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Learning When to Walk Away

walkawayPhoto courtesy of Rocky Lubbers

As you continue on the path to your best life, it’s only natural that you want to be (now, more than ever) surrounded by like-minded people. After all, the crowd you spend the most time with is very likely to have a significant influence on your state of mind.

Many times we may think that we can help someone else grow and change along with us. If we’re getting better, why can’t they?

If a friend and/or family member expresses an interest in making improvements in his or her life, you’ve struck gold, and the two of you can cheer each other on – all the way to the finish line. However, just because you’re making changes for the better does not mean that everyone else is, too, and this can cause you quite a great deal of strife if you don’t do something about it.

What should you do?

First, you’ll have to silently take stock of which people in your life are the most beneficial to your psyche, and which people are bringing you down. You may find that there are some neutral players in your circle of friends and family – people who neither boost you up nor pull you down. They aren’t causing any problems, so shift your focus away from them and onto anyone that feels like a happiness bandit.

Chances are good that you already know who the Negative Nancy is in your life. Of course, you may have a Pessimistic Paul and a Debbie Downer, too. Determine exactly what it is about these particular people that brings you down the most. Do they constantly complain? Perhaps they always think the worst is going to happen, and are quite vocal about it. Overly controlling people can be quite stress-inducing, as well.

Have a face-to-face discussion wherein you clearly but kindly explain what they do that is upsetting you, or bringing you down. When having this talk, remember to:

  • Start with a positive.  Be sure to express something you love about them before launching into a conversation about what you’d like them to change.
  • Be kind.  Lead by example. Rise above their negativity by showing them respect and kindness during your discussion.
  • Be clear. It’s important that they walk away from the conversation with an understanding of what you need.

Once you’ve taken the time and energy to have a heart-to-heart chat with someone whose values and goals are contrary to your own, give it some time. Remember that significant life changes don’t happen overnight, and the shift may be very small at first.

If, after a pre-determined amount of time, you still feel as though an anchor is attached to both of your legs when in the presence of certain people, you will need to distance yourself from him or her in order to continue your upward momentum. I’m a firm believer in second chances, but I also believe that you reap what you sow. Assuming you’ve been clear about what you need from others during this time in your life, anyone who isn’t responsive to your needs is simply disregarding you, and doesn’t deserve a third, fourth or fifth chance.

Although you may scoff at the idea of ‘walking away’ from a close friend or family member – the alternative is that you continue to spend your precious time with someone who is sucking the life out of you. Whether it is your sister, ‘best’ friend, or even your spouse – you have the power to decide who you want to surround yourself with.

Luckily, “it’s never too late to be what you might have been.” ~ George Eliot

 

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What Not to Do When Starting Your Own Business

facebookingPhoto courtesy of Small_Realm

You’ve come to the conclusion that a traditional nine-to-five job in an office building somewhere in Corporate America just isn’t for you.

What now?

The entrepreneurial spirit is alive and thriving in the new millennium, especially among Americans aged 18-35. Reports from the 2012 business year show that 84% of start-up company owners predicted that their business would become profitable in the next twelve months. The question is - what will it take to make this prediction ring true?

In general, entrepreneurs are creative-types with spirited personalities – full of ideas and vigor. However, no matter how great your idea is, you always need a solid plan to make it into a viable business concept. And keep in mind:

“In order to succeed you must fail, so that you know what not to do the next time.”  ~Anthony J. D’Angelo

Granted, there are a select few who somehow hit it out of the park on their first attempt, but the vast majority of business owner wannabes must face the reality that they’ll probably fail quite a few times before they find success.

From the wisdom of several (now successful) business owners who’ve gone before us, comes a list of potential land mines to steer clear of when launching your very own start-up.

