It’s a great day to learn! and If you’ve ever wanted a tool-box of social skills, I wouldn’t recommend spending $1000 on body language and dating experts, instead I’d just recommend to read this entire book from front to back. Hey guys, it’s Practical Psychology and today we’re going to be reading Captivate, and hopefully by the end of this video you’ll understand why looking into someone’s eyes for over 7 seconds has the same effect as looking at them naked.
The first big takeaway from this book is to know that emotions are hard to fake through body language, especially microexpressions. Vanessa warns against being a “yes man” and saying yes to any social gathering, as this will put you around people you don’t want to be around, in places you don’t want to be, and it’ll show. She suggests instead to pick where you want to go and be comfortable when developing a social skill, or implementing any of the hacks in this book. Pick a place where you will thrive, that will boost your confidence, and it’ll show in your microexpressions, or tiny subconscious facial expressions you can’t control, but other people can pick up. Also, if you do have to be somewhere you don’t want to be, pick the place in the room you’ll at least be the most comfortable.
The next thing I learned is that first impressions are super, super important. Vanessa and her team knew this, but proved it by showing a couple of clips from a class to participants and asking them to rate the teacher. It didn’t matter if they showed them the entire semester of classes, 30 seconds, 10 seconds, or even 2 seconds of the teacher, the participants rating results were all about the same. This shows us that within 2 seconds, someone has judged, or rated us. Another study did basically the same thing on two TED talks. Now, these talks where on the same topic, both published in September 2009, both were around 18 minutes long, but one had 23 million views, while the other had under a million. So Vanessa and her team analyzed a whole bunch of TED clips and found a few common hacks to engage the crowd better. They found on average the least popular TED talkers used 272 gestures, and the most popular used over 600, which apparently they painstakingly counted one by one in the name of behavioral science. So hand gestures are important, but they also found having an energetic tone and open body language were very common as well!
One thing that is difficult to measure in TED talks in eye contact, because the talker doesn’t really look at the camera. However, we can measure eye contact’s effects on likability in other ways. One method was the world’s biggest eye contact experiment ever. Over 100,000 people from over 150 cities were asked to participate in one minute of sustained eye contact with a stranger. The results get me excited. So, many of the participants hugged afterwards, most felt an intense emotion for the other person, and some even cried! Apparently looking at someone that long is a form of vulnerability, and it has almost the same effect on the brain as looking at each other naked. Vanessa says in most situations anything over 7 seconds of direct eye contact is above average and will induce likability. There’s also evidence that looking into the eyes of a future-rapist will deter them from performing a rape.
There’s a chapter in the book about conversation sparks, which are what Vanessa calls conversations that don’t include small talk. Fun fact: talking about something more than the weather, a sports game, or exchanging casual “how ya doing”s can produce more dopamine in the brain, the chemical that is responsible for addictiveness and will help the other person remember you better. Here are some freebie examples you can use to hack this; Change “how’s work” to “Working on any exciting projects lately?”. Change “How are you” to “What has been the best part of your day so far?”. Change “been busy” to “What do you do to unwind?”. Change “Do you understand what I’m saying” to “naw what I’m sayin man?”.
Another thing about conversation sparks. Vanessa says to find and use “Hot Buttons”, which means to find words that sparks the other person’s interest. If someone mentions motorcycles, digital marketing, or psychology hacks to me, I’m sure to perk up! Find hot buttons by watching their reactions, and listening to what they say. There was a study done on OKCupid, a popular online dating website, that found that when participants were messaging other people on the site, they would have an enormously increased rate of a response if they used words like “zombie, vegetarianism” or their favorite band. Funny enough, “Literature and grad school” were also on the hot button list.
Now let’s get onto two very interesting psychological effects. The first is called Pygmalion effect, and I have to tell a story for you to understand it. There was a famous Greek myth about this famous sculptor, and his name was Pygmalion. I’m probably saying this wrong, as it’s one of those words I’ve only ever read. He bought a large piece of ivory, and carved, the most beautiful woman he could out of it because he was lonely, or weird, or well, that’s what they did in that day when they were bored. He was ashamed of this, and people made fun of it, like they would today, so he asked Aphrodite, a god of beauty to the Greeks, to allow him to meet someone as beautiful as his sculpture. Anyways, he went back to his statue, and weirdly kissed it, but felt that the lips were warm. Kissed it again and the statue came to life. He ended up marrying this woman in the myth. Anyways, there’s a psychological effect named after this guy, and it is summed up in: “Great expectations are met with greatness”. It’s actually been proven, too.
When voters are told they are more “politically active”, they vote more than a control group. When donors are told they give more than average, the end up donating more. In fact, when a computer gives automated compliments to students, those students perform better on the tasks (aka homework), even if they know the compliments are computer generated. So use this to your advantage, and tell people around you what they are good at. Now, I wouldn’t lie, but find their strengths and highlight them to not only help improve them, but also give them a dopamine rush around you, making them like you more.
The other psychological effect is called “Similarity-attraction effect” and this is when people like people who walk, talk, speak,and think like them. Like “birds of a feather flock together”, but this is usually just for friends – in some cases couples are happier when their masculine and feminine qualities compliment each other, so don’t use this as a cliche. Use this effect to get people to like you by doing whatever you can to come to the conclusion of “me too” instead of “not me”.
Good: “I like Game of Thrones” “Me too…. this episode blah blah blah”
Bad: “I like to travel” “I’ve never been to a beach before”
Hacking: “I’m a vegan” “Isn’t Ellen DeGeneres a vegan? I love watching her show!”
If you want to advance this for even more social points, just ask them to teach you something. People love talking, and they like teaching even more. Here’s a tip I’ve used a couple times – let them teach you something even if you already know. Yeah, I know how veganism works, but you explaining it to me will get you to like me, I’ll learn more about your opinions, and maybe I’ll even learn something new about veganism.
The last thing I want to leave you guys with out of this toolbox is to use stories. A study done by Vanessa and a fellow researcher wanted to find out commonalities of viral articles written on the New York Times and other popular outlets. So they analyzed them. They found that out of 559 articles, 65 were tutorials, 69 had to do with history, 84 were funny, 109 were actually reporting important news, and a whopping 195 of them were stories. Hooking someone and leading them on to a climatic ending is important to get and keep attention. Just take a look at Charisma on Command, his videos routinely go over 10 minutes and the best ones include tons of stories!
If you want to check out this full book, or want to listen to any audiobook for FREE, there’s an Amazon and Audible link below, respectively. I hope you guys enjoyed this video and learned something!
The first chapter in this book is about motivation, which automatically captured my attention. Charles, the author, says he found through his research there are actually two ways you can grow your own motivation, and the first starts with something that the Marine Corps implemented. Sometime during the 20th century, more and more people started signing up to join the military, and that meant a wider spectrum of people who had to be trained. One leader in the military decided too many unmotivated people were joining the Marines and he wanted to get to the bottom of how to create motivation, so he contacted many psychologists and started implementing new systems to create self-drive and internal motivation in new recruits.
