successful.’ And it would be something like the tour of the Fiddler on the Roof… And if it was my ‘ticket out of hell’ I wouldn’t get it, because I approached it with so much anxiety.

On the ‘aha’ moment where her attitude changed:

But I had this Oprah ‘aha!’ moment… I realized that for me, success was being in the moment… It’s being in the moment because I’m in the flow of the song, when I stop worrying about what time it is, or whether I’m hungry.

Look at what you’re doing with your free time. Look at what draws you when you aren’t working. Look at what you’re doing. Whatever you’re doing that draws you, listen to that voice and follow that voice.

On when she realized she wanted to be a songwriter instead of an actor:

I did ‘The Artist’s Way’ by Julia Cameron, and it forced me to write every morning. It was the first time I ever thought I wanted to be a songwriter, I wrote it in the form of “I want to be the third Indigo girl.”

On failure:

There were 7 ½ songs cut from Frozen. Even “Do You Want to Make a Snowman” was out, then it was in, then it was out, then it was in, we had to deal with the failure of “ooh that wasn’t executed just right”… [you have to] think of failure as process, not as a label.

TIME advice

Linda McMahon on Building the WWE Step-By-Step

Former WWE CEO opens up at the Real Simple/TIME Women & Success Panel in New York City

Former CEO of WWE Linda McMahon spoke with television host Tamron Hall, Frozen songwriter Kristen Anderson-Lopez, and Real Simple editor Kristen van Ogtrop about her path to success and the advice she’d give to young women. Here’s what she said:

On the first moment she felt successful:

I was a tomboy. And one of my first recollections of great success was playing baseball with the boys. I was playing first base, [and a boy had the ball and was going to throw to me, but he hesitated]. The pitcher said, ‘Throw it! She can catch it!’

On how she built the WWE with her husband:

I’ve been often asked, did you never dream you would be where you are today? And I say no, because you were too busy building, doing, step by step… As the company grew, and all of those different departments began to mesh, we kept looking at great success in the things we were doing, I would step back and say ‘where are you now compared to where you were before you did this thing?

On how she measures success:

My measure of success is how many jobs and lives we have affected internally, within the company… and having an opportunity to mentor some of the young people who have come along.

The first success was about building the company. And then once you’ve built the company, how do you continue to do that? So to have success today is to look around and see that we’re continuing to put smiles on people’s faces.

On fearing failure:

You cant be afraid to take a risk. You can’t be afraid to take a risk because you think you might fail.

TIME advice

Tamron Hall on How Not Getting Jobs Helped Her Succeed

Correspondent Tamron Hall speaks at the TIME and Real Simple's Women & Success event at the Park Hyatt on Oct. 1, 2014 in New York City.
Correspondent Tamron Hall speaks at the TIME and Real Simple's Women & Success event at the Park Hyatt on Oct. 1, 2014 in New York City. Larry Busacca—Getty Images for Time Inc.

The Today Show host opens up at the Real Simple/TIME Women & Success Panel in New York City

Television host Tamron Hall spoke with Frozen songwriter Kristen Anderson-Lopez and former CEO of WWE Linda McMahon spoke with Real Simple editor Kristen van Ogtrop about her path to success and the advice she’d give to young women. Here’s what she said:

On whether she ever doubted herself:

I’ve never not felt successful… My grandfather had a second grade education, he was a sharecropper, I don’t even know if my grandmother had a birth certificate. We didn’t have paved streets till the 1980s… I was always told by my grandfather, who took me home from the hospital, that I was special.

On how she measures “success:”

When I walked into this room, when you connect eyes and there’s this glimmer… That’s how I measure success: when you can walk in and see yourself in people, and you can actually help. A five-second conversation or a quick email, being able to have this voice or opportunity or space to help people.

Overall I measure my life by how I can help people. It’s my total journey. I’m not trying to be Oprah or Gandhi, it’s just how I was raised. I can’t measure it by my bank account, because I have a shopping addiction, I can’t measure it by sleep, because I don’t get any.

On failure:

Every single job I thought I wanted and didn’t get, there was something better for me…So far, every job that I’ve applied for that I didn’t get, every idea that I thought was great that crumbled in front of me, there was something else out there.

On telling kids they’re special:

Life, in itself, keeps you from feeling entitled, unless you’re just a jackass. I think it’s okay that your parents tell you you’re special, because there are enough people who will tell you you’re not… Life will, as we all know, will tear you down. Thank God someone told me I was special, because you should see what people say to me on Twitter.

