Solving the Procrastination Puzzle by Timothy A. Pychyl

Categories Personal growthPosted on

Procrastination is our voluntary delay of an intended action

Not all delay is procrastination

In order to overcome procrastination, we need to understand our reluctance to act when it is in our best interest to act

The Five Big Ideas

  • Categorize which delays in your life are procrastination
  • Make predecisions using implementation intentions
  • Just get started
  • When working online, block distracting websites like Facebook (I recommend Stay Focused for Google Chrome)
  • Use willpower strategically

When we procrastinate, we voluntarily delay an intended action despite the knowledge that this delay may harm us in terms of the task performance or even just how we feel about the task or ourselves.

Pychyl believes there are many types of delay in our lives and we need to learn to appreciate this. Some are not only necessary; they’re wise.

To understand the procrastination puzzle—that voluntary but needless delay in our lives that undermines our goal pursuit—we need to understand our reluctance to act when it is in our best interest to act.

Pychyl’s initial strategy for change is to begin categorizing in your own mind which delays in your life are procrastination.

Exercise: Write down the tasks, projects, activities, or “things” in your life on which you tend to procrastinate. Next to each, jot down what emotions and thoughts come to mind when you think of each of these moments of procrastination. When you have finished your list, look for patterns in the emotions or thoughts involved.

“Procrastination is failing to get on with life itself.”

People express two kinds of regret in their grief over the loss of a loved one: regrets of commission and omission. Unsurprisingly, the regrets of omission related to our procrastination are found to be the most troubling in the grieving process.

“When we learn to stop needless, voluntary delay in our lives, we live more fully.”

Exercise: Next to each of the tasks or goals you wrote down earlier, note how your procrastination has affected you in terms of things such as your happiness, stress, health, finances, relationships, and so on. If possible, discuss this with a confidante or a significant other in your life who knows you well. Further, add notes about why this goal or task is important to get done, as well as the benefits of acting now as opposed to later.

Mantra: I won’t give in to feel good. Feeling good now comes at a cost.

We fail to self-regulate (control ourselves) because we “give in to feel good.”

Pychyl says it’s important to recognize that giving in to feel good is at the heart of self-regulation failure, and it is important to develop strategies for change.

When faced with a task where our natural inclination is to say, “I’ll do this later” or “I’ll feel more like this tomorrow,” we need to stop and recognize that we are saying this in order to avoid the negative emotions we are feeling right now.

We need to recognize that this task makes us feel awful and what we are trying to do is to run away from these feelings.

Emotional intelligence is the ability to effectively identify and utilize emotions to guide behavior.

The first step at the moment of procrastination is to stay put.

Use an implementation intention to deal with negative emotions, for example, “IF I feel negative emotions when I face the task at hand, THEN I will stay put and not stop, put off a task, or run away.”

Forecasting our future mood is known as affective forecasting.

The main idea behind affective forecasting is that we have a bias when we predict future mood (affective) states in relation to positive and negative events.

There are two biases that influence procrastination:

Focalism. Our tendency to underestimate the extent to which other events will influence our thoughts and feelings in the future.

Presentism. Our tendency to put too much emphasis on the present in our prediction of the future.

When we intend a future action, our affective state is often particularly positive.

“When we are tempted to procrastinate on a current intention or task, thinking that we’ll feel more like it tomorrow, we need to stop and think, ‘No, that’s a problem with my forecasting. There is a good chance I won’t feel more like it tomorrow.’ AND it is important to add the following: ‘My current motivational state does not need to match my intention in order to act.’”

Acknowledging that our motivational state is neither necessary nor sufficient to ensure action, we can simply remind ourselves of our personal goals (a form of self-affirmation) and “just get started.”

Let go of the misconception that your motivational state must match the task at hand.

When you start to act on your intention as intended, you’ll see your attitude and motivation change.

We need to consider the biases in our thinking including our tendency to:

Discount future rewards in relation to short-term rewards

Underestimate the time things will take and overestimate how much we can do

Prefer tomorrow over today

Self-handicap to protect self-esteem

Think irrationally about the task at hand and our ability to accomplish the task

Manufacture our own happiness by changing our thinking to be consistent with our behavior

A common cause of procrastination is our intransitive preference for approaching work.

Here’s an example:

“Imagine a task is due on Friday. It is now Monday morning. It is preferable to work on this task Tuesday as opposed to Monday. In other words, the preference for Tuesday is greater than the preference for Monday. Tuesday arrives. Ah, it’s preferable to work on this on Wednesday as opposed to Tuesday. Wednesday arrives. Again, it’s preferable to work on this Thursday instead of Wednesday. So far, so good; these are transitive relations. Then Thursday arrives. Oops, we think, it is now preferable that we had begun on Monday.”

Cognitive dissonance occurs when our actions and beliefs or even two beliefs are in conflict.

When we intend to take action and then don’t, we experience cognitive dissonance.

Here are a few typical reactions that researchers have catalogued as responses to cognitive dissonance (and ways that we reduce this dissonance):

Distraction. We divert our attention away from dissonant cognitions and avoid the negative affective state caused by dissonance.

Forgetting. This can be in two forms, passive and active. Passive is often the case with unimportant thoughts, while we may have to actively suppress important cognitions that are causing dissonance.

Trivialization. We change our beliefs to reduce the importance of the dissonance-creating thoughts or beliefs.

Self-affirmation. We create a focus on our core values and other qualities that reasserts our sense of self and integrity despite the dissonance.

Denial of responsibility. This allows us to distance ourselves as a causal agent in the dissonance.

Adding consonant cognitions. Seeking out new information that supports our position (e.g., “this isn’t procrastination”; “I need more information before I can do anything on this project”).

Making downward counterfactuals. Rationalizing “it could have been worse” so we just feel better in the short term.

Changing behavior to better align with our beliefs and values. This means that we would act instead of procrastinating, although changing one’s behavior requires effort and is often not the most convenient way to reduce dissonance.

Recognizing that it is human nature to have these biases, and more important, identifying specifically what we tend to do can be the beginning of change. (Note: Dan Ariely discusses biases at length in Predictably Irrational.)

Once we start a task, it is rarely as bad as we think. Pychyl’s research found getting started changes our perceptions of a task. It can also change our perception of ourselves in important ways.

“When you find yourself thinking things like: ‘I’ll feel more like doing this tomorrow,’ ‘I work better under pressure,’ ‘There’s lots of time left,’ ‘I can do this in a few hours tonight’ … let that be a flag or signal or stimulus to indicate that you are about to needlessly delay the task, and let it also be the stimulus to just get started.”

There are two main approaches to predecisions regarding potential distractions:

Reducing the number of distractions before we begin to work.

Using implementation intentions to help us decide ahead of time what we will do when distractions, obstacles, or setbacks arise.

Implementation intentions have effects over and above our motivation to succeed.

Willpower is a limited resource that you need to use strategically.

“It is exactly when we say to ourselves ‘I’ll feel more like it tomorrow’ that we have to stop, take a breath, and think about why we intended to do the task today. Why is it important to us? What benefit is there in making the effort now? How will this help us achieve our goal? From there, if we can muster the volitional strength for one more step, that is, to ‘just get started,’ we will find that we had more self-regulatory strength in reserve than we realized.”

“An implementation intention may well be the thing that gets you to exercise in the evening, even though you usually feel much too tired to begin.”

“Don’t get hypoglycemic; your self-regulation will suffer. Keep a piece of fruit (complex carbohydrate) handy to restore blood glucose.”

So much of our ability to self-regulate depends on our motivation.

Research pioneered by Henri Schouwenburg (University of Groningen) and Clarry Lay (York University) has revealed that only two of these traits have meaningful relations with procrastination—Conscientiousness and Neuroticism (which is also known as Emotional Instability).

Procrastination draws on our ability to deceive ourselves.

Minimizing distractions is an important part of curbing our online procrastination.

Recommended Reading

If you like Solving the Procrastination Puzzle, you may also enjoy the following books:

Deep Work by Cal Newport

Eat That Frog by Brian Tracy

Mindset by Carol Dweck

Buy The Book: Solving the Procrastination Puzzle

Print | Kindle

The Practicing Mind by Thomas M. Sterner

Categories Personal growthPosted on

“Realpeace and contentment in our lives come from realizing that life is a process to engage in, a journey down a path that we can choose to experience as magical”.

“When we subtly shift toward both focusing on and finding joy in the process of achieving instead of having the goal, we have gained a new skill. And once mastered, it is magical and incredibly empowering”.

“With deliberate and repeated effort, progress is inevitable”.

The Five Big Ideas

“Real peace and contentment in our lives come from realizing that life is a process to engage in, a journey down a path that we can choose to experience as magical”.

“When we subtly shift toward both focusing on and finding joy in the process of achieving instead of having the goal, we have gained a new skill. And once mastered, it is magical and incredibly empowering”.

