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Good deeds are contagious...

If you share your money, you have less. If you share your enthusiasm or love, it will only grow. Your brain has both positive and negative feedback loops that are connected to different kinds of experiences. Pro-social behavior is one of the things that make us feel happy. These actions are also enjoyed by those around us, and function as a social mirror that can help others behave more social too. Being pro-social will create an environment that is more pleasant to all.   Some good deeds that trigger positive loops: Helping someone gives both you and the other(s) a great feeling. Being honest and being treated honestly, gives us a feeling of respect and trust. Giving someone trust will give him the desire to proof you right. He will be more trustworthy. The warm glow of giving can already be found in toddlers. Don’t forget (as I sometimes do) to also ask others for help, because this feeling of helping and being helped is mutually beneficial!   Image courtesy of Stuart Miles/...

How a bonus can destroy creativity...

In our society as it is today, a lot of emphasis is put on individual achievements and they are often rewarded with bonuses. If we think of humans as egoistic and self-centered this makes perfect sense. Research shows, however, that bonuses and punishment often have a reverse effect. For example they take away the pleasure in doing the act itself and replace it with the pleasure of getting a bonus. How we lose creativity and internal motivation A loss of intrinsic motivation is seen in really young children: rewarding children for drawing a picture will take away the pleasure of drawing itself. Instead the pleasure of getting a reward is set up. Giving a reward for drawing once will influence the child for a long time. The next time the child will expect a reward and if you do not give her a reward she will not draw. Creativity also decreases Not only is intrinsic motivation lost, there is also a loss in creativity. Having to think about a reward, makes that one’s brain is focused on this idea. That leaves less room for other thoughts. Telling someone he will get a bonus if he does real well will get him to try hard, but with blinders on. In another experiment, where (grown-up) people had to creatively find a solution with the offered materials, they measured how much quicker those were that got a 100€ reward. Those that were not offered a reward were both more creative in their solutions and faster in finding a solution. A bonus can be useful If you have to do something that is really boring, or mainly needs some trigger to get done (laying bricks, picking strawberries) rewarding the amount of work done...

Three ways to help you stick to your habits...

Remembering to do something is hard. Often it is much harder than doing the thing that you tried to remember. Habits-to-be are exactly no habits yet. The positive thing about habits (that they are automatic and effortless) is also what makes that it is so hard to create a new habit. In order to form habits you have to do things over and over again. This requires that you remember those things! One of the things we all know from experience, is the fact that remembering to do new actions can be hard. No matter how much you want to drink more water, it can be really hard to do. This is not because the task itself is hard but because it is just hard to remember. That is why a reminder might come in handy. If you frequently use your mobile phone or email – and who doesn’t! – then you can use these three tools to help you remind: Magic Reminder is an app for IPhone that allows you to create reminders that come along ‘random’ throughout the day. You can set reminders to come several times a day, daily, weekly or monthly. It is also possible to set a start time and an end time to make sure you do not receive your reminder when you are still asleep, or your afternoon tea-reminder in the morning. The Android version for this app is AlarmRoller, which I am unable to test since I use iOS. However, its ratings and reviews suggest that it does the same as Magic Reminder. It can also repeat the same habit-to-be several times a day, with random intervals and between a start time and end time. Hassleme sends you e-mails to remind...

Getting to action: how to decide what to do next...

Two basic rules are important when you try the method of Getting Things Done. You are responsible for gathering all loose ends. You need to decide what the next action is for each project. Below I will give you some more advice on both basic rules. Gathering your projects Make a list of all your projects (remember: a project is anything that requires more than 1 step to be completed). This list can be in random order. All information and new projects that you gather should be organized into a system that is logical to you. New loose ends – incomplete projects – should be on your project list, which you can keep in an online of offline format. Information should be archived, and easily reached. Each project has its own next action(s) Projects are not the things that ‘get done’, only the actions required to realize the project (see your project as a goal to be reached) can be done. Therefore it is important to: Decide what you want to realize (in as much detail as necessary). Decide what is the next action towards this goal. All actions fall into one of four categories. Each category leads to a different approach. Doable in 2 minutes: do it now Needs to be done by someone else: delegate and place a reminder for yourself Needs to be done at a certain moment or with certain people: plan in your agenda Needs to be done when you have more time: put on your to-do list You can keep all ongoing projects on one list if that feels comfortable for you. Otherwise, you can separate the list into logical sub-lists. Think about categories like: wait list, sometimes/maybe, phone calls, questions, children, hobby,...

Getting Things Done – how to stress less...

