Category: Psychology

Going To Sleep Should Be Exciting

Going to sleep should be more exciting for us. Who needs a Netflix show before bed when you’ve got dreams to look forward to? I’ve dreamt of fighting Egyptian mummy-sorcerers, skiing to a mountain castle, and helping to keep a young child alive in a medical emergency. And for every crazy dream I forget, there’s […]

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Let’s Play a Game

Kids – especially young boys – are infinitely willing to play, infinitely willing to try new games, infinitely willing to suspend disbelief if it means they can compete and practice. Seeing this is one of the most charming things in the world. Today I got to see that firsthand with my little cousins (boys aged […]

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How Can We Encourage More Empathy?

I’m writing short essays/posts in response to questions submitted by significant donors to my Charity:Water campaign. This is one of them. One reader asks this question: “How should a society encourage and breed empathy in its members?” First, a standard definition of empathy: n. the ability to understand and share the feelings of another. “Society” […]

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Jojo Rabbit: A Choice Between Authentic and False Community

“You’re not a Nazi, Jojo. You’re a ten year-old kid who likes dressing up in a funny uniform and wants to be part of a club.” – Jojo Rabbit You know it’s a good movie when you clap spontaneously, laugh like a maniac, and feel your heart torn to shreds in the same two-hour stretch. […]

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Halloween: a Yearly Reminder of Your Limitless Potential

Halloween is a brilliant time of year. For one day, it’s socially acceptable for anyone – from carefree child to corporate office adult – to put on a costume and be someone else. At work today, my coworkers transformed into a demon, a little Red Riding Hood, a wizard, a nun, and hackers. I wore […]

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Complexity Resists Control – So Become More Complex

Have you ever tried to use finely instrumented computer? Fly a plane? Manage the sound mix of 20 microphones at a live concert? What about hitting a nail with a hammer? All of these activities involve the use of tools, but the first three are far more complex than driving home a nail. Complexity makes […]

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Your Word Becomes Your Destiny (or a Judge)

Committing a plan or a value to spoken word or written word is a powerful act, and it always has consequences. Even if you have an idea you haven’t acted upon yet – say, a vacation to Puerto Rico – just putting that idea out of your mind and into a communicable form changes your […]

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The Silver Lining of Social Media’s Negativity Obsession (and How To Defeat It)

Shockingly evil things + news often seem to defeat good things + good news in the war for human attention, especially on social media, TV, etc. There’s one silver lining to all this, though: The good is going to have to become that much better to stand out and win. Good people are going to […]

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Make Good Memories Like It’s Your Job

The future is uncertain, but what is done well is done well. I’ll always have the Christmases with my grandparents, the movie nights with my father, the books read with my mother, the balls thrown to my dog, and the days preparing for the stage with my high school theatre pals. I’ll always have that […]

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Get Off the Pendulum: The Trap of Reactionary Thinking

When I was younger, I used to enjoy riding Pharaoh’s Fury at the Coastal Carolina fair. This big sphinx-headed boat swung back and forth on a mechanical arm, terrifying and thrilling the riders, and (in our imaginations) we thought about what it would be like if it went upside down – dumping us all out. […]

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The Problem with “Here I Stand, I Can Do No Other”

“Here I stand, I can do no other, so help me God. Amen.” According to some tellings, this is how Protestant Christian reformer Martin Luther responded to demands that he recant positions which the established Church of his time considered heretical. This is a badass speech, and it’s archetypal in our society. It’s the speech […]

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Contempt Is the Most Contemptible Emotion

There’s a downside to self-development: it can be very easy to start developing contempt for the people you’re passing. People who don’t go to the gym start to look like slobs. You* start to judge people who watch TV instead of doing creative work. You condemn people who spend more money than they make. Of course, you […]

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Drive Reactivity Instead of Obeying It

Spend too much of your time reacting to and defending your work or your life from other people? Reactivity is no way to live or succeed. I’ve learned this in different contexts, but in one I received some particularly useful advice from my CEO. When our company came under criticism, my instinct was to react, respond, and defend. I was […]

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Why You Should Treat Yourself Like Your Own Pet

Have you ever been on a roll? Have you gone for days or weeks without breaking a habit or missing a beat? Have you then lost all motivation? Have you crashed and burned or sabotaged yourself or procrastinated even while knowing it was wrong? Our bodies and minds are mysterious things, and so much of what […]

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Against “Guilty Pleasures”

I have a burning hatred for the idea of the “guilty pleasure.” Oh, I understand the concept. You take pleasure from something for which you also feel guilty for enjoying – from watching YouTube cat videos to eating chocolate ice cream. But as anyone who indulges in these “guilty pleasures” could tell you, the mixture of guilt and […]