“If you are not in control of your thoughts, then you are not in control of yourself”.

“A paradox of life: The problem with patience and discipline is that developing each of them requires both of them”.

“We erroneously think that there is a magical point that we will reach and then we will be happy”.

The Practicing Mind Summary

“Real peace and contentment in our lives come from realizing that life is a process to engage in, a journey down a path that we can choose to experience as magical”.

“When we learn to focus on and embrace the process of experiencing life, whether we’re working toward a personal aspiration or working through a difficult time, we begin to free ourselves from the stress and anxiety that are born out of our attachment to our goals, our sense that ‘I can’t feel happiness until I reach my goal’.”

“This ‘goal’ always takes the form of someplace we have not yet reached, something we don’t yet have but will at some point, and then, we believe, all will be right in our life”.

“When we subtly shift toward both focusing on and finding joy in the process of achieving instead of having the goal, we have gained a new skill. And once mastered, it is magical and incredibly empowering”.

“However, the practicing mind is quiet. It lives in the present and has laser-like, pinpoint focus and accuracy. It obeys our precise directions, and all our energy moves through it. Because of this, we are calm and completely free of anxiety. We are where we should be at that moment, doing what we should be doing and completely aware of what we are experiencing. There is no wasted motion, physically or mentally”.

“If you are not in control of your thoughts, then you are not in control of yourself”.

“A paradox of life: The problem with patience and discipline is that developing each of them requires both of them”.

“We have a very unhealthy habit of making the product — our intended result — the goal, instead of the process of reaching that goal”.

“We erroneously think that there is a magical point that we will reach and then we will be happy”.

“The word practice implies the presence of awareness and will. The word learning does not. When we practice something, we are involved in the deliberate repetition of a process with the intention of reaching a specific goal”.

“When you focus on the process, the desired product takes care of itself with fluid ease. When you focus on the product, you immediately begin to fight yourself and experience boredom, restlessness, frustration, and impatience with the process”.

“When you focus your mind on the present moment, on the process of what you are doing right now, you are always where you want to be and where you should be”.

“In order to focus on the present, we must give up, at least temporarily, our attachment to our desired goal”.

“When you shift your goal from the product you are trying to achieve to the process of achieving it, a wonderful phenomenon occurs: all pressure drops away”.

“We waste so much of our energy by not being aware of how we are directing it”.

“Remember, judgment redirects and wastes our energy”.

“In summary, creating the practicing mind comes down to a few simple rules: Keep yourself process-oriented. Stay in the present. Make the process the goal and use the overall goal as a rudder to steer your efforts. Be deliberate, have an intention about what you want to accomplish, and remain aware of that intention”.

“The problem with patience and discipline is that developing each of them requires both of them”.

“As we attempt to understand ourselves and our struggles with life’s endeavors, we may find peace in the observation of a flower. Ask yourself: At what point in a flower’s life, from seed to full bloom, does it reach perfection?”

“Most of the anxiety we experience in life comes from our feeling that there is an end point of perfection in everything that we involve ourselves with”.

“Stop yourself during the day as much as you can and ask yourself, ‘Am I practicing flower-like qualities and staying in the present with my thoughts and energies?’”

“It is our ego that makes us create false ideas of what perfect is and whether we have reached it”.

“Habits are learned. Choose them wisely”.

“You cannot change what you are unaware of”.

“What is required is that you are aware of what you want to achieve, that you know the motions you must intentionally repeat to accomplish the goal, and that you execute your actions without emotions or judgments; just stay on course. You should do this in the comfort of knowing that intentionally repeating something over a short course of time will create a new habit or replace an old one”.

“All the patience you will ever need is already within you”.

“Constantly reviewing new ideas creates, in a sense, a new habit of perceiving and processing our lives, a habit that brings us the sense of clarity we long for every day”.

“There are not that many ideas in this book; just a few, and they have always been there for us to discover. But they slip away from us in our daily lives so easily. They need to be studied over and over again from different angles so that they become a natural part of us”.

“Experiencing impatience is one of the first symptoms of not being in the present moment, not doing what you are doing, and not staying process-oriented”.

“The first step toward patience is to become aware of when your internal dialogue is running wild and dragging you with it”.

“The second step in creating patience is understanding and accepting that there is no such thing as reaching a point of perfection in anything”.

“Progress is a natural result of staying focused on the process of doing anything”.

“When you stay on purpose, focused in the present moment, the goal comes toward you with frictionless ease”.

“When you constantly focus on the goal you are aiming for, you push it away instead of pulling it toward you. In every moment that you look at the goal and compare your position to it, you affirm to yourself that you haven’t reached it. In reality, you need to acknowledge the goal to yourself only occasionally, using it as a rudder to keep you moving in the right direction”.

“Cheating discipline doesn’t work”.

“The real thrill of acquiring anything, whether it is an object or a personal goal, is your anticipation of the moment of receiving it. The real joy lies in creating and sustaining the stamina and patience needed to work for something over a period of time”.

“When you let go of your attachment to the object you desire and make your desire the experience of staying focused on working toward that object, you fulfill that desire in every minute that you remain patient with your circumstances”.

“Simplicity in effort will conquer the most complex of tasks”.

“The four ‘S’ words are simplify, small, short, and slow”.

“Simplify. When you work at a specific project or activity, simplify it by breaking it down into its component sections”.

“Small. Be aware of your overall goal, and remember to use it as a rudder or distant beacon that keeps you on course”.

“Short. Now you can also bring short into the equation: ‘I’m going to work at cleaning the garage for forty-five minutes a day over the next few days until it is completely clean’”.

“Slow. Incorporating slowness into your process is a paradox. What I mean by slow is that you work at a pace that allows you to pay attention to what you are doing”.

“Nonjudgment is the pathway to a quiet mind”.

“Equanimity is defined as even-temperedness and calmness”.

“It is because equanimity comes from the art of nonjudgment. Nonjudgment quiets the internal dialogue of our mind”.

“Our concepts of ideal and perfect are always changing”.

“What we consider good or bad for ourselves doesn’t stay the same”.

“Wisdom is not a by-product of age. Teach and learn from all those around you”.

“With deliberate and repeated effort, progress is inevitable”.

Buy this book

Print | Kindle | Audiobook

One Small Step Can Change Your Life : notes

Categories Personal growthPosted on

The art of making great and lasting change comes through small, steady steps.

Kaizen circumvents the brain’s built-in resistance to new behaviors.

Small rewards lead to big returns.

The Five Big Ideas

Kaizen is a process of improving a habit using very small steps.

Small steps can lead to big changes.

Kaizen disarms the brain’s fear response making change come more naturally.

By asking small, gentle questions, we keep the fight-or-flight response in the ‘off’ position.

By taking steps so tiny that they seem trivial or even laughable, you’ll sail calmly past obstacles that have defeated you before.

One Small Step Can Change Your Life Summary

Kaizen has two definitions:

Using very small steps to improve a habit

A process, or product using very small moments to inspire new products and inventions

Common Beliefs About Change

Myth #1: Change Is Hard

Myth #2: The Size of the Step Determines the Size of the Result, So Take Big Steps for Big Results

Myth #3: Kaizen Is Slow; Innovation Is Quicker

“In our “bigger is better” culture of IMAX movies, supersize meals, and extreme makeovers, it’s hard to believe that small steps can lead to big changes. But the wonderful reality is that they can.”

“There are two elements of the spirit, or purpose, in which kaizen plays an essential role: service and gratitude.”

“Low-key change helps the human mind circumnavigate the fear that blocks success and creativity.”

“All changes, even positive ones, are scary. Attempts to reach goals through radical or revolutionary means often fail because they heighten fear. But the small steps of kaizen disarm the brain’s fear response, stimulating rational thought and creative play.”

“When you want to change but experience a block, you can often blame the midbrain for gumming up the works.”

“Small, easily achievable goals—such as picking up and storing just one paper clip on a chronically messy desk—let you tiptoe right past the amygdala, keeping it asleep and unable to set off alarm bells.”

“When you are afraid, the brain is programmed either to run or attack—not always the most practical options.”

Small actions satisfy your brain’s need to do something and soothe its distress.

“Your brain is programmed to resist change. But, by taking small steps, you effectively rewire your nervous system so that it does the following: ‘unsticks’ you from a creative block bypasses the fight-or-flight response creates new connections between neurons so that the brain enthusiastically takes over the process of change and you progress rapidly toward your goal.”

“When life gets scary and difficult, we tend to look for solutions in places where it is easy or at least familiar to do so, and not in the dark, uncomfortable places where real solutions might lie.”

“Use times of difficulty to remember that fear is the body’s gift, alerting us to a challenge.”

“Small questions create a mental environment that welcomes unabashed creativity and playfulness. When you ask small questions of others, you channel that creative force toward team goals. By asking small questions of yourself, you lay the groundwork for a personalized program for change.” (Sam: this is similar to Anthony Robbin’s strategy of asking “quality questions” in Awaken the Giant Within.)

