Habits are easier to hack and change when you understand how they work.
- Habits, both good and bad, are pre-made decisions that make up around 40 percent of our day and require no real conscious thought. In order to regain control, resist environmental temptations, and reduce your bad habits, it helps to understand the three parts of a habit loop: the cue (or trigger), the behavior itself, and the reward.
- Gretchen Rubin, Dan Ariely, Charles Duhigg, Adam Alter, and others explain how you can successfully hack your habits by shifting away from goal-based achievement markers to system-based processes; learning the difference between rewards and treats; and thinking less about immediate gains and more about long-term benefits.
- Regardless of what some people might try to sell you, there is no "magic answer" when it comes to changing habits, says Rubin. You have to find what works best for you.
After the unrelenting negativity of 2020, we may need a refresher on the benefits of a positive affect.
1. Positivity correlates with better health<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="67cab64f293633035f0c699f71a5d426"><iframe type="lazy-iframe" data-runner-src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/vyJ_hhninDw?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span><p>It's difficult to say whether a positive outlook nurtures health, success, and life satisfaction or if people who are healthy, successful, and satisfied maintain a positive outlook for, well, obvious reasons. While establishing a causal relationship has been difficult, research does suggest that happiness, extraversion, and optimism—the traits of a <a href="https://www.verywellmind.com/positive-affect-and-stress-3144628#:~:text=%22Positive%20affect%22%20refers%20to%20one's,negativity%20in%20relationships%20and%20surroundings" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">positive affect</a>—influence beneficial life outcomes as much as it is a byproduct.</p><p>A longitudinal study published in <a href="https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/10.1177/0956797620953883" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Psychological Science</a> found that enthusiastic, cheerful people experienced less memory decline with age. The researchers tested nearly 1,000 middle-aged and senior U.S. adults and found a strong association between having a positive affect and a stronger performance on the memory test.</p><p>As study authors Claudia Haase and Emily Hittner, an associate professor and a Ph.D. graduate at Northwestern University, respectively, <a href="https://www.psychologicalscience.org/news/releases/2020-oct-positive-outlook-memory.html" target="_blank">said in a release</a>: "Our findings showed that memory declined with age. However, individuals with higher levels of positive affect had a less steep memory decline over the course of almost a decade."</p><p>Preliminary research looking at <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3122271/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">the broaden-and-build theory</a> suggests that a positive affect not only helps people cope with stress but makes them more psychologically resilient to future stressors. And <a href="https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/wellness-and-prevention/the-power-of-positive-thinking" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">studies have found</a> that a positive outlook boosts immune responses while reducing the likelihood of heart attacks or other coronary problems. (Though, again, it is unclear in the literature whether positive people make healthier choices or if the positive affect influences these boons).</p>
2. Positivity is contagious<p>The <a href="https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/high-octane-women/201210/emotions-are-contagious-choose-your-company-wisely" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">emotional contagion phenomenon</a> describes the tendency for us to acquire the emotions of the people around us. Hanging out with happy, enthusiastic people, researchers have discovered, makes us happier and more enthusiastic ourselves, leading to windfalls such as less stress and increased energy. Of course, the phenomenon works in the opposite direction, too. Our minds can become the harbors of others' misery. </p><p>"Just as some diseases are contagious, we're found that many emotions can pulse through social networks," sociologist Nicholas Christakis told <a href="https://hms.harvard.edu/magazine/science-emotion/contagion-happiness" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Harvard Medicine in an interview</a>. Unlike a real disease, however, emotions don't have to be transmitted through contact. They can infect our minds through social networks and even online.</p><p><a href="https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/10/071004135757.htm" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">A study out of the University of Chicago</a> found that researchers could alter people's opinions of a product by simply revealing peer evaluations. Sharing the negative opinions of others turned previously positive opinions sour and entrenched the already negative ones. </p><p>As Christakis added later in the interview, "Rather than asking how we can get happier, we should be asking how we can increase happiness all around us. When you make positive changes in your life, those effects ripple out from you and you can find yourself surrounded by the very thing you fostered."</p>
