The Power of a Checklist: How to Stay Disciplined and Avoid Stupid Mistakes

checklist


In today’s world, we have more information and knowledge than ever before. Most of it is readily available and easy to access – all it takes is a quick search on Google or Wikipedia and you can pull up a fact about nearly anything.

Yet with this burst of knowledge has also come increasing complexity and confusion. We know more than ever before, but we don’t always know how to apply it and how to make the most of it. We have trouble putting this knowledge into action – making sure that it is useful and practical.

In many ways, the information age has made us a lot less practical and less wise with the knowledge we know. We know so much now that we get easily distracted, we lose sight of the basics, we miss the essentials, and we make mistakes when we know we know better.

According to Atul Gawande, a surgeon and public health researcher (who explores how to maximize our use of knowledge in his book The Checklist Manifesto: How to Get Things Right):

    “Failures of ignorance we can forgive. If the knowledge of the best thing to do in a given situation does not exist, we are happy to have people simply make their best effort. But if the knowledge exists and is not applied correctly, it is difficult to not be infuriated.”

Mistakes when “we know better” are often more painful than mistakes we make when we have to make a guess and just try our best. These mistakes are super important to avoid for a person like Atul Gawande, because as a surgeon a simple mistake could make the difference between life or death.

How do we not get lost in this ocean of information? How do we make the best of the knowledge we have, while still leaving room for the unexpected? According to Dr. Gawande, the power can be found by making a simple checklist.

Continue reading

Why Love Will Always Be an Art (No Matter How Much We Learn Through Science)

love


Today more than ever before we understand the science behind “love.”

While we still have much to learn, we know that love (specifically “romantic love”) is often driven by a range of factors including: physical attractiveness, cultural/personal similarities, socio-economic status, evolutionary biology (the instinct to survive and reproduce), and – on a neural level – a cocktail of chemicals in the brain that make us feel intensely connected with another person.

But no matter how much we learn about “love” through science, it still remains a complicated and elusive concept in our everyday lives.

Theoretically, you can learn all about what “love” is in a science book, but still have no idea how to create or practice love in the real world. And despite all we now know about love, people still struggle finding it for themselves.

One of the main themes behind the classic psychology book The Art of Loving by Erich Fromm is that “love” will always be a type of art – like painting, or sculpting, or poetry.

If you want to be a painter, it helps to learn different theories and techniques, as well as the history of different styles of art. But at the end of the day, if you really want to be a painter: you have to practice creating art of your own.

Love works in a similar way. You can learn all about it, but the only way to really get good at it is to turn it into a daily practice. And like all art, that will take focus, time, effort, and learning as you go.

Love is a product of what you put into it. It isn’t just a passive thing that happens to you – something that you “fall into” or “fall out of” helplessly – but rather an activity that you must deliberately practice to become a master at.

This is true whether you’ve just started dating someone new or you’ve been married to the same person for over 50 years. Love is a never-ending art project.

Continue reading

Why It’s Worth It To Pay The Costs of Being Yourself

being yourself


“Being yourself” isn’t always easy. It means being honest about who you are – how you think and feel and act – and sometimes that may turn people off.

In this way, being yourself comes with costs. People will see you. People will judge you. Some people will like you, some people will hate you, and plenty of people won’t even care about you. Ouch.

In the classic book On Becoming A Person: A Therapist’s View of Psychotherapy, psychologist Carl Rogers goes in-depth about the importance of being true and authentic to yourself, and why sometimes this isn’t always an easy and pleasant experience.

    “In my relationships with persons I have found that it does not help, in the long run, to act as though I were something that I am not. It does not help to act calm and pleasant when I am actually angry and critical. It does not help to act as though I know the answers when I do not. It does not help to act as though I were a loving person if actually, at that moment, I am hostile. It does not help for me to act as though I were full of assurance, if I actually I am frightened and unsure. Even on a very simple level I have found that this statement seems to hold.”

Being open to others about who you are means being open about both the “good” and “controversial” aspects about yourself – which can be painful – but what’s most important is that people will know you and understand you better.

Thus, the people who like you will actually like you for who you really are, not what you pretend to be. And having one real relationship with someone who “gets you” is more fulfilling than a hundred fake relationships with people who like a “pretend you.”

In theory, most people agree that “being yourself” is a good thing. But what does it really mean? Is it even possible to be anything else?

Continue reading

Change Your Voice, Change Your Attitude: Record Yourself And Listen Back To It

change your voice


Your voice plays an important role in how you communicate your attitude and emotions to both yourself and others.

Of course, we understand that when we feel a certain way, we talk a certain way. And when people listen to us they can often consciously and unconsciously pick up on the types of emotions we are broadcasting (even if it’s only in a subtle way).

But the way our voice and emotions interact can often be a two way street. How we speak doesn’t just influence how others perceive us, but it also influences how we perceive ourselves and our own mental states.

In one recent study, participants were told to read a short story about buying bread. Their reading was recorded, and then using a newly developed program their voices were modified to sound either happy, sad, or fearful.

When participants listened back to the modified recording, they didn’t realize it was modified. However, when asked about their feelings during the reading, their reports were congruent with however their voice was modified. If a participant’s voice was modified to sound happier, they believed they were happy during the recording.

This shows us that our voices play an important role in how we pick up emotions. And when listening back to our own voices, we may often be surprised by how it sounds and what types of messages are being communicated.

One interesting thing to do is to make a recording of your voice and then listen back to it to see how it sounds. This can be a fun exercise in self improvement, especially once you trying playing around with your voice more and seeing how it sounds in different tones.

In this article, I’ll suggest three different vocal exercises that can help give you a better understanding of your voice and how it reflects your attitude.

Continue reading

Listen to Epic Movie Soundtracks to Pump Yourself Up and Get Inspired

epic movie soundtracks


A big part of self improvement is being smarter about your environment. In psychology terms, this means paying attention to the types of stimuli you’re feeding into your brain on a daily basis because they can have both a short-term and long-term impact on you.

This is one reason why I’ve always recommended people to become more aware of their environment and how they can change it to better suit them.

This may include paying attention to things like: how much time you spend indoors vs. outdoors, or how you choose to furnish your work office, or the impact of a clean environment vs. a messy environment.

In unconscious positivity, I also mention how subtle things like changing your desktop background or listening to different background music (while often processed below the surface of our awareness) can still play a small role in how we think and feel on a daily basis.

Music has always been one of the more common ways people change their environment to regulate their thoughts and emotions. In how we use music to manage our emotions, I describe how we use music to regulate our minds in a variety of different ways, including: to focus, to entertain, to relax, to inspire, or to “set the mood.”

The music we choose to listen to in any given moment is influenced by the type of mood we’re in – or the type of mood we want to get in.

I’ve always listen to a lot of different music for a lot of different reasons, depending on my mood. One of those reasons is using music as a tool for motivation and getting “pumped up” about your day or whatever it is you’re trying to accomplish.

It’s not uncommon for professional athletes to use the power of music to get themselves pumped up before a big game or competition. A team may even have “their own song” they listen to before every game as a type of ritual or group-motivating activity.

Here’s why “epic movie soundtracks,” in particular, can be a great tool in self improvement.

Continue reading