TIME Careers & Workplace

The Surprising Secret That Can Make You Happier at Work

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You might achieve more when you care less

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The number of hours in the day stays constant, but your to-do list is ever expanding.

You start the day worrying about how you’ll get everything you need to do finished, and end it by worrying if everything you’ve accomplished is up to your standards.

Your daily stress is only interrupted by occasional spikes of anger at your colleagues, boss, or employees and their unreasonable expectations or inability to take some of this mountain of work off your plate.

Does this sound like you? If so, author and blogger Kelly O’Laughlin has some advice for you. Recently on the blog Quiet Revolution, which accompanies Susan Cain’s hit book Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking, O’Laughlin shared the story of her friend who, like many entrepreneurs, found herself utterly overwhelmed by her work–so overwhelmed, in fact, that she was seriously considering quitting.

O’Laughlin had another suggestion, however. Don’t leave; just care less.

You are probably trying too hard

Wait, what? How could phoning it in be good advice?

O’Laughlin points out that if you’re the type to be so stressed about your work in the first place, your phoning it in is probably the same as others’ measured consideration of the right level of effort. “If you relate to this story [of her overworked friend],” she writes, “I’m willing to bet that your 80 percent of effort is most people’s 100 percent. So, by caring less, you’re actually caring just enough.”

Perfectionism, she goes on to say, isn’t just bad for the perfectionist herself (though it can, of course, be miserable for those afflicted). Counterintuitively, it’s also often bad for your work.

“It’s great to want to be helpful and make a difference at work, but you have to take care of yourself first,” O’Laughlin explains. “You aren’t helping anyone if you burn out and quit. Putting in slightly less effort in times of high stress doesn’t mean you don’t care about your job; it means you care about yourself more.”

She adds: “And here’s a bonus: You might achieve more when you care less. When you reduce the pressure on yourself to attain perfection, you can flow more quickly and easily through your tasks. Trust that your intuition and experience will guide you. Freedom from the weight of perfection can be creatively liberating.”

What’s your ‘minimum effective dose’?

O’Laughlin’s prescription might seem heretical to some stressed-out strivers, but she’s not the only expert urging those overwhelmed by work to take a long, hard look at whether their intense levels of effort are really necessary. Dr. Christine Carter, an author and happiness expert, has pushed a similar idea, the ‘minimum effective dose.’

“We need to accept that more is not necessarily better,” she has written. “The first step in dialing back the busyness of everyday life is to figure out your minimum effective dose of everything. Figure out how much time you actually need to spend on your email, going to meetings, driving your kids to their activities, etc., in order to be effective at home and at work.”

Are you brave enough to try simply caring a little bit less?

This post is in partnership with Inc., which offers useful advice, resources and insights to entrepreneurs and business owners. The article above was originally published at Inc.com.

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MONEY consumer psychology

When Money Can Bring You Happiness

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Here are 3 reasons to spend yours wisely.

You’ve heard the refrain countless times: Money can’t buy happiness.

Or love. Or class, for that matter.

But a wave of new research suggests that cash can indeed increase your pleasure—if you manage it the right way.

In fact, the influence of money on well-being is such a hot topic that experts around the country have devoted their studies to it.

Want a peek at what some of them have discovered?

We asked three researchers who spend their days delving into the ties between money and satisfaction to divulge their most intriguing revelations—and explain how you can leverage their insights to get happier.

Professor Michael Norton Says … Spend on Others to Be Happy

A professor of business administration at Harvard Business School, Norton has an interest in the intersection between finance and personal satisfaction that stems from his diverse academic experience.

After earning a Ph.D. in psychology, Norton received a fellowship to study business at the MIT Media Lab and the Sloan School of Management.

“Considering how much time people spend thinking about how to increase money and happiness, [I wanted] to figure out the relationship between the two,” the co-author of “Happy Money” explains. “[I wanted to know], when it comes to how we spend, are we getting it right?”

His Key Findings Initially, Norton, 40, uncovered that people spend most of their money on themselves.

“But my fellow researchers and I thought maybe this wasn’t the best way—that an outsized focus on the self might be part of the reason why having more money doesn’t necessarily make us happier,” Norton says.

To test his hypothesis, Norton designed a study in 2008 in which participants rated their happiness before being handed an envelope containing cash. Half were instructed to spend the money on a personal expense or gift for themselves; the rest were told to donate it or buy a gift for someone else.

The results? Those who gave the money away reported higher levels of satisfaction, whereas those who spent on themselves weren’t any happier.

Curious to understand the implications, Norton conducted a few more experiments.

In one, Belgian salespeople received 15 euros to spend either on themselves or on a co-worker. In another, recreational dodgeball players were asked to use $20 for their own purposes or for a teammate’s.

Time and again, people who gave money away reported increased happiness compared with the control group.

Not only that, but their performance improved. For every $10 a salesperson spent on herself, the employer reaped $3 in sales—but every $10 employees spent on co-workers translated to $52 in sales.

Likewise, charitable dodgeball teams scored more goals. Every $10 spent selfishly led to a 2% decrease in wins, but $10 spent on teammates increased them by 11%.

How to Boost Your Own Bliss While any degree of generosity will up your joy, some kinds of giving are more powerful than others. “The closer you are to the recipient, the happier you’ll be,” Norton says.

So buying flowers for your mom has a greater effect than, say, contributing to a stranger’s Kickstarter campaign.

And while the amount you spend doesn’t influence your happiness, Norton says, theimpact of your contribution does.

For example, when it comes to charitable giving, you’ll get the most bliss for your buck if you donate to organizations that create a personal link between the giver and the recipient, such as Kiva or Adopt A Child.

But regardless of who you give to, try to make it a habit. “The happiness surge you feel from a one-time gift eventually wears off, but people who chronically give are happier overall,” Norton says.

Professor Cassie Mogilner Says … Shell Out for Experiences to Be Happy

In 2004, when Mogilner was working her tail off as a marketing Ph.D. candidate at Stanford, she perpetually found herself strapped for cash and time.

“In business school, there’s so much attention focused on the bottom line,” says Mogilner, an associate professor of marketing at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School. “But I realized that, for me, time felt like a much more precious resource than money.”

Intrigued, she began to channel her research efforts toward investigating the association between time, money and happiness.

Her Key Findings Over the past 10 years, Mogilner, 35, has found that time is a significant happiness predictor because, more so than your possessions, how you spend your spare hours reveals your interests and unique “you-ness.”