  1. Excessive virtual socializing – The most successful entrepreneurs are very good at tuning out distractions and focusing on what they need to accomplish. It’s easy to get sidetracked by all of the fun things on your laptop rather than putting in the hard work it will take to get your business off the ground. Spend less time Facebooking and more time taking actionable steps toward opening your company.
  2. All talk and no action – When you’re excited about a project, it’s natural to want to shout it from the rooftops, but don’t stop there. Telling everyone about your big idea is a good way to hold yourself accountable, but half of the people you tell probably think you’re going to fail. Prove them wrong by coming up with a business plan that includes specific short-term and long-term goals. Then put that plan into action.
  3. Go solo and reap all the glory - Almost every entrepreneur can benefit from a business partner, assistant or intern (and later when you can afford them, employees). Without a partner or mentor, you risk early burn out and confusion. You’ll have to share the spotlight, but your chances of success are much higher when you have someone to collaborate with.
  4. Wish-wash applesauce – Many businesses fail because their founder is too indecisive. As an entrepreneur, you’ll often be the one pulling the trigger on important issues, and if you constantly keep the safety on, you’ll never produce any ideas that go anywhere.
  5. Trying to do it all at once – Some of the most successful small business owners say they realized early on that success just doesn’t happen overnight. Multi-tasking can spread you too thin, causing your work quality to suffer. Keep your mind open to new ideas, and be ready to move forward when it’s time, but don’t move faster than your feet can carry you.
  6. Walking with the dinosaurs – As a business owner in today’s technologically savvy world, you’ll need to be up-to-date on all things electronic. Businesses just don’t run on paper anymore, and you’ll need to adapt to the virtual world if you plan to succeed.
  7. Excusing yourself – It’s time to stop complaining about all of the things “holding you back.” Those entrepreneurs who spend all day whining about the fiscal cliff are the ones who aren’t going to build a successful company.
  8. Going big or going home - Ever hear the saying, “Don’t put all your eggs in one basket?” The same concept applies to business. Instead of relying on a few big customers, spend more time focusing on a wide variety of clients. That way, losing one or two won’t mean the end of your start-up.

Unfortunately, you’ll never be able to avoid all mistakes when you begin a new venture, but it is possible to minimize the number of bad moves you make and the effect they’ll have on your livelihood and happiness. Do your research before making any big decisions, and be prepared to learn from any mistakes that just can’t be avoided.

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How to Do Something When You Really Don’t Want to

unmotivatedPhoto courtesy of Jamelah

You know the feeling: you’ve got an endless To-do list and you’re drowning in deadlines, but you just cannot seem to find the right motivation. Regardless of what particular goal(s) you’re trying to reach, dealing with a lack of motivation can really slow down your progress. In fact, allowing your slump to continue can cause a hefty set-back, undoing some of your hard-earned progress you have already made.

I am presently lacking the motivation to get my butt in gear and get in shape. I’m well aware of the health benefits I will enjoy after my body drops a few pounds, and I see my skinny clothes beckoning me from my closet every day. I’m also cognizant that regular exercise and healthy eating are the key to getting fit. The problem? How to overcome the “I don’t wanna”:

  1. Question your motives. The first step in finding your way past a roadblock is to reassess why you set that particular goal in the first place. Make sure that the goal in question is attainable, necessary, and will lead you to a happier and better place than where you are currently. Evaluate whether or not you really need/want to make the changes required to reach this goal. It’s possible that your goals have changed since you set out to change your life, which is why you should reevaluate frequently. If, however,  you discover that you’re on the right track, renew your confidence in the idea by imagining a future in which you have accomplished this goal. Come back to that visualization of yourself succeeding anytime you struggle.
  2. Rename your goal. Sometimes, word association can get the better of us.  For me, “exercising” brings up thoughts of sweat and exhaustion. What I really need in my life is to improve my physical endurance to overcome some of the hurdles that a connective tissue disorder throws at me. From now on, I’m going to tell myself, “Let’s go get stronger!” It may seem too simple to work, but I know that it is possible to mind-trick your own mind.
  3. Forgive yourself. One of the worst things you can do when you’re already in an uninspired frame of mind is to berate yourself to an even lower place. I know this to be true, and I’m working on being nicer to myself when I slip.
  4. Make a tiny shift. After all, that’s how we came up with our name! Most often, people feel unmotivated to do tasks that seem overwhelming. To avoid this, make your tasks as easy and simple as possible. Want to get more fit? Walk for 3-5 minutes every day. Cutting caffeine out of your life? Drop one caffeinated beverage out of your meal plan every week, or move to half-caff.  Trying to get better at keeping your house clean? Organize one room at a time, or set a timer and clean for only 30 minutes. Doing a little every day may not seem like a big deal, but what you’re actually doing is creating habits.
  5. Try to have fun. I hate reading self-help articles that say “It’ll all work out!  Just do it!” While they may be right, that doesn’t solve my problem – not wanting to do it in the first place! There’s a reason we struggle to do some of the things that will improve our lives – they’re hard! So, instead of forcing yourself to do something you hate - change it up a little bit first. Find some way to add even the tiniest pleasure to the task at hand – like adding fresh mint into your decaf tea, or buying new cleaning supplies. For me, it meant finding fun ways to get exercise with other people, like playing kickball with my kids, having a nature walk with my best friend, and taking a swim with my husband.