“The hippocampus’s main criterion for storage is repetition, so asking that question over and over gives the brain no choice but to pay attention and begin to create answers.”

“Ask yourself, ‘If health were my first priority, what would I be doing differently today? What is one way I can remind myself to drink more water? How could I incorporate a few more minutes of exercise into my daily routine?’”

“Your brain loves questions and won’t reject them … unless the question is so big it triggers fear.”

“By asking small, gentle questions, we keep the fight-or-flight response in the ‘off’ position. Kaizen questions such as ‘What’s the smallest step I can take to be more efficient?’ allow us to bypass our fears.”

“Make your questions small, and you reduce the chances of waking the amygdala and arousing debilitating fear. When fear is quiet, the brain can take in the questions and then pop out answers on its own timetable.”

“If you tend to berate yourself with negative questions (Why am I so fat?), try asking: What is one thing I like about myself today? Ask this question daily, writing your answer down in a journal or on a sheet of paper you keep in a specially designated place.”

Quality Questions

“If you are unhappy but aren’t sure why, try asking yourself this: If I were guaranteed not to fail, what would I be doing differently?”

“If you are trying to reach a specific goal, ask yourself every day: What is one small step I could take toward reaching my goal?”

“What is one small step I could take to improve my health (or relationships, or career, or any other area)?”

“Is there a person at work or in my personal life whose voice and input I haven’t heard in a long time? What small question could I ask this person?”

If somebody’s annoying you, ask yourself, “What’s one good thing about this person?”

“What is one small thing that is special about me (or my spouse, or my organization)?”

“The easy technique of mind sculpture uses ‘small thoughts’ to help you develop new social, mental, and even physical skills—just by imagining yourself performing them!”

“Small actions are at the heart of kaizen. By taking steps so tiny that they seem trivial or even laughable, you’ll sail calmly past obstacles that have defeated you before. Slowly—but painlessly!—you’ll cultivate an appetite for continued success and lay down a permanent new route to change.” (Sam: the idea of “taking steps so tiny that they seem trivial or even laughable” is similar to Stephen Guise’s strategy of making new habits stupidly small in Mini Habits.)

“If you ever feel yourself dreading the activity or making excuses for not performing it, it’s time to cut back on the size of the step.”

“We are so accustomed to living with minor annoyances that it’s not always easy to identify them, let alone make corrections. But these annoyances have a way of acquiring mass and eventually blocking your path to change. By training yourself to spot and solve small problems, you can avoid undergoing much more painful remedies later.”

“Whether you wish to train yourself or others to instill better habits, small rewards are the perfect encouragement. Not only are they inexpensive and convenient, but they also stimulate the internal motivation required for lasting change.” (Sam: the idea of rewarding yourself for doing a new behavior is a crucial part of BJ Fogg’s Tiny Habits program.)

“The larger the external rewards, the greater the risk of inhibiting or stunting the native drive for excellence.” (Sam: Dan Pink writes about this in Drive.)

“The kaizen approach to life requires a slower pace and an appreciation of small moments. This pleasant technique can lead to creative breakthroughs and strengthened relationships, and give you a daily boost toward excellence.”

“As you experience success in applying kaizen to clear goals like weight loss or career advancement, remember to hold on to its essence: an optimistic belief in our potential for continuous improvement.”

Recommended Reading

If you like One Small Step Can Change Your Life, you may also enjoy the following books:

Better Than Before: Mastering The Habits of Our Everyday Lives by Gretchen Rubin

Essential Zen Habits: Mastering The Art of Change, Briefly by Leo Babauta

Mini Habits: Smaller Habits, Bigger Results by Stephen Guise

Buy The Book: One Small Step Can Change Your Life

Print | Kindle | Hardcover

Notes From a Friend by Anthony Robbins

Categories Personal growthPosted on

“The past doesn’t equal the future. It’s in the moment of decision that your destiny is shaped”.

“Whatever you think about most you’ll experience”.

“The fastest way to change how you feel about anything is to change what you’re focusing on”.

The Five Big Ideas

  • “Almost all the changes we want to make fall into one of two categories: either we want to change the way we feel about things, or we want to change our actions”.
  • “You can change anything in your life today by changing your perceptions and changing your actions”.
  • “Your past does not equal the future”.
  • “The key to success is to decide what’s most important to you and then take massive action each day to make it better, even when it doesn’t look as if it’s working”.
  • “Ultimately, it’s our decisions, not the conditions of our lives that determine our destiny”.

Almost all the changes we want to make fall into one of two categories: either we want to change the way we feel about things, or we want to change our actions.

“The only thing that’s necessary to make this work for your right now is to begin to believe that it is possible to change. The past doesn’t matter. Whatever hasn’t worked in the past has nothing to do with what you’ll do today. What you do right now is what will shape your destiny”.

“You can change anything in your life today by changing your perceptions and changing your actions”.

“Often the reason that people say they can’t do something is that they’ve tried things in the past that haven’t worked”.

“Your past does not equal the future”.

“What matters is not yesterday but what you do right now”.

“The key to success is to decide what’s most important to you and then take massive action each day to make it better, even when it doesn’t look as if it’s working”.

“Personal power means being persistent in taking action: Every time you do something, you learn from it, and you find a way to do it better next time”.

“No problem is permanent. No problem affects my entire life. This too shall pass if I continue to take massive, positive, constructive action”.

“Massive, consistent action with pure persistence and a sense of flexibility in pursuing your goals will ultimately give you what you want, but you must abandon any sense that there is no solution”.

“God’s delays are not God’s denials”.

“Success is the result of good judgment. Good judgment is the result of experience. Experience is often the result of bad judgment”.

“The power of decision is the power of change”.

“Ultimately, it’s our decisions, not the conditions of our lives that determine our destiny”.

“The only way to change your life is to make a real decision”.

“You can choose what to believe about yourself, and these beliefs will determine the actions you take”.

“The fastest way to change how you feel about anything is to change what you’re focusing on”.

“The reality is whatever you focus on you move toward”.

“Whatever you think about most you’ll experience”.

“We all most realise that emotion is created by motion”.

“When you choose a metaphor to describe your life or your situation, you choose the beliefs it supports, too”.

“The harder you prepare, the luckier you seem to get”.

“Before something happens in the world, it must first happen in your mind”.

The people who overcome the odds and turn their lives around make three powerful kinds of decisions every day:

What to focus on

What things mean

What to do

The Problem-Solving Questions

What is great about this problem?

What is not perfect yet?

What am I willing to do to make it the way I want it?

What am I willing to no longer do to make it the way I want it?

How can I enjoy the process while I do what is necessary to make it the way I want it?

Other Books by Anthony Robbins

Awaken the Giant Within

Unlimited Power: The New Science of Personal Achievement by Anthony Robbins

Recommended Reading

If you like Notes From a Friend, you may also enjoy the following books:

The Daily Stoic: 366 Meditations on Wisdom, Perseverance, and the Art of Living by Ryan Holiday

Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World Book by Cal Newport

The E-Myth Revisited: Why Most Small Businesses Don’t Work and What to Do About It by Michael E. Gerber

Buy this book


My Philosophy for Successful Living by Jim Rohn

Categories Personal growthPosted on

Jim Rohn had influenced more than 5 million people in all corners of the world. He’s famous for mentoring countless motivational speakers including Tony Robbins,Les Brown, Harvey Mackay, Mark Victor Hansen and others. In My Philosophy for Successful Living by Jim Rohn, Rohn shares his best teaching son living a successful life.

My Philosophy for Successful Living Summary

You will be paid for what you bring to the marketplace and what you become.

Formal education gets you a job, but self-education is what makes you rich.

The answer to solving your problems isn’t to be found by listing out the obstacles both real and perceived in the outside world, but instead by noticing the obstacles in your own thinking and approach.

Your personal income is determined primarily by your philosophy.

If you work hard on your job, you make a living. If you work hard on yourself, you can make a fortune.

Success is not something you pursue. Success is something that you attract by becoming an attractive person.

The way that you become rich is not by wishing your life were easier, but instead by focusing on making yourself better.

Achieving wealth and greatness can be distilled down to helping others.

If you search you can find good people, but you have to be committed to searching.

Rewarding people for small steps of progress is a key part in your ultimate success.

Be so busy giving others recognition that you don’t really need it for yourself.

Becoming a skilled communicator is one of the single best investments you can make in yourself.

One of the best ways of building a financial wall around your family is to have more than one skill and more than one language.

Profits are better than wages.

No matter what you are doing in life, it’s important that you learn the fundamentals or the foundation of a given job or task.

Taking the time to sit down and write out your goals for the present, the near future and the more remote future is a necessary part of transforming your life.

You can have all you want out of life if you endeavor to help others.

Those who do not contribute to society often find that they pay a price in the form of solitude.

