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Four Rules to Understand What Makes People Tick

Four Rules to Understand What Makes People Tick
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    Breaking down human behavior into rules might seem like a gross simplification. But even with the complexities, it is easy to fall into the same mistakes. I’d argue that many heated fights, lost sales and broken hearts are caused by a few critical errors. If you make the wrong assumptions, you’ve lost before you begin.

    By keeping in mind these rules, you can avoid repeating the same mistakes.

    Rule One: People Mostly Care About Themselves

    People aren’t thinking about you. A damaging myth to buy into is believing the amount of time you think of yourself compares to the amount of time others think of you. In reality they are nowhere close. Take a look at this chart:

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      I’ve used this example before but I believe it deserves repeating. Take a look at the different slices of this chart. The biggest is the time you spend thinking about yourself. The second is the time spent thinking about relationships, but how they affect you. What does Julie think of me? Will my boss give me a raise or fire me? Do my friends respect me or just tolerate me?

      Only a tiny sliver is devoted to empathy. Empathy is the rare occasion where you think through the perspective of another person. When I’ve discussed these ideas previously, many people argue I’m being far too generous with my chart. In reality that sliver is probably even smaller.

      This means that you occupy only a tiny percentage of a persons thoughts. Waiting for people to invite you, becoming embarrassed at a minor faux-pas or emphasizing what others think of you come from failing to use this rule. Almost all people are far too self-absorbed to notice.

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      Rule Two: People are Motivated by Selfish Altruism

      To say all behavior is strictly selfish would be misleading. It fails to account for acts of charity, ethics and why people don’t just cheat, swindle and lie all the time. Selfish altruism is a broader category that covers why people do nice things as a way to get what they want.

      By studying primates, researchers noticed four main categories of selfish altruism. I believe they are the same categories we use, even if slightly more sophisticated:

      1. Dominance – Some primates will give help as a way of asserting dominance in the group. It is as if they are saying, “Look at how powerful I am that I can give some of my resources to help you.”
      2. Reciprocity – You scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours. The idea is that I do a favor for you with the assumption it will be returned one day. If the cost to me is less than the benefit towards you, I might help you even if I can’t predict an immediate payback.
      3. Trade – If we both have something the other person wants, we have a reason to interact. While reciprocity is vague on the details of a payback, trade is direct.
      4. Familial – It makes sense, from an evolutionary perspective, to help those who might share your genes.

      By looking through this lens of selfish altruism, you can better make decisions. Viewing people as completely uncaring or selfish is incomplete. But expecting people to think of you constantly and do nice things for free is dangerous.

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      Rule Three: People Don’t Think Much

      I believe we drastically overestimate what we do intentionally. Subconscious patterns, environmental stimulus and programmed reflexes occur frequently, even if we later take credit for them.

      The conscious mind is a relatively new addition to the human operating system. And it’s been designed to cleverly take credit for a lot of decisions it doesn’t really make. If someone asks you to be unbiased in making a decision, it is probably best to just laugh.

      The implication of this is that appealing entirely to thoughts won’t work. Since a bulk of decision making is made in the background, you need to target that background if you want to be influential. You don’t need to be manipulative, just smart enough to recognize that snap judgments mean a lot and your communication is more than just words.

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      Rule Four: Conformity is the Norm

      You become your environment. Uniqueness and individuality tend to warp to fit the people around you. This is true of other people as it is for yourself. It means you should be careful who you pick as friends, partners and colleagues.

      This is why I believe it is important to keep a varied social group. When you interact with people from completely different backgrounds, beliefs and behaviors on a regular basis you are more likely to see different perspectives. This also means you have more control in picking who you want to be.

      Applying the Four Rules

      Here are some applications of these rules you might want to consider:

      • What layers are you communicating with? If people are selfish, self-absorbed and fail to think much, just working on the words you use isn’t enough. Everything about you is communicating something, and unless you get that message straight, the most persuasive argument won’t win anyone over.
      • Give reminders. Although some people are meticulously organized, most aren’t. Give people the reminders they need so you don’t get left out unintentionally.
      • What’s your social value? This isn’t your worth as a person, but what you have to offer in terms of other peoples needs and wants. It is easy to get depressed about human issues, if you don’t see the calculations behind it. Improve the value you offer and you can access the selfish altruism in us all.