What did he change? Well, they changed quite a few things, but they all had one thing in common. All of the changes had the effect of increasing the internal locus of control within the recruits. An internal locus of control means an internal feeling that what someone does has a direct influence and effect on their own destiny. Basically, they taught the Marines that their actions mattered. The opposite of learned helplessness, a psychological condition in which people think that no matter what they do, their circumstances wouldn’t change.
What about the other part of motivation? Well, I have to tell you a story about a group of people who suddenly lost their motivation. So a psychologist started researching and found a group of people throughout history who had once been SUPER driven and self-motivated, but one day they just lost their spark. Like, literally, no motivation. They were still there, they could do math, they could do anything they could do before, but one day they just lost motivation. Some of these guys went from running a million dollar business to watching TV all day, or literally staring at a wall. After some xrays and other tests, the psychologist concluded that all of these people had pinpricks in their striata, which is the plural word for the part of the brain that controls rewards and habits. They had a super small amount of bleeding, and some of the people reported things when they lost their motivation such as a wasp sting, falling and hitting their head, and a few other traumatic events. So the conclusion is that these people had brain bleeding in the part of the brain that controlled motivation. But something significant happened to one of the people.
One guy and his wife were known for being super driven. When the husband lost his motivation, the wife got frustrated. She tried everything, and after a few years, she started offering him choices. This shirt, or that shirt. Pancakes or waffles. Little stuff like that, and eventually he started to be more motivated, he started talking to more people on his own. Cleaning up on his own. The psychologist found out that choices increase our own motivation levels because it reminds us that we are in control, and we love that feeling. Now that I think about it, my mother gave me tons of choices while I was young. Asking me “do you want to wear this shirt, or that shirt”, “what would you like for breakfast”, “You have to do a chore, but is it this chore or that chore”? I am blessed my mother gave me that ability through her parenting. Thanks mom.
Anyways, the psychologist did another test on the driveless people. He put them in a fMRI machine to measure their brain activity during a game. The game was that these people had to guess if a number was higher or lower than 5. Each number was between 1 and 10, but they had to guess if it was higher or lower than 5. Pretty simple, right? Well, these people loved the game. Like, really loved it. They liked the fact that their choices were a game, and their striata lit up in the fMRI. The psychologist started another game, where the number was generated by a computer, and he found that when they had no decision to make, no choice in whether they won or lost the game, the striata was dormant. So having a choice increases our motivation. Have you ever been sitting in a line that takes forever, or even on the highway during a traffic jam, but if there is an exit, you’ll take it, even if you know the exit will take longer to get home? This is you exercising your choice muscle, and ultimately increasing your self-drive.
So to increase our own motivation levels, we have to do two thing; understand our own locus of control; that what we do actually has an impact on our destiny, and also make lots of choices. In fact, even if the choices are bad, or defiant; like a teenager going over the speed limit, or an elderly person rearranging their nursing home room (when they aren’t allowed to), this will increase our drive.
Wow, 800 words so far and I’m only in the first chapter. I guess I’ll make the next chapters quicker.
So chapter 2 is about teams and teamwork. After studying a whole bunch of group projects, basically, the one factor that makes a great team is something called “psychological safety”. Psychological safety is a term for when a group has a shared belief that the team is safe for interpersonal risk taking. It can be defined as “being able to show and employ one’s self without fear of negative consequences of self-image, status or career”. So basically create an environment where nobody harshly judges anybody else’s idea.
Chapter 3 is about Focus. Charles describes focus as a flashlight, that we can shine it very dimly over a whole bunch of stuff, or we can zoom it in to focus very intensely on a single thing. There are benefits to both, but in most emergency situations, our focus gets super intense on the wrong thing. This is called cognitive tunneling. Cognitive tunneling can cause tons of errors, like an airplane crash. After listening to the blackbox of an airplane that crashed, we can usually determine the major reason of a crash by listening to the narrative of the pilots. In the book, Charles shows how cognitive tunneling between two pilots caused a crash, and how they panicked and focused on the wrong thing. Many other people do the same thing when they panic, but some; like firefighters, emergency response teams, and some military trainees don’t.
So what’s the difference? Well, Charles Duhigg found out it’s something called Mental Modeling. Have you ever played out a conversation in your head, before it happened? Or thought about working on something while laying in your bed at night… visualizing how you are going to do it tomorrow? Well, this is called mental modeling, and Charles says by doing it, we are keeping our flashlight super intense and get better at focusing it on what we desire, so when panic comes, we are better at moving it around to what needs to be looked at. It’s basically your brain’s ways of anticipating what’s next, and if you do it enough, you’ll get better and be able to think more clearly in difficult and emergency situations. This is why visualizing is so important in so many ways.
Chapter 4, and probably the last one I’ll be able to talk about is about goals. So we’ve talked about SMART goals before, but if you’ve never heard of them, they were basically proved as part of the perfect goal-setting experience and I’ll give you a brief rundown.
So SMART is an acronym for how you should set up your goals. They are important, because Duhigg says they turn “vague aspirations into concrete plans”, something you can actually do to get to where you want to be.
So the second part of the perfect goal equation is the stretch goal. Jack Welch, the CEO of GE at the time, wanted to find a way to travel around Tokyo faster by a train. Basically he said he wanted something to go 120mph, while his engineers said anything over 60 would make the train tip over while going around a turn. Anything over 70 would be impossible. Well, he gave them that stretch goal, and throughout time they figured out a way to get it done, to tunnel through the earth. If they hadn’t had the stretch goal, they would have never innovated enough to come up with this new, super efficient way to travel. Duhigg says when we mix stretch goals, with SMART goals, we can operate at peak goal-setting and achieve more than we would without such goals. My stretch goal is to hit 10,000,000 subscribers and to spread my love of psychology. Well, that’s all I have time for today, I hope you guys learned something from my little review, and if you want more; don’t forget to subscribe!
In this video, we will be reviewing Your One Word by Evan Carmichael. I’ll teach you how you can increase your success by finding a single word that describes yourself and I’ll find mine in the process, there’s also a ton of technical tips on building a brand and business in here, I hope you guys enjoy this video and learn something from it!
Your One Word describes who you are, what you want, and how you are going to grow yourself and your business.
Evan breaks up this book into three main parts, Core, Campaign and Company, and uses each chapter to help you find, use, and keep your one word for many reasons. I think the most important thing about your one word is that it helps keep your true north, what you really want in life during the difficult times. Martin Luther King Jr’s word was Equality, Oprah’s, is Heart, and Steve Job’s was Impact.
Basically, the Core chapter explains why it is so important to have a single word to describe yourself and how to find it through some simple exercises. It helps you evaluate your life, your character, and who you want to be in one word.
Something I found helpful in this chapter is that he describes three types of selling. You can sell using a feature; this is when you sell a product marketing it by what features it has. For example, if you’re selling a lightbulb, you might claim it will last over 50 years and cost less than $5/year to power. These are independent features of the product or service. The second form of selling is Benefit Selling, when you market a product or service to how it will help the buyer. For example, you could say your lightbulb will never have to be replaced, and this sells emotionally and practically to the customer who is buying it. The third, however, Evan says is the most important and it is Core selling. It’s selling with your one word in mind. Core selling would be selling your lightbulb by showing how buying it would change the world. Maybe you will reduce total waste on the earth, or reduce energy consumption in a way that is very eco-friendly. Steve Jobs said in an interview that it wasn’t his first million, his first 10 million, it wasn’t even when he hit 100 million dollars that he felt like he was done, he said he wanted to change the world. The same with Elon Musk, when he started Tesla, he was pretty sure the company would fail and go out of business, he just wanted to change how people saw electric cars. Now look at both companies!