3. Social connections support positivity<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="d5c6236f760ae82fc9ed12daecff4847"><iframe type="lazy-iframe" data-runner-src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/OAsTZGwc3Kw?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span><p>If emotions are contagious, then it stands to reason that positive social connections support personal positivity. And that's exactly what the research shows. </p><p>In 2019, the American Psychological Association published <a href="https://doi.apa.org/fulltext/2019-55803-001.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">a meta-analysis</a> surveying two decades of longitudinal research. All told, the report analyzed more than 47,000 participants across 52 studies looking at the effect social relationships had on self-esteem. The researchers found that social relationships, social support, and social acceptance helped develop positive self-esteem throughout people's lives.</p><p>"For the first time, we have a systematic answer to a key question in the field of self-esteem research: Whether and to what extent a person's social relationships influence his or her self-esteem development, and vice versa, and at what ages," Michelle A. Harris, study author and psychologist at the University of Texas, Austin, <a href="https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2019/09/190926092416.htm" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">said in a release</a>. "The reciprocal link between self-esteem and social relationships implies that the effects of a positive feedback loop accumulate over time and could be substantial as people go through life." Harris added that the effect did not differ significantly across the studies analyzed, suggesting a robust finding.</p>
4. We have a bias toward positive language<p><a href="https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/02/150209161143.htm" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Researchers at the University of Vermont</a> wanted to test the Pollyanna Hypothesis, the idea that there is a universal human tendency to—feel free to whistle along—look on the bright side of life. </p><p>To test it, they asked the native speakers of ten different languages to rate individual words on a 9-point scale. Nine equaled broad-smiley face, while one was for deep-frowny face. For example, among English speakers, "laugher" rated a happy 8.5, "the" a neutral 4.98, and "terrorist" a depressing 1.3. The researchers then gathered a data set containing billions of words from 24 sources in those languages, from books to tweets, websites to music lyrics, and, of course, news stories.</p><p><a href="https://www.pnas.org/content/112/8/2389" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">An analysis of the data</a> showed that humans typically use language to imbue a, in the researcher's words, "usage-invariant positivity bias." Every one of their 24 sources rated above the neutral score of five across all ten languages. Though it's certainly not true of all songs or novels—no amount of data massaging could turn "<a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Road" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer" style="">The Road</a>" into anything other than a bummer—the researchers found that overall humanity "use[s] more happy words than sad words." Counterintuitive as it sounds, Twitter really is a gathering of the Pollyannas.</p>
5. Positivity is not a self-fulfilling prophecy<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="adc4ace82b7a0f39e0c2ba4fd07f8201"><iframe type="lazy-iframe" data-runner-src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/-xA5xgAqj1I?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span><p>Do these findings mean we should give ourselves over to the cult of positivity come 2021? Should we ignore every one of life's difficulties, view every rain cloud as a cotton-candy-laced fantasy, and use positive thinking to ween away our every foible until we become new-age Übermenschs? Absolutely not. Without realism to serve as ballast, positivity can become a flight of fancy that drifts us over dangerous territories.</p><p><a href="https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/10.1177/0146167220934577" target="_blank">One study</a> compared people's financial expectations in life with their ultimate outcomes over 18 years. They found that participants who set realistic expectations based on accurate assessments of their situations had higher well-being than those who set unrealistic expectations based on overly positive attitudes. Crucially, realists had a higher well-being score than pessimists, too.</p><p>"I think for many people, research that shows you don't have to spend your days striving to think positively might come as a relief. We see that being realistic about your future and making sound decisions based on evidence can bring a sense of well-being, without having to immerse yourself in relentless positivity," Chris Dawson, study author and associate professor of business economics at Bath University, said <a href="https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2020/07/200707113230.htm" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">in a release</a>.</p><p>Positivity must also be measured against a realistic accounting of our emotions. Sometimes, life just sucks. It isn't fair. We lose the people we love, our hard work goes under-appreciated, and we struggle to traverse the paths that others seem to bypass. To just think positively and assume everything will be fine is what psychologist Susan David calls the "tyranny of positivity." Rather than ignore these parts of our life, David suggests that we should accept them.</p><p>"Difficult experiences are part of life. They are part of life's contract with the world. They're part of our contract with the world simply by virtue of being here," David told <a href="https://bigthink.com/videos/susan-david-on-our-unhealthy-obsession-with-happiness" target="_self">Big Think during an interview</a>. "It is really important that as human beings, we develop our capacity to deal with our thoughts and emotions in a way that isn't a struggle, in a way that embraces them and is with them and is able to learn from them."</p><p>Positive realists don't ignore life's hardships and challenges, nor do they let the negativity bias worsen such struggles. They approach both rationally and with measured expectations. When remembering a year or period in their lives, they may also choose to treasure its positive qualities. And after a year like 2020, we can all be forgiven if, in 2021, we err on the bright(er) side of life. </p>
A new study found that personality growth in young adults predicted career benefits such as income, degree attainment, and job satisfaction.