 

 

 

 

TIME psychology

7 Research-Based Ways to Save Time

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Don't waste time filing emails away Michael Kelley—Getty Images

Eric Barker writes Barking Up the Wrong Tree.

Don't be fast, be smooth

1) Use The 20 Second Rule

Make things you shouldn’t do take 20 seconds longer to accomplish (moving the ever-buzzing phone across the room) and the things you should do 20 seconds easier.

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

I like to refer to this as the 20-Second Rule, because lowering the barrier to change by just 20 seconds was all it took to help me form a new life habit. In truth, it often takes more than 20 seconds to make a difference—and sometimes it can take much less—but the strategy itself is universally applicable: 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.

2) Have A Solid Daily Ritual

Via 18 Minutes: Find Your Focus, Master Distraction, and Get the Right Things Done:

STEP 1 (5 Minutes): Your Morning Minutes. This is your opportunity to plan ahead. Before turning on your computer, sit down with the to-do list you created in chapter 22, “Bird by Bird,” and decide what will make this day highly successful…

STEP 2 (1 Minute Every Hour): Refocus. …Set your watch, phone, or computer to ring every hour and start the work that’s listed on your calendar. When you hear the beep, take a deep breath and ask yourself if you spent your last hour productively. Then look at your calendar and deliberately recommit to how you are going to use the next hour. Manage your day hour by hour. Don’t let the hours manage you.

STEP 3 (5 Minutes): Your Evening Minutes. At the end of your day, shut off your computer and review how the day went, asking yourself the three sets of questions listed in chapter 27, “It’s Amazing What You Find When You Look.” Questions like: How did the day go? What did I learn about myself? Is there anyone I need to update? Shoot off a couple of emails or calls to make sure you’ve communicated with the people you need to contact.

3) Don’t Be Fast, Be Smooth

A Formula One pit crew — a group that depends on fast, efficient teamwork — found that they weren’t at top speed when they concentrated on speed. It was when they emphasized functioning smoothly as a group that they made their best times.

Via Oliver Burkeman’s wonderful The Antidote: Happiness for People Who Can’t Stand Positive Thinking:

Bosses are more frequently persuaded, though, by Shapiro’s other argument: that getting rid of goals, or focusing on them less fixedly, is often also the best way to extract results from employees. He seduces them with anecdotes about the effectiveness of operating goalessly, such as the tale of the Formula One pit crew with whom he worked, whose members were told that they would no longer be assessed on the basis of speed targets; they would be rated on style instead. Instructed to focus on acting “smoothly”, rather than on beating their current record time, they wound up performing faster.

4) Know The Best Times To Do Things

Know the optimal time to do things so you don’t waste time. Some notable highlights:

  • Best time to send emails you want read: 6AM.
  • Best time for thinking: Late morning.
  • Creative thinking: Creativity can be improved when we’re tired so try brainstorming when daytime sleepiness peaks at around 2PM.
  • Best day of the week to eat dinner out: Tuesday (freshest food, no crowds)
  • Best day to fly: Saturday (fewer flights means fewer delays, shorter lines, less stress)

Full list is here.

5) Hold Meetings Standing Up

Sick of time-wasting meetings? Bob Sutton’s great book Good Boss, Bad Boss: How to Be the Best… and Learn from the Worst points to a great trick. Hold your meetings standing up:

Sit-down meetings were 34% longer than stand-up meetings, but they produced no better decisions than stand-up meetings. Significant differences were also obtained for satisfaction with the meeting and task information use during the meeting but not for synergy or commitment to the group’s decision.

6) Get More Sleep

Cheating yourself on sleep reduces willpower and it’s this same store of self-control that helps us resist all those bad behaviors like aimless web-surfing:

Researchers have previously argued that sleep is a means of recharging our regulatory resources, and these studies confirm that less sleep does indeed make us prey to counterproductive activities like cyberloafing.

7) Stop Sorting Email

Sorting your email into folders? Don’t bother: “…researchers discovered that those who did no email organizing at all found them faster than those who filed them in folders.

If you’re the type to meticulously file your emails in various folders in your client, stop, says a new study from IBM Research. By analyzing 345 users’ 85,000 episodes of digging through old emails in search of the one they needed, researchers discovered that those who did no email organizing at all found them faster than those who filed them in folders.

By using search, the non-organizers were able to find the email they needed just as easily as filers. They also didn’t have to spend any time filing email in folders, putting them ahead overall.

