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The Power of Seeing Things as They Are (Not How We Want to See Them)

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Over the past century, psychology has discovered a lot about how individuals can live happier and more successful lives. A lot of this research is covered in the many articles I write for The Emotion Machine.

But what’s just as fascinating to me is how much we can also learn from older philosophies. For example, my personal philosophy is influenced by a whole range of different schools of thought, including: Existentialism, Buddhism, Taoism, Objectivism, and – the subject of this article – Stoicism.

The truth is we don’t need to subscribe to only one school of thought. Instead we can learn from multiple schools and borrow what works for us, and ditch what doesn’t.

Stoicism is a philosophy first started in Ancient Greece in the 3rd century BCE. One of it’s primary teachings is to “focus on what is in your control and ignore what isn’t in your control.”

To follow this teaching, the Stoics knew that we had to observe reality as it is, and not always as we want it to be. Because only by honestly observing our world can we correctly discover what’s in our power vs. what isn’t.

Here is a collection of thought-provoking quotes from Marcus Aurelius’ classic work Meditations, which help describe this power of seeing things as they are and why this is so important.

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Mnemonics: The Forgotten Art of Memory

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There used to be a time when memory was the foundation of an intelligent person. Before books, cellphones, and computers, everything a person learned had to be stored inside their mind.

In Ancient Greece, scholars would use elaborate memory techniques to remember full speeches, poems, stories, and historical facts.

Today we don’t have as much of a need to learn these memory techniques (often referred to as “mnemonics”). We don’t need to “internalize” memories, because we can just “externalize” our memories in whatever device we are closest to.

For example, how often do you really remember someone’s phone number? You probably just enter it into your phone right away as someone tells you it. Or at worse you write it down on a piece of paper.

A recent study shows how our reliance on smart phones leads to more “lazy thinking.” In many ways, technology teaches us that we don’t have to use our minds anymore.

And of course technology has been a huge benefit to society, but in what ways can learning mnemonics and the “art of memory” still benefit us today?

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3 Games People Play to Avoid Taking Responsibility

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We often play many games between ourselves and others.

But by “games” I don’t mean sports, or video games, or board games. Instead “games” are a form of dishonest communication – usually with ulterior motives involved.

In Eric Berne’s influential work Games People Play, a “game” is defined as a set of ulterior transactions with some type of payoff in the end. This “payoff” doesn’t have to be material – it can also be psychological or social.

Many times we aren’t even aware of the games we’re playing on a daily basis, because they are so embedded into our society and our way of thinking.

In this article, I go over 3 different games that we play to avoid taking responsibility. These games are based off of Eric Berne’s work, but I’ve modified some of them to better fit the theme of this article.

By becoming more aware of these games, you can hopefully do better at avoiding them in the future. To win these games, we often have to stop playing them.

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A Conversation Between Your Positive Self and Negative Self

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We’re complex beings.

Often times there isn’t one singular self that makes us who we are, but many multiple selves that are tugging away simultaneously.

Whichever “self” wins the tug of war is the one that gets to choose how we respond to any given situation.

Sometimes our “positive self” wins. Sometimes our “negative self” wins.

Have you ever looked back on an experience and thought, “That wasn’t really me!” or “I don’t know what came over me?”

Those are likely the times when your “negative self” has won. And thus you try to disassociate yourself from the experience, and not identify yourself with it.

This can be a healthy way to reflect on ourselves.

When we recognize our “multiple selves” we can observe our thoughts and behaviors without needing to fully attach to them.

No single “self” defines who you are – they are all just pieces to a much bigger puzzle.

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How to Overcome Stereotype Threat: Looking Beyond Society’s Expectations

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We live in a world full of expectations.

Society often expects us to act a certain way and be a certain way depending on who we are and what the “norms” are in a particular culture. These are the stereotypes we all have to face to some degree.

Stereotype threat is when we fear conforming to these negative stereotypes, which often creates stress and anxiety that ends up causing us to act in a way that makes that stereotype into a reality.

For example, an African American may experience stereotype threat when taking an SAT or IQ test, because of the stereotype that African Americans are less intelligent than other people.

This stereotype causes unnecessary stress and anxiety, which then leads an individual to under-perform, making the stereotype become true.

Stereotype threat is a very powerful force in our society. People’s expectations of us can often become self-fulling, because we are unconsciously influenced to conform to these standards.

The more we give in to these stereotypes and let them occupy our mind, the more likely they are to influence us. Here are healthy steps to take to help reduce stereotype threat in your life.

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