Finally – even the best of us have moments when all we feel like doing nothing. Give yourself permission to do nothing for a bit, because it’s your mind’s way of telling you to slow down and take a break. When you’re finished doing nothing, get back up and try again - because as the old saying goes:

“Fall seven times, stand up eight.” – Japanese Proverb

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Optimistic Realism: An Attitude Worth Having

 

optimism

Photo courtesy of Steven Depolo

Constantly seeing the glass as half full may seem like the “in thing” to do these days, but do yourself a favor and leave the pure, unadulterated optimism to someone else. It’s definitely beneficial to have a generally positive outlook, but there’s a big difference between that kind of unrealistic optimism and optimistic realism.

All of the recent talk about mindfulness has some people under the misguided impression that if they visualize success, it will arrive on their doorstep. ”If I believe it will happen, it will happen!” Unfortunately, this is a completely unhealthy way of thinking, especially if all you’re doing is believing.

Living a mindful life means being aware of and accepting things exactly as they are – even as you’re mindfully aware of being caught in a downpour without an umbrella. Mindfulness isn’t about reaching your goals at all, actually; it’s about being present enough in any given moment to appreciate all aspects of that moment, taking the good with the bad.

Adopting a mindful attitude does generally mean approaching life with a positive outlook - that part’s true, but it doesn’t mean you should become blissfully unaware. Observing and experiencing your life’s moments mindfully and then taking meaningful, realistic action is the key.

The most successful people are full of optimism but are keenly aware of reality, as well. To achieve your goals, you’ll need to master the fine art of balancing the two mindsets. As it was once said by William Ward, “The pessimist complains about the wind; the optimist expects it to change; the realist adjusts the sails.”

Pessimists never get very far toward their goals because they spend most of their time and energy complaining. Uber-optimists tend to spend most of their days in La-La Land, fantasizing about the future and assuming that their destiny is already decided for them.

Optimistic Realism: An Oxymoron?

It all boils down to this: actions speak louder than words. The only way to get where you want to be is to get up and start moving. You’ll need to have a realistic mindset about the road ahead of you on your journey. Bumps in the road will challenge you, for sure, and instead of wearing blinders, you’ll fare much better if you’re on the lookout for any detours you may need to take along the way.

So, keep your (moving) feet on the ground but leave your mind wide open. Your continued optimistic belief in yourself will help you succeed, but true success will only come when you put forth effort, careful planning and dogged persistence.

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How to Find Happiness After Divorce

walk after divorcePhoto courtesy of Ahmed Sinan

When a marriage ends, it’s normal for both parties to feel a wide array of emotions, including: anger, anxiety, confusion, disappointment, fear, freedom, guilt, loneliness, relief and sadness. Most people go through a mourning period after a breakup or divorce, even if the relationship had turned sour.  This happens due to the loss of a future that no longer exists.

Three years ago, my ex-husband and I just weren’t working as a romantic couple any longer. Deciding to divorce after ten years of marriage was a painful and difficult decision for both of us. During the time surrounding the separation and divorce, unanswered questions ate at me. How would I support my children financially? Who would I turn to for emotional support? Would I lose the close friendships I’d formed with my in-laws? How could I protect my children from feeling insecure during such an unsettling time?