Just look at social media: People share photos of weddings, vacations and delicious dinners—but you don’t see many posts about trips to the mall.

To that point, Mogilner has also investigated how long we enjoy the mental boost that comes from temporal experiences versus material goods. “We get used to a new pair of shoes very quickly—it’s a phenomenon known as hedonic adaptation,” she says.

So while you might be psyched about your new boots at first, before long, they’re relegated to the back of the closet. Instead of being a source of joy, they now serve a purely functional purpose.

“In contrast, we adapt more slowly to experiences,” Mogilner says. “The way we spend time becomes a part of our memories—our personal narrative.”

People also tend to feel less regret after shelling out for a good time, adds Mogilner.

“After you spend $100 on a dress, you can see the other dresses you didn’t buy right there in the store,” she explains. “But if you spend $100 at a restaurant, you’re less likely to second-guess your decision because you can’t see the alternative meals you passed up.”

How to Boost Your Own Bliss Mogilner’s latest research focuses on the concept of buying more positive time—such as renting an apartment closer to work as opposed to buying a luxury car in which to commute.

“Our lives are the sum of our experiences, so we should be supremely deliberate in spending our time in the best and happiest ways possible,” she says.

Her preliminary findings? People are more satisfied when they outsource a chore anyone can do, like cleaning the house or picking up dry-cleaning.

And when it comes to deciding how to use the time you’ve just freed up, Mogilner says you can maximize your happiness by keeping a few points in mind.

“Activities with a social aspect have the strongest effect,” she says, pointing to things like a family picnic, a concert with friends or a date night with your spouse. “Social activities increase happiness because they cultivate relationships with others—and having strong, stable connections with others is the most important ingredient for well-being.”

Another satisfaction inducer, she says, is experiencing out-of-the-ordinary events—such as taking a vacation somewhere new and exciting—which will have a greater impact on happiness than everyday pleasures.

Speaking of vacations, you can get even more happiness bang for your buck if you book your trip well in advance.

Research published in the journal Applied Research in Quality of Life found that just anticipating a getaway is as enjoyable as the trip itself. So start planning your winter break—now!

Professor Jeffrey Dew Says … Get on the Same Financial Page With Your Partner to Be Happy

Fifteen years ago, Dew and his wife were colleagues in the mental health field, but partway into his career, Dew had a change of heart and decided to enroll at Penn State for a dual Ph.D. in human development and family studies.

His transition back to student life had major consequences: He and his wife lost their benefits and half their income.

“I wondered how the change in our financial situation might impact us as a couple,” says the 38-year-old Dew, who’s now an associate professor in the department of family, consumer and human development at Utah State University. “I looked at the scientific literature, and found that not many researchers had asked this question.”

So he decided to explore it himself—ultimately uncovering a major connection between money and marital happiness.

His Key Findings In 2012, Dew and his colleagues analyzed data after following married couples over the course of five years. In an initial survey, the spouses were asked how often they fought about various topics, including money, chores, intimacy and time spent together.

Dew was particularly curious to see if any of those arguments correlated to divorce rates, and found a striking trend: For men, money fights were the only conflict that predicted a split. For women, money and intimacy were equally loaded—but financial disputes were a much stronger divorce determinant.

In fact, couples who argued about money several times per week were 37% more likely to divorce than those who only had financial spats once a month.

Why are finances such a fraught subject? Dew has a few guesses.

“Money fights are frequently a stand-in for bigger relationship issues,” he explains. “On the surface, an argument might appear to be about overspending, but underneath, it’s a struggle over trust or power.”

Plus, if you’re under financial duress, there’s likely an added layer of stress to a relationship—and that can take a serious toll.

So Dew and his team did a follow-up study in 2013 with 450 married and cohabiting couples, with the goal of determining how happy couples combat financial pressures.

“We looked at the frequency of their financial management behaviors, such as creating a joint budget and putting money aside for retirement,” he says. “[And what we found is that] the more often couples engaged in sound financial practices together, the more likely they were to be happy.”

How to Boost Your Own Bliss The secret to happiness, according to Dew, is to get on the same financial page with your partner by opening the lines of communication as soon as possible.

That’s not to say you have to agree on everything. “Most issues can be worked through, although it will take compromise from both sides,” Dew says.

Dew’s suggestion: Commit to regular money dates—be it monthly or quarterly.

“And try sandwiching these financial discussions between two enjoyable activities, so that they’re less stressful,” Dew says. Consider opening a bottle of wine while you go over the numbers, and then head to dinner or a movie afterward.

One thing to focus on during your money date nights? A financial goal that’s meaningful to both of you, such as saving for a dream trip to Hawaii two years from now or paying off your house by 2020.

“It’s so easy for money to drive people apart,” Dew says. “But by having a shared objective, you can instead use it to bring you closer together.”

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TIME psychology

2 Things That Lead to a Happy Life, Backed By Research

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Eric Barker writes Barking Up the Wrong Tree.

I’ve posted a number of times about two nearly-lifelong studies: the Terman Study (covered in The Longevity Project) and the Grant Study (covered in Triumphs of Experience.)

While different in some respects, both followed a sample of people from youth until death and provided insights into what makes for a happy life.

What two big ideas do they both strongly agree on?

 

1) A Happy Childhood Matters More Than You Think

The Grant Study found being happy when you’re old is tied to having had a warm childhood:

Vaillant concludes that a loving childhood is one of the best predictors of mid and late-life riches: “We found that contentment in the late seventies was not even suggestively associated with parental social class or even the man’s own income. What it was significantly associated with was warmth of childhood environment, and it was very significantly associated with a man’s closeness to his father.”

The Terman Study realized that “Parental divorce during childhood was the single strongest social predictor of early death.”

Via The Longevity Project: Surprising Discoveries for Health and Long Life from the Landmark Eight-Decade Study:

The long-term health effects of parental divorce were often devastating— it was indeed a risky circumstance that changed the pathways of many of the young Terman participants. Children from divorced families died almost five years earlier on average than children from intact families. Parental divorce, not parental death, was the risk. In fact, parental divorce during childhood was the single strongest social predictor of early death, many years into the future.

Sadly, our own childhoods are not something we can change, but this is something to keep in mind if you are or will be raising kids.

2) Relationships are the Most Important Thing

What was the Terman study’s most important recommendation for a longer life?

…connecting with and helping others is more important than obsessing over a rigorous exercise program.