Recommended Reading

If you like My Philosophy for Successful Living, you may also enjoy the following books:

Awaken the Giant Within by Anthony Robbins

How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie

Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill

Buy this book

Print | Kindle | Audiobook

Love and Respect by Dr. Emerson Eggerichs: notes

Categories Personal growthPosted on

“Wives are made to love, want to love, and expect love. Husbands are made to be respected, want respect, and expect respect”.

“When a husband feels disrespected, it is especially hard to love his wife. When a wife feels unloved, it is especially hard to respect her husband”.

“Often, we focus on our own needs and simply overlook the needs of the other person”.

The Five Big Ideas

“No husband feels affection toward a wife who appears to have contempt for who he is as a human being. The key to creating fond feelings of love in a husband toward his wife is through showing him unconditional respect”.

“Craziness happens when we keep doing the same things over and over with the same ill effect”.

“The way to fully love a husband is to respect him in ways that are meaningful to him”.

“We easily see what is done to us before we see what we are doing to our mate”.

“Love your wife. Always try to see what is in her deepest heart”.

Love and Respect Summary

“Yes, love is vital, especially for the wife, but what we have missed is the husband’s need for respect”.

“No husband feels fond feelings of affection and love in his heart when he believes his wife has contempt for who he is as a human being”.

“Wives are made to love, want to love, and expect love”.

“Husbands are made to be respected, want respect, and expect respect”.

“As I wrestled with the problem, I finally saw a connection: without love from him, she reacts without respect; without respect from her, he reacts without love”.

“When a husband feels disrespected, it is especially hard to love his wife. When a wife feels unloved, it is especially hard to respect her husband”.

“When a husband feels disrespected, he has a natural tendency to react in ways that feel unloving to his wife. (Perhaps the command to love was given to him precisely for this reason!) When a wife feels unloved, she has a natural tendency to react in ways that feel disrespectful to her husband. (Perhaps the command to respect was given to her precisely for this reason!)”

“No husband feels affection toward a wife who appears to have contempt for who he is as a human being. The key to creating fond feelings of love in a husband toward his wife is through showing him unconditional respect”.

“Craziness happens when we keep doing the same things over and over with the same ill effect”.

“What I say is not what you hear, and what you think you heard is not what I meant at all.

Often, we focus on our own needs and simply overlook the needs of the other person”.

“Let me emphasize to wives that when men hear negative criticism, it doesn’t take them long to start interpreting that as contempt for who they are as men”.

“The way to fully love a husband is to respect him in ways that are meaningful to him”.

“When he honors her as first in importance and she respects him as first among equals, their marriage works”.

“The typical wife also fails to realize that her self-image often rests on what she believes her husband thinks of her”.

“While many wives do not intend to be disrespectful, they appear that way to their husbands, and their husbands take refuge in stonewalling them”.

“Right or wrong, men interpret their world through the respect grid, and a wife’s softened tone and facial expressions can do more for her marriage than she can imagine”.

“Whether it’s a husband or a wife who ‘doesn’t get it’, the answer is the same: we often don’t see the obvious”.

“We easily see what is done to us before we see what we are doing to our mate”.

“Love your wife. Always try to see what is in her deepest heart”.

“No matter how desperate or hopeless a marriage may seem, if husband and wife both have basic goodwill in their hearts, they can stop the Crazy Cycle”.

“Forgiving is the direct opposite of judging. Nothing is easier than judging, nothing is harder than forgiving, and nothing can reap more blessings”.

“Women confront to connect. The typical response from a man, however, is that he thinks his wife is confronting to control”.

“The truth is, it is easier for many a man to die for honor than to move toward a contemptuous wife in a loving way, saying, ‘I believe I was wrong. Can we talk about this?’ To turn to your wife in the middle of a conflict and say, ‘I am sorry. Will you forgive me?’ takes guts”.

“A great marriage happens when the tension is dealt with creatively—or when tension is avoided completely by doing a few positive, loving things”.

“Remember: be affectionate and attentive every day, not just on days you want sex. Affection should be an end, not a means”.

“Every husband must make a decision about his wife’s sensitivity and needs. He can close himself off and refuse to be open, or he can move toward her and connect with her at new levels of openness”.

“As a husband, if you can grasp that you don’t always have to solve your wife’s problems, you will take a giant step toward showing her empathy and understanding”.

“Don’t refuse to make peace by running from conflict with your spouse”.

“When she asks, ‘Do you love me?’ she’s not asking for information; she’s asking for reassurance”.

“A wife must have reassurance”.

“Do everything you can to let your wife know you are committed to her for as long as you both shall live”.

“The male feels a deep need to be involved in adventure and conquest. This is not an option for him; it is a deep-seated trait”.

Buy The Book: Love and Respect

Print | Kindle | Audiobook

How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie

Categories Personal growth, Top 10Posted on

Part 1: Fundamental Techniques in Handling People

  • Principle 1: Don’t criticize, condemn or complain
  • Principle2: Give honest and sincere appreciation
  • Principle3: Arouse in the other person an eager want

Part 2: Six Ways to Make People Like You

  • Principle 1: Become genuinely interested in other people
  • Principle 2: Smile
  • Principle 3: Remember that a person’s name is to that person the sweetest and most important sound in any language
  • Principle 4: Be a good listener
  • Principle 5: Talk in terms of the other person’s interests
  • Principle 6: Make the other person feel important—and do it sincerely

Part 3: How to Win People to Your Way of Thinking

  • Principle1: The only way to get the best of an argument is to avoid it
  • Principle2: Show respect for the other person’s opinions. Never say, “You’re wrong.”
  • Principle3: If you are wrong, admit it quickly and emphatically
  • Principle4: Begin in a friendly way
  • Principle5: Get the other person saying, “yes, yes” immediately
  • Principle6: Let the other person do a great deal of the talking
  • Principle7: Let the other person feel that the idea is his or hers
  • Principle8: Try honestly to see things from the other person’s point of view
  • Principle9: Be sympathetic with the other person’s ideas and desires
  • Principle10: Appeal to the nobler motives
  • Principle11: Dramatize your ideas
  • Principle12: Throw down a challenge

Part 4: Be a Leader—How to Change People Without Giving Offense or Rousing Resentment

  • Principle1: Begin with praise and honest appreciation
  • Principle2: Call attention to people’s mistakes indirectly
  • Principle3: Talk about your own mistakes before criticizing the other person
  • Principle4: Ask questions instead of giving direct orders
  • Principle5: Let the other person save face
  • Principle6: Praise the slightest improvement and praise every improvement. Be “hearty inyour approbation and lavish in your praise.”
  • Principle7: Give the other person a fine reputation to live up to
  • Principle8: Use encouragement. Make the fault seem easy to correct
  • Principle9: Make the other person happy about doing the thing you suggest

How to Win Friends and Influence People Summary

Ninety-nine times out of a hundred, people don’t criticize themselves for anything, no matter how wrong it may be.

Criticism is futile because it puts us on the defensive and usually makes us strive to justify ourselves. Criticism is dangerous, because it wounds our pride, hurts our sense of importance, and arouses resentment.

Don’t criticize others; they are just what we would be under similar circumstances.

“Don’t complain about the snow on your neighbor’s roof when your own doorstep is unclean.”—Confucius

We’re not logical; we’re emotional, motivated by pride and vanity.

“I will speak ill of no man and speak all the good I know of everybody.”—Benjamin Franklin

Rather than condemn others, try to understand them. Try to figure out why they do what they do.

We all want to be appreciated.

“I consider my ability to arouse enthusiasm among my people. The greatest asset I possess and t way to develop the best that is in a person is by appreciation and encouragement.”—Charles Schwab

Before trying to persuade someone to do something, ask yourself, “How can I make this person want to do it?”

“If there is any one secret of success it lies in the ability to get the other person’s point of view and see things from that person’s angle as well as from your own.”—Henry Ford

“You can make more friends in two months by becoming interested in other people than you can in two years by trying to get other people interested in you.”

“It is the individual who is not interested in his fellow men who has the greatest difficulties in life and provides the greatest injury to others. It is from among such individuals that all human failures spring.” 

Encourage others to talk about themselves.

Always make the others feel important.

Most people you meet will feel superior to you in some way. A sure way to their hearts is to let them realize in some subtle way that you recognize their importance, and recognize it sincerely.

“Talk to people about themselves and they will listen for hours.”—Disraeli

“If you argue and rankle and contradict, you may achieve a victory sometimes; but it will be an empty victory because you will never get your opponent’s good will.”

How to keep a disagreement from becoming an argument:

  • Welcome the disagreement
  • Distrust your first instinctive impression
  • Control your temper
  • Listen first
  • Look for areas of agreement
  • Be honest
  • Promise to think over your opponents’ ideas and study them carefully
  • Thank your opponents sincerely for their interest
  • Postpone action to give both sides time to think through the problem

“There’s magic, positive magic, in such phrases as: ‘I may be wrong. I frequently am. Let’s examine the facts.’”