This piece originally appeared on Barking Up the Wrong Tree.

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TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME health

How to Get Over Your Fear of the Gym

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Getty Images

This article originally appeared on Refinery29.com.

Gym + Intimidation = Gymtimidation, and I’ve had a bad case of it for years. As a big girl, gym culture can be intimidating for a variety of reasons. I know I need to lift weights and build strength, but that testosterone-filled section of the gym doesn’t always feel fat-girl friendly, especially when I’m not exactly sure what I’m doing.

But, it’s not just the free-weight room that gives me anxiety. I’m a strong swimmer, but when I head to my gym’s pool, I’ve had lifeguards ask if I’m looking for the slow lane — before I even get in the water. I’ve noticed that the women who look fit are offered free personal-training sessions, while instructors size me up and simply dismiss me because I’m bigger.

I’m on a plus-size fitness journey, though, which means I need to get comfortable at the gym. In order for me to do this right, I need to work out often and try new things. If I only stick to the exercise classes and workouts I’ve always done, my body’s going to get used to those exercises, essentially making them less effective. And, I intend to meet my fitness goals — not shy away from them.

(MORE: Why Body Confidence is Complicated, No Matter Your Size)

Because of my tendency to get nervous at the gym (and practically run out before I start sweating), there have been many times when I’ve had to give myself a pep talk: “CeCe, get over it!” Lately, when I head to the gym, I have to take a quick minute to remind myself that it’s ok to ask for help. That I must get over my fear of the guys in the weight room. I’m also working on getting more comfortable with getting undressed in the main locker-room area, which is a heck of a lot easier than doing it behind the doors of a cramped stall.

Getting over my gymtimidation is an ongoing process. Every time I think I’ve shed my fears and anxieties, there’s something new I have to conquer: a new machine, a new instructor, or even my desire to try new classes, like Spinning.

When I first braved a Spinning class, I didn’t know anyone in it, so I made sure to arrive 30 seconds before class started to stay as anonymous as possible. I jumped on a bike in the back corner of the room and watched the regulars exchange hugs and kisses before the lights dimmed and class began.

(MORE: Why I Dated a Guy Who Hated My Body)

The next 45 minutes were awful. My shoes got stuck in the pedal straps, I kept turning knobs on my bike without knowing what they did, and, perhaps worst of all, my butt really hurt. When the class ended, I ran out of there as fast as I could and didn’t return.

But, the fact that I couldn’t bring myself to attend another Spinning class meant only one thing to me: I was letting gymtimidation rob me of a good workout. So, last week, I got back on that bike. I arrived early this time, chose a bike in the front row, and when the instructor walked in and asked if I was new, I admitted that I was and asked for help. He taught me how the bike worked and how to set up my seat and handles. The class was definitely intense, but every step of the way, the instructor gave me the attention I needed to keep up. He even instructed me to sit back on the seat a bit, because, as he said, my butt was probably hurting. How did he know?

Forty-five minutes later, I walked out of the studio feeling sweaty, motivated, and, above all, proud of myself. I had finally gotten out of my own way and unlocked a new workout option for myself. Who knew what other workouts I’d try next? As I headed to the locker room, the instructor called out after me: “Great job today! I’m glad you mentioned that you were new; most people don’t do that.” I guess I’m not the only one with gymtimidation!

(MORE: Please Stop Calling Yourself a Fat Girl in Front of Me)

On her blog, Plus Size Princess, CeCe Olisa has detailed everything from what it’s like to be the only big black girl in a yoga class (fine, thanks!), to her adventures in plus-size dating in the Big Apple. Now, the New York City transplant is lending her poignant, often-hilarious voice to R29.

TIME psychology

What Are the 3 Quick and Easy Ways to Boost Self-confidence?

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Body language plays an important role in confidence Image Source—Getty Images/Image Source

Eric Barker writes Barking Up the Wrong Tree.

“Trash talk” works

As a general rule, you’re better off being moderately overconfident. Overconfidence is performance-enhancing and increases productivity.

But what about when you’re not feeling so high on yourself? What can quickly and easily boost your self-esteem?

1) Look At Your Resume

Reviewing your credentials can remind you how talented you are and induce a “reverse stereotype threat” that boosts confidence.

Via Choke: What the Secrets of the Brain Reveal About Getting It Right When You Have To:

I immediately think about my research credentials, a trick I developed after discovering that getting people to think about aspects of themselves that are conducive to success can actually be enough to propel them to a top performance and prevent choking.