Just like money, your one word is a tool, and the outcome of the use of it is all up to the user of the tool.
Another part of the Core section explains why a single word is so important. It’s important because clarity leads to conviction. Let me explain.
If you have a single word that describes what you want to accomplish in your life, you can simply pass every decision through it and ask yourself “is this supporting or failing my one word”? So it helps you make better decisions, and faster too! It keeps your eye on the long game. It can also help you stay motivated. If you know you are in it to change the world, relying on your One Word should motivate you.
So, how can we find our one word. Evan offers 5 questions.
He asks you to write down a huge list of things that make you happy, and to really think about it. To save you some time, I’ll skip to the next question, which is to find what connects all these things. For me, it is understanding. Understanding stuff helps make me happy, along with learning and teaching. The answer to the third question for me, is ignorance, I hate it when people don’t know stuff, or don’t have the access to further their education; ESPECIALLY when they have the drive and want to. Find out what traits you hate, and find the opposite.
The second part of the equation is Campaign. So this chapter is filled with tons of examples of how people have used their one word in the past to create a successful business in the past. I love historical examples and the research Evan did is outstanding. There are some technical and practical stuff in there I’d love to teach you about though.
One thing I resonated with is not to overthink or overspend on a logo. I spent 30 minutes designing the Practical Psychology logo and spent $25 for a designer to create it professionally. The logo isn’t as important as what the logo stands for, or well, what you make it stand for.
There are a couple more tips the author gives on creating a successful campaign.
The last part of the book is Company. Evan talks a lot about building the proper culture and environment of a company that boasts your one word. He gives tips on how to hire people in your business, and how to fire people in your business (even if you like them). Another trick he mentions is to give a name to your employees; for example, Starbucks employees are called baristas. He also gives some tips how to get more funds and raising capital from venture investors. My last tip of this book is when you are pitching to a potential investor, you have to know that you are not just pitching your idea or business. You are actually pitching yourself, the investor isn’t just investing in your business, they are investing in you, and they know the difference between a good executor and a bad executor, both with a great idea, can cost millions of dollars.
I hope you guys enjoyed this book review, if you’re interested in the book, check out the Amazon link below. If you’re interested in listening to this book for free, check out the link below for a free trial at Audible. Leave a comment of what you think your one word is and thanks so much for watching!
The book Charisma On Command was written by Charlie Houpert, who has a very interesting story, owns and runs the Youtube channel Charisma On Command as well as a website where he sell his Charisma University. It’s like a $600 in-depth course, and if you enjoy this video, or his book, I suggest checking it out! Anyways, Charlie was voted “Most likely to break out of his shell in college” when he graduated high school, but he mentioned when he was in college that didn’t happen, in fact, it happened when he decided to go on a study abroad trip to Costa Rica.
He said it was there when he realized Charisma was like a muscle, that it could be developed and built over time with the right routine and perseverance, and I believe the same. He starts one chapter in the book off by stating that charisma is NEEDED. You know your friend in college who gets great grades, even though their academic passion is subpar? Or that coworker who isn’t as technically skilled as you, but still gets the promotion? Or even the guy who dropped out of high school yet still manages to get a date with, and eventually marries your dream girl? The simple fact is that nepotism and favoritism exist. You can say it isn’t fair all you want, but it’s easier to accept it and start understanding what it takes to get what the people we mentioned earlier had.
Charlie thinks charisma is an equation, and I think it’s a great idea to help us understand what charisma actually is. See, technically charisma is an outward expression of inward thoughts and thinking patterns. Stuff so small and quick you can’t even notice – like someone’s eyes squinting 25% more, holding eye contact for twice as long, head nods, and the positive energy boost you just feel after being with them. Our brain can’t process all this information so fast, so it just declares the state “I like this person, and want to be around them more”, which puts the person in your charismatic category.
Conviction + Energy + Presentation
So this is the basic equation for charisma, and I’ll go over each variable in detail so we can better understand charisma. Conviction is confidence in your beliefs. For example, the famous Steve Jobs was hiring a friend John Scully, and in the process, Steve looked his friend in the eyes, who was working at Pepsi at the time, and told him “Do you want to sell sugar water for the rest of your life, or do you want to come with me and change the world?” The conviction was so strong, and Steve had so much confidence in his conviction that he got his friend to believe in him too. That’s what leaders do, and that’s why most leader are charismatic.
One important thing about conviction is that someone with it cares more about their character than the opinions with others. That’s difficult if you struggle with the pressure of others, but it can be overcome with practice or a mental mindshift. For example, Charlie mentions when he was thinking about moving to South America, all of his friends and family were discouraging him and telling him he shouldn’t do it, but he went because he felt like he needed to and it was in his character to do so. Just because people don’t want you to do something doesn’t think they won’t respect you if you do it, or your charismatic past will go down the drain; in most cases you’ll be seen as even more charismatic as long as the thing you’re doing is in line with your character.
The second part of the equation is energy. What is energy? There are many things that make up a charismatic attitude and presence, but the first is high energy, not low energy. Take a look at MLK and Hitler. They both had high energy, to lead a large amount of people to follow their ideas, whether good or bad. Another example is the famous Oprah scene, where she screams “you get a car, you get a car, you get a car, everyone gets a car!”. That energy is contagious and people love to be around it!
Positivity is another part of the energy scene. You might be arguing, “Hitler wasn’t very positive” and you’d be wrong. While his ethical though process might not agree with yours, he was very positive in leading his people. For example, he didn’t lead with the thought his followers were going to lose the war, they were going to win it, and he believed it with all of his heart. Of course, on the other hand, the people who got a free car from Oprah saw her as pretty positive, as well as the people who watched that episode. If you want to be more charismatic, start by mastering positivity.
One thing Charlie hits pretty good in this book is that there is a common misconception among friends, “we are so close we can joke about it by being rude, sarcastic, and mean to each other”. He says this ruins relationships and that biting sarcasm should always be avoided. I believe this too, and behind every lie there is a bit of truth. When you call your large friend fat, you are labeling him and he might joke about it too, but deep down it really offends him on a psychological level. Avoid being mean to people and your friends, even on a joking level; just changing this can mean a lot on your charisma meter.
The last thing that can affect your energy is how passionate your are about something. Charlie says people are bored. They are bored at work, bored when they go to lunch, bored when they come home, bored when they turn on the TV, and bored when they scroll through social media. Give them something to be passionate about! It’s contagious, just be passionate about something and they’ll see it and want to be a part of it, just like John Scully and Steve Jobs.
The last part of the energy section, Charlie gives an awesome tip to choose any emotion you want, and how to instantly feel that emotion. I’m not going to tell you the tip, because I don’t want to ruin it, and you probably wouldn’t try it anyways.