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      Scott H Young

      Scott is obsessed with personal development. For the last ten years, he's been experimenting to find out how to learn and think better.

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      Last Updated on September 30, 2020

      How to Live in the Moment and Stop Worrying About the Future

      How to Live in the Moment and Stop Worrying About the Future

      We often hear people talk about the importance of living in the present and the different ways it will benefit us. It all sounds wonderful, especially the lower levels of stress and anxiety, but how exactly can we live in the moment when our mind is constantly worrying about the past or plans for the future?

      In this article, we’ll discuss some of the benefits of living in the moment you may not be aware of. Then, we’ll look at some of the obstacles and why we worry. Finally, and most importantly, I’ll show you how to live in the moment and stop worrying using some simple practices that you can easily incorporate into your busy schedule.

      The result: a happier and more fulfilling life.

      The Importance of Living in the Moment

      “The secret of health for both mind and body is not to mourn for the past, worry about the future, or anticipate troubles, but to live in the present moment wisely and earnestly.” -Buddha

      While it can be difficult to live in the moment, it has innumerable benefits.

      Here are just a few that will enhance your life tremendously:

      Better Health

      By reducing stress and anxiety, you avoid many of the associated health consequences, such as high blood pressure, heart disease, and obesity. Studies have shown that being present can also improve psychological well-being[1].

      Improve Your Relationships

      Have you ever been with someone who is physically present, but mentally s/he’s a million miles away?

      Being with unavailable people is a struggle, and building relationships with them extremely difficult.

      How about being with someone who is fully present? We enjoy being with her/him because we can make a much deeper connection.

      By living in the moment, you can be that person other people enjoy being with, and you make relationships much easier.

      Greater Self-Control

      You have greater control over your mind, body, and emotions. Imagine how much better your life would be if it weren’t at the mercy of a racing mind and unpredictable emotions. You would certainly be more at peace, and much happier[2].

      Why Do We Worry?

      Before we answer this question, it’s important to distinguish between worry and concern.

      When we are concerned about something, we are more likely dealing with a real problem with realistic solutions. Then, once we do whatever we can to address the problem, we’re willing to live with the outcome.

      Worrying, on the other hand, involves unrealistic thinking. We may worry about a problem that doesn’t really exist, or dwell on all the bad things that can happen as a result. Then, we feel unable to deal with the outcome. Either way, we have difficulty dealing with uncertainty, which is a normal part of life.

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      Certainly, some of our problems may not have desirable outcomes, such as a serious health issue. Some problems may be beyond our control, such as civil unrest or economic downturn. In such cases, it can be hard to avoid worrying, but not impossible.

      3 Steps to Start to Live in the Moment

      Step 1: Overcome Worrying

      In order to overcome worrying, we need to do two things:

      Calm Your Mind

      When you calm your mind, you are able to see more clearly.

      The reason some problems seem so daunting is that our mind is racing so fast that we cannot see things as they truly are. Then, we make up a bunch of possible scenarios in our mind, most of which are unlikely to come true.

      In addition to seeing more clearly, a calm mind will help us think more realistically. Unrealistic thinking is fueled by confusion and uncontrolled emotions. Calming your mind will reduce confusion and calm your emotions, allowing you to live in the present.

      Focus on Solutions Instead of Problems

      Some people tend to be more solution-oriented, and others more problem-oriented. Some of the factors that may determine this are gender, upbringing, and education.

      People with more education tend to be problem-solvers. That is what their years of education train them to do. In addition, their jobs probably reinforce this way of thinking.

      If you’re not problem-solving oriented, don’t worry. You can train yourself to worry less. We’ll discuss that soon.

      Step 2: Identify Obstacles to Living in the Moment

      In today’s busy world, it can be a challenge to live in the moment. The reasons revolve around how our mind works, as well as outside influences.