And:

The mere act of realizing you aren’t just defined by one dimension— your SAT score or a speech or a solo— can help curtail worries and negative thoughts. In essence, thinking about yourself from multiple perspectives can help relieve some pressure that you feel.

2) Stand Up Straight

Your mind moves you, but how you move also affects your mind.

Recent research in the area of embodied cognition confirms we can improve how we think and behave by changing how we sit, stand and move.

The military makes soldiers stand up straight for a reason: there’s an implicit connection between posture and power that has been demonstrated time and time again.

Want to increase confidence? Make yourself tougher? Write a better self-evaluation? Impress others? Stand up straight.

3) Talk To Yourself

Might seem crazy but it works.

Talking to yourself out loud can make you smarter, improve your memory, help you focus and even increase athletic performance.

What should you say to increase confidence? Be positive. And when you have doubts about your ability, you should doubt your doubts.

Self-talk is one of the skills that helped Navy SEAL candidates pass their grueling “Hell Week.”

And talking to yourself isn’t the only type of talking that can boost confidence. Seeing your opponent as inferior improves your own performance as well. So, yes, “Trash talk” works.

Are You Confident About Confidence?

Is confidence really that vital?

People prefer others who are prideful. Self-esteem can be sexy.

Some research shows people prefer confidence to actual expertise. Confidence can be enough to get you made leader of a group — even if you don’t know what you’re talking about:

Via The Invisible Gorilla: How Our Intuitions Deceive Us:

So in this experiment, group leadership was determined largely by confidence. People with dominant personalities tend to exhibit greater self-confidence, and due to the illusion of confidence, others tend to trust and follow people who speak with confidence. If you offer your opinion early and often, people will take your confidence as an indicator of ability, even if you are actually no better than your peers.

This piece originally appeared on Barking Up the Wrong Tree.

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TIME psychology

Why Aren’t You Doing What Really Makes You Happy?

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Thomas Barwick—Getty Images

Eric Barker writes Barking Up the Wrong Tree.

Mastering skills is stressful in the short term and happiness-boosting in the long term

The path to happiness and the path to being an expert overlap.

Here’s the problem though: research shows that you don’t usually do what really brings you joy or makes you an expert — you do what is easy.

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

Studies have found that American teenagers are two and a half times more likely to experience elevated enjoyment when engaged in a hobby than when watching TV, and three times more likely when playing a sport. And yet here’s the paradox: These same teenagers spend four times as many hours watching TV as they do engaging in sports or hobbies. So what gives? Or, as psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi put it more eloquently, “Why would we spend four times more time doing something that has less than half the chance of making us feel good?” The answer is that we are drawn—powerfully, magnetically—to those things that are easy, convenient, and habitual, and it is incredibly difficult to overcome this inertia. Active leisure is more enjoyable, but it almost always requires more initial effort—getting the bike out of the garage, driving to the museum, tuning the guitar, and so on.

Sitting on the couch watching TV does not make you happy:

“…heavy TV viewers, and in particular those with significant opportunity cost of time, report lower life satisfaction. Long TV hours are also linked to higher material aspirations and anxiety.”

You are happier when you are busy and often have more fun at work than at home.

How is that possible? You spend a lot more time in high-challenge, high-skill situations that encourage flow states during work hours. You’re more likely to feel apathy during leisure time at home.

Via Sonja Lyubomirsky’s The How of Happiness:

the study found that while at work (relative to home/leisure), these individuals spent a great deal more time in high-challenge, high-skill situations (that is, those situations that foster flow) and less time in low-skill, low-challenge situations. Indeed, they were inclined to experience a sense of efficacy and self-confidence during work hours but to experience apathy at home. However, when probed about what they’d rather be doing, these participants uniformly stated that they’d rather be doing something else when working and that they preferred to continue what they were doing when at leisure.

Thinking and working can beat sad feelings. But you avoid those because they take effort.

You spend up to 8 minutes of every hour daydreaming. Your mind will probably wander for 13% of the time it takes you to read this post. Some of us spend 30-40% of our time daydreaming.

Via The Science of Sin: The Psychology of the Seven Deadlies (and Why They Are So Good For You):

Do you remember what the previous paragraph was about? It’s OK, I’m not offended. Chances are that your mind will wander for up to eight minutes for every hour that you spend reading this book. About 13 percent of the time that people spend reading is spent not reading, but daydreaming or mind-wandering. But reading, by comparison to other things we do, isn’t so badly affected by daydreaming. Some estimates put the average amount of time spent daydreaming at 30 to 40 percent.