Since the end of a marriage or long-term relationship is one of the most emotional hurdles that you’ll ever have to face, make it your goal just to clear this one without falling flat on your face. A little stumbling is to be expected.

  • Feel the pain. Like physical pain, being mindfully aware of emotional pain is crucial and will help you overcome the worst of it much faster. Allow yourself to sit with your feelings. Give yourself permission to let the grief and sadness wash over you. Sit with your pain and really feel it. In doing so, you release the power it has over you.
  • Then feel happy. Although it may not be as instantaneous or complete as you’d like, mindfully releasing your grief will make room for a degree of happiness to eke its way back in.
  • Accept the change. As you begin to feel little twinges of happiness again, you’ll also want to mindfully accept this new life as your life now.
  • Talk, talk, talk. Whether it’s a paid professional or a close friend, verbalizing your feelings is another great release. Speak your worries, and then let them go.
  • Keep your eye on the light at the end of the tunnel. Your life isn’t over; it’s just different. Although it may seem impossible at first, your life at the end of the grieving period may be even better than before.

Once you’ve been able to accept the changes that’ve transpired, you’ll want to focus on moving forward and living your new life to the fullest. Dr. Phil says:

  • Explain to your kids what Mom and Dad’s new relationship is. They need to understand that you’re still a team, but they also need some clarity on your new roles. Don’t try to “outparent” your ex. Do you really want your children to have a bad parent? Focus on the future and begin to see your ex from your children’s point of view instead of your own.

If you don’t have kids, you’ll get to the next part faster:

  • Make some time to get reacquainted with yourself.  This might take quite awhile; you’ve probably been getting at least part of your self-awareness through the feedback provided to you by your significant other. Re-visit some of your old hobbies or explore something new. Let yourself be a little selfish and take the time you need to strike a harmonious balance again.
  • Don’t play the blame game. Instead, focus your energy on what you can do to make your life better now. Keep your eyes facing forward and give yourself permission to be happy regardless of what has transpired in your relationship.

As a newly single person, you’re not up against the world – but you are up against two version of yourself. Whether you find happiness after divorce has nothing to do with the world around you. Dig deep, find your inner strength, and let your best self prevail.

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9 Tricks That Lead to Life-Long Fitness

Photo courtesy of Francois de Halleux

Currently, everyone I know falls neatly into two categories: those who kept up with their New Year’s resolutions and those who didn’t. Regardless of category, nearly all of my closest friends and family members want to get in better shape this year. Don’t we all? Every year?

If you find yourself struggling to get and stay fit, you’re not alone. According to Reuters, 36% of adult Americans are substantially overweight, and 17% of American children are, too. These figures mean that we need to make changes as a nation in order to get and stay healthy. Luckily, the changes can be subtle and still make a huge difference.

Perhaps you’ve merely put on an extra 10 pounds because you’ve reached that stage of your romantic relationship where everything becomes more relaxed – including your formerly strict diet and gym schedule. On the other hand, you may be looking to get fit for the first time in your life.

No matter what the reason, if fitness is your goal, you’ve got to have a doable plan that you feel good about. Otherwise you run the risk of burning out, getting bored, or never getting started in the first place. The following tricks have been recommended by some of the nation’s fittest, like Martin Rooney, an internationally recognized pioneer of strength:

  1. Treat exercising like brushing your teeth. It’s unavoidable, and if you don’t do it regularly, things are going to get bad in a hurry. If you make exercising into a (good) habit, chances are really high that you’ll stay fit for life.
  2. Take it to the playground. Let’s face it – no one’s overly motivated to do something they hate. Make your workouts fun again! Playing on playground equipment, joining a recreational sports team, riding your bike around the ‘hood, jumping rope with your kids – these are all great calorie busters while being fun at the same time.
  3. Make it a two-fer. If you’re more of a straight-laced guy or gal and prefer walking or running to the monkey bars – at least take your workout outside. Time flies by when the scenery is constantly changing, and you’ll burn more calories than on any treadmill. The varied terrain of the outdoors coupled with variable temperatures and wind conditions mean that your body will have to work harder, burning up to 7% more calories, according to Women’s Health magazine. Oh, and the two-fer? Vitamin D, of course!
  4. Mix it up. The saying “Variety is the spice of life” applies to exercising, too. Routines are beneficial (See #1) but as soon as your workout routine becomes overly strict, you’ll get bored. Experiment with different activities, even some that you’ve never tried before.
  5. Chat it up. By finding someone to work out with, you’ll not only avoid workout boredom with conversation, but you’ll also have instant accountability.
  6. Make a workout playlist. As humans, we naturally want to move to a tempo. As far back as 300 B.C., the rowers on the Roman Galleys were led and coordinated by a man banging on a drum. Something in the way our brains work makes us naturally want to walk, run or pedal a bike in synchronization with the music we’re listening to. Somehow, music reduces the perception of effort and can also increase our endurance by up to 15%, according to Costas Karageorghis, Ph.D., from London’s Brunel University.
  7. Break it up. So many of us are bogged down by the notion that we have to spend a continuous amount of time exercising (and only exercising.) For people with a busy schedule, that can get stressful. It’s perfectly ok to work out in small bursts throughout the day, even combining exercises with other daily activities. Try doing crunches while you watch TV at night, or use your break at work to run up and down the stairs several times.
  8. Set goals. While it may not be essential for everybody, most people will benefit from a goal and reward system. This gives you a sense of accomplishment and will encourage you to stay motivated.
  9. Take a stand. Your friends may give you a hard time about your dedication to working out while on vacation, or eating healthy at a sporting event. Staying fit for life requires the courage to stand up for what it takes to get and stay there, even when faced with opposition.

There’s no doubt about it, getting in shape is something that requires commitment and effort on your part. Small changes add up to big consequences, though, so what starts out as baby steps today can easily turn into a life-long love affair with fitness.

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A Success Story that will Amp Up Your Motivation

Photo courtesy of CR Artist

I’ve found that motivation is rather hard to come by this time of year, and that (ironically) was the catalyst for today’s post.

If you’re like me, then you’ve realized how difficult it is to overcome the emotional hurdles that come along with being in a slump – the biggest of which is a feeling of hopelessness. Luckily, motivation is something that comes and goes, and as long as you don’t give up on your goals, you will feel motivated again soon.

Along with staying focused on the end result, there are some other things you can do until your motivation returns, and some of them might even bring it back sooner. At times like this, choose one goal to focus on. Too many things on your To-Do list is a surefire way to overwhelm yourself. Spend some time with your negative thoughts; let yourself feel them without judgement. After a few days, start writing yourself inspirational notes, even if you don’t feel inspired yet.

You can also use this time to be inspired by other success stories, like the one that follows.

___________________________________________________________________________________________

When Howard was just 8 years old, his father lost his blue collar job due to injury, with no opportunities for sick leave or disability pay. Howard’s parents became unable to pay bills, afford healthcare, or even put food on the table. Howard wanted a better life, but he also wanted to make a difference for others. As the first member of his family to attend college, he earned a degree in Communications, after which he worked his way upward with sales and marketing positions.

His incredible drive and work ethic eventually got him hired as Vice President of a fairly large housewares company. Among his clients was a small company that sold coffee beans, loose teas, spices and beverage accessories. Howard became intrigued by this company when they began purchasing more and more of his company’s products. On a business trip to their location, he fostered a relationship with the company owners and eventually became their Director of Marketing.

Soon after, while Howard was on vacation in Italy, he noticed coffee shops on every corner, all brimming with customers day in and day out. People used the coffee shops as meeting places and hangouts. When Howard returned home, he pitched the idea to his bosses. However, the small coffee company owners wanted no part of the ‘restaurant business’ and they quickly dismissed his idea.

Howard was disheartened by their response to his idea, so he left the company to start a chain of coffee shops on his own, called Il Giornale. Two years later, he had enough capital to buy the rights to the small coffee bean company he had left. It cost him $3 million to purchase and he quickly rebranded Il Giornale to combine the two concepts into a colossal money making machine.