Facial Feedback Hypothesis is the basic idea of the tip. I’ll explain this in a simple version. There was this experiment where scientists gave two people a pencil to hold in their mouth and one to write with their non-dominant hand. They told the participants they had to write with their non-dominant hand to distract them from the fact they were looking for something else. One group had to hold the pencil in their mouth with their teeth, causing them to smile, and the other had to use their lips, causing them to pucker without the pencil touching their teeth. After they were done writing a bit, they were told to leave, and write down on an exit survey how they felt. Those who were forced to smile, found that they were happier, which leads us to the conclusion of body language being one of the things you can fake until you make it. I’ll give you some body language tips to increase your charisma in a bit, but let’s get on to the Presentation part of the equation.
This part of the book was dedicated toward how charismatic people gave attention to other people and made them feel important.
Here are some tips to increase your charisma by upping your presentation game:
There was a ton of information in Charisma on Command, and I really hope you guys enjoyed my review, if you want to check out this book, I’ll leave an Amazon link in the description. Also, if you want a free audiobook, I’ll leave a link in the description so you can sign up and get the audio version of this book from Audible. One more thing, remember at the beginning I said you could win $20? The best comment on my next video within 60 second of uploading will receive a $20 Amazon giftcard, so turn on that notification bell! Also, everyone who comments within 10 minutes, I’ll check out your channel and leave a comment on a video if you have any. Thanks for watching!
If asked, so many of us would say that yeah, of course we’re self-aware; but that’s probably not true as true as we think. The fact is that we have what you might call “blind spots” when it comes to seeing our own nature, seeing what we want to see and missing less desirable traits or things that we don’t deem important. But being more self-aware has its benefits and it’s important if you want to improve yourself; we can’t change what we don’t know is there. But once you do see your own shortcomings, strengths, and quirks, you can start to make changes to yourself, take advantage of your assets, and know how to accommodate your unique needs and preferences. These things can help you to thrive in your personal relationships and careers so you can move toward living the life you really want. But first, you have to work on learning to see the way you are more fully.
Ask for feedback.
Asking people around you for feedback is a good way to gain perspective on yourself. While it’s simple to do, it can be hard to hear what they have to say. Realize going into it that it might hurt if they offer criticism, but that doesn’t mean they’re wrong. It’s possible that your friends, family, and colleagues see traits in you that your conscious mind has chosen to overlook, so their feedback can be eye-opening and help you see new things in yourself. It’s best if you’re specific when you ask for feedback so that they can be more helpful; asking how they see you is pretty vague and can leave them unsure of how to answer. Instead, ask your friends what they see as your strengths and weakness as a friend or in terms of skills or hobbies, or ask your co-workers or boss if there’s an area you could improve in. If they identify a trait or behaviour they see in you that you don’t, look for it as you go about your day and try to become aware of it. It can be surprising, but once you recognize that you often leave work supplies all over the place or you laugh at inappropriate times, you’re a step closer to self-awareness.
Take a reputable personality test.
If you’re not ready to hear what others have to say about you, try taking a personality test. Not just any personality test, though—you don’t need to take a quiz to find out what kind of pizza you are. Try a more reputable personality test like the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator. There is an official website that offers a thorough assessment and report for $50, but there are other sites that will give you a good enough look into your personality type for this purpose for free. It’ll give you a rundown of the personality type your answers have aligned you with so give it a read and think about your results. Some parts of it may seem untrue for you, and that might be the case; there are 16 personality types that you might fall into, but it’s unlikely any one will describe you with 100% accuracy. Regardless, pay attention to the things you see as being inaccurate as much as the things you see as accurate. Consider that the things you think are inaccurate you may just not be aware of. Jot down a few of them down and pay close attention to your behaviour in the coming days, looking for any evidence of those traits. You may find that they were, in fact, inaccurate, but you may also find that they’re true and you just never noticed. In either case, you’ll become more self-aware by watching yourself closely, looking out for certain behaviours or thought patterns.
Practice self-exploration with a journal.
Journaling is a great exercise for exploring your personality and gives you an opportunity to focus on developing your self-awareness in a set time. Sitting down daily and writing allows you to investigate your thoughts and feelings thoroughly which can lead you from the most basic knowledge of yourself to a deeper understanding of your fears, hopes, and motivations. Sit down with a notebook or in front of your computer and start writing about whatever is on your mind, whether it’s things you’re excited about or things that are upsetting you. Simply write about the situation objectively at first, then start to look into how you feel. Write about why you feel that way, relate it back to previous experiences, and what you think would help you hold onto the positive feelings or move past the negative ones. Write quickly, allowing thoughts to flow naturally without being held back by uncertainty or judgement. As you get used to writing this way, you’ll be able to dig deeper and deeper into your psyche and will learn a lot about who you are and what influences you from below the surface.
You might also consider taking up a regular meditation practice. It’s a common recommendation for all kinds of reasons and there’s no exception here. Meditation allows you to access your subconscious a little more than you normally can and you can learn things about yourself that you might not realize. The reason is your brain waves. There are four main types: alpha, which are seen when you’re awake and alert; beta, which are seen when you’re calm and relaxed; delta, which you experience during deep, dreamless sleep; and finally, theta, the ones you’re after in this instance. Your brain waves are in theta when you’re in a state of deep relaxation, like during hypnosis or meditation, and the veil between your conscious and subconscious is a bit thinner.
So when it comes to gaining self-awareness, theta waves are what you want. Sit down in a quiet space and take deep, slow breaths. Relax your body and your mind, focusing on your breaths for the first couple of minutes or so. It’s a common misconception that meditating is all about clearing your mind, but keeping it clear for any length of time is incredibly hard to do; instead, let your thoughts flow without actively following them or exploring them. Just let them come and go and observe them as they do. You might be surprised at what shows up because your subconscious thoughts will start to come though. That’s great though—you might have feelings that you didn’t realize were there or that are different from what you thought you felt. Experts estimate that about 95% of our thoughts are subconscious, so getting a glimpse into them can really help you understand yourself better. In your conscious life, you can look for evidence of the subconscious feelings you discovered and it might help explain the way you behave or think in certain situations. You’ll have a better idea of the reasons behind your feelings, actions, and reactions.
Analyze what comes up in your dreams.
Your dreams can also give you a peek into your subconscious mind. It might sound a bit bizarre, but is a fairly common concept and even Sigmund Feud, the founder of psychoanalysis, believed in the value of interpreting dreams. Start by keeping a dream journal. As soon as you wake up, write down everything you can remember of your dream in it so you can look at it again later. This is important, since dreams tend to fade away very quickly once awake, and you can’t do this exercise without an idea of what you dreamed about. Pick out some of the most prevalent images from your dream and jot them down; the images can be symbolic of feelings that are held in the subconscious. One by one, do a “free association” exercise where you consider the image and what other ideas it brings up for you. Jot down anything that comes up quickly without discrimination—one of those things might be relevant and tell you about something that’s on your mind though you may not have realized it consciously. Exploring the images that you subconscious creates while you’re asleep helps you become self-aware because you’re paying more attention to what’s hidden under the surface and, as mentioned, the subconscious is a huge part of us. Freud’s ideas about dream analysis and how it can be done are quite in-depth and might be something to look into if you find it interesting, but this simple exercise will be enough to help you get an idea of what is lurking in the deeper levels of your mind.
