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3 Ways Developing The Willpower Instinct Can Change Your Life

3 Ways Developing The Willpower Instinct Can Change Your Life

Stanford graduate, psychologist, and author of The Willpower Instinct: How Self-Control Works, Why It Matters, and What You Can Do to Get More of It, Kelly McGonigal provides breakthrough ideas about how our minds interpret and act upon things in daily life. McGonigal is an advocate for willpower and seeks to help others harness the inherent quality of self-control that we all possess but sometimes do not know to shape or wield – whether it comes to managing addictions or maintaining discipline. Many things in life are addictive and the mind’s impulse will play tricks on you and do whatever it takes to attain its goal of immediate gratification. McGonigal created a very clear path of instructions that can help individuals to overcome and understand addictions, anxiety, depression, self-control, acting and more.

Below are a few of the major points of her guidelines to developing and maintaining willpower:

1. Addiction

Neuroscientists talk about how we have one brain and two minds. We have a mind that acts on impulse and seeks immediate gratification, and we have another mind that controls our impulses and delays gratification to fulfill our long-term goals. We face willpower challenges when the two minds have competing goals. Various study groups were created to test the results of McGonigal’s process of intervention. One major component learned is that when we decide we need “that “smoke or “that” drink, we need to stop, listen, and not act.

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We need to wait a few minutes and see if that desire to act upon impulse still lingers in your mind. The outcomes to date suggest that this process of delay has an 80%+ success rate. The smoker who wants to quit does not need any expensive tablets, gums, patches, hypnosis, or mediation from professionals to do so. Try this for yourself, it works! Believe it!

As a nicotine gum user for over two years, waking up one day and starting to play close attention to my wants, needs, and thoughts is exactly how one can manage to get over addictions. The simple act of shutting off immediate gratification is not easy. The sensations and feelings of addiction are literally 24/7. This becomes extremely obvious when you start to pay close attention to your thoughts.

Addictions come in many different aspects. The thrill-seeker is looking for that adrenaline rush, the foodies are looking for that experiential flavour sensation, the hobbyist is looking for that calm and excited adrenaline rush, the list goes on and on. Addictions can come in any shape or form. The frequency and rate at which any act is performed, constitutes an addiction problem.

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    2. Self-Control

    “Neuroscientists have discovered that when you ask the brain to meditate, it gets better not just at meditating, but at a wide range of self-control skills, including attention, focus, stress management, impulse control, and self-awareness. People who meditate regularly aren’t just better at these things. Over time, their brains become finely tuned willpower machines.”

    – Kelly McGonigal, The Willpower Instinct

    You have to ask yourself, what does she mean by “willpower machine”? Well, when you meditate you are paying close attention to everything and anything around and inside you. You notice every tiny fleck, speck, and thought. Anything that could possibly influence you in any way whatsoever during the day is observed and analyzed. This is an extremely powerful tool for any person.

    The sheer act of realizing that you have two separate brains that each serve a separate purpose is the first key to “self-control”. Kelly McGonigal herself practices yoga as a means to connect to her mind, body, and spirit. These new strategies and others are discussed in her book, The WillPower Instinct: How Self-Control Works, Why It Matters, and What You Can Do to Get More of It, as part of the Authors@Google series. Topics include dieting/weight loss, health, addiction, quitting smoking, temptation, procrastination, mindfulness, stress, sleep, cravings, exercise, self-control, self-compassion, guilt, and shame.

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      3. Stress Relief

      When you start to pay close attention to everything in the present, you start to gain insight as to how you should proceed forward in life. No person in their right mind should be avoiding anything that brings them happiness. Presentations are a perfect example of “avoidance”. The positives gained from a great preparation, research, execution, communication, etc. all outweigh the negatives. Any discomfort a person may feel before, during, or after a presentation dissipates in the wake of the all of the good things that show up to take its place.