The book and method ‘Getting Things Done’ by David Allen is about efficiency without stress. It is immensely popular at the moment. I would like to pay some attention to it, for this approach is different from most others. The methodology suits well with my position that habits, triggers and chaining are the key to (long lasting) change. David Allen has two main goals. All things that need to be done need to fit into a logical and reliable system. Preferably an external system (no mental note) to leave stress outside of your head. All new input needs to fit easily into this system. Also the system should be able to tell us what (if any) follow-up action is needed. The idea behind these two main goals is that you should (re)act more efficient to those things that happen to you. You should react just enough (not too much or too little). Stress arises when you cannot keep a promise. With the Getting Things Done system you learn to avoid this. (Look here for research into making the best out of stress.) Managing your intentions The main message of the book is: Do not use your brain to remember all things you intend to do. Remembering everything (or trying to) will cloud your thought. Use an external system to keep track of what needs to be done. To act efficiently, it is often better to think (long and hard!) before you act. Knowledge work is most of the time not about clearly defined goals; it is often about vague expectations. This can, and often will, lead to stress. To reduce stress, translate those vague expectations into clear goals. This will give productivity a boost and reduce stress. Once you...

Why you should start experiencing stress as your friend...

What if your approach to stress would have a really big impact on how bad it is to you and your body? Research shows that believing stress is harmful for your health ‘makes’ it harmful. Changing your mind about stress will change your body reactions. Kelly McGonigal suggests we should look at stress in another way: we should stop interpreting our body signals as negative reactions. Getting sweaty is not about feeling desperate, it is a heightened level of concentration, energizing you to get ready for the (stressful) task at hand. Body and mind seem to start working together when we start seeing stress as a positive thing. When you are not feeling stressed out about your physical reactions, the bodily responses actually change. This is only possible by interpreting our bodily responses as positive or helpful. Also very interesting to me: stress releases oxytocin and this nudges us to seek contact and help. That is amazingly helpful in stressful times (no matter if you experience the situation as positive or negative). This hormone is not only healthy because it helps you share and seek help, it also helps your body regenerate after a stressful time. Helping out others and caring for others makes the harmful effects of stress undone, so even when you think you are busy helping others might be something to make time for. How different I will feel the next time I wake up with a feeling that so many things still need to get done! I definitely recommend you watch the video! Image courtesy of Danilo Rizzuti/...

Why differences in social class lead to different judgments...

When faced with a dilemma, the choice is often between bad and bad. Studies have shown that individuals of different classes differ in their judgment of – and response to – similar dilemmas. A shift in focus between empathy and a more utilitarian position can explain these differences. Generally speaking, individuals that are upper class choose differently than individuals from all other classes when faced with difficult dilemmas. Upper class individuals consider the overall consequences and therefore choose the bad that is least bad for the general picture. Lower class individuals tend to show more empathy to what is close by, which results in making different choices (Piff & Willer, 2012). Upper class individuals more often choose to inflict or allow harm to one person to create more gain (or less loss) for more persons, whereas lower class individuals more often choose to save one person from major harm, even if this leads to more harm to a larger group of people. Adaptation to the situation Given the (relatively) more threatening environments they live in and their relative lack of material resources, lower-class individuals engage in a variety of adaptive social-cognitive processes (knowledge and strategies people develop to handle social situations). As part of this process, lower-class individuals respond adaptively to threats in their environments by building supportive, interdependent networks that they can draw on to confront threats when they arise (Piff & Willer, 2012). In other words, they rely on their neighbors, friends and family when they need help to kick your ass – or mine. But where do these differences come from? Do upper class individuals lack empathy? Do the lower-class individuals lack sight on the ‘bigger picture’? Probably both are true. Researchers have found that the...

How to silence noisy people...

Last week I visited Freiburg, a lovely city with nice cobble stones and old buildings. While walking through the city with my friends I encountered the ‘column of tolerance’ (Säule der Toleranz, see the movie). In the evening it shows different colors depending on the time in order to remind people not to make too much noise.  I thought it was a sympathetic way of communicating with your citizens, better than sending the cops to such a nice place with great atmosphere. So I checked the reactions and expected to find positive reviews. I was wrong: people reacted very negative to the column The ‘column of tolerance’ is neglected, plastered and peed on. People on the square do not respect this ‘gentle reminder’.  I think this has to do with a big error in the choice for colors the city made. The mayor has said that the city is obliged to take coarser measures to keep the noise under 50dB after midnight since the column was not working as hoped. Right now the noise is around 77dB (comparable to an alarm clock next to your bed). What possible reasons are there to disregard the column? I just cannot imagine that people would prefer police interruptions over a lighting column; hence I do not think the reaction of the major appropriate. The tone of voice the city has chosen sounds more like preaching than communicating in a tolerant way. The column turns bright red (associated with you are doing something wrong) at 23:00, giving the people that visit the square a feeling of being controlled, being told they are doing something wrong, given penalties and the like. What I would try The ‘column of tolerance’ is meant to be a...