Read that sentence again. It wasn’t receiving help from others, it was giving it:

Via The Longevity Project: Surprising Discoveries for Health and Long Life from the Landmark Eight-Decade Study:

We figured that if a Terman participant sincerely felt that he or she had friends and relatives to count on when having a hard time then that person would be healthier. Those who felt very loved and cared for, we predicted, would live the longest. Surprise: our prediction was wrong… Beyond social network size, the clearest benefit of social relationships came from helping others. Those who helped their friends and neighbors, advising and caring for others, tended to live to old age.

The Grant Study found that “the capacity to love and be loved was the single strength most clearly associated with subjective well-being at age eighty.”

Via Flourish: A Visionary New Understanding of Happiness and Well-being:

Vaillant’s insight came from his seminal work on the Grant Study, an almost seventy-year (and ongoing) longitudinal investigation of the developmental trajectories of Harvard College graduates. (This study is also referred to as the Harvard Study.) In a study led by Derek Isaacowitz, we found that the capacity to love and be loved was the single strength most clearly associated with subjective well-being at age eighty.

“Vaillant was asked, ‘What have you learned from the Grant Study men?’ Vaillant’s response: ‘That the only thing that really matters in life are your relationships to other people.‘”

Vaillant’s other main interest is the power of relationships. “It is social aptitude,” he writes, “not intellectual brilliance or parental social class, that leads to successful aging.” Warm connections are necessary—and if not found in a mother or father, they can come from siblings, uncles, friends, mentors. The men’s relationships at age 47, he found, predicted late-life adjustment better than any other variable, except defenses. Good sibling relationships seem especially powerful: 93 percent of the men who were thriving at age 65 had been close to a brother or sister when younger. In an interview in the March 2008 newsletter to the Grant Study subjects, Vaillant was asked, “What have you learned from the Grant Study men?” Vaillant’s response: “That the only thing that really matters in life are your relationships to other people.”

The Grant Study realized there was a single yes/no question that could predict whether someone would be alive and happy at age 80:

“Is there someone in your life whom you would feel comfortable phoning at four in the morning to tell your troubles to?”

Via Flourish: A Visionary New Understanding of Happiness and Well-being:

Is there someone in your life whom you would feel comfortable phoning at four in the morning to tell your troubles to? If your answer is yes, you will likely live longer than someone whose answer is no. For George Vaillant, the Harvard psychiatrist who discovered this fact, the master strength is the capacity to be loved.

More on the Terman study here. More on the Grant Study here.

Join over 195,000 readers. Get a free weekly update via email here.

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 psychology

How to Find Happiness: 3 Secrets From Science

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Eric Barker writes Barking Up the Wrong Tree.

You’ve probably read a lot of stuff on the internet about how to find happiness… but you’re still not jumping for joy.

Some of the tips feel corny… so you don’t actually do them. Others stop working after a while so you stop following through.

What gives? Isn’t there a solution that really works and keeps working?

I’m with you. I want answers. Who has them? Sonja does. So I gave her a call.

Sonja Lyubomirsky is a professor at University of California at Riverside and one of the leading experts on happiness. She’s the author of two great books on the subject:

Okay, let’s find out why all these tips we see again and again may not be working — and what will make you happier.

 

What’s The Best Version Of You?

A lot of what you read about becoming happier sounds downright corny. Counting your blessings, doing good for others… all those cliches your wise grandmother told you to do.

But here’s the thing: the cliches are often true. Grandmom knows a lot. Here’s Sonja:

Psychologists often have to confirm the obvious, or what your grandma might tell you. It happens to be the case that in most of what I study, the folk wisdom is correct. People who are randomly assigned to be grateful once a week for six weeks, they actually do become happier and their relationships are improved. People who do acts of kindness get various benefits.

But if it feels corny — even if it works — you often don’t follow through. So what addresses that very real issue?

Sonja says that the best method is the one that clicks for you. Maybe you’re already showing gratitude. Maybe you’re the most gratitudinous person on the planet. (Yeah, I made that word up.)

But there’s an area of your life that could use a boost, something that will move the needle and that’s where to start. Here’s Sonja:

You have to find the strategy that works for you. You pick one thing that you think you’ll feel natural doing, that you want to try, that you think you’ll enjoy. For me, it’s savoring. I don’t think I savor enough. So now when I’m with my kids I just enjoy being with them and try not think about what I have to do tomorrow. Everyone can choose something like that. For someone else it might be starting an exercise program. For another person, it might be trying to improve a friendship you’ve kind of let go; you haven’t really called that person in a while. Choose one goal and then just take small steps towards it.

So don’t feel like you have to do something that sounds silly to you. But what is going to click for you?

Ask: “What’s my vision of my best possible self?”

When your life is perfect, what is it like? And that can tell you what’s really important to you and what your values are.

Research shows that thinking about your best possible self doesn’t just clarify goals — it can also make you happier just by thinking about it. Here’s Sonja:

Imagine your life in ten years and that your goals have been accomplished. You’re living your best possible life. Think about that in different domains. I did this once with students and they said to me, “I didn’t even know what my goals were.” So they were forced to articulate their goals. Some people said to me things like, “Yeah, I didn’t think my goals were feasible until I wrote about them,” and they realized there were concrete steps they could take.

(For more on what makes the happiest people on Earth so happy, click here.)

Great. But I have bad news. That happiness trick is going to stop working after a while.

Huh? Why?!? Don’t worry: it’s not your fault…

 

“Hedonic Adaptation”

That’s just a fancy way of saying: You can take ANYTHING for granted.

Yes, anything. Researchers looked at people who suffered terrible accidents and ended up in wheelchairs. Guess what? Eventually, they adapted and were happy again. Hooray!

But researchers also looked at lottery winners… Yup, people eventually adapted to that too. Ugh.

We all take things for granted. We never experience something and then BOOM — we’re happy for the rest of our lives.

When we say “I’ll be happy when X happens” we’re just not telling the truth. That great job, that dream wedding, that beautiful baby — none of them is the final key to happiness we think it will be. Here’s Sonja:

“I’m not happy now, but I’ll be happy when I have a baby, when I move to that city where I’ve always wanted to live, or when I get that job, when I have that career I want… then I’ll be happy.” Actually, our happiness really lies inside of us, and so people who aren’t happy at their current job probably won’t be happy at their next job either. We carry ourselves from one job to another. The idea is that most people are not really aware of the power of hedonic adaptation. Yes, that job or relationship or that move is going to make you happy… but it’s not going to make you happy for as long or as intensely as you think it will, because we adapt.