Success with the Big 5<p>That's the conclusion of a recent <a href="https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/0956797620957998" target="_blank">longitudinal study</a> published in Psychological Science. The study followed two samples of Icelandic youths from roughly ages 17 to 29. Its researchers used data across three and five time points to measure the young adults on the Big Five personality traits (openness, extroversion, agreeableness, conscientiousness, and emotional stability). It also surveyed them for five indicators of early career success. These were income, degree attainment, occupational prestige, and job and career satisfaction.</p><p>The study's findings showed that personality growth predicted career outcomes better than "adolescent trait levels and crystallized ability." Across both samples, the researchers found extroversion, conscientiousness, and emotional stability to have the strongest effects. Specifically, conscientiousness was tied to career satisfaction, emotional stability to income and career satisfaction, and extroversion to job and career satisfaction.</p><p>"Overall, the findings highlight the importance of personality development throughout childhood, adolescence and young adulthood for promoting different aspects of career success," Kevin Hoff, lead author and assistant professor of industrial-organizational psychology at the University of Houston, <a href="https://uh.edu/news-events/stories/2020/december-2020/12022020-hoff-personality-maturity-career.php" target="_blank">said in a release</a>.</p><p>Hoff believes these results support policies designed to help young people develop personality-based skills. "The study showed you're not just stuck with your personality traits, and if you change over time in positive ways, that can have a big impact on your career," he said.</p><p>According to the release, the study is the first to assess the predictive link between personality growth and career outcomes across a decade of young adulthood. While preliminary, it does fit in with other studies looking into the relationship between personality traits and career success. </p><p><a href="https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/1069072703254501" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">A 2003 study</a> published in the Journal of Career Assessment surveyed more than 5,000 individuals. Its results found that conscientiousness, extroversion, and openness correlated with career satisfaction. Similarly, <a href="https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/j.1744-6570.1999.tb00174.x" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">a 2006 study</a> published in Personnel Psychology drew on data from <a href="http://ihd.berkeley.edu/research-centers/inter-generational-studies" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">the Intergenerational Studies</a>. It found that conscientiousness positively predicted extrinsic career success (i.e., income and status) as well as intrinsic success (i.e., job satisfaction).</p>
The change you want to be<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="67cab64f293633035f0c699f71a5d426"><iframe type="lazy-iframe" data-runner-src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/vyJ_hhninDw?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span><p>William James famously penned that personality becomes "<a href="https://www.apa.org/pubs/books/4318271" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">set in plaster</a>" by the age of 30, never to soften again. There's some truth to this. Personality traits do remain relatively stable throughout our lifetimes. Your inherently disorganized friend won't transform into Marie Kondo because they watched a YouTube tutorial on shirt folding.</p><p>But many studies show that our personalities aren't immutable, either. We can remold ourselves well beyond 30, shifting our traits on their continuum in ways that can be either beneficial or deleterious. One such study, <a href="http://psycnet.apa.org/doiLanding?doi=10.1037/pspp0000210" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology</a>, assessed participants' personality traits for 50 years. If found that as people mature over time, they also accumulate personality changes.</p><p>"The rankings (of personality traits) remain fairly consistent. People who are more conscientious than others their age at 16 are likely to be more conscientious than others at 66. On average, everyone becomes more conscientious, more emotionally stable, and more agreeable," Rodica Damian, the study's lead author and the director of the Personality Development and Success Lab at the University of Houston, <a href="https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-athletes-way/201808/how-do-personality-traits-change-16-66" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">said in a statement</a>.