Of course, the name of that small coffee bean and tea company was Starbucks, and as of 2012, it is the largest coffeehouse company in the world, and Howard Schultz has a net worth of approximately $1.5 billion. True to his promise to himself when he was just a youngster, every Starbucks employee working 20 or more hours a week receives healthcare options, which are also extended to their spouses.

____________________________________________________________________________________________

I often think about Howard when my motivation is low, and I realize that if he can accomplish such amazing feats, having grown up in a housing project in the Canarsie area of Brooklyn, then surely the rest of us can find the motivation to accomplish our goals, too.

Until your motivation returns, let the stories of people like Howard stoke your fire. You only need one ember burning to keep your dreams from going up in smoke.

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How to Win in the Game of Life: Holiday Edition


Photo courtesy of Wayne Silver
As we get closer and closer to the release date of Life: 2013, I’ve been thinking about all of the features that I thought were absolutely absurd when the current version came out. When I first played version ’12, there were definitely some elements that I wasn’t sure I could handle, and quite frankly, it seemed very possible that 2012 might turn out to be a total flop.

All in all though, I’m happy to report that ’12 pleasantly surprised me, and I got quite a lot of enjoyment out of what I orginally thought was an unreasonably challenging level of gameplay. I ended up making it through all of this year’s checkpoints with much greater ease than I anticipated, leaving me with more than three weeks to wait until I can tackle the new version.

Luckily, this year’s holiday edition promises is as jam-packed as ever, keeping all of us who are eagerly anticipating 2013 busy with some new and potentially complex characters, a seemingly endless number of mini-battles, and one-on-one challenges that will test everyone’s skills. As has been true with every Life: Holiday Edition, the graphics are once again amplified in a distorted sort of way, leaving the player feeling that the game’s colors and lights are just a little too bright. As they’ve said before, the developers don’t expect any major glitches, but it wouldn’t be the holiday edition if it didn’t crash at least a few systems.

If you’re playing the holiday version this year, there are some helpful hints put together by some players familiar with all of the holiday versions.

  • Trade your negative energy wand in for a more powerful and useful tool. You may feel like using the wand to battle or kill off annoying characters that appear in the holiday version, but remember not to expend too much energy on them.
  • Only use your invisibility cloak when you absolutely must. The rest of the time, it’s best to be out and about in all of the game’s levels so that nothing can take you by surprise.
  • Learn how to levitate. There are some helpful and free apps that will help you rise above. Being aware of your breathing while playing is the first step toward a totally zen gamer profile, which is even more critical in the holiday version.
  • Take responsibility for all of the moves that you make. A very important thing to remember is that no one is in charge of your lives but you. Sure, some people are influential players in the game, but there is only one person holding your controller.

While we all know that life isn’t really a game, sometimes it helps to think of it as one. Use all of your powers wisely and always be on the lookout for more, use (and ask for) a helping hand when you need one, stay as far away from the bad guys as possible, and keep your eyes on the prize.

Whether the bad guys you’re currently battling are skeletons in your closet, bullies from the unemployment office, ghosts of loved ones who passed away too soon, taunting monsters of chronic pain, or something even worse – as long as you see an ally when you look in the mirror, your enemies don’t even stand a chance.

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When Good Intentions Go Bad: Guest Post by Tess Pajaron

Photo courtesy of Rupert Ganzer

“It’s not a big deal if I do it just this one time…”

Everyone has said a version of this to himself or herself from time to time. We allow ourselves to give in to base pleasures and immediate gratification even though we know in the long run we’re going to feel bad about ourselves. We all know that we do this, but few have really taken the time to think about what it means and how it applies to them in their everyday lives.

Three examples that just about everyone can understand involve cheating – with your budget, your diet, and on your significant other. Who hasn’t decided to splurge on that new Blu-Ray player by putting it on a credit card, and then curse themselves later when it comes time to pay? Or been too tempted by the free jelly doughnuts at work to avoid them and stick with your diet? Heck, some people make a resolution to get fit by working out more, but just never pull themselves away from the computer.