Problem is, a wandering mind is not a happy mind:

“Mind-wandering is an excellent predictor of people’s happiness,” Killingsworth says. “In fact, how often our minds leave the present and where they tend to go is a better predictor of our happiness than the activities in which we are engaged.” …subjects’ mind-wandering was generally the cause, not the consequence, of their unhappiness.

Your default is to do what is easy, but you’re happier when challenged. You need to fight your instincts.

What should you be doing?

Things you’re good at.

Signature strengths” are the things you are uniquely talented at and using them brings you joy. People who deliberately exercised their signature strengths on a daily basis became significantly happier for months.

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

When 577 volunteers were encouraged to pick one of their signature strengths and use it in a new way each day for a week, they became significantly happier and less depressed than control groups. And these benefits lasted: Even after the experiment was over, their levels of happiness remained heightened a full month later. Studies have shown that the more you use your signature strengths in daily life, the happier you become.

Signature strengths are the secret to experiencing more “flow” at work and in life. Exercising them is why starving artists are happier with their jobs.

But isn’t this a lot of hard work?

Mastering skills is stressful in the short term and happiness-boosting in the long term. Ambitious goals make you happier.

But maybe you’re afraid of failure. This is why you do what is easy and why your instinct is to play it safe. Fear of failure is one of the most powerful feelings.

Via Brandwashed: Tricks Companies Use to Manipulate Our Minds and Persuade Us to Buy:

In a surprising 2008 study, researchers at the University of Bath, UK, found that the fear of failure drives consumers far more than the promise of success; the latter oddly tends to paralyze us, while the former spurs us on (and pries open our wallets). In fact, as the study found, the most powerful persuader of all was giving consumers a glimpse of some future “feared self.”

Thinking about what happens to you in terms of your self-esteem will crush you — look at life as growing and learning:

“A key to alleviating depression is fostering a shift from self-worth goals to learning goals and from the beliefs underlying self-worth goals to the opposite beliefs.”

When challenged, focus on “getting better” — not doing well or looking good. Get-better goals increase motivation, make tasks more interesting and replenish energy.

Via Nine Things Successful People Do Differently:

Get-better goals, on the other hand, are practically bulletproof. When we think about what we are doing in terms of learning and mastering, accepting that we may make some mistakes along the way, we stay motivated despite the setbacks that might occur…

But what is the end goal you should focus on? Is there an easy way to think about what you should be heading toward?

Yes. Think about the best possible version of yourself and move toward that.

This piece originally appeared on Barking Up the Wrong Tree.

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TIME advice

How to Learn to Say ‘No’

Momentimages—Tetra Iimages/Getty Images

We routinely overestimate the cost of saying no

Answer by Eva Glasrud, on Quora.

A while back, I answered Do women have a harder time saying “no” than men? If so, why?

Basically what I wrote is that everyone in our culture has a hard time saying no. For a couple of reasons, including:

1. Hardly anyone “just says no.” We say, “I would, but…” “If it had been any day but today…” In other words, when people ask for something, you’re probably giving them an explanation as to why you must say no.

But this gives them a chance to try again. To find a little workaround. “Oh, you’re busy this week? How about next week?” “Oh, the drive is too far? Let’s meet half way!” (And, as I discuss below, saying no the first time makes you more likely to say yes out of guilt the second time.)

So if you want to say no better, JUST SAY NO. Practice different polite but assertive ways of doing it that contain no explanation/workaround, such as,

  • “I can’t this time.”
  • “Sorry — not today.”
  • “That won’t work for me right now — but I’ll get back to you if anything changes.”
  • “I really appreciate you thinking of me, but I’ve just got too much on my plate right now.”

2. In a way, saying no is a form of aggression. But people are generally cooperative and social, so we overestimate the cost of saying no. (Which is why, generally, if you ask for something, people say yes — even if the reason you give for the ask is complete gibberish, e.g., “Can I cut you in line to use the copier because I need to use the copier.”)

I repeat: WE ROUTINELY OVERESTIMATE THE COST OF SAYING NO.

Keep this in mind next time someone asks you for something. Saying no isn’t as bad as you think.