“Don’t argue with your customer or your spouse or your adversary. Don’t tell them they are wrong. Don’t get them stirred up. Use a little diplomacy.”

“If we know we are going to be rebuked anyhow, isn’t it far better to beat the other person to it and do it ourselves?”

“Say about yourself all the derogatory things you know the other person is thinking or wants to say or intends to say—and say them before that person has a chance to say them.”

When you’re right, try to win people gently and tactfully to your way of thinking. When you’re wrong, admit your mistakes quickly and with enthusiasm.

“In talking with people, don’t begin by discussing the things on which you differ. Begin by emphasizing—and keep on emphasizing—the things on which you agree. Keep emphasizing, if possible, that you are both striving for the same end and that your only difference is one of method and not of purpose. Get the other person saying, ‘Yes, yes’ at the outset. Keep your opponent, if possible, from saying ‘No.’”

“Remember that other people may be totally wrong. But they don’t think so. Don’t condemn them. Any fool can do that. Try to understand them. Only wise, tolerant, exceptional people even try to do that”

“If, as a result of reading this book, you get only one thing—an increased tendency to think always in terms of the other person’s point of view, and see things from that person’s angle as well as your own—if you get only that one thing from this book, it may easily prove to be one of the stepping—stones of your career.”

How to stop arguments, eliminate ill feeling, create good will, and make the other person listen attentively: “I don’t blame you one iota for feeling as you do. If I were you I would undoubtedly feel just as you do.”

“Three-fourths of the people you will ever meet are hungering and thirsting for sympathy. Give it to them, and they will love you.”

It’s always easier to listen to unpleasant things after we have heard some praise of our good points.

“Calling attention to one’s mistakes indirectly works wonders with sensitive people who may resent bitterly any direct criticism.”

“It isn’t nearly so difficult to listen to a recital of your faults if the person criticizing begins by humbly admitting that he, too, is far from impeccable.”

“Admitting one’s own mistakes—even when one hasn’t corrected them—can help convince somebody to change his behavior.”

“People are more likely to accept an order if they have had a part in the decision that caused the order to be issued.”

“Everybody likes to be praised, but when praise is specific, it comes across as sincere—not something the other person may be saying just to make one feel good.”

“If you want to improve a person in a certain aspect, act as though that particular trait were already one of his or her outstanding characteristics.”

“Tell your child, your spouse, or your employee that he or she is stupid or dumb at a certain thing, has no gift for it and is doing it all wrong, and you have destroyed almost every incentive to try to improve. But use the opposite technique—be liberal with your encouragement, make the thing seem easy to do, let the other person know that you have faith in his ability to do it, that he has an undeveloped flair for it—and he will practice until the dawn comes in the window in order to excel.”

“Always make the other person happy about doing the thing you suggest.”

The effective leader should keep the following guidelines in mind when it is necessary to change attitudes or behavior:  

Do not promise anything that you cannot deliver. Forget about the benefits to yourself and concentrate on the benefits to the other person

Know exactly what it is you want the other person to do

Ask yourself what is it the other person really wants

Consider the benefits that person will receive from doing what you suggest

Match those benefits to the other person’s wants

When you make your request, put it in a form that will convey to the other person the idea that he personally will benefit

Recommended Reading

If you like How to Win Friends and Influence People, you may also enjoy the following books:

The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change by Stephen R. Covey

Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action by Simon Sinek

To Sell Is Human: The Surprising Truth About Persuading, Convincing, and Influencing Others by Daniel H Pink

Buy this book

Feeling Good by David D. Burns

Categories Personal growthPosted on

All your moods are created by your thoughts.

When you’re depressed, your thoughts are dominated by a pervasive negativity.

The negative thoughts which cause your depression nearly always contain gross, cognitive distortions.

TheFive Big Ideas

  • “Everybad feeling you have is the result of your distorted negative thinking.”
  • “Yourthoughts create your emotions; therefore, your emotions cannot prove that yourthoughts are accurate.”
  • “Everybad feeling you have is the result of your distorted negative thinking.”
  • “Yourfeelings result from the meaning you give to the event, not from the eventitself.”
  • “YouAre Wrong in Your Belief That Suicide Is the Only Solution or the Best Solutionto Your Problem.”

Feeling Good Summary

“The first principle of cognitive therapy is that all your moods are created by your ‘cognitions’, or thoughts.”

“The second principle is that when you are feeling depressed, your thoughts are dominated by a pervasive negativity.”

“The third principle is of substantial philosophical and therapeutic importance. Our research has documented that the negative thoughts which cause your emotional turmoil nearly always contain gross distortions.”

“Every bad feeling you have is the result of your distorted negative thinking.”

“Every time you feel depressed about something, try to identify a corresponding negative thought you had just prior to and during the depression. Because these thoughts have actually created your bad mood, by learning to restructure them, you can change your mood.”

Cognitive Distortions: A Complete List

(Note from Sam: To learn more about cognitive distortions and how to overcome them, read this article.)

All-or-Nothing Thinking. “This refers to your tendency to evaluate your personal qualities in extreme, black-or-white categories. All-or-nothing thinking forms the basis for perfectionism. It causes you to fear any mistake or imperfection because you will then see yourself as a complete loser, and you will feel inadequate and worthless. The technical name for this type of perceptual error is ‘dichotomous thinking.’”

Overgeneralization. “You arbitrarily conclude that one thing that happened to you once will occur over and over again, will multiply like the Jack of Spades. The pain of rejection is generated almost entirely from overgeneralization.”

Mental Filter. “You pick out a negative detail in any situation and dwell on it exclusively, thus perceiving that the whole situation is negative. The technical name for this process is ‘selective abstraction.’”

Disqualifying the Positive. “An even more spectacular mental illusion is the persistent tendency of some depressed individuals to transform neutral or even positive experiences into negative ones. Disqualifying the positive is one of the most destructive forms of cognitive distortion.”

Jumping to Conclusions. “You arbitrarily jump to a negative conclusion that is not justified by the facts of the situation.”

Two examples of jumping to conclusions are “mind reading” and “the fortune teller error.”

Mind Reading. “You make the assumption that other people are looking down on you, and you’re so convinced about this that you don’t even bother to check it out.”

Fortune Telling. “You imagine that something bad is about to happen, and you take this prediction as a fact even though it is unrealistic.”

Magnification. “Magnification commonly occurs when you look at your own errors, fears, or imperfections and exaggerate their importance: ‘My God—I made a mistake. How terrible! How awful! The word will spread like wildfire! My reputation is ruined!’ This has also been called ‘catastrophizing’ because you turn commonplace negative events into nightmarish monsters.”

Minimization. “You inappropriately shrink things until they appear tiny (your own desirable qualities or the other fellow’s imperfections). This is also called the ‘binocular trick.’”

Emotional Reasoning. “You take your emotions as evidence for the truth. Your logic: ‘I feel like a dud, therefore I am a dud’. This kind of reasoning is misleading because your feelings reflect your thoughts and beliefs.”

Should Statements. “You try to motivate yourself by saying, “I should do this” or “I must do that.’”

Labeling and Mislabeling. “Personal labeling means creating a completely negative self-image based on your errors. Mislabeling involves describing an event with words that are inaccurate and emotionally heavily loaded.”

Personalization. “This distortion is the mother of guilt! You assume responsibility for a negative event when there is no basis for doing so.”

“Your thoughts create your emotions; therefore, your emotions cannot prove that your thoughts are accurate.”

Dr. Aaron Beck said a depressed self-image can be characterized by the four D’s: You feel Defeated, Defective, Deserted, and Deprived.

“At the bottom line, only your own sense of self-worth determines how you feel.”

Specific Methods for Boosting Self-Esteem

Talk Back to That Internal Critic!

Train yourself to recognize and write down the self-critical thoughts as they go through your mind.

Learn why these thoughts are distorted

Practice talking back to them so as to develop a more realistic self-evaluation system.

The Triple-Column Technique

The Triple Column Technique

Ask yourself, “What thoughts are going through my mind right now? What am I saying to myself? Why is this upsetting me?”

“When you are down on yourself, you might find it helpful to ask what you actually mean when you try to define your true identity with a negative label such as ‘a fool’, ‘a sham’, ‘a stupid dope’, etc. Once you begin to pick these destructive labels apart, you will find they are arbitrary and meaningless. They actually cloud the issue, creating confusion and despair. Once rid of them, you can define and cope with any real problems that exist.”

Three Crucial Steps When You Are Upset

Zero in on those automatic negative thoughts and write them down.

Read over the list of ten cognitive distortions. Learn precisely how you are twisting things and blowing them out of proportion.

Substitute a more objective thought that puts the lie to the one which made you look down on yourself.

“Whether your critic is right or wrong, initially find some way to agree with him or her.”

“Your feelings result from the meaning you give to the event, not from the event itself.”