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Learn About Your Ancestors To Learn About Yourself

If your family had a history of cancer or heart disease, wouldn’t you want to know? So if behavior and personality is in large part genetic*, wouldn’t you want to know the patterns of personality that dominate your family’s history? Most of us stop with looking at the personalities (flaws and strengths) of our parents. But sometimes traits […]

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The Silver Lining of Unlikely Faults

“You’re much too agreeable.” “You’re much too assertive.” “You’re far too focused.” “You’re far too curious.”  “You’re much too perfectionistic.” “You’re much too fast.” In the course of your life, you’ll likely hear one of each of these pairs of criticisms (or ones like them). If you’re really growing your personality over time, you’ll hear […]

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Be the Euphoria You Want To See In the World

As part of my Charity:Water campaign, I’m writing blog posts for people who contribute $25 or more to bring clean water to 23 people. You have a word/topic/question you want me to riff on? I’ll (probably) write it. One donor asked me to write about euphoria: when I experience it (and why), when I see it in […]

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Which Hallucinogen Would I Try First?

As part of my Charity:Water campaign, I’m writing blog posts for people who contribute $25 or more to bring clean water to 23 people. You have a word/topic/question you want me to riff on? I’ll (probably) write it. One donor asked me to write about what it means to me to “live in the moment”, so here […]

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You Will Never Succeed If You Can’t Forgive Yourself

“Forgive yourself.” I used to think that this was advice for the weak. Even now it seems like an easy way out from guilt or failure. But I’m learning something about growth and improvement: getting back on the horse after failure is half the battle. And for any person trying to mount back up after […]

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Do the Symbolic Days Right

Birthdays and holidays are just days. Most people probably overrate their importance. But that doesn’t mean they can’t be important days. You can use the symbolism of a birthday or a new year or a holy day to give weight to the stuff you know you need to do. Of course, that depends on how […]

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Quarter-Life Crises Are Good For You

“So teach us to count our days     that we may gain a wise heart.” – Psalm 90:12 I’m about to turn 23, and I’m feeling the pinch of time. It really does pick up speed. By 23, I expected I would have my own business, a published book, a trusty old horse, the looks of […]

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Why Be Good? One (Self-Interested) Reason

Why be good? People have spilled a lot of ink on this one. And there are countless bad arguments (“god commands it!” or “society says so!”) as well as more good arguments than you might guess. Some are pretty simple – and while they aren’t full, rigorous systematic answers to the problem of “why” in […]

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Don’t Forget the Joy of (Real) Competition

When’s the last time you competed in a sport? Do you still remember the starting gun, the cheering crowds, the nervous energy before an event? Do you remember the buzzer sounds, the camaraderie, the triumph of victory? Most of us leave these things behind in high school. I never (besides in theatre and quiz bowl […]

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You Probably Don’t Know Your Greatest Fears

You think your greatest fear is heights. Or confronting your boss. Or succeeding at work. Or facing down spiders. Or dying in a plane crash. You might be wrong about that. These fears are fearsome, to be sure. We have to confront serious psychological discomfort to get past them. But people overcome these sorts of fears […]

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Things To Consider When Sharing Your Weaknesses

I’m a big fan of transparency – and so I often wear my heart on my sleeve, including when it comes to talking about my weaknesses. For people like me, self-revelation can be scary and relieving and empowering. There are other emotions I’m sure other people have mixed in there. That’s why it’s important to […]

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A History of a Human Being – In Toys

Today I went to a warehouse after work to help sort toys from a charitable toy drive. It was a fun afternoon challenge – I got to help a good cause, spend time with coworkers, and learn a lot about what toys are popular with the kids these days. The whole experience brought back childhood […]

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The Warding Power of Language: Words as Protective Spells

  In fairy/fantasy stories and ancient myths the ideas of warding spells abound. In fact and fiction, magical men and women routinely spells cast upon people, places, and things to keep away evil. These spells can even grant new power to their objects. Consider the protective spells cast around Hogwarts or the charms placed on […]

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How To Stop Being a Snob, Part 2: Jesus on Transcending Snobbery

This post is part 2 in a series. See part 1, in which I argue for one theory of what snobbery is.  In the first post we talked about the nature of snobbery. It often shows up as a desire to be “uncontaminated” by the things we judge to be in poor taste, or things we judge to […]

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How To Stop Being a Snob, Part 1: Snobbery, Disgust, and Evolution

Have you ever been a snob about something? I was the biggest music snob in high school. In fact, I hated some forms of music so much that I would physically cringe and try to leave the room when I heard music I hated (example: the country-rap duo Florida-Georgia Line). But you know the feeling, […]

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