And if you’re congratulating yourself for not cheating on your spouse…good job, but the mechanism by which we make that bad choice and the others described above is the same. If you can’t control yourself in one area, the likelihood that you might slip up in another goes up.

But why do we do it? What is this mechanism that allows us to do things that we know are bad for us and often just plain foolish? Psychologists say that much of it comes down to stress, fear, and memory.

As humans, we are hardwired to actively seek out paths that will keep us from making choices we regret. It is a motivation that comes both from outside social pressures and internal forces. Unfortunately, sometimes the stress of the situation and our own fears about getting it wrong can actually lead us to making poor choices.

But of course, choosing poorly and later regretting those decisions makes things worse because it raises the stakes (and the corresponding stress) the next time the situation comes up. And this is literally true – stressful decisions are known to cause greater activity in the hippocampus, anterior cingulate cortex, and medial orbitofrontal regions of the brain. In layman’s terms, the areas that control our emotional memories get all riled up and confuse us when we’re trying to make good decisions.

You would think that having memories of poor choices you’ve made in the past would be a good thing and allow us to make a better decision next time, but because emotions are involved it, can lead to flawed decision-making. Let’s say you cheated in the past, either on your diet or on a significant other – although we’re sure the significant other would disagree, in the context of this discussion they amount to the same thing. Even though the consequences of cheating (weight gain, embarrassment, breaking up, self-loathing) were severe, studies have shown that we put more emphasis on that brief moment of pleasure we got from the actual cheating than the painful aftermath.

So how can we fight against ourselves and make better decisions? You have to be able to look at your decision-making process and spot flaws. And perhaps even more importantly, you need to avoid what Nobel Prize-winning psychologist Daniel Kahneman calls narrow framing, where you look at each choice as an individual thing instead of considering how you’ve approached – or wish you’d approached – similar decisions in the past.

Rather than deciding in the middle of an emotion-fueled moment, we can create a system of acceptable responses for ourselves. At its most base level, this is essentially what society and the justice system does for us – it tells us what choices are going to lead to positive and negative outcomes by spelling out what those outcomes will be ahead of time. Of course, saying you’re going to come up with a system that prevents you from making bad choices and actually implementing it are two different things, but the only way to get better is to try.

Tess Pajaron is part of the team behind Open Colleges. Her desire to consistently improve her life led her down the road of psychology. When not working, she loves to travel and discover new places and cultures, having a fancy for modern minimalist architecture and interior design. She can also be found on Cerebral Hacks, where she regularly contributes.

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The Illusion of Control and Why You Need to Let it Go

Photo courtesy of Elsie Esq

The illusion of control is a very real psychological effect that has been studied and debated by renowned psychologists for years.

The arrival of “super-technology” and phones that are nearly smarter than humans have given us constant access to every aspect of our lives. Information is instantly obtained; gratification is never delayed. Questions are answered in mere moments with text messages, mobile email, and the internet. We are immediately alerted to any and all changes in our friends’ lives, our watched eBay items, and our bank accounts.  It seems there is nothing that can’t be solved, figured out, or Googled.  And, if Google doesn’t know – maybe Siri does.

What many psychologists have debated over the years is whether feeling totally in control of all of life’s situations is a good thing or a bad thing. Originally dubbed a ‘positive illusion’ in 1988, controversy has since arisen. Will our ever-increasing control over certain aspects of our lives lead to higher productivity levels, better pay and more happiness? Some say that positive illusions, like feeling more in control, can motivate people to follow through on tasks they might otherwise have abandoned.  Others have a much different opinion.

The opposing point of view is that the illusion of control is, in most cases, just that: an illusion with no basis in reality.  However, this phenomenon, whether real or not, can lead to a very powerful and very real desire to have control over everything, leading to high levels of anxiety when things don’t go as planned, which quite honestly, is what most of life is about.

For some, the need for control can become quite controlling in itself.

What we must keep in mind about our ability to control our lives is most simply stated in the serenity prayer:

“God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”

In other words: Be realistic.  Making positive changes in your life is the greatest and most beneficial form of control you definitely can assert. By letting go in situations you simply can’t control, you’ll be able to be more present, getting the most of everything life has to offer.

 

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