(For more on what the most successful people have in common, click here.)

Depressing, I know. But we ain’t done. Not by a long shot. Here’s what you can do about it…

 

New! Different! Surprising!

Habits are awesome for getting things done and they make our lives much more efficient.

But because of hedonic adaptation, habits can be a big problem for happiness — you can get in a rut.

But there’s a solution. Actually, there are three:

  • Novelty: Try a new angle. Watching Netflix on the couch feeling stale? Go to the movies.
  • Variety: Try different strategies. Gratitude isn’t doing it anymore? Try savoring.
  • Surprise: Not sure how something will turn out? Awesome. Grab that special someone and take tango lessons. Or sumo wrestling classes.

To beat hedonic adaptation, we need to keep things fresh. Here’s Sonja:

Novelty, variety and surprise can prevent or slow down adaptation. So, with relationships, let’s say you get married and you get a happiness boost. Studies show that it takes about two years for people’s happiness levels to go back to what they were before the wedding. That doesn’t mean that you’re not happy with your marriage, but we get used to it to some extent. So we want to introduce some variety and novelty and surprise to the marriage in a positive way. Don’t watch Netflix every Friday night; mix it up. Do different things with your partner. The kind of things that can lead to more surprises, again in a positive way. Same thing with a job. Open yourself up to new opportunities, challenges, taking risks, learning new things, and meeting new people.

When I talked to one of the leading experts on love, Arthur Aron, he said the same thing: doing something new and exciting has enormous power to spice up a relationship — and make you happier.

I know, I know, you need a concrete answer of what to do. But you also need something tailored for you. Well, here’s a great way to find that:

Ask yourself: “What would I do if this were my last month?”

When you feel like good things are going to end, it dramatically shifts your perspective. You take advantage of opportunities. You do the things you know you love. You get off the couch and see those people who mean so much to you.

And she’s done the research — answering this question has power. Here’s Sonja:

We asked students at George Mason University in Virginia to pretend that it was their last month before they move far away. Every week they’re supposed to do something to savor their last time with friends or family. To go on that hike that they’ve always wanted to go on, to go to the restaurant again that they really love, etc. And they got happier. They increased in measures of flourishing, positive emotions, and well-being.

(For more on how to stop being lazy, click here.)

Okay, lots of stuff here and we don’t want this to be yet another internet happiness list that doesn’t produce results. Let’s round this up into something you can use…

 

Sum Up

Research-backed happiness wisdom from Sonja:

  • Ask “What’s the best version of me?“: This can tell you what you value and what’s missing in your life. Now you know what interests you and can get you closer to that perfect, happy life.
  • New! Different! Surprising!: You can and will take anything for granted. So spice up the things that make you happy by adding novelty, variety or surprise.
  • Ask “What would I do if this were my last month?”: If you felt you’d never be able to do that fun thing again or see that special someone again, you’d get off your butt. So ask the question — and then do that stuff.

Happiness doesn’t have to be complicated. Research shows simple things like hugs really do make us happier. And as Bil Keane once said:

A hug is like a boomerang – you get it back right away.

I’ll be sending out a PDF with more joy-inducing tips from Sonja in my next weekly email. (Including the answer to the one thing you do all the time that killshappiness.) To make sure you get it, sign up for my weekly email here.

Join over 195,000 readers. Get a free weekly update via email here.

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 psychology

Here Are 3 Awesome Secrets to Happier Memories, Backed By Research

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Eric Barker writes Barking Up the Wrong Tree.

You can’t trust your memory.

Memory is fluid. Every time you recall something you’re essentially rewriting it in your head.

Yet you’re prone to stubbornly trusting this copy of a copy of a copy — even if it no longer resembles the original:

Robert Burton describes an experiment in his book On Being Certain: Believing You Are Right Even When You Are Not, which everyone with a strong opinion should read. Immediately after the Challenger explosion in 1986, the psychologist Ulric Neisser asked 106 students to describe in writing where they were when they heard, who they were with, how they felt, what their first thoughts were. Two-and-a-half years later, the same students were assembled and asked to answer the same question in writing. The new descriptions were compared with the originals. They didn’t match. People had changed facts about where they were, who they were with, what they felt, what they thought. When confronted with the original essays, people were so attached to their new memories they had trouble believing their old ones. In fact, most refused to revise their memories to match the originals written at the time. What struck Burton was the response of one student: “That’s my handwriting, but that’s not what happened.”

Eyewitness testimony? Often worthless:

Via Why We Make Mistakes: How We Look Without Seeing, Forget Things in Seconds, and Are All Pretty Sure We Are Way Above Average:

Between 1989 and 2007, for instance, 201 prisoners in the United States were freed through the use of DNA evidence. Of these, 77 percent had been mistakenly identified by eyewitnesses.

But memory isn’t just something to use when taking tests in school. It’s tightly coupled with happiness:

What does one of the foremost experts on happiness say is the biggest cause of unhappiness? My main takeaway from Harvard professor Daniel Gilbert’s bestselling book Stumbling on Happiness was:

Much of our unhappiness springs from the fact that we’re terrible at accurately remembering how things made us feel in the past, so we make bad choices regarding the future.

Ever eat too much, drink too much, or stay up too late, say “I shouldn’t do this because it makes me feel terrible”… and then do it again?

Ever dread Mondays, going to the gym or get-togethers… and then realize they’re really not that bad?

Via Stumbling on Happiness:

We overestimate how happy we will be on our birthdays, we underestimate how happy we will be on Monday mornings, and we make these mundane but erroneous predictions again and again, despite their regular disconfirmation.

So what are the solutions here?

1) Keep a list of what makes you very happy and very unhappy

Stop trusting your memory. Write things down. Feelings are fleeting. Keep a list of things that make you very happy and very sad.

2) Look at how other people react

Gilbert also has a suggestion that is quick and easy: Look at other people, what they do, and how they react in the moment:

This trio of studies suggests that when people are deprived of the information that imagination requires and are thus forced to use others as surrogates, they make remarkably accurate predictions about their future feelings, which suggests that the best way to predict our feelings tomorrow is to see how others are feeling today.

Sorry, you’re not a unique snowflake. We’re more similar to others than we are different. Don’t fight this, embrace it. It can be the key to a much happier life:

The irony, of course, is that surrogation is a cheap and effective way to predict one’s future emotions, but because we don’t realize just how similar we all are, we reject this reliable method and rely instead on our imaginations, as flawed and fallible as they may be.