Self-awareness is all about learning who you really are beyond your own perception of yourself. It helps you realize what kinds of behaviours you demonstrate without noticing and what kinds of things influence your feelings. These are just a few methods to help you start seeing yourself more completely and practicing even one of them will develop your self-awareness. With time, you’ll be able to better understand yourself and see more clearly what you need to be happy and successful.
Why do you make the decisions that you make or do the things that you do? There’s always a reason, and psychologists are learning that many of our actions are influenced in ways we don’t realize and that these influences can be a really wide array of things. Even mild persuasion can have a big impact on us. In the pursuit of your dreams, you might find that you need to convince people to invest in you or to cooperate with you. Or, for one reason or another, you might want someone to see your side of things. In these instances, and in many other similar ones, knowing how to take advantage of psychology to persuade others can be a valuable tool.
But it’s important to be responsible and respectful when you want to sway someone. Persuasion is not the same as manipulation. Persuasion is done with good intentions to show someone your perspective and hopefully get them to choose to comply or agree with you. Manipulation is done with ill intent and usually involves deceit or tricks to convince someone to agree or comply. If you’re not telling the whole story or are distorting the truth in order to convince people to do something that will benefit you but could be problematic for them, that’s manipulation. Nudging people to see your perspective so that they are inclined to agree with you, it’s persuasion. Persuasion isn’t forceful, it isn’t deceptive, and it isn’t harmful to the individuals being persuaded. Keep this in mind when implementing the following tips in your life.
1. Ultimate terms
Some words are more persuasive than others. Words known as “ultimate terms” can be incorporated into your argument or pitch to persuade more effectively. They’re grouped into three categories: God terms, devil terms, and charismatic terms. God terms are also known as power words and tend to be positive and attractive. For example, if you’re talking about safety, some associated god words are “guarantee” and “proven”. On the other hand, devil words are more negative and repulsive to audiences. With the same safety example, a couple that can be used are “dangerous” and “risky”. Then there are charismatic terms which are a bit trickier; they’re usually fairly abstract but appealing because of historical context—words like “freedom” or “progress”. Any of the words in these categories can help sway the way people think and feel about a concept or viewpoint. They prompt specific reactions because we’ve been programmed through experience over the course of our lives to perceive these words a certain way. You can use these types of words to create appeal and draw someone in or to make an alternate option seem undesirable.
2. Talk quickly
The delivery of the words you’ve chosen also influences people’s response to them. When you speak quickly, it aids in persuasion for a couple of reasons. First, speaking quickly means that the person listening has to absorb what you’re saying quickly to keep up with you. It gives them time to hear you but makes it tougher for them to nitpick your argument. They’ll still see major problems if there are any, but they’ll be too busy listening and processing what they agree with to interrupt you to pick apart insignificant details. Speaking quickly can also make you appear more confident. Speaking slowly and fumbling for the right word can really hurt your pitch; but when you can speak smoothly at a relatively quick pace—but not so fast that you’re hard to understand or follow—the people listening perceive you as confident and knowledgeable, consciously or subconsciously. If they see you as having these traits, they’re more likely to want to get onto your side, even if they don’t realize exactly why you appeal to them.
3. The right body language
Along with your words, your body speaks volumes. Like speaking quickly, the people you’re talking to may notice your stance and movements consciously, but they might just take notice subconsciously which will influence their opinion of you in a subtle way. Stand up straight, shoulders back and relaxed. Don’t fiddle with your fingers, but do use hand gestures occasionally to emphasize your enthusiasm. Don’t look down at the floor or at notes; instead, make eye contact, but don’t hold it so steadily with a single person that it becomes unsettling. Looking confident tells people non-verbally that you know what you’re doing and know what you’re talking about. It’ll leave an impression that makes people want to support you in your endeavours and makes them more likely to take you seriously in an argument.
Have you ever heard a song for the first time and not really liked it, only to come to love it later after hearing it several more times? The human brain loves repetition and patterns, so when we’re exposed to an idea repeatedly, we can come to like it more or accept it more easily than when we first heard it. So when you’re pitching a plan or concept, repeat the important information two or three times. For example, if you want to convince someone of a product’s quality, repeat its efficacy stats compared to other similar products. If you’re in a casual argument with a friend or colleague, repeat an idea in different ways throughout your argument. They may not realize they just heard the same thing more than once, but their brain will take notice and they’re more likely to start to see your perspective. In this sort of situation it’s good to keep it to three times; if it’s obviously the same information repeated multiple times—rather than being subtly transformed with the same core idea—it can actually cause the opposite effect and leave the person feeling more resistant to it.
5. Balanced arguments
Very few ideas are perfect; even the best plans, concepts, and views can have a flaw or two. While you might think the best way to persuade someone is to focus entirely on the positives and try to cover up all potential negatives, research has actually shown that people respond best to balanced arguments. Many people, when being pitched an idea, will look for the holes in it; if you don’t acknowledge obvious flaws, they could see you as deceitful. Or, if they don’t notice the flaws but do feel that your idea is too good to be true, they’re likely to have trouble believing you and will be hard to persuade. On the other hand, studies have found two-sided arguments to be more successful in persuasion, likely because your honesty about the less desirable angles of your idea make you appear more trustworthy. People are drawn to those they feel they can trust and are more likely to listen to you if you come off that way.
6. Tell a story instead of reporting data
People respond to personal interactions. A study from Carnegie Mellon University compared efficacy of two different pitch styles. In both, students were trying to collect donations to improve the lives of people in various African countries experiencing drought, food shortages, and dislocation from their homes. One pitch was focused on statistics and numbers to explain how bad the situation was, while the other pitch told the story of a starving girl named Rokia and included a picture of her. The students who used the story raised more than twice as much money for the cause. The conclusion was that statistics are impersonal and can leave people feeling disconnected from the idea while making things personal makes people want to get involved. You don’t have to tell a story about someone else, real or imagined; you can also explain to someone how your idea affects their life on a personal level. Any way you can reach the person you’re trying to persuade in a personal way is helpful.
7. Taking some power away from the powerful
When proposing an idea to someone with more power than you—like your boss, a successful business person, or a leader of some kind—being able to take some of their power away can help to persuade them to see your side of things. This might sound a bit dark, but it’s really not. The whole idea is that many people with power know that they’re powerful and tend to look down on people who are of a lesser position. But, you can take some of their power by exposing them to things that are new to them; show them that you’re more knowledgeable than them in the subject you’re talking about by including information that they’re unlikely to be familiar with. If you’re the more knowledgeable in the situation, they’ll feel less powerful. Then, toward the end of the conversation, remind them of their position of power to make them feel more confident in their assessment of your pitch. It’s a great strategy for leaders of many kinds, but can be useful in arguments with people who are just feel superior too.
There are many situations when persuasion is a valuable skill. Knowing techniques that affect your audience on a psychological level will help you persuade more effectively.