“Irrational should statements rest on your assumption that you are entitled to instant gratification at all times.”

The following two guidelines will help you to determine when your anger is productive and when it is not.

Is my anger directed toward someone who has knowingly, intentionally, and unnecessarily acted in a hurtful manner?

Is my anger useful? Does it help me achieve the desired goal or does it simply defeat me?

“If you have a ‘should’ or ‘shouldn’t’ rule that has been causing you disappointment and frustration, rewrite it in more realistic terms.”

“You will notice that the substitution of one word—‘it would be nice if’ in place of ‘should’—can be a useful first step.”

“The rationale for eliminating your ‘should’ statement is simple: It’s not true that you are entitled to get what you want just because you want it.”

“Remorse or regret are aimed at behavior, whereas guilt is targeted toward the ‘self.’”

“Sadness is a normal emotion created by realistic perceptions that describe a negative event involving loss or disappointment in an undistorted way. Depression is an illness that always results from thoughts that are distorted in some way.”

“When a genuinely negative event occurs, your emotions will be created exclusively by your thoughts and perceptions. Your feelings will result from the meaning you attach to what happens. A substantial portion of your suffering will be due to the distortions in your thoughts. When you eliminate these distortions, you will find that coping with the ‘real problem’ will become less painful.”

“Although your distorted negative thoughts will be substantially reduced or entirely eliminated after you have recovered from a bout of depression, there are certain “silent assumptions” that probably still lurk in your mind. These silent assumptions explain in large part why you became depressed in the first place and can help you predict when you might again be vulnerable.”

“A silent assumption is an equation with which you define your personal worth. It represents your value system, your personal philosophy, the stuff on which you base your self-esteem.”

“Choose any activity, and instead of aiming for 100 percent, try for 80 percent, 60 percent, or 40 percent. Then see how much you enjoy the activity and how productive you become.”

“You Are Wrong in Your Belief That Suicide Is the Only Solution or the Best Solution to Your Problem.”

“When you think that you are trapped and hopeless, your thinking is illogical, distorted, and skewed.”

“Nihilism is the belief that there is no truth or meaning to anything, and that all of life involves suffering and agony.”

“Nearly all suicidal patients have in common an illogical sense of hopelessness and the conviction they are facing an insoluble dilemma. Once you expose the distortions in your thinking, you will experience considerable emotional relief.”

“Your feelings of hopelessness and total despair are just symptoms of depressive illness, not facts.”

“I let the following rule of thumb guide me: Patients who feel hopeless never actually are hopeless.”


If you like Feeling Good, you may also enjoy the following books:

Awaken The Giant Within: How to Take Immediate Control of Your Mental, Emotional, Physical and Financial Destiny by Anthony Robbins

The Happiness Advantage: The Seven Principles of Positive Psychology that Fuel Success and Performance at Work by Shawn Achor

Notes From a Friend by Anthony Robbins

Buy The Book: Feeling Good

Print | Audiobook

Essential Zen Habits by Leo Babauta

Categories Personal growthPosted on

We struggle with habit change because we have unrealistic expectations of how things will turn out, how others should be, and how we should be.

When our expectations aren’t met, we feel disappointed, frustrated and sad.

When we turn from our Mind Movie and embrace reality, we overcome our inner resistance to habit change.

The Five Big Ideas

“There’s a projector in our minds, and it’s constantly playing a movie about how we’d like things to be, our ideals about the world, our expectations of how things will turn out, how others should be, [and] how we should be”.

The Mind Movie is what stands in our way of making habit changes. It tells us that changing a habit should be easy and fun, but the reality is that we must wander outside our comfort zone.

The Childish Mind is the part of our mind that complains about how things are, that fears discomfort, that just wants pleasure and comfort, that doesn’t want things to be difficult.

“Gratitude is a great antidote to resistance that we can practice each day, including when our Childish Mind eventually starts to rebel against doing the habit”.

“Take mistakes in stride, and take the long view that what really matters is not whether you mess up for a day or two, but what you do over weeks and months and years”.

Essential Zen Habits Summary

“There’s a projector in our minds, and it’s constantly playing a movie about how we’d like things to be, our ideals about the world, our expectations of how things will turn out, how others should be, [and] how we should be”.

The Mind Movie is what stands in our way of making habit changes. It tells us that changing a habit should be easy and fun, but the reality is that we must wander outside our comfort zone.

The Childish Mind is the part of our mind that complains about how things are, that fears discomfort, that just wants pleasure and comfort, that doesn’t want things to be difficult.

“Gratitude is a great antidote to resistance that we can practice each day, including when our Childish Mind eventually starts to rebel against doing the habit”.

Consider writing a short journal entry about your reflections, to solidify your learning.

“Treat habit formation as a learning process, as a way to learn about yourself, your mind, mindfulness, resistance and more”.



habit becomes your new normal and you can expand a bit more, pushing your comfort zone a little at a time”.

Question: “What does the resistance feel like? Is there a way to accept the thing you’re resisting, accept the discomfort, relax into it, and find gratitude for it? What is good about the discomfort?”

“When you miss a day or two, you can either feel bad about it and possibly get derailed completely, or you can flow around it and not make it a big deal”.

“A key habit skill is learning to flow around the disruptions and just keep going”.

“Notice feelings of discomfort and uncertainty, and stay with them. Get to know them. Get intimate with these feelings”.

“When we experience groundlessness — a feeling of not being anchored, not certain, things not going our way, a feeling of loss — our minds don’t normally like it”.

“One of the most difficult tasks we can give to our Childish Mind is letting go of what it really wants, and accepting life as it is, seeing that it’s already enough”.

“It can be disappointing to let go of a habit you had such high hopes for and worked so long for, but we have to remember that we do these habit changes to learn about ourselves”.

“If making a commitment to yourself isn’t working, you can increase the commitment by telling others that you’re going to create this new habit”.

“When you miss one day, do everything you can to figure out why you missed, and solve it so you don’t keep missing”.

“When you make a change, others in your life might unconsciously see this change as threatening”.

“I’ve found the best method of persuasion is being a good model for change”.

“If others won’t get on board with your changes, ask just that they give you the space to make the change on your own, without their help”.

“A good practice is to not attach to the outcome. Have a good intention for the habit, but don’t worry too much about how it will turn out because you can’t control that”.

“Tell yourself that when you slip and fall, it’s just another lesson that will teach you to be better at change”.

“Mistakes means you’re pushing into new ground and exploring something interesting — if you weren’t, you wouldn’t make mistakes”.

“See every mistake as an opportunity to learn, a thing that you can get better at, the feedback that’s so crucial for improvement”.

“Most people make the mistake of trying to tackle a quit too early when they still haven’t gotten good at forming habits”.

“I recommend forming new, positive habits at least three times before taking on a quit”.

“The first thing you need to do before you attempt to quit a habit is track it for three days and try to write down every trigger for the habit”.

“Each bad habit meets some kind of need, or you wouldn’t be doing the habit”.

“For each trigger and need, write down a positive replacement habit that will meet the same need”.

“When you’re feeling stress, anxiety, boredom, loneliness, etc. … just pause and turn your attention to this feeling. Be curious and really see how it feels, where it is in your body, what the quality of the feeling is. Become intimate with it, without trying to avoid it”.


[an urge]

gently, without judgment or wishing the feeling weren’t there. Treat it like a friend, kindly. And see that this feeling is impermanent, just arises but will pass, like a cloud. This is the whole meditation: just watch with curiosity and kindness, not attaching to the feeling or needing to act on it”.

When quitting a bad habit, change one trigger at a time.

“Tell yourself you can do this, you’re strong, you got this. And be realistic in that things won’t go as planned, but those are learning opportunities. In the long run, you’re going to make it, because you’re worth it”.

“The real question isn’t whether you’ll mess up, but what you’ll do if you do mess up”.

“Take mistakes in stride, and take the long view that what really matters is not whether you mess up for a day or two, but what you do over weeks and months and years”.

How to Create a New Habit

Pick one new, easy habit you can do once a day

Don’t start right away

Create a vow

Create a space

Set a trigger & a reminder

Start with a Minimum Viable Habit

Focus on enjoying the habit

Practice mindfulness

Watch your Mind Movie

Reflect and journal

A daily practice

Increase gradually

How to Quit a Bad Habit

Don’t attempt a quit until several successful new habit changes

Track your habit

List your triggers

List your needs

Come up with replacement habits

Use techniques you’ve learned

Gradual change vs. cold turkey

Learn to recognize urges as they arise

Form the right mindset

When you fail, get back on track and don’t let it derail you

Recommended Reading

If you like Essential Zen Habits, you may also like the following books:

Better Than Before: Mastering The Habits of Our Everyday Lives by Gretchen Rubin

Mini Habits: Smaller Habits, Bigger Results by Stephen Guise

One Small Step Can Change Your Life: The Kaizen Way by Robert Maurer

Buy this book

Print | Kindle

You Are Not So Smart by David McRaney

Categories Business, Personal growthPosted on

We have no clue why you act the way we do, choose the things we choose or think the thoughts we think

Our errors in thinking are caused by cognitive biases, heuristics, and logical fallacies

We can better deal with these biases once we understand them

The Five Big Ideas

  • We think we know how the world works, but we really don’t
  • We narratives to explain why we do what we do
  • Cognitive biases are predictable patterns of thought and behavior that lead us to draw incorrect conclusions
  • Heuristics are mental shortcuts we use to solve common problems
  • Logical fallacies are like maths problems involving language, in which you skip a stepor get turned around without realizing it

“There is a growing body of work coming out of psychology and cognitive science that says you have no clue why you act the way you do, choose the things you choose or think the thoughts you think.”