3. Be mindful of persuasion techniques that people often use when making an ask. Common ones include

  • Reciprocity. People often give you something before making an ask. This is because they know about the psychological tendency to want to reciprocate.
  • Making two asks. When people ask for something and you say no, they increase the odds that when they ask for something else (usually something smaller), you’ll say yes. “Well, if you won’t donate $100, could you at least ____?”
  • Anchoring – “Most people donate $X,” “Most other parents volunteer Y hours,” etc.
  • Establishing similarity between asker and askee.
  • Physical attractiveness.

Pay attention to what people are asking you for and how. And don’t let them game you.

4. You have to be a little selfish. In general, I consider myself to be pretty good at saying no. This is because I’ve had to. When I play basketball, I’m usually the only girl. And the boys always try to tell me what to do, who to guard, etc. If I don’t say no, I’m wasting my time guarding worse opponents, playing positions I don’t like, getting fewer passes, etc.

I’ve also done a fair amount of hitchhiking. This is one situation where, if something doesn’t feel right, you HAVE to say no. You might hurt someone’s feelings if you do — but if you don’t, you could DIE.

So think about it that way. If you don’t say no, you could die. Saying yes adds extra stress to you life. It eats into your leisure time. It shortens your life. It increases your blood pressure and decreases our immune system. It could lead to less sleep, less exercise, and a less healthy diet.

There are some things you can never have back. Your time, your health, your virtue, your life. Don’t mess around with those things. It’s fine for people to ask — most likely, in their mind, they’re trying to help introduce you to a great person or opportunity or meaningful cause. And it’s just as fine for you to say no.

Also see Eric Pepke‘s answer. I love it.

This question originally appeared on Quora: How can a person learn to say “no”?

TIME advice

Common Mid-Life Regrets

Mid-life regrets
Allison Michael Orenstein—Getty Images

Answer by James Altucher on Quora.

Everyone wants to know what dead people say right before they die. Words maybe infused with speckles of a heaven. Beethoven supposedly said on his deathbed, “Friends applaud! the comedy is finished!” Lou Costello said, “This was the best ice cream soda I ever tasted.” Similar is, “What are common regrets of people in their 30s and 40s?” Can they be avoided if known?

Here are my regrets. And they can be summed up by the word “don’t.”

Don’t buy things
Buy experiences. A thing is a house. An experience is a trip. An experience is a visit to that girl or guy on the other side of the world who said, “maybe.” An experience is an invitation to meaning instead of material.

Don’t do anything you don’t want to do
You think you have time to get out of it. But you don’t. And then it happens. And then it’s too late. And then it’s something you did. You were the target and you got shot. A black ink stamp leaving its mark on your wrist. You went to the party and the next day, all blurry and inky, it shows and everyone can see.

Don’t try to please people
Nobody is more worthy of love in the entire universe than you. I wish I had reminded myself of that more. I could’ve saved all of that time where I was trying to please someone else. Money you lose you can always make back. But even five minutes of time lost is gone forever.

Don’t fall in love with someone who is in love with somebody else
These people are magnets of love. They’ve sucked all the love out of the room so when you walk in, it’s already too late, you’re past that zone in the black hole where nothing ever gets out and nobody ever knows what’s there. It’s lost in space and time. When I’ve fallen in love with someone who was in love with someone else, only pieces of me have ever survived. And even then I had to put those pieces back together into the Tinkertoy robot that became me for a long time.

Don’t make promises you can’t keep
And to that I can only say, I’m sorry to that one girl.

Run. Don’t walk
I don’t mean run to a goal or a destination. There are no goals and you realize this around the age of 30 or so. I mean just “run.” You build up your blood vessels. More oxygen gets to the brain. You get smarter. Life is better. And you’ll see more in life than the people who are walking. Who take their time failing. Who take their time falling for others. Who take their time while waiting for the right moment. Waiting for the right weather, the right coordinates, the right person, to drop anchor. There’s never a right moment. So just run to get there.

Don’t wait for them to say “yes”
Who is “them”? What are they saying “yes” to? What do you think will happen after the wait is over? Yes. That’s my point. All of the answers to these questions are lesser versions of what happens if you don’t wait so I’ll say it again. “Don’t wait for them to say yes.” Say yes to yourself first and everyone will say yes later.

Don’t steal paperclips from the office
It seems small. But a million paper clips in life add up to what you are, a mishmash of twisted metal. Be honest. Honesty compounds until your word becomes The Word. Try it and see.