Sometimes it feels like everyone has got some form of mental health concern, whether it’s based in depression, anxiety, or generally distorted thinking. Despite how frequent the experience of mental health problems is, many people don’t really know what their options are aside from medication and basic talk therapy. While medication is definitely an option for some people, psychotherapy is also a great option. CBT, or cognitive behavioural therapy, is a form of treatment for many mental disorders including depression, anxiety, OCD, PTSD, borderline personality disorder, and addictions among many others. Studies have shown that it can be just as effective as medication for many people and in some cases more effective in the long-run. It’s often used with the help of a therapist or psychologist, but you can learn the basics on your own and use it to help yourself.
How CBT works and how to get started
So what exactly does CBT involve? The basic belief is that situations trigger thoughts which result in an emotional response. For those experiencing some form of mental health trouble, CBT is typically used to step in and change the thoughts that cause the emotional upset being felt. When these thoughts are altered or replaced, the emotional response is different and you can train your brain to think thoughts that keep you comfortable and happy more often. Some describe it as a way of developing coping mechanisms so you can better handle whatever undesirable thoughts you’re experiencing or behaviours you’re exhibiting.
CBT is often done in a session that is set aside specifically for the purpose of therapy, either with a professional or on your own. Multiple sessions are needed for best results, typically 5 to 20 depending on the individual and the problem at hand. First you’ll do an assessment so you can figure out what is causing you to get stuck in a negative cycle of thinking and actions. It’s helpful to commit a bit of time to doing this. You likely know what kind of situations set off your emotional reactions, but you might not give much consideration to the thoughts that take place between those two things. So ask yourself some questions—why do you feel the way you do? What are you afraid will happen? What do you think a certain situation means for you? For example, if you’re agoraphobic and leaving your home makes you panic, ask yourself what you think will happen when you go out. For some exercises, knowing exactly what thoughts are causing you distress is necessary.
After you’ve figured out the issues you want to address, you’ll move into doing the real work. Through exercises and analyzing your experiences, you’ll challenge your thoughts and beliefs so that you can change them. The goal is for this to ultimately result in the formation of new thought patterns that allow you to feel happier, more secure, and more balanced.
One technique is carrying out “behavioural experiments” where you try out “what if” thoughts in a situation that usually sets off your negative emotions or actions. It helps you identify what thoughts would be good to replace your current ones with. Here’s an example: if you’re struggling with binge eating, you would choose a couple of different thoughts that could potentially lead to the desired outcome which would be not overeating. These might be, “If I’m hard on myself, I won’t overeat” and “If I’m kind to myself, I won’t overeat.” Then, at meal time or throughout the day, try the first one—criticising. Did it make you eat less? Or more? Record the results. Next time you eat or through the following day, try the second thought—being kind to yourself. Did that one make you eat less, or more? Record those results and compare them to your earlier exercise to see which phrase was more accurate. This exercise can help you learn what you need to think or do in order to achieve the outcome you’re after. In this case, you would have learned what kind of thought resulted in eating less and you could then focus on the thought pattern that proved more beneficial.
Pleasant activity scheduling
Pleasant activity scheduling is a technique that is especially helpful for people with depression. It’s very simple—just plan one enjoyable activity for yourself for each day of the coming week. Make it something that you don’t usually do but that you like doing. It could be drawing, going for a walk, or watching the sunset—anything that can be done in a short period of time and that is a healthy activity. The goal is to get you into a happier, more positive mindset for a bit of time every day. You can even increase to two or three of these activities each day if you’re feeling ambitious. The exercise can be altered, too, by planning activities that make you feel another positive way, like confident, accomplished, or relaxed. This technique is highly adaptable and can be used to actively help you get into the mental state you want to be in.
Thought records are easy to do and great for helping you work through distorted thoughts. In so many forms of mental illness, so much misery is a result of thoughts that don’t accurately reflect reality, despite how true they feel at the time. To do this exercise, start by writing down the thought that’s upsetting you at the top of a piece of paper and divide the paper into two columns. In one you’ll write down evidence that supports the thought and in the other you’ll write evidence that the thought is not true. Let’s say you have social anxiety and you’re struggling with the thought that everyone is judging you when you’re in a place with a lot of people. You’ll write, “Everyone is judging me harshly” at the top of the page. In the “support” column, you might write down that you caught a couple of people looking at you. In the “against” column, you could write that people are busy going about their own business or that the people you interact with are generally friendly. You can then examine the evidence and determine which statements are objective facts and which side is more representative of the truth. Doing this activity can help you to weed through the emotional thoughts that are rooted in anxiety and change your beliefs through logical analysis.
Exposure and response prevention
If you’re struggling with OCD, exposure and response prevention, or ERP, is a form of CBT that could be really helpful for you. In most forms of OCD, an obsessive thought leads to a feeling of anxiety which the individual then tries to alleviate by carrying out a compulsion or ritual, though the relief is only temporary. They often wind up repeating the compulsion over and over. With ERP, you’re exposed to a situation that sparks the anxiety but then you don’t indulge in any compulsion. Instead, you sit with the anxiety until it starts to fade. The idea is that being exposed to your fear will help resolve it. This exercise is a bit more intense than the others mentioned here since it can raise your anxiety before it helps ease it, but it’s very effective for overcoming fears.
A common manifestation of OCD is an intense fear of contamination that leads to compulsive handwashing. For this situation, you would touch something you normally fear is contaminated—like a door handle, a light switch, or even the inside of a toilet—and then resist washing your hands. Immediately after this exposure, rate your anxiety on a scale of 1 to 10, then do it again in a minute, then in another, and so on for several minutes. The number should start to decline as you realize that nothing bad is going to happen. Customize the exercise for your particular problem and repeat it over multiple sessions to help you get over your fears, whether they’re the type that results in compulsions or not. If you’re especially scared, it can be helpful to ask someone you trust to stay with you while you sit with the anxiety and resist compulsions the first couple times you do this exercise.
These are just a few options for cognitive behavioural therapy exercises, but are some popular ones that can be done on your own fairly easily. Which exercise will be best for you will depend on what kind of patterns you’re struggling with, but most of these can be customised to fit with and address almost any thought- or behaviour-based problem. Remember that CBT is most effective when repeated over the course of several sessions, so if you don’t feel significant improvement after one or two, don’t feel discouraged; just keep going and give it a chance. It’s a well-studied method of improving mental health and is established as being highly effective. But if you keep up with it and learn that it’s not for you, don’t worry—there are always more options. You just have to find what works for you.
The age old saying is true: life is what you make it. You might still be young, making those all-important life-changing decisions, such which university to choose or what job to go for. Or, you might be older, settled down with a partner and in the midst of a successful career. Either way, life’s too short. Here are some general tips on how to make the most out of your life while you’re still on this planet.
Always prioritise the people that mean the most to you. Family is everything. Friends are important too, of course, but friends come and go. Unfortunately, people disappoint you. Friends who you may be close with all through school, for example, can end up disappearing. But the good news is that new friends always take their place. Only surround yourself with people who love you. There’s no point investing time and positive energy into people who don’t return the kindness. It might mean that you have to cut people off, which is difficult in the short-term, but works out best for you in the long run. In general, love like you’ve never been hurt and you won’t go far wrong.
Choose an enjoyable career.