      Scientists have demonstrated that dramatic, positive changes can occur in an individual’s life when they face extreme situations. The stress catalyzed positive psychological change and repaired psychological distress, a process different from post-traumatic growth but with similar outcomes. Successful post-traumatic growth (PTG), or benefit finding, refers to positive psychological change experienced as a result of adversity and other challenges in order to rise to a higher level of functioning.

      For more from Kelly McGonigal, visit http://kellymcgonigal.com/.

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      Featured photo credit: Bible Study Tools via biblestudytools.com

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      praveen nadaraju

      Classical & Computer Animator & Industrial Designer

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      Last Updated on January 21, 2020

      5 Proven Memorization Techniques to Make the Most of Your Memory

      5 Proven Memorization Techniques to Make the Most of Your Memory

      Do you forget stuff every now and then? Are you trying to enhance your memory but not sure how?

      All you need is the right memorization techniques to make the most of your memory.

      The human brain is fascinating. More specifically, the vast interconnections within our mind. Mendel Kaelen compares the human brain to a hill covered in snow,

      “Think of the brain as a hill covered in snow, and thoughts as sleds gliding down that hill. As one sled after another goes down the hill a small number of main trails will appear in the snow. And every time a new sled goes down, it will be drawn into preexisting trails, almost like a magnet. In time it becomes more and more difficulty to glide down the hill on any other path or in a different direction.”

      The intent of Kaelen’s discussion is to think of new ways to temporarily flatten the snow. Kaelen remarked,

      “The deeply worn trails disappear, and suddenly the sled can go in other directions, exploring new landscapes and, literally, creating new pathways.”

      The idea here is to temporarily rewire your brain, or as Michael Pollan remarked in How to Change Your Mind,

      “The power to shake the snow globe, disrupting unhealthy patterns of thought and creating a space of flexibility-entropy-in which more salubrious patterns and narratives have an opportunity to coalesce as the snow slowly settles.”

      So, how can we rewire our brain allowing deeply worn connections to disappear and new connections to form? The answer is quite simple. We must change the way we store information in our mind.

        Let’s examine 5 specific memorization techniques that will change the way you think and remember information.

        1. Build a Memory Palace

          What is it?

          The method of loci[1] (aka memory palace) is a method of memory enhancement using visualizations with the use of spatial memory. It uses familiar information about your environment to quickly recall information. It is a method that was discussed by Cicero in an ancient dialogue called De Oratore.

          How to use it?

          Ron White discusses in How to Memorize Fast and Easily: Build a Memory Palace, that it’s essentially a room or building that you have memorized and you use locations in the room to store data. Ron informs us,

          “You memorize locations in a room and then you later go back to those locations to retrieve the data that you want to remember.”

          Example

          An easy 5-step example, in the form of a Wiki, can be found at Artofmemory.com. Let’s examine the the steps:

          • Step 1. Choose a place that you know well. For example, your house or office.
          • Step 2. Plan the route and pick specific locations in your route. For example, your front door, bathroom kitchen, etc.
          • Step 3. Decide what you want to memorize. For example, geography, list of items, answers for a test, etc.
          • Step 4. Place one or two items, with a mental image, and place them in your memory palace. Exaggerate your images. For example, use nudity or crazy images forcing it to stick in your mind.
          • Step 5. Make the image into a mnemonic.

          You can learn more about this technique here: How to Build a Memory Palace to Remember More of Everything

          2. Mnemonic

            What is it?

            A mnemonic is a memory device that aids in retention and/or retrieval of information. Mnemonic systems are techniques consciously used to improve memory by helping us use information already stored in long-term memory to make memorization easier.[2]

            How to use it?

            Mnemonics make use of retrieval cues to encode information in our brain allowing for efficient storage and retrieval of the information. The trick is to learn how to easily create mnemonics. If you find that you struggle with creating your own, try the following website: Mnemonic Generator.

            Example

            I recently came across a video using mnemonics to memorize countries. Memorizing Countries using Mnemonics is a video created as an introduction to a class for using memory techniques to learn the names of countries on maps.