      Racing Mind

      Many busy people have a racing mind that never seems to slow down. Their mind gets so agitated from too much sensory stimulation.

      You see, anything that stimulates any of our five senses will trigger a thought, and that thought leads to another, and then another, and so on.

      If you have a busy life, all your activities will overstimulate your mind and make it seemingly impossible to slow it down.

      Unpleasant Situations and a Troublesome Past

      None of us want to be in unpleasant situations, or remember those of the past. They can bring up painful emotions, which we don’t want to feel.

      So how do most people cope with painful emotions?

      By doing whatever we can to avoid them, we can take our mind to another place and time where things are more pleasant.

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      In other words, we avoid living in the present moment.

      Some people resort to things that stimulate sensory pleasure, such as food, alcohol, or sex. Others will consume substances that dull their mind and keep them from thinking about unpleasant or stressful situations.

      A Wandering Mind

      From the moment we are born (likely sooner) until the time we die, our body and mind are active performing some function. Therefore, it’s natural for our mind to have some level of activity, whether conscious or unconscious.

      Generally, a wandering mind is unproductive. One thought starts an endless chain of thoughts, and this process can go on until we need our mind to perform a specific function or get distracted with something else.

      Now, there are times when a wandering mind can be productive, such as when creating works of art, or trying to find creative solutions to problems. In such cases, we need our mind to explore different possibilities[3].

      Outside Influences

      Most of us are not fully aware of how our environment and social norms influence our thinking and behavior. People and institutions are constantly competing for our attention. The media draws our attention to the past, and advertising usually to the future[4].

      Many people around us who dwell on the past or future try to draw us to their way of thinking. Even the whole concept of the American dream is geared toward the future. It tells us that if we acquire things like a good career, family, and house, then we’ll be happy.

      Step 3: Practice Mindfulness

      So how can we live in the moment in a world that is constantly trying to draw our attention to the past and future?

      Before we get into concrete actions you can take, it’s important to understand what mindfulness is. You’ve probably heard the term before, but may not fully understand what it means.

      Understand Mindfulness

      The concept of mindfulness is actually quite simple. To be mindful is to live in the moment.

      When you are mindful, your attention is focused on what is happening in the present moment, and you are fully in touch with reality[5].

      You are aware of what is happening in your body, mind, emotions, and the world around you. This is different than thinking about these things. To develop greater understanding, you don’t have to think about them so much, but rather just observe them.

      This may be counterintuitive to many people, especially intellectuals, because they’re so used to using logic to develop greater understanding. With mindfulness, we calm our mind and emotions so we can see clearer. Then, much of our understanding will come from simple observation. When we develop mindfulness, we literally expand our awareness.

      To develop mindfulness, we need to train ourselves to observe things more objectively, that is, without our emotions or preconceived ideas influencing our views.

      If you’re ready to live a better life, read on for some simple mindfulness practices that you can incorporate into your daily routine to help you live in the moment.

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      You don’t have to do all of them, but rather choose the ones that appeal to you and suit your lifestyle.

      Mindfulness Meditation

      Mindfulness meditation is the mainstay of developing mindfulness and living in the moment. To practice mindfulness meditation, all you really have to do is sit quietly and follow your breathing. When your mind wanders off, just bring it back to your breath.

      Notice how your lungs expand with each in-breath and contract with each out-breath. Let your breathing become relaxed and natural.

      You don’t have to do it perfectly. The idea is to start spending time away from the constant sensory stimulation of all your activities, and just allow it to settle down naturally. Start with about 5 to 10 minutes per day and work your way up to about 20 minutes or longer.

      This practice is highly effective, and can have both short-term and long-term benefits.

      If you want to learn more about mindfulness meditation, take a look at this article: What Is Mindfulness Meditation? 7 Ways to Start Meditating

      Mindful Breathing

      While this may sound the same as mindfulness meditation, all you’re really doing is taking short breaks occasionally (10 to 15 seconds) to observe your breathing. Stop whatever you’re doing, and take a few mindful breaths, then resume your activity. That’s it.