So many people end up working in the same jobs that they hate for years and years, just because they’re too afraid to do anything about it. Don’t be fearful. Take chances. You spend the majority of the time that makes up your week at work; therefore it needs to be a job that you enjoy doing. Think about it this way: if you won the lottery, and didn’t need to work to make a living, what would you do? How would you spend your time? The first thing that pops into your head is often the thing that you should be doing for a career.
There is so much of this world to explore; don’t fall into the habit of staying where you are all the time, just because it’s comfortable. Get out there. Explore. Live. Different countries and cultures are fascinating – and travelling is great for personal development. It also makes you more appreciative of everything you’ve got back home and more grateful for your life.
Look after yourself.
You don’t have anything in this life if you don’t have your health. Take the necessary steps to look after yourself, and the rest will follow. Self-care is extremely important. If you’re feeling unwell, rest. If something is bothering you, talk to a family member. No matter what the issue, there will always be people and resources on hand to help you. We’re all in this together. You also have to do what’s right for you and look out for number one. Sure, be mindful of other people’s feelings and don’t step on any toes, but remember that you live with yourself 24/7 and you’ve got to be happy.
Don’t hold back.
Make sure you do everything that you want to do in life. The best way to ensure this is to make a bucket list, and tick things off as you go along. Don’t make excuses for not being able to do what you want to do. You can always do what you want, if you work hard enough. And don’t sacrifice the things you want for the sake of someone else. This is particularly common in relationships when it comes to the big stuff like marriage and kids. It’s the classic tale: you want kids but they don’t. In this instance, even though it’s difficult, you should always put yourself and your needs first. If you don’t, the issue will keep resurfacing and you’ll find it hard to let it go. Don’t keep saying “I’ll do it tomorrow”, because you never know if tomorrow might not come.
Whatever you choose to do in your life, just make sure you live every day like it might be your last. If you do this, then you will make the most of each moment and every opportunity. And that’s what it’s all about!
Journaling is one of the most popular suggestions from mental health professionals for individuals who are struggling with their mental state in some way. It’s also useful for people who just need an outlet to express themselves or who want a way to develop themselves emotionally. The simple act of writing in a journal daily can benefit you significantly and in a variety of ways.
Exploring the things that are troubling you on paper helps to relieve the stress they’re causing. Journals are the perfect place to vent because you can write every thought you’re having without being interrupted, without the risk of your feelings being overheard by the wrong person, and without someone telling you your perspective is wrong. You’re totally free to get all your frustration out onto the page using whatever words you want, and once it’s out, it’s easier to let it go and move on. You’ll feel lighter and calmer after spilling all your thoughts onto the pages. Being able to release some of the stress you’re feeling is a huge benefit of keeping a journal.
Journaling is also great for problem solving. When you’ve run into a dilemma or some kind of conflict, it’s natural to dwell on trying to find a solution. Thinking about how to deal with a problem is often done from a left-brained perspective; we intellectually analyze the situation to figure out what can be done to change it. But that doesn’t always result in a good solution; journaling about the problem helps you see the issue from a more right-brained perspective. That means you can use more emotional and intuitive thought processes to find a creative resolution instead.
Writing about the situation during time dedicated to doing just that also allows you to fully explore how you’re feeling. Even when you’re very clearly upset, you may not know the full scope of it. Something specific has set you off, but there could be other sources of stress lurking under the surface that intensified your emotions. As you write how you’re feeling and the associated thoughts, you can uncover things that you didn’t realize were bothering you, things that help explain why you’re so upset despite the trigger seeming minor. You can then explore those underlying issues, organize the feelings they’ve brought up, and work through them. It can result in greater emotional stability over time and help you develop the ability to overcome negative emotions quicker and more effectively. Journaling through your pain helps you heal from it, whether it’s fresh or something you’ve been carrying for years.
As you write your thoughts, you may find that the activity reveals things about yourself that you hadn’t realized before. You could realize that you’re harbouring resentment for someone, that you have a tendency to react a certain way in difficult situations, or that you need a lot of time to yourself to feel really happy. In opening yourself up to your journal, you open yourself up to yourself. It’s creates an opportunity for you to learn about yourself in a way you probably wouldn’t have without delving into your thoughts and examining them as they appear. And when you learn about yourself, you can consciously develop in a direction of your choosing. You and your life begin to change because you’ve identified where you want to improve yourself and which parts of your life you’d prefer to be another way. Journaling takes you down a road that allows you to grow, if you choose to.
These aren’t the only benefits, but are some very significant ones. And they sound great, don’t they? If they appeal to you, journaling is probably a great activity for you to get into. But what does a session of journaling involve? How do you do it? There are no set rules when it comes to writing in a journal, but here’s a good method to start with if you need some guidance.
Making the commitment to start journaling is the first step. Forming a new habit can be tough, but if you set aside a bit of time every day, it makes starting out a bit easier. Aim for ten to fifteen minutes per day, but if that sounds like a lot, go with just five minutes at first to take the pressure off. You don’t want to intimidate yourself before you’ve started. It can be helpful to make it the same time every day when you’re working to make it part of your routine, but if something comes up and you want to write at a different time, that’s totally fine too. When you’re ready, sit down with your book in a quiet space where you can focus effectively and where you’ll feel comfortable being vulnerable, since you’ll be opening up when you write. And remember to date the entry—it’ll be handy if you ever decide to look back later.
Then, dig in. Write about whatever is on your mind. Write about anything that’s bothering you or has you stressed out. If you’re feeling good, write about what you’re looking forward to or what was great about your day. As useful as a journal is for examining hard times, it can be just as useful to look at the good times. Both will help you understand yourself and your experiences better. There are no restrictions on what you write about, so just go with what sticks out to you at the time you sit down. It might be something that feels huge or something that seems insignificant, but if you’re thinking about it, it’s worth journaling about. The good, the bad, and the ugly—include it all.
But journaling is more than just a record of events; writing about your situation is important, but don’t forget to write about how you feel and venture further in that direction. What emotions did your day bring out? Why did you feel that way? How did you handle the emotions and what can you do now to work through them? The emotional aspect is the main reason why journaling is so impactful. Simply making a log of the events in your life is great if you want to remember them and might be useful for examining a situation in more detail, but it’s the investigation of your personal, subjective thoughts and feelings that result in the mental health benefits. Don’t skip this step; it’s an important one.
Try to write quickly while you’re journaling. It’s not important that your spelling and grammar are perfect, that your handwriting looks good, or that you use creative phrasing; what is important is documenting your perspective honestly. When you think too much about what you’re writing, you might scrutinize and make unnecessary decisions about what might be better left out. When you write quickly, you’re more likely to let your thoughts flow naturally and let out everything you’re thinking and feeling. So write fast and get it all on the page before you have a chance to censor yourself or skew your true view.
When you’re finished, put your journal away and make sure it’s somewhere no one will find it. If you’re journaling in a word document, be sure to password protect the files or set them to hidden, and if you’re using an online blog, make it private and log out when you’re finished. Ensuring that your journal is secure is important, especially when it contains sensitive information that you don’t want anyone to see. It will also help you to feel comfortable being completely honest when you write if you’re sure no one will see it.
