Tag Archives: self-improvement

Why We Keep Things We Don’t Need: The Psychological Weight of “Stuff”

Why We Keep Things We Don't NeedI have a hard time watching the tv show Hoarders.

It makes me feel physically uncomfortable, almost itchy. When I watch even parts of an episode, I feel compelled to root through my own belongings and find something, anything, just one thing, to throw or give away. (My cats count themselves lucky I don’t have the same reaction to Animal Hoarders.) Continue reading Why We Keep Things We Don’t Need: The Psychological Weight of “Stuff”

A Simple Secret to Improve Your Running (Or Anything Else)

A Simple secretWhat if I told you there’s a nearly free, fairly simple way to become a better runner (or swimmer, or biker, or whatever it is you want to improve)?

Good news: It exists.

Even better, it’s not only helped people improve their athletic performance, it’s also helped them lose weight and become healthier.

So what is this magic weapon? Continue reading A Simple Secret to Improve Your Running (Or Anything Else)

Enhance Your Work Reputation By Sharing Credit for Success

Enhance Your Work Reputation By SharingA surprising way to enhance your own reputation at work is to generously and openly share credit for success with other contributors. Sharing credit for success demonstrates that you are a team player. If you’re a manager, it shows your ability to develop the talent of your team members and position them for success. Continue reading Enhance Your Work Reputation By Sharing Credit for Success

Psychology and the Serenity Prayer

PsychologyThe Serenity Prayer is well-known in the United States in part because of its use as part of the Alcoholic Anonymous program. The simple prayer says:

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.

I see this prayer as describing the essential difference between Acceptance and Commitment Therapy and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy,  two leading but sometimes contradictory theories of helping people change negative thought patterns. Continue reading Psychology and the Serenity Prayer

Your Future Self Will Thank You: Affective Forecasting and Procrastination

LittleIt’s October now, and the weather is cool.  Soon, for most of us, it will be cold and wet outside, and outdoor exercise will be a drag.

Think ahead to April. The weather will be warmer, the flowers will be blooming, and being outdoors will be a pleasure again. So what do you say to signing up for an April race?

If you’re like most people, the idea of a future race is much more appealing than a race today. We tend to believe that our future selves will be more prepared and motivated to tackle a challenge than our present selves. Unfortunately, this belief is usually wrong. Making predictions about how we’ll feel in the future is called affective forecasting, and we are lousy at it. Continue reading Your Future Self Will Thank You: Affective Forecasting and Procrastination

Creating Your Career Narrative

Creating Your Career NarrativeIn graduate school, particularly before I was 100% certain I would not be pursuing the academic job market, I worried quite a bit about my “story.” I didn’t think I was the type of person who had a good story.

A good story is one that ties all of your work into a coherent narrative. It shows the world that you have solid, consistent interests that you’ve explored through multiple avenues. It lets potential employers envision the type of work you might contribute to their organization and reputation. Continue reading Creating Your Career Narrative

An Argument for Not Running Less in Marathon Training

An Argument for Not Running Less inI keep seeing articles about training for a marathon with a lower volume of running. I even bought a book about it myself, Runners’ World Run Less Run Faster.

Probably the most famous example of a reduced mileage training plan is the Hanson method, which does make conceptual sense to me. The idea is that you run almost every day, without as many of the traditional rest days, to get used to the experience of running on tired legs. No run is over 16 miles in duration, unlike typical plans that include at least one and sometimes more 20 mile runs. You will have fresh legs the day of the marathon, but when fatigue eventually kicks in, you will know how to deal with it and keep moving.

This sounds really appealing, and I don’t doubt it works for a lot of people, but I am really glad I included a 20+ mile run in my marathon training for one reason: My brain needed it. Continue reading An Argument for Not Running Less in Marathon Training

The New Self-Promotion: Personal Branding as a Career Strategy

The New Self-Promotion- PersonalAny very large company has teams who are not aware of what other teams are doing. It’s simply impossible for any one individual to keep track of all of the activity within a company after it passes a certain size. This introduces a few new challenges:

  • How do you avoid duplication of work and use funding and resources efficiently?
  • How do you share information and projects of common interest?
  • As an employee, how do you find and become involved in the projects that relate to your strengths and growth objectives?

The third question is the one that I am most interested in on a day-to-day basis, since my focus is on being an employee rather than improving organizational process (although I’d love to tackle that problem, too). Continue reading The New Self-Promotion: Personal Branding as a Career Strategy

Racing and Social Support Keep Me Running

Racing and Social Support Keep MeOne of the biggest challenges with any new behavior is sustaining it over the long term. When I started running, I knew I needed to do something if I was going to stick with it over time. My winning plan combines frequent races with strong social support around (but not during!) my runs.

Like a nerd, I also thought about how to make whatever strategies I used as motivating as possible. Looking at the levers pushed by motivational design (autonomy, competence, and relatedness), I knew that I was most easily swayed by competence. Autonomy to me felt like a non-starter for long-term sustenance of running behavior; I already have a ton of control over my routes and when I go running, and didn’t see additional control bringing any more motivation for me. Relatedness was the trickiest, since, as I’ll get into, I am particular about how I seek social support for fitness. Continue reading Racing and Social Support Keep Me Running

Boost Your Short Term Memory with these Tips Based in Psychology

Boost Your Short-Term Memory with Tips from PsychologyOne of the best things about studying psychology is finding research that can be translated into real-world life tips. I love finding ways to be happier or more productive based on the concepts I study. It’s a nice way to feel an immediate reward and understand how research can be applied to improve people’s lives.

An area where I often need help is short-term memory and organization. On a typical work day, I am taking back-to-back calls, responding to emails, and working on a variety of deliverables. I need to be able to quickly transition between tasks, find documents and notes quickly, and not lose too much time switching between different conference lines and web presentations. Saving even a few seconds on some of these tasks can make a difference, especially in giving me an appearance of professionalism and punctuality.

Fortunately, there are several great practical applications of psychology that can help make people perform a little bit better in the moment by propping up short-term memory. Without further ado, here are three tips based on cognitive psychology that can help extend your short-term memory just long enough to improve your efficiency. Continue reading Boost Your Short Term Memory with these Tips Based in Psychology