      You can do mindful breathing at any time of the day during your busy schedule. What it does is interrupt the acceleration of your mind. It is like taking your foot off the accelerator while driving. It’s a nice refreshing break you can take without anyone noticing.

      Here’re some breathing exercises you can try to learn: 5 Breathing Exercises for Anxiety (Simple and Calm Anxiety Quickly)

      Mindful Walking

      Walking is an activity that you perform several times throughout the day. We often think we’re being productive by texting or calling someone while walking. But are we really?

      Instead of getting on your cell phone or letting your mind wander off, why not use your walking to train yourself to live in the moment and focus on the task at hand?

      Mindful walking is similar to mindful breathing, but instead of focusing on your breath, focus on your walking. Pay attention to each footstep. Also, notice the different motions of your arms, legs, and torso. When your mind wanders off, just bring your attention back to your walking.

      You can even make a meditation out of walking. That is, go walking for a few minutes outside. Start by slowing down your pace. If you slow down your body, your mind will follow.

      In addition to paying attention to your walking, notice the trees, sunshine, and critters. A mindful walk is enjoyable and can really help your mind settle down.

      You can discover more benefits of walking in nature here.

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      Mindful Eating

      Eating is an activity that most of us perform mindlessly. The reason is that it doesn’t require your attention to perform. Therefore, many of us try to multitask while we eat. We may talk on the phone, text, watch TV, or even hold a meeting.

      The problem with not eating mindfully is that we don’t eat what our body and mind need to perform at an optimal level[6]. We may eat unhealthy foods, or too much. This can lead to various health problems, especially as we get older.

      Live in the present with mindful eating.

        Mindful eating has many health benefits, such as reduced food cravings, better digestion, and even weight loss[7].

        So how do you eat mindfully? Start by slowing down, and avoid the temptation to distract yourself with another activity. Here are 3 different aspects of eating where you can practice mindfulness:

        • Eating itself: Focus your attention on choosing a portion of food to insert into your mouth. Notice the smell, flavor, and texture as you chew it; then finally swallow it. As with following your breath during meditation, pay close attention to every aspect of eating.
        • Choice of foods: Although you’ve already chosen your food before you have begun eating, you can still take the opportunity to contemplate your choices. Think about the nutrients your body needs to sustain itself.
        • Contemplating the sources: Most of us don’t think about all the work it takes to provide us with the food we eat. While you’re eating, consider all the work by the farmer, shipping company, and the grocery store. These are real people who worked hard to provide you with the food necessary for your survival.

        You can find more tips about mindful eating here: 7 Simple Steps to Mindful Eating

        Mindful Activities

        Choose an activity that you perform regularly, such as washing dishes. Focus all your attention on this activity, and resist the temptation to let your mind wander,. When it does, just bring your attention back to washing dishes.

        Notice some of the specific movements or sensations of washing dishes, such as how the soapy water feels on your hands, the circular motion of scrubbing the dish, or the rinsing. You’d be surprised at how such a mundane activity can truly expand your awareness.

        You can choose any activity you like, such as ironing, folding clothes, mowing the lawn, or showering. Over time, you will begin doing all these activities with greater mindfulness.

        Final Thoughts

        Practicing mindfulness is like regularly putting small amounts of change in a jar. They will all add up over time, and this will add up to greater peace and happiness, as well as get you closer to achieving your goals.

        Remember, you don’t have to do the mindfulness practices perfectly to get the benefits. All you have to do is keep bringing your mind back to the present moment when it wanders off.

        Practicing mindfulness may be a bit challenging in the beginning, but I can assure you it will get easier.

        The benefits of living in the moment are well within your reach, no matter how much your mind is racing. If you stick with these mindfulness practices, you too will learn how to live in the moment and stop worrying. When you do, a whole new world will open up for you. This is what Zen master Thich Nhat Hanh calls the ultimate reality.

        More About Living in the Present

        Featured photo credit: Smile Su via unsplash.com

        Reference

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