3) Use your brain’s errors to make memories happier

Yes, your brain is imperfect, but it’s often imperfect in the same ways. You can use it’s errors to your advantage.

Daniel Kahneman, Nobel Prize winner and author of Thinking, Fast and Slow, has shown that your brain consistently remembers only two things about an event:

  1. The emotional peak
  2. The end

Via The Paradox of Choice: Why More Is Less:

Nobel Prize-winning psychologist Daniel Kahneman and his colleagues have shown that what we remember about the pleasurable quality of our past experiences is almost entirely determined by two things: how the experiences felt when they were at their peak (best or worst), and how they felt when they ended. This “peak-end” rule of Kahneman’s is what we use to summarize the experience, and then we rely on that summary later to remind ourselves of how the experience felt.

So how can you game the system with this information and have happier memories?

Structure events so that the peak is great and the ending is great.

Make sure tomorrow has one thing that will be amazing and that the day ends on a positive note. This is what leads to feeling good about your life in retrospect.

Your brain is not a perfect computer. What you will remember is not the same as what happened.

But you can game it so your memories are better than what happened. And happy memories are one of the secrets to feeling good about your life.

Join over 190,000 readers. Get a free weekly update via email here.

This piece originally appeared on Barking Up the Wrong Tree.

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MONEY Smart Spending

How to Splurge (on National Splurge Day!) Without Busting Your Budget

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Or feeling remorse.

We’ve all been there: The excitement of a big splurge purchase can turn into feelings of guilt or even disappointment in as much time as it takes to walk through the checkout line.

But believe it or not, splurging done right can actually be good for your happiness and even your budget.

“Allowing yourself to have a splurge and enjoy it can actually keep you on track with your other budgeting goals,” says Kit Yarrow, professor of consumer psychology at Golden Gate University, author of Decoding the New Consumer Mind, and a MONEY contributor.

Thursday is National Splurge Day, a faux holiday created by Adrienne Sioux Koopersmith about 20 years when she came up with the idea for the celebration – you guessed it – on a whim. But with a little thought, you can make the most of your splurges today.

Splurge on Experiences

One way to get the highest happiness out of your splurge buys is to spend on experiences, says Michael Norton, professor of business administration at the Harvard Business School and co-author of Happy Money: The Science of Smarter Spending.

An evening out with friends or a vacation is a more reliable way to get the most bang-for-your-splurging-buck. And the happy memories from the experience usually last longer than material goods.

“The key pitfall of splurging is that when we splurge, it tends to be on stuff: TVs, clothes, iPhones,” Norton says. “But research shows that stuff fails to pay off in much happiness.”

Splurge on Others

There is a new body of research that shows the tremendous emotional rewards of splurging on other people, says Yarrow. Simple gestures like taking someone out to lunch or buying them something they’d never get for themselves can help you feel happiness in your connection with them.

“There is a rich reward that you get back from treating somebody else,” says Yarrow. “You can’t buy that level of emotional reward for yourself.”

Splurge Within Your Budget

But what about splurging on a budget? A virtually sure-fire way to feel guilt after a splurge is to spend outside your budget. Norton notes that worrying about debt has an enormous negative effect on your mood.

“When splurging, committing to stop before you go into the red helps to ensure your purchases will increase rather than harm your happiness,” Norton says.

Smaller, planned splurges will also help you stay in your budget, adds Yarrow. “Think of shopping like dieting: If you’re in deprivation mode for a long time, it ultimately leads to an unplanned binge.”

Splurge Without Spending

And you can always “splurge” on things that don’t cost a lot, or are free. Make time for yourself to do something you enjoy, like taking a run with your dog or watching a movie with loved ones.

With a little planning this National Splurge Day, you can feel like you treated yourself with no price tag attached.

 

TIME psychology

How Hope Can Improve Your Life, Backed By Research

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Eric Barker writes Barking Up the Wrong Tree.

There’s a scientific reason to have hope

Everyone says “have hope.” Is that just silly pollyanna optimism?

No. Actually there’s a science to hope.

Via Ungifted: Intelligence Redefined:

In 1991, positive psychologist Charles Snyder and colleagues came up with “hope theory.” According to their theory, hope consists of agency and pathways. The person who has hope has the will and determination to achieve goals and a set of various strategies at their disposal to reach their goals. Put simply: Hope involves the will to get there and different ways to get there.

Hope is “not just a feel-good emotion.” Hope is predictive.

Those without hope avoid bigger challenges, quit earlier, and act helpless.

Via Ungifted: Intelligence Redefined:

These results suggest that hope, as defined by Snyder and colleagues, is not just a feel-good emotion, but a dynamic cognitive motivational system. According to hope theory, emotions follow cognitions, not the other way around. Hope-related cognitions are important: Snyder and his colleagues proposed that a person’s level of hope leads him or her to choose learning or performance goals. According to their theory, those lacking hope typically adopt performance goals and choose easy tasks that don’t offer a challenge or opportunity for growth. When they fail, they quit. They act helpless and feel a lack of control over their environment. They don’t believe in their capacity to obtain the kind of future they want. In other words, they have no hope.

Hope isn’t just wishful thinking. It’s related to positive outcomes.

People who scored higher in hope had higher GPA’s and did better academically.

Via Ungifted: Intelligence Redefined:

Whether measured as a trait or as a state, hope is related to positive outcomes. In one study, researchers looked at the impact of hope on college academic achievement over the course of six years. Hope was related to a higher GPA six years later, even after taking into account the original GPA and ACT entrance examination scores of the participants. High-hope students (relative to low-hope students) were also more likely to have graduated and were less likely to be dismissed from school due to bad grades.

Hope doesn’t just make you a better student, it also makes you more creative.

Via Ungifted: Intelligence Redefined:

In more recent research, Liz Day and her colleagues found that hope was related to academic achievement above and beyond IQ, divergent thinking (the ability to generate a lot of ideas), and conscientiousness. In that study, hope was measured as a trait. In a recent undergraduate thesis study, Rebecca Görres found that situational hope was related to divergent thinking. In her study, participants who were instructed to think hopefully (e.g., “What motivates you to pursue your goal?,” “What are your alternative pathways to reach your goal?”) were better at making remote associations, generated a higher quantity of ideas, and added more details to their ideas compared to those who weren’t instructed to think hopefully. The link between hope and divergent thinking makes sense, considering that divergent thinkers are good at coming up with lots of different ideas (see Chapter 12) and hope involves coming up with a number of different strategies for obtaining a goal.