“From the greatest scientist to the most humble artisan, every brain within every body is infested with preconceived notions and patterns of thought that lead it astray without the brain knowing it.”

“You are naturally hindered into thinking in certain ways and not others, and the world around you is the product of dealing with these biases, not overcoming them.”

“Cognitive biases are predictable patterns of thought and behavior that lead you to draw incorrect conclusions.”

“Heuristics are mental shortcuts you use to solve common problems. They speed up processing in the brain, but sometimes make you think so fast you miss what is important.”

“Logical fallacies are like maths problems involving language, in which you skip a step or get turned around without realizing it … They are arguments in your mind where you reach a conclusion without all the facts because you don’t care to hear them or have no idea how limited your information is.”

“Logical fallacies can also be the result of wishful thinking.”

1. Priming

Priming is when a stimulus in the past affects the way you behave and think or the way you perceive another stimulus later on. (Sam: Dan Ariely discusses priming at length in his book, Predictably Irrational.)

“Priming works best when you are on autopilot when you aren’t trying to consciously introspect before choosing how to behave.”

“You can’t self-prime, not directly. Priming has to be unconscious; more specifically, it has to happen within what psychologists refer to as the adaptive unconscious—a place largely inaccessible.”

Often, we are unaware of how unaware we are.

“Priming works only if you aren’t aware of it, and those who depend on priming to put food on the table work very hard to keep their influence hidden.”

“You are most open to suggestion when your mental cruise control is on or when you find yourself in unfamiliar circumstances.”

2. Confabulation

Confabulation describes our tendency to ignore our motivations and create fictional narratives to explain our decisions, emotions, and history without realizing it. 

3. Confirmation Bias

“When the frequency illusion goes from a passive phenomenon to an active pursuit, that’s when you start to experience confirmation bias.”

Confirmation bias occurs when you perceive the world through a filter, thinking selectively.

Put simply, you want to be right about how you see the world, so you seek out information that confirms your beliefs and avoid contradictory evidence and opinions.

“People like to be told what they already know.”

4. Hindsight Bias

We often look back on the things we’ve just learned and assume we knew them or believed them all along. This is known as hindsight bias.

“You are always looking back at the person you used to be, always reconstructing the story of your life to better match the person you are today.”

“Hindsight bias is a close relative of the availability heuristic.”

“The availability heuristic shows you make decisions and think thoughts based on the information you have at hand while ignoring all the other information that might be out there.”

“You do the same thing with Hindsight Bias, by thinking thoughts and making decisions based on what you know now, not what you used to know.”

5. The Texas Sharpshooter Fallacy

“Picking out clusters of coincidence is a predictable malfunction of normal human logic.”

“If hindsight bias and confirmation bias had a baby, it would be the Texas sharpshooter fallacy.”

“Anywhere people are searching for meaning, you will see the Texas sharpshooter fallacy.”

“You commit the Texas sharpshooter fallacy when you need a pattern to provide meaning, to console you, to lay blame.”

6. Procrastination

“Procrastination is all about choosing want over should because you don’t have a plan for those times when you can expect to be tempted.”

“Faced with two possible rewards, you are more likely to take the one that you can enjoy now over one you will enjoy later—even if the later reward is far greater.”

“One of the best ways to see how bad you are at coping with procrastination is to notice how you deal with deadlines.”

“If you fail to believe you will procrastinate or become idealistic about how awesome you are at working hard and managing your time, you never develop a strategy for outmaneuvering your own weakness.”

“You must be adept at thinking about thinking to defeat yourself at procrastination.”

The trick to overcoming procrastination is to accept that the now-you will not be the person facing those choices, it will be the future-you—a person who can’t be trusted. Future-you will give in, and then you’ll go back to being now-you and feel weak and ashamed. Now-you must trick future-you into doing what is right for both parties.

7. Normalcy Bias

“No matter what you encounter in life, your first analysis of any situation is to see it in the context of what is normal for you and then compare and contrast the new information against what you know usually happens … Because of this, you have a tendency to interpret strange and alarming situations as if they were just part of business as usual.”

“In any perilous event, like a sinking ship or a towering inferno, a shooting rampage or a tornado, there is a chance you will become so overwhelmed by the perilous overflow of ambiguous information that you will do nothing at all.”

“Normalcy bias is stalling during a crisis and pretending everything will continue to be as fine and predictable as it was before.”

8. Introspection

The origin of certain emotional states is unavailable to you, and when pressed to explain them, you will just make something up. This is called the introspection illusion.

9. The Availability Heuristic

The availability heuristic describes our tendency to react more rapidly and to a greater degree when considering information you are familiar with.

“The old adage ‘I’ll believe it when I see it’ is the availability heuristic at work.”’

“It’s simply easier to believe something if you are presented with examples than it is to accept something presented in numbers or abstract facts.”

10. The Bystander Effect

The more people who witness a person in distress, the less likely it is that any one person will help. This is known as the bystander effect.

“Whether it is to donate blood, assist someone in changing a tire, drop money into a performer’s coffers, or stop a fight—people rush to help once they see another person leading by example.”

11. The Dunning-Kruger Effect

Here’s how McRaney describes the Dunning-Kruger Effect

The more skilled you are, the more practice you’ve put in, the more experience you have, the better you can compare yourself to others. As you strive to improve, you begin to better understand where you need work. You start to see the complexity and nuance; you discover masters of your craft and compare yourself to them and see where you are lacking. On the other hand, the less skilled you are, the less practice you’ve put in, and the fewer experiences you have, the worse you are at comparing yourself to others on certain tasks. Your peers don’t call you out because they know as little as you do, or they don’t want to hurt your feelings.

“If you want to be great at something, you have to practice, and then you have to sample the work of people who have been doing it for their whole lives.”

12. Apophenia

“Coincidences are a routine part of life, even the seemingly miraculous ones. Any meaning applied to them comes from your mind. This is known a apophenia.”

13. Brand Loyalty

“You prefer the things you own because you rationalize your past choices to protect your sense of self. This is called brand loyalty.”

14. The Argument from Authority

“When you see the opinions of some people as better than others on the merit of their status or training alone, you are arguing from authority.”

15. The Argument from Ignorance

The argument from ignorance is when you decide something is true or false because you can’t find evidence to the contrary.

“You don’t know what the truth is, so you assume any explanation is as good as another.”

16. The Straw Man Fallacy

“When you get into an argument about either something personal or something more public and abstract, you sometimes resort to constructing a character who you find easier to refute, argue, and disagree with, or you create a position the other person isn’t even suggesting or defending.”

“Any time someone begins an attack with ‘So you’re saying we should all just . . .’ or ‘Everyone knows . . . ,’ you can bet a straw man is coming.”

17. The Ad Hominem Fallacy

“When you assume someone is incorrect based on who that person is or what group he or she belongs to, you have committed the ad hominem fallacy.”

18. The Just-World Fallacy

“When you hear about a situation you hope never happens to you, you tend to blame the victim, not because you are a terrible person but because you want to believe you are smart enough to avoid the same fate.”

“It is common in fiction for the bad guys to lose and the good guys to win. This is how you would like to see the world—just and fair. In psychology, the tendency to believe that this is how the real world works is called the just-world fallacy.”

“You want the world to be fair, so you pretend it is.”

19. The Public Goods Game

“The public goods game suggests regulation through punishment discourages slackers.”

20. The Ultimatum Game

“When it comes to making a deal, you base your decision on your status.”

21. Subjective Validation

“You are prone to believing vague statements and predications are true, especially if they are positive and address you personally.”

“The tendency to believe vague statements designed to appeal to just about anyone is called the Forer effect, and psychologists point to this phenomenon to explain why people fall for pseudoscience like biorhythms, iridology, and phrenology, or mysticism like astrology, numerology, and tarot cards.”

The Forer effect is part of a larger phenomenon psychologists refer to as subjective validation, which is a fancy way of saying you are far more vulnerable to suggestion when the subject of the conversation is you.

22. Cult Indoctrination

“Cults are populated by people just like you.”

“The research on cults suggests you don’t usually join for any particular reason; you just sort of fall into them the way you fall into any social group.”