Some experts have suggested alternative ideas for journaling that can be useful in certain circumstances. Writing out an imaginary dialogue with your inner child can help you to work through longstanding issues or insecurities; drawing images or self-portraits can help creative thinkers to express the way they’re feeling in instances when words are failing them; writing in third person instead of first or in the form of a short story can help you acknowledge something bad that happened to you when you’re having a difficult time processing it or admitting that it occurred. Every person is different and some benefit from journaling in unconventional ways. Some people also like to include things like the songs that they really enjoyed that day or artwork that they saw and appreciated. These things can help express their current mood or mindset in a way that words can’t capture.
Journaling is an intensely personal experience and has the potential to benefit you in numerous ways. The outline provided here is just a starting point; as you get into journal writing, you might find that different methods are more beneficial for you, and that’s great. Whatever works for you is the right way to journal. After a while, look back at your first few entries; you might be surprised just how much you’ve changed.
You’d think that if you have a passion it should be obvious to you what it is, but that’s not necessarily true. How would you know what it is if you haven’t stumbled across it yet? It’s not always as straightforward as simply “music” or “animals”; some people’s passions are more specific so they have to explore different niches to figure it out, like composing soundtrack music or rehabilitating wild animals. Other people might have general interests that they know they’re passionate about but want to narrow it down into something more focused so they can work on building a career they love. In any case, if you want to find exactly what you’re passionate about, you can do it though some simple exercises that involve asking yourself a handful of exploratory questions.
One obvious thing to do is to examine where your interests lie. You’ve probably done this before, but if you haven’t done it in a structured exercise, give that a try. Get out a sheet of paper and write down absolutely everything you can think of that you’re interested in. It’s hard to tell which interest will spark an idea about what else you love, so include anything that comes to mind. And it’s okay if the interests are all different; at this stage, you’re not trying to come up with a final answer, just exploring how you feel about different subjects and activities. You can connect the dots later, but for now, wrack your brain for anything and everything you like.
It can also be helpful in this exercise to create a separate list of things you definitely don’t like. Consider activities and subjects, either separate from or related to the ones you’ve listed as interests, that you’ve tried before but didn’t enjoy or that you feel actively disinterested in. Looking at things from this perspective will be helpful in a later step and can also help bring up ideas about things you do like.
While making your list of interests, you might get stuck. If you’ve neglected the things you love for a while or have been feeling depressed or stressed out, you might be in a place where you’re not even sure what your interests are anymore. It’s not uncommon and it doesn’t mean the search is hopeless; you just have to think outside of your present. One question you can ask yourself is, “What did I love when I was a kid?” Little kids are at a point in their development where they just do what they like without worrying about what other people think of it and never question whether or not it’s worth doing; their interest is honest and unrestrained. So think back—what were your favourite toys, what kinds of activities did you like to do? There’s a good chance you have the same basic inclinations now. Once you’ve thought of a couple, consider what kinds of activities you could connect to them. For example, if you were crazy about playing with Lego bricks, think about activities that involve building. Would you be interested in architecture, carpentry, or sculpture? Add those thoughts to your list if any catch your attention.
Another question you can ask yourself is, “If I could have anyone’s job, skills, or talent, whose would it be?” Explore the reasons behind the answers you come up with, because it might not be that you want their exact job. For example, you might write down that you admire the founders of a particular company—why? Is it because you want to be able to work in a similar field or because you want to run your own business, even if it’s a different kind? How you feel about someone else’s career and abilities can tell you a lot about what you might want to accomplish in your own life. Include any potential interests that come up in this exploration on your list.
Now that you’ve got a good written collection of things that interest you, it’s time to start looking for ways you can incorporate them into your life. Pick out one of the interests that stands out to you and write it in a bubble in the center of a new page. As you get ideas of what you could do with that interest, draw a line for each one stemming out from the bubble and write it down in a new bubble. SO, if you start with “wrestling” in the middle, you might have ideas like wrestler, coach, commentaror, blogger, or podcaster written around it. Those ideas might lead to even more specific ideas and you can record them as offshoots of those secondary bubbles. Now you’ve got plenty of options in front of you. Do this with a few different starting points and see where you get.
You should also see what kinds of connections you can make with the items on your interests list. Some of them might be compatible in a way that points you toward a potential passion or a career you could be passionate about. If you’ve got travelling, language, and children written down, teaching overseas might be an idea for you. If you like art, shopping, and business, maybe you’d love running a gallery. See where your interests overlap and be creative; unconventional combinations might result in something that you’re not only passionate about, but the result could carve out a unique place in the world and earn you success. You probably won’t be able to mix more than two or three interests at a time, but when they’re things you love, that’s plenty. They could add up to a true passion.
Depending on what your interests are, finding connections could be tricky. If you need some help, try adding in some things that you’re good at and see if it helps you create any new ideas. You may not be passionate about math, but if it’s a strength of yours it could give you a new idea when it’s put next to something you do love. Math is useful for fields that require precision, so if you have “clothing” listed and add in math, you might come up with fashion design. If you have math and decorating, you could consider carpentry. It can also help you to see which ideas you’re more likely to thrive in, though, when it comes to just figuring out your passion, this isn’t the focus; it’s totally acceptable to choose something at this point that you’re not naturally skilled at but that you can learn to be good at later, so don’t limit yourself that way.
Don’t limit yourself by what you think can be monetized, either. Focus first on your happiness when you’re seeking out your passion. Once you’ve got that figured out, you can make a plan to incorporate it into a career or a side job. Don’t discount ideas because they seem unrealistic either. Dream big! If thinking big helps you find what you’re passionate about then it’s great to do it. You can revise your idea later or dial is down so that it feels more within reach, but for now, brainstorm without limitations. Let your thoughts flow naturally and go with whatever you find yourself excited about. Seeking your passion is a process; you don’t have to have an answer for what you should do with it or how to approach it right from this early stage.
Once you’ve got something you think could be your life’s passion, find a way to test the waters, especially if it’s something you don’t really have experience with. Your possible passion doesn’t have to be something you’re already involved in; it can be something you’ve never tried before but you’re really interested in getting into. Have you gone through the brainstorming exercises and decided that you’d probably really love journalism but haven’t tried writing an article before? Try it out! Start a blog with investigative posts or seek out freelance work so you can do a couple of small jobs without making a commitment. Or did you figure out that being a chef is something that feels really exciting? In that case, take a cooking class or hold a dinner party and challenge yourself to cook something a bit more advanced than you normally would for yourself. Find opportunities for you to get real experience with the possible passion you’d like to pursue. It’s the best way to find out if it is something you are or could be passionate about.
Some people have a passion that they’ve had forever and have always been sure of, but for many people, that’s not the case. Passion can be hidden by life’s problems and obligations and it takes some exploration to find or rediscover it. Not to worry though—just because you don’t know what your passion is now doesn’t mean you don’t have one or that you won’t find it. You can! Follow the suggestions in this video, brainstorm and investigate your interests, and see what you can come up with. It can be a process and there will be some trial and error; don’t get discouraged if some of your ideas don’t pan out. Keep going; finding something your passionate about will be worth all the effort when you’re doing something you love and feeling happier than ever.