As I’ve posted before, hope predicts achievement better than intelligence, grades or personality.

It actually predicts law school GPA better than the LSAT.

Via Ungifted: Intelligence Redefined:

In another study, Kevin Rand and his colleagues found that hope, but not optimism, predicted grades in law school above and beyond LSAT scores and undergraduate grades. Interestingly, LSAT scores were not a significant predictor of law school GPA. It appears that law school performance might be better predicted by a twelve-item measure of hope than completion of a standardized entrance exam!

Okay, okay, so hope is a good thing.

(For more on how to be successful and happy, click here.)

I know what you’re asking: How can I be more hopeful?

How you can have hope

As I’ve posted before, research shows that both hope and despair can be self-fulfilling prophecies.

A simple exercise before a challenge can increase your level of hope — and your results.

Via Ungifted: Intelligence Redefined:

A recent study by Duckworth, Heidi Grant Halvorson, Benjamin Loew, Oettingen, and Gollwitzer asked a group of high school students preparing for the high-stakes, standardized Preliminary SAT (PSAT) to complete a thirty-minute written intervention that involved mental contrasting (vividly imagining the goal and writing down possible obstacles) with implementation intentions (coming up with two if-then contingency plans if an obstacle presents itself). They found that students undergoing the intervention completed more than 60 percent more practice questions on the PSAT compared to a placebo control group who were instead asked to write about an influential person or event in their life.

So let’s break this down. Before a big challenge:

  1. Imagine your goal.
  2. Write down anything that might stop you from achieving it.
  3. Come up with a few contingency plans to address those obstacles.
  4. Rule the world.

Just doing those three things can increase your level of hope and dramatically improve how well you perform.

This little bit of planning not only addresses real issues, it improves your feeling of control over the situation.

(For more on how to stop being lazy and get more done, click here.)

You now have a reason to believe you’ll do well. That’s hope.

One More Thing

Life’s not all about “improving performance.”

Hope also makes you happier.

Via Ungifted: Intelligence Redefined:

So how does hope stack up against other psychological resources? Philip R. Magaletta and J. M. Oliver measured hope, self-efficacy, and optimism and found that hope stood head and shoulders above the other vehicles. They also found specific effects: The will component of hope predicted well-being independent of self-efficacy, and the ways component of hope predicted well-being independent of optimism.

Better performance, creativity and happiness.

Give it a shot. It can work. C’mon, have a little hope.

Join over 195,000 readers. Get a free weekly update via email here.

This piece originally appeared on Barking Up the Wrong Tree.

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TIME psychology

5 Ways to Spend Your Money That Will Make You Happier

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Eric Barker writes Barking Up the Wrong Tree.

Can Money Buy Happiness?

Yes. But you might be surprised by the ways you should spend it.

Harvard professor Michael Norton and co-author Elizabeth Dunn have a new book out, Happy Money: The Science of Smarter Spending, that details the research on the 5 best ways to turn your dollars into lasting smiles. What are they?

1) Buy Experiences

Via Happy Money: The Science of Smarter Spending:

“…57 percent of Americans reported that the experiential purchase made them happier than the material purchase, while only 34 percent reported the opposite. This difference was more pronounced among women, young people and those living in cities and suburbs. But the same basic pattern emerged even for men, the elderly, and country dwellers. In study after study, people are in a better mood when they reflect on their experiential purchases, which they describe as “money well spent.”

(For more on the science of being happier and more successful, click here.)

2) Make It A Treat

Via Happy Money: The Science of Smarter Spending:

“…knowing you can’t have access to something all the time may help you appreciate it more when you do… When you love a television show — say,The Office — you might think the best way to maximize your happiness is to buy the DVD set and watch all the episodes straight through. Getting rid of the commercials and eliminating the weeklong wait between episodes seems sensible. But research suggests that taking breaks between episodes can increase your enjoyment. Perhaps most amazingly, commercials can improve the experience of watching television. Even entertaining shows can start to drag after five to seven minutes, decreasing our enjoyment. Commercials disrupt that adaptation process, so when the show comes back on, we can fall in love with Jim and Pam all over again.”

(For more on how ancient philosophy can make you happier, click here.)

3) Buy Time

Via Happy Money: The Science of Smarter Spending:

People who feel they have plenty of free time are more likely to exercise, do volunteer work, and participate in other activities that are linked to increased happiness. Although money can be used to buy “free time,” in part by outsourcing the demands of daily life such as cooking, cleaning and even grocery shopping, wealthier individuals report elevated levels of time pressure… Wealthier individuals tend to spend more of their time on activities associated with relatively high levels of tension and stress, such as shopping, working and commuting.

(To learn how to stop being lazy and use your time more productively, click here.)

4) Pay Now, Consume Later

Via Happy Money: The Science of Smarter Spending:

Delay can enhance the pleasure of consumption not only by providing an opportunity to develop positive expectations, but also by enhancing what we call the “drool factor.” The very best stimulus for studying the drool factor? Chocolate. In a recent experiment, college students chose whether they wanted a Hershey’s Kiss or a Hershey’s Hug. They either ate their chosen chocolate immediately or waited thirty minutes. When students had to wait for their candy, they enjoyed it more and expressed more interest in buying additional Hershey’s chocolates. Even though they didn’t learn anything new about the chocolates, the delay provided an opportunity to build visceral desire, to drool a bit.

(To learn what research says about how millionaires really become millionaires, click here.)

5) Invest In Others

Via Happy Money: The Science of Smarter Spending:

“By the end of the day, individuals who spent money on others were measurably happier than those who spent money on themselves — even though there were no differences between the groups at the beginning of the day. And it turns out that the amount of money people found in their envelopes — $5 or $20 — had no effect on their happiness at the end of the day. How people spent the money mattered much more than how much of it they got.”

(For more on how nice guys can finish first, click here.)

More from Michael Norton’s TEDx talk here:

To learn more check out Happy Money: The Science of Smarter Spending.

Join over 190,000 readers. Get a free weekly update via email here.

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 psychology

How to Use Time Travel to Increase Happiness

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Eric Barker writes Barking Up the Wrong Tree.

Anytime you need to be happier, just do some time travel. It’s that simple.

I know what you’re thinking: He’s finally gone insane.