</p><p>Cultivating such growth can be difficult as these traits often require the very talents we feel we lack. To become more extroverted, for example, one needs to be less introverted. It seems both obvious and self-defeating—if one was more outgoing, one would be more outgoing. Because of this, interventions typically focus on actions that alter how we typically think or behave (hence the name cognitive-behavioral therapy). These actions can be small at first, but they have to be deliberate and specific, the so-called <a href="https://bigthink.com/personal-growth/brain-hack-new-years-resolution" target="_self">SMART goals</a>.</p><p>To become more extroverted, introverts don't have to throw lavish, hedonistic house parties to rival those of rock-'n'-roll legends. Instead, the introvert starts by attending a small book club on a specific day and tasking themselves to talk at the meeting This is the first step that makes subsequent steps easier, and after an accumulation of such steps, self-perspective begins to shift. </p><p>"Once you start to change those behaviors, you'll start to change the way you see yourself," <a href="https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/fulfillment-any-age/201604/can-introvert-ever-change" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Susan Krauss Whitbourne</a>, Professor Emerita of Psychology and Brain Science at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, writes. "That change in <a href="https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/basics/identity" title="Psychology Today looks at identity" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">identity</a> may provide the key to personality trait change. You change the narrative from 'I've always been an introvert' to 'I've usually engaged in introverted behavior.' Seeing yourself as in charge of your personality rather than being run by it may be the key to having your personality suit instead of define you."</p><p>The same goes for conscientiousness. Taking on tasks and responsibilities that <a href="https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/finding-new-home/201902/three-potential-ways-become-more-conscientious" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">require one to utilize conscientiousness</a> brings about that change over time. As Damian noted, people typically become more conscientious as they get older. One reason is simply that adulthood requires more diligence, discipline, and self-control than high school and punishes a lack of those traits more harshly. Adult environments also tend to reward and support such characteristics. By realizing that with intention, we can self-furnish our environments to support and foster that change.</p><p>We can also hack our metacognition—the way we think about our thinking—to great effect. Such techniques are often used in <a href="https://cogbtherapy.com/cbt-emotion-regulation" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">emotional regulation therapy </a>to intervene in heightened or easily triggered outbursts. Mindfulness, for example, teaches people to identify their emotions, and the practice helps people from becoming overwhelmed through the act of labeling an emotion as something distinct from themselves. Recognizing the difference between being angry and feeling angry assists in self-modulation.<em></em></p><p>Some techniques and interventions may improve certain personality traits better than others, but they all demonstrate a key takeaway. Practice won't make perfect, but it can shift personality to be more in line with our goals. While personality may not be the only factor in career and life success, self-improvement will pay dividends to both.</p>
The "lone genius" often gets the credit for big ideas, but real-world innovation is a team sport.
- Individuals like Elon Musk and Steve Jobs are often idolized as masters of ideas, but according to Whole Foods CEO John Mackey, it usually takes many people iterating and taking chances for a company to be truly innovative.
- Using Whole Foods as a case study, Mackey shares a story of how a bar experiment at one of his California markets evolved into a successful feature and spread to other locations.
- By giving teams the freedom to try (and fail) without being micro-managed, organizations can create a culture that allows innovation to happen, not one that tries to force it to happen.
This eight-course bundle is your deep dive into PivtotTables, Power Query, and so much more.
- While traditionally considered boring, spreadsheets are one of the most powerful data analytics tools around.
- Microsoft Excel has greatly expanded to become an essential visualization platform.
- In an era in which data is king, this realm of data processing has never been so important.