Most days the torpedos that blow up my day come from myself.
I’m not at war with opinionated Twitter users, or my family, or the guy that cut me off on the freeway with his enormous pickup truck. Nope. I’m just trying to win the war against myself. I use positive psychology.
Most descriptions of positive psychology are confusing. That’s why many people ignore it when they shouldn’t. Here’s an explanation for us normies.
Positive psychology is a scientific approach to studying human thoughts, feelings, and behavior, with a focus on strengths instead of weaknesses, building the good in life instead of repairing the bad, and taking the lives of average people up to “great” instead of focusing solely on moving those who are struggling up to “normal” — Christopher Peterson
Positive states, traits, and mental reframes are at the center of this form of psychology. There are some great examples that I use daily. Steal a few of these to win the biggest war of all, the one against yourself. When you do, you’ll gain the confidence to achieve your goals.
Stack insignificant wins
People have vision boards. They’re full of huge lofty goals. I freaking hate big goals. They’re too overwhelming.
So I do the opposite. I track insignificant wins most people dismiss. For example, this week I found an illustrator for my new book. It has taken me months to find one. That’s hardly a win to the cold shower gurus. It won’t make me a million dollars. I can’t post it as a humble brag on Instagram .. it won’t even get one like.
That’s all okay. Insignificant wins help you get over the resistance to start any task. When I sit down to write 10,000 words in a day, I use insignificant wins as motivation.
If I read one chapter of a book, kissed my fiancé on the cheek, found an illustrator and made spoke to two close friends this week, then I’ve achieved something. Now all I have to do is write the first sentence of the next 10,000 words. Then the sentence after.
Don’t start by thinking about your own equivalent of a 10,000-word goal. Start by thinking about an insignificant win that can help trick your mind not to notice the inevitable resistance you’re about to face.
Face the injection with a smile and a straight back
Needles in the arm scare me worse than Hannibal Lecter.
My doctor wanted me to get a needle the other day. The war in my head raged. Nuclear bombs full of fear kept exploding, telling me that I’d pass out or vomit all over the floor in front of the nurses who would laugh loudly like the Joker.
You can beat fear and gain confidence when you change your physiology, according to research. So I’ve learned to do my Superman pose. I walk into the room full of needles, put on a huge smile like I’m happy to be there, straighten my back, slow my breathing, and speak confident words to myself.
And guess what? It worked. I can get jabbed in the arm like a diabetic who does it daily to themselves and feels nothing.
Strong physiology quietly tells your mind you’ve got this.
Do what you say
Most people walk around at work each day saying they’ll do things that they never do. It’s not intentional. It’s just the default mode that happens because the world is noisy and life is busy.
You can gain confidence when you limit the number of promises you put out into the world each day. It starts to develop the image that people can count on you. Subconsciously people will give you more opportunities because they view you as someone who will do what you say.
The trick here is to underpromise and acutely deliver. Or overdeliver if you love high performance.
Your word is everything. Make it count.
Pre-determine your value
Corporations are privileged to be able to set salaries. In the future, I predict that the marketplace of employees will become like an auction. Corporations will have to bid on talent to get them and keep them.
Currently, though, if you’re an employee, other people can determine your value. I say “can” because it’s entirely possible to change it. I used to say to my colleagues at work, “I’m here for a good time, not a long time.” A job is a place I go to learn until my value has risen enough that it’s time to move on and find a new employer who’s willing to see that increase in value.
You see it all the time in the land of promotions. People become desperate to prove to their boss, who’s already comfortable with their value, that they should get paid more and be given a promotion.
Once we get used to a certain value it’s hard to pay more for what we perceive to be the same thing. My motto is don’t. Join the tribe of job hoppers like me so your value is adjusted at least annually. Otherwise, your value intentionally rots away at the benefit of a corporation.
How to determine whether you should say yes
Outside of work I get a lot of requests of my time. If an invitation doesn’t instantly spark a hell yes, I simply remind myself of my value.
Right now I calculate that to be around $200 per hour. So if I need an excuse to win the war in my head that wants to be nice and say yes a lot, I tell myself “will this invitation equal $200 an hour?” The answer is rarely yes and so the decision is automated.
Become a “in the next 60 seconds” person
The best time to take action on an idea is when you think of it.
Ever tried to go back to an idea you wrote 12 months ago? It’s hard. The context is lost. Most importantly, the energy of the idea is dead. My goal is not to put things off. When a task needs action, I do it in the next 60 seconds.
But the difference is I don’t complete the task if there are obstacles in the way. I simply take one tiny action on the task so it’s started. Then I schedule in my Outlook calendar when the task can be completed.
Your confidence is annihilated when you put off things you care about on auto-pilot. Take a tiny action in the next 60 seconds to win the war against your procrastination-loving self.
A classic question to use: When would NOW be a good time?
Say yes to your true self
The real you stuffs up a lot.
Social media spends an eternity trying to change us. The stupid thing is, our uniqueness is what gives us confidence and draws people to us. A society full of grey t-shirt waring startup bros is pretty boring. I see myself as a rainbow from another time period. Weird feels good to me. I enjoy living next to crocodiles and slapping some Vegemite onto my toast.
Don’t try to change. Instead, focus on who you already are and how you can bring out more of that person. Imperfection is the default. Flaws are flawesome.
Embrace radical self-awareness
It’s easy to win the war against yourself and be confident when you’ve got a blueprint. Writing down your blueprint requires radical self-awareness.
Here are the features:
- Be clear on what you want. No dream is out of reach.
- Write down what gives you energy and what vacuums the energy out of your body.
- Reconnect with what your values are. What do you believe?
- Jot down each day in a journal (or my favorite, Roam Research) the way you think, feel, and act.
- Pay attention to the people you like being around and why.
Self-awareness provides clarity. Clarity provides direction. Direction helps you win the war against yourself.
Remember that your hot water works
Not everybody loves working from home. A post by Daniel Abrahams on LinkedIn said this.
“Reasons to love working from home: 1) You have work. 2) You have a home. The rest is a bonus.” This quote summed up the entire 2020.
It’s easy to forget that you had hot water this morning to have a shower. Or that when you go to the grocery store you can buy food. Or that you had a bed to sleep in last night. If you’re reading this you’re already rich.
Positive psychology can be summed up like this: you’ve already got enough. When you stop chasing more, and realize there is enough, it changes your behavior. You stop acting from a place of scarcity, and start acting from a place of abundance. Abundant thinking gives you the confidence to win the war against yourself and achieve your goals.
Podcaster Lex Fridman reminds us of this fact: “More than 80% of the ocean is still unexplored.”
Abundance is all around you.