No, I’m not crazy. And you don’t need a time machine. You’re just going to use your imagination.

But scientific research shows this is a great way to immediately increase happiness. You can do it anywhere and it doesn’t cost anything.

Research shows happiness is all about where you put your attention. And shifting your attention to the past, the future or even the present — can boost happiness.

Still sound silly? Stay with me. You do unhappy time travel all too frequently.

When you are overcome with regret, you’re turning your attention to negative elements of the past. When you worry, you’re thinking about an unpleasant future. But we can also use mental time travel to get the best out of life.

Here are three ways, why they work, and quick tips to use them to put a smile on your face.

1) Time Travel To The Future!

It’s as simple as anticipation. Remember being a kid and looking forward to holiday gifts? Or as an adult haven’t you fantasized about that vacation coming up?

Well, research says deliberately using anticipation is an insanely powerful way to get happy.

How does it work?

Here’s why you absolutely need to incorporate more anticipation into your life:

Studies show anticipation can actually be more enjoyable than getting the thing you’re anticipating.

Via The Myths of Happiness: What Should Make You Happy, but Doesn’t, What Shouldn’t Make You Happy, but Does:

For example, a month before embarking on a guided twelve-day tour of several European cities, eager travelers report expecting to enjoy their trip significantly more than they actually do during the twelve days. Identical results are found when students are surveyed about their expectations three days before their Thanksgiving vacation, and when midwesterners are surveyed three weeks before a bicycle trip across California. Indeed, researchers who studied a thousand Dutch vacationers concluded that by far the greatest amount of happiness extracted from the vacation is derived from the anticipation period…

This is why lottery tickets sell so well: you’re never gonna win that cash but the chance to dream and anticipate it brings an enormous amount of joy.

But I’m not encouraging you to buy lottery tickets.

How to do it:

Simply make plans to do something fun with a friend.

Harvard happiness expert Shawn Achor says just calling, emailing or texting a friend and putting an event on the calendar is more powerful than you think.

Via The Happiness Advantage:

One study found that people who just thought about watching their favorite movie actually raised their endorphin levels by 27 percent. Often, the most enjoyable part of an activity is the anticipation. If you can’t take the time for a vacation right now, or even a night out with friends, put something on the calendar—even if it’s a month or a year down the road. Then whenever you need a boost of happiness, remind yourself about it.

Want an extra 130,000 bucks a year? That’s the financial equivalent of the happiness boost you get from spending more time with those you’re closest to.

Approximately 70% of your happiness comes from relationships.

Via The 100 Simple Secrets of Happy People:

Contrary to the belief that happiness is hard to explain, or that it depends on having great wealth, researchers have identified the core factors in a happy life. The primary components are number of friends, closeness of friends, closeness of family, and relationships with co-workers and neighbors. Together these features explain about 70 percent of personal happiness. – Murray and Peacock 1996

(For more ways to improve your life by sending five simple emails, click here.)

Okay, so you’ve got an easy way to travel to a happy future. Let’s make like Marty McFly and visit the past…

2) Time Travel To The Past!

Nostalgia. People look at pictures of happy times for a very good reason. Maybe you do too.

But science says you don’t engage with those enough deliberately.

How does it work?

Studies show taking some time to be nostalgic increases meaning in life and gives loneliness the boot.

Happiness researcher Sonya Lyubomirsky says reliving the past kills stress.

Via The How of Happiness: A New Approach to Getting the Life You Want:

…those proficient at reminiscing about the past—looking back on happy times, rekindling joy from happy memories—are best able to buffer stress.

How to do it:

Keep a picture of happy times or people you love in your pocket. Take it out to trigger good feelings when you need them. Want to take it to the next level?

Reminiscing with others about good times improves your relationships and makes both of you happier.

Via The How of Happiness: A New Approach to Getting the Life You Want:

Researchers have found that mutual reminiscence—sharing memories with other people—is accompanied by abundant positive emotions, such as joy, accomplishment, amusement, contentment, and pride.

(For the 8 things you can learn from the happiest people on the planet, click here.)

Okay, mental time travel to the future and the past is boosting your mood. We’ve arrived at our final destination.

This one is weird… But it may be the most powerful in the long run.

3) Time Travel to… The Present?

Okay, this one doesn’t sound nearly as exciting. But it’s the core of that mindfulness thing everyone keeps screaming about.

Experts call it “savoring.” You may think you’re living in the present — but you’re doing it all wrong.

How does it work?

When that happiness expert Sonja Lyubomirsky studied the world’s happiest people, what did she find?

They savor life’s pleasures and try to live in the present moment.

But what’s “savor” really mean? Giving your full attention to the good things around you right now.

Via Happiness: Unlocking the Mysteries of Psychological Wealth:

The key component to effective savoring is focused attention. By taking the time and spending the effort to appreciate the positive, people are able to experience more well-being.

Focusing on the positive and appreciating those things leads to a happiness boost in under a week.

Via Rapt: Attention and the Focused Life:

One group was told to focus on all the upbeat things they could find— sunshine, flowers, smiling pedestrians. Another was to look for negative stuff— graffiti, litter, frowning faces. The third group was instructed to walk just for the exercise. At the end of the week, when the walkers’ well-being was tested again, those who had deliberately targeted positive cues were happier than before the experiment.

How to do it:

That morning cup of coffee? That quick catch-up with a friend? Put your phone away. Don’t think about the past or the future. Stop, slow down and appreciate this little moment.

Sound corny? Just doing that decreases depression and boosts happiness.

Via The How of Happiness: A New Approach to Getting the Life You Want:

…In all these studies those participants prompted to practice savoring regularly showed significant increases in happiness and reductions in depression.

(To learn how 5 post-it notes can make you happy, confident and successful, click here.)

Alright, time travelers, let’s round it up and learn the magic ingredient that these all have in common…

 

Sum Up

Feeling down? Just remember “time travel.” The three ways to do it:

  1. Anticipate: Schedule something fun with a friend. When you’re down, look forward to it.
  2. Be Nostalgic: Keep a picture of a loved one in your pocket or reminisce with that person.
  3. Savor: Next time you’re doing something you enjoy, focus your attention on it. Don’t time travel — be fully present.

Why else are these three great? They give you hope.

They give you hope for the future, they remind you of hope from the past, and they reveal the hope present all around you right now.

That’s not a silly Hallmark card platitude. There’s science behind hope.