            I actively search for videos that provide enormous educational value, yet receive very little exposure. At the time of this writing, this video has received less than 4k views. Let’s examine the video.

            Goal: Create a mnemonic to memorize the countries in the Caribbean (just the countries you need to learn).

            Step 1. Looking at a map – write out each country (for which five were chosen).

            Cuba, Jamaica, Haiti, Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico.

            Step 2. Write the first letter of each country vertically.

            C

            J

            H

            D

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            P

            Step 3. Create a sentence or phrase.

            Cubs

            Just

            Hate

            Doing

            Push-ups

            Cubs just hate doing push-ups. (Cuba Jamaica Haiti Dominican Republic Puerto Rico)

            3. Mnemonic Peg System

              What is it?

              According to Artofmemory.com, a mnemonic peg system is a technique for memorizing lists and it works by memorizing a list of words that are easy to associate with the numbers they represent.[3] These objects are the pegs of the system.

              How to use it?

              The trick is to create a Number Rhyme System with each number having a rhyming mnemonic keyword.

              Example

              Let’s look at an example of a Number Rhyme System:[4]

              0 = hero

              1 = gun

              2 = shoe

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              3 = tree

              4 = door

              5 = hive

              6 = sticks

              7 = heaven

              8 = gate

              9 = line

              Another technique like the Peg system is the Number Shape System.[5] Here you are assigning mnemonic images based on the shape of the number. Watch the following video for an example of this system: Number Shape System for Memorizing Numbers.

              4. Chunking

                What is it?

                Chunking is a way to remember large bits of information by chunking them into smaller pieces of information. We are more likely to then remember the information when we put the small pieces back together to see the entire picture.

                How to use it?

                In the video Chunking – A Learning Technique, we can see that there are several ways to chunk information.

                Example

                Let’s examine a simple example using a nine-digit number.

                Step 1. What is the number you are trying to remember?

                081127882

                Step 2. Cut the number into smaller pieces through chunking.

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                081 – 127 – 882

                Let’s look at one more example from the same video.

                “Piano teachers will first demonstrate an entire song to students. They will then ask their students to practice one measure at a time. Once the part has been learned and the neural connections in the brain have been built, then students go on to the next measure. After all chunks have been played separately, they are combined until the entire piece is connected.”

                5. Transfer of Learning

                  What is it?

                  Transfer of learning is a way to learn something in one area and apply it in another. Authors of Thinking at Every Desk, Derek and Laura Cabrera inform us about the transfer of learning,

                  “If a student has a high transfer skills, she can learn one thing and then teach herself 10, 50, or 100 additional things.”

                  How to use it?

                  There are two specific ways to use it:

                  1. Vertical Transfer (aka Far Transfer). Think of learning something in grade school and applying it another grade or later in life.
                  2. Horizontal Transfer (aka Near Transfer). Think of learning a concept in history and applying it in math.

                  Example

                  I provide a detailed step-by-step example for this technique in this article:

                  Learn How to Learn: How to Understand and Connect Difficult Ideas Easily

                  The Bottom Line

                  The key to using the techniques discussed here is to remember that we must actively think about information.

                  We cannot simply drill information into our brain through rote memorization. We must change the way we think about memorization. We must find a way to “shake the snow-globe” in our mind or flatten the snow so that we can create new learning paths.

                  Or as Derek and Laura Cabrera point out, we must insert “Thinking” into the equation,

                  “Information X Thinking = Knowledge”

                  More About Enhancing Memories

                  Featured photo credit: Nong Vang via unsplash.com

                  Reference

                  [1] Remember Everything: Memory Palaces and the Method of Loci
                  [2] The Learning Center Exchange: 9 Types of Mnemonics for Better Memory
                  [3] Art of Memory: Mnemonic Peg System
                  [4] Art of Memory: Number Rhyme System
                  [5] Art of Memory: Number Shape System

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