23. Groupthink

“The desire to reach consensus and avoid confrontation hinders progress.”

“For a group to make good decisions, they must allow dissent and convince everyone they are free to speak their mind without risk of punishment.”

“True groupthink depends on three conditions—a group of people who like one another, isolation, and a deadline for a crucial decision.”

“When groups get together to make a decision, an illusion of invulnerability can emerge in which everyone feels secure in the cohesion. You begin to rationalize other people’s ideas and don’t reconsider your own. You want to defend the group’s cohesion from all harm, so you suppress doubts, you don’t argue, you don’t offer alternatives—and since everyone is doing this, the leader of the group falsely assumes everyone is in agreement.”

24. Supernormal Releasers

A supernormal releaser is an exaggerated version of a stimulus to which there is an existing response tendency, or any stimulus that elicits a response more strongly than the stimulus for which it evolved.

25. The Affect Heuristic

“The tendency to make poor decisions and ignore odds in favor of your gut feelings is called the affect heuristic.”

“The affect heuristic is one way you rapidly come to a conclusion about new information.”

“When first impressions linger and influence how you feel about second, third, and fourth impressions, you are being befuddled by the affect heuristic.”

26. Dunbar’s Number

“You can maintain relationships and keep up with only around 150 people at once.”

27. Selling Out

“Both consumerism and capitalism are driven by competition among consumers for status.”

“Poor people compete with resources. The middle class competes with selection. The wealthy compete with possessions.”

28. Self-Serving Bias

“You excuse your failures and see yourself as more successful, more intelligent and more skilled than you are.”

“When things are going your way, you attribute everything to your amazing skills, but once the tide turns, you look for external factors that prevented your genius from shining through.”

“You don’t believe you are an average person, but you do believe everyone else is. This tendency, which springs from self-serving bias, is called the illusory superiority effect.”

29. The Spotlight Effect

“People devote little attention to you unless prompted to.”

30. The Third Person

“For every outlet of information, there are some who see it as dangerous not because it affects them, but because it might affect the thoughts and opinions of an imaginary third party. This sense of alarm about the impact of speech not on yourself but on others is called the third person effect.”

“The third person effect is a version of the self-serving bias. You excuse your failures and see yourself as more successful, more intelligent, and more skilled than you are.”

31. Catharsis

“Venting increases aggressive behavior over time”

“If you think catharsis is good, you are more likely to seek it out when you get pissed. When you vent, you stay angry and are more likely to keep doing aggressive things so you can keep venting.”

32. The Misinformation Effect

“Memories are constructed anew each time from whatever information is currently available, which makes them highly permeable to influencers from the present.”

33. Conformity

“It takes little more than an authority figure or social pressure to get you to obey, because conformity is a survival instinct.”

34. Extinction Burst

“Anytime you quit something cold turkey, your brain will make a last-ditch effort to return you to your habit.”

“Your brain didn’t evolve in an environment where there was an abundance of food, so whenever you find a high-calorie, high-fat, high-sodium source, your natural inclination is to eat a lot of it and then go back to it over and over again. If you take away a reward like that, your brain throws a tantrum.”

“There are two kinds of conditioning—classical and operant. In classical conditioning, something that normally doesn’t have any influence becomes a trigger for a response. Operant conditioning changes your desires. Your inclinations become greater through reinforcement, or diminish through punishment.”

“When you expect a reward or a punishment and nothing happens, your conditioned response starts to fade away.”

35. Social Loafing

“Once part of a group, you tend to put in less effort because you know your work will be pulled together with others’.”

36. The Illusion of Transparency

“You know what you are feeling and thinking, and you tend to believe those thoughts and emotions are leaking out of your pores, visible to the world, perceivable to the outside.”

“When your emotions take over, when your own mental state becomes the focus of your attention, your ability to gauge what other people are experiencing gets muted.”

37. Learned Helplessness

“If you feel like you aren’t in control of your destiny, you will give up and accept whatever situation you are in.”

“If, over the course of your life, you have experienced crushing defeat or pummeling abuse or loss of control, you convince yourself over time that there is no escape, and if escape is offered, you will not act—you become a nihilist who trusts futility above optimism.”

38. Embodied Cognition

“You translate your physical world into words, and then believe those words.”

39. The Anchoring Effect

“Your first perception lingers in your mind, affecting later perceptions and decisions.”

“You depend on anchoring every day to predict the outcome of events, to estimate how much time something will take or how much money something will cost. When you need to choose between options, or estimate a value, you need footing to stand on.”

40. Attention

“Psychologists call missing information in plain sight inattentional blindness.”

“Your attention is like a spotlight, and only the illuminated portions of the world appear in your perception.”

“Your perception is built out of what you attend to.”

“The problem with inattentional blindness is not that it happens so often, it’s that you don’t believe it happens.”

“The fraternal twin of inattentional blindness is change blindness. The brain can’t keep up with the total amount of information coming in from your eyes, and so your experience from moment to moment is edited for simplicity.”

“The more your attention is engaged, the less you expect something out of the ordinary and the less prone you are to see it even when lives could be at stake.”

41. Self-Handicapping

“You often creation conditions for failure ahead of time to protect your ego.”

“Self-handicapping is a reality negotiation, an unconscious manipulation, of both your perceptions and those of others, that you use to protect your ego.”

“Self-handicapping behaviors are investments in a future reality in which you can blame your failure on something other than your ability.”

“Men use self-handicapping more than women to assuage their fears of failure.”

“Whenever you venture into uncharted waters with failure as a distinct possibility, your anxiety will be lowered every time you see a new way to blame possible failure on forces beyond your control.”

42. Self-Fulfilling Prophecies

“Just believing a future event will happen can cause it to happen if the event depends on human behavior.”

“The future is the result of actions, and actions are the result of behavior, and behavior is the result of prediction. This is called the Thomas Theorem.”

“What was once false becomes true, and in hindsight it seems as if it always was.”

“When you fear you will confirm a negative stereotype, it can become a self-fulfilling prophecy not because the stereotype is true, but because you can’t stop worrying that you could become an example proving it.”

“If you want a better job, a better marriage, a better teacher, a better friend—you have to act as if the thing you want out of the other person is already headed your way.”

“A negative outlook will lead to negative predictions, and you will start to unconsciously manipulate your environment to deliver those predictions.”

43. The Moment

“You are multiple selves, and happiness depends on satisfying all of them”

44. Consistency Bias

“Unless you consciously keep tabs on your progress, you assume the way you feel now is the way you have always felt.”

“One of the stranger facets of consistency bias is how it can be evoked on the spot.”

“Consistency bias is part of your overall desire to reduce the discomfort of cognitive dissonance, the emotions you feel when noticing that you are of two minds on one issue.”

45. The Representativeness Heuristic

“You jump to conclusions based on how representative a person seems to be of a preconceived character type.”

“When it comes to strangers, your first instinct is to fit them into archetypes to quickly determine their value or threat.”

“The representativeness heuristic helps fuel several other cognitive missteps, like the conjunction fallacy.”

“The conjunction fallacy builds on your representativeness heuristic. The more things you hear about which match your mental models, the more likely they seem.”

“Representativeness heuristics are useful, but also dangerous. They can help you avoid danger and seek help, but they can also lead to generalizations and prejudices.”

46. Expectation

“Wine experts and consumers can be fooled by altering their expectations.”

47. The Illusion of Control

“You often believe you have control over outcomes that are either random or too complex to predict.”

48. The Fundamental Attribution Error

“Other people’s behavior is more the result of the situation than their disposition.”

“When you are at a restaurant, you have a hard time seeing through to the personality of the server. You place blame and assume you are dealing with a slacker. Sometimes you are right, but often you are committing the fundamental attribution error.”

“When you don’t know much about a person, when you haven’t had a chance to get to know him or her, you have a tendency to turn the person into a character. You lean on archetypes and stereotypes culled from experience and fantasy. Even though you know better, you still do it.”

“According to psychologist Harold Kelly, when you conjure an attribution for someone else’s actions, you consider consistency.”

“When you can’t check for consistency, you blame people’s behavior on their personality.”

“You commit the fundamental attribution error by believing other people’s actions burgeon from the sort of people they are and have nothing to do with the setting.”

“When you interpret your loved one’s coldness as his or her indifference to your wants and needs instead of as a reaction to stress at work or problems ricocheting in your loved one’s own heart, you’ve committed the fundamental attribution error.”

“The fundamental attribution error leads to labels and assumptions about who people are, but remember first impressions are mostly incorrect.”

Recommended Reading

If you like You Are Not So Smart, you may also enjoy the following books:

Contagious: Why Things Catch On by Jonah Berger

Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us by Daniel H. Pink

To Sell Is Human: The Surprising Truth About Persuading, Convincing, and Influencing Others by Daniel H Pink

Buy The Book: You Are Not So Smart

Print | Hardcover | Audiobook

error: Right click disabled