Don’t eat bad food
And by “food” I mean McRibs. But also I mean the news. And dramas that kill lots of people. And coworkers who gossip in the hallway, everyone trying to pull everyone else down. And family who yells at you only because you have become the piano they play their own anguish on. And late nights with the girl who smiles but you know it will never work. At 20, life can either compound into beauty or into insanity. This is the “don’t” that forks into both.

Don’t regret
It may look like these are regrets. But they are just tattoos that live on me right now. The illustrated man at the circus. Don’t time travel into the past, roaming through the nuances as if they can change. Don’t bookmark pages you’ve already read. Today it starts all over again. Every tomorrow is determined by every today.

This question originally appeared on Quora: When people in their 30s and 40s and older look back on their life, what are some common regrets they have?

TIME psychology

What 5 Things Can Make Sure You Never Stop Growing and Learning?

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Mike Chick—Getty Images

Eric Barker writes Barking Up the Wrong Tree.

Probably the most important thing in your environment is supportive friends

1) Keep Trying New Things

Having lots of hobbies is one of the secrets of the most creative people.

Via Where Good Ideas Come From: The Natural History of Innovation:

Legendary innovators like Franklin, Snow, and Darwin all possess some common intellectual qualities— a certain quickness of mind, unbounded curiosity— but they also share one other defining attribute. They have a lot of hobbies…

Matt Cutts gives a great talk about how trying new things for 30 days not only helped him learn new skills but also changed him as a person.

2) Don’t Fear Failure

In Eric Ries’ acclaimed bestseller The Lean Startup he makes it clear that little bets, or “experiments”, are critical to moving a business forward in a safe fashion:

…if you cannot fail, you cannot learn.

Getting it wrong helps you get it right. Making mistakes is vital to improvement.

Via Where Good Ideas Come From: The Natural History of Innovation:

…Jevons is making a more subtle case for the role of error in innovation, because error is not simply a phase you have to suffer through on the way to genius. Error often creates a path that leads you out of your comfortable assumptions. De Forest was wrong about the utility of gas as a detector, but he kept probing at the edges of that error, until he hit upon something that was genuinely useful. Being right keeps you in place. Being wrong forces you to explore.

Taking tests increases performance – even when you fail the tests. Deliberately making mistakes during training led to better learning than being taught to prevent errors.

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

…the group encouraged to make errors not only exhibited greater feelings of self-efficacy, but because they had learned to figure their own way out of mistakes, they were also far faster and more accurate in how they used the software later on.

3) A Supportive Environment

The most effective way to change your behavior over the long term is to manipulate your environment. Change your surroundings to make what you should do easy and what you shouldn’t do hard.

And I’m not just talking about moving furniture around. Probably the most important thing in your environment is supportive friends.

Via The Longevity Project:

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

And when it comes to learning there’s nothing more valuable than a good mentor. How do you pick the right one?

Via Daniel Coyle’s excellent book The Little Book of Talent: 52 Tips for Improving Your Skills:

1) Avoid Someone Who Reminds You of a Courteous Waiter

2) Seek Someone Who Scares You a Little

3) Seek Someone Who Gives Short, Clear Directions

4) Seek Someone Who Loves Teaching Fundamentals

5) Other Things Being Equal, Pick the Older Person

4) Focus on the Long Term

Merely deciding you’re committed for the long-term vs the short-term dramatically increases progress and improvement.

Via The Talent Code: Greatness Isn’t Born. It’s Grown. Here’s How:

The differences were staggering. With the same amount of practice, the long-term-commitment group outperformed the short-term-commitment group by 400 percent.

5) Make It Fun

There are 1000 ways to improve but the truth is, you’re probably not going to follow through with anything too complicated, difficult or outside your normal routine.

Understand this, accept it and work with it. Fit new things in to your current habits and make them enjoyable. Playing and learning are not opposites. In fact, playing is the most natural way to learn.

Via Play: How it Shapes the Brain, Opens the Imagination, and Invigorates the Soul:

Play creates new neural connections and tests them. It creates an arena for social interaction and learning. It creates a low-risk format for finding and developing innate skills and talents.

In fact, there’s some anecdotal research that shows we may need play.

Via Play: How it Shapes the Brain, Opens the Imagination, and Invigorates the Soul:

But when play is denied over the long term, our mood darkens. We lose our sense of optimism and we become anhedonic, or incapable of feeling sustained pleasure.

This piece originally appeared on Barking Up the Wrong Tree.

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