Research shows your level of hope predicts future achievement better than intelligence, grades or personality. It actually predicts law school GPA better than the LSAT.

Via Ungifted: Intelligence Redefined:

…Kevin Rand and his colleagues found that hope, but not optimism, predicted grades in law school above and beyond LSAT scores and undergraduate grades.

And, of course, hope makes you happy.

Via Ungifted: Intelligence Redefined:

Philip R. Magaletta and J. M. Oliver measured hope, self-efficacy, and optimism and found that hope stood head and shoulders above the other vehicles.

We all need hope. And a little mental time travel is a simple cheap way to bring more of that special feeling into all of our lives. As Allan K. Chalmers once said:

The grand essentials of happiness are: something to do, something to love, and something to hope for.

Join over 190,000 readers. Get a free weekly update via email here.

This piece originally appeared on Barking Up the Wrong Tree.

Related posts:

How To Stop Being Lazy And Get More Done – 5 Expert Tips

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

New Harvard Research Reveals A Fun Way To Be More Successful

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.

MONEY consumer psychology

83 Questions Every Successful Person Asks

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"What am I really good at?"

One of the things that stood out from my Rich Habits Study was how important thinking was to self-made millionaires. I tracked 10 different types of thinking habits these millionaires engaged in frequently, if not daily. From my research, it was so evident that thinking was fundamental to their success that I decided it needed to become one of what I call the 10 Keystone Rich Habits.

When self-millionaires think, they do so in isolation, closed off from the world. Most engaged in their daily thinking habits in the morning, some during their commute in their car, others in the shower, and still others at night. Morning seemed to be the most dominant time frame, however. Typically, immediately upon waking, these self-made millionaires would find a quiet space and think for about 15 to 30 minutes.

What did they think about? Well, they thought about a lot of things and when they thought, they thought in a way that most would refer to as brainstorming. They spent time every day brainstorming with themselves about numerous things. I was able to boil down those brainstorming sessions into 10 core Rich Thinking Habit categories. Here they are, and the corresponding 83 questions the rich ask themselves.

1. Career

Some of the questions they asked themselves included:

  • What can I do to make more money?
  • How can I increase my value to my clients, customers or my employer?
  • What do I need to do in order to gain more expertise?
  • What additional skills do I need?
  • What things should I be reading more about?
  • Do I like what I do?
  • What do I love to do?
  • Can I make money doing what I love to do?
  • Should I change careers?
  • Should I work more – or fewer — hours?
  • Do I work hard enough?
  • Am I lazy?
  • What am I really good at?
  • What am I really bad at?
  • Does my job make me happy?

2. Finances

When it comes to their money, here are some of the questions they contemplated:

  • Do I spend too much money?
  • Am I saving enough money?
  • Will I have enough to retire on?
  • How much will I need to retire on?
  • Do I have enough set aside for college for my kids?
  • How much do I actually spend each month?
  • Should I create a budget?
  • Should I revise my budget?
  • Am I doing a good job investing our money?
  • Is my spouse doing a good job investing our money?
  • Am I paying too much in taxes?
  • Do I have enough life insurance?
  • Should I set up a trust for my kids?

3. Family

They also asked themselves:

  • Do I spend enough time with my family?
  • Can I work less and spend more time with my family?
  • Are we spoiling our kids?
  • Are we too hard on our kids?
  • Can I get away for a family vacation this year?
  • Are we doing enough to help our kids succeed?
  • How can I improve my relationship with my spouse, my kids?

4. Friends

Social life is also an important part of the equation, and among the things they considered:

  • Do I have as many friends as I should?
  • Do I spend enough time with the friends I have?
  • Why don’t I have many friends?
  • How can I make more friends?
  • Is my work interfering too much with my social life?
  • Do I call my friends enough?
  • How often should I stay in touch with my friends?
  • Who haven’t I spoken with in a while?
  • Do I have good friends?
  • How can I end my friendship with so-and-so?
  • Should I help my friends financially?

5. Business Relationships

Of course, business is also a prominent concern, and they continued to ask themselves the following:

  • What can I do to improve my business relationships?
  • Am I staying in touch enough with my key customers, clients?
  • How can I develop a business relationship with so-and-so?
  • Which business relationships should I spend more time on and which ones should I pull away from?
  • Do my customers/clients like me?
  • Do they think I do a good job?

6. Health

They also focused on health issues, asking:

  • Am I exercising enough?
  • Should I lose more weight?
  • Do I eat too much?
  • Am I eating healthfully?
  • Should I get a physical?
  • Should I take vitamins/supplements?
  • Should I schedule a colonoscopy?
  • Are my arteries clogged?
  • Do I get enough sleep?
  • Do I drink too much?
  • What can I do to stop smoking?
  • How can I cut back on junk food and eat more vegetables?

7. Dream-Setting & Goal-Setting

Most of the brainstorming involved their personal, financial, family and career dreams and goals, including dreams of retiring on a beach, buying a boat, expanding their business, buying vacation homes, etc.

  • What are my dreams and goals for the future?
  • What do I need to do to get there?

8. Problems

Here they brainstormed primarily about finding solutions to those problems that were causing them the most stress at the moment. Most were immediate problems related to their jobs and family. Some were longer-term and related to preempting future potential problems they were anticipating down the road most often related to their careers.

9. Charity

They also try to make sure they’re giving back to their community, so they asked themselves:

  • What other charities can I get involved in?
  • Am I doing enough for my church, business group, synagogue, etc.?
  • How can I best help my community?
  • What can I do to help my grammar school, high school, college, etc.?
  • Should I start a scholarship?
  • Should I contribute more money to my school or church?
  • Who can I help?

10. Happiness

Finally… the ever-important happiness factor. They checked in with these questions:

  • Am I happy?
  • What is causing me to be unhappy?
  • How can I eliminate those things that are making me unhappy?
  • Is my spouse happy?
  • Are my kids happy?
  • Are my employees or staff happy?
  • How can I make myself happier?
  • What is happiness?
  • Will I ever be happy?
  • What’s making me so happy?

That’s a lot of thinking, I know. There are a lot of days in the year, however, to brainstorm with yourself. You just need to make it a daily habit. Eventually, over time you will come up with solutions to your most pressing problems. You will gain insight into what makes you tick. Planned daily thinking will help you find some meaning to your life.

Making a daily habit of thinking is what self-made millionaires do. It’s an important piece of the success puzzle. Understanding why they do it is less important than understanding that they do do it. Every day.

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