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Go on a Date with Life

Go on a Date with Life

Go on a Date with Life

    A lot has been written about dating. Some people rally enjoy dating, but for many, dating seems like a horrific trauma. Consider how many people stay in unsatisfying or even outright bad relationships because they’re even more terrified by the prospect of being “out there” again.

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    Dating can be a chore because it seems so far removed from real life. But I wonder if there aren’t some everyday lessons we can learn from dating. Maybe it’s not that dating is different from the rest of our lives but that it’s an intensified version of our day-to-day lives. We work hard on a date to put our best self forward – but wouldn’t it be nice to put our best self forward throughout the course of our lives? Maybe instead of rejecting that persona, we should embrace it? And maybe, just maybe, if we were used to being our best selves all the time, dating wouldn’t be such a chore, either – we’d just show up and be awesome.

    So what can we learn from dating about being our most awesome selves day in and day out? Here are a few things that come to mind:

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    1. Dress counts.

    We all want to be appreciated for who we are, not what we wear, but unfortunately, what we wear often determines whether or not anyone will take time to know who we are. You wouldn’t dream of showing up for a date in torn sweats and a dirty shirt – but I’ve seen people show up for job interviews in similar outfits! Unless you need specialized clothing – a uniform for work, grungy clothes for helping a friend paint a house, etc. – dressing like you’re on your way to a first date means you’ll always put your best face forward.

    2. Listen more, talk less.

    On a date, being fascinated with what your partner is saying is the best way to make them feel good about themselves – and about you. Asking questions and really paying attention is a great way to demonstrate that you value the person you’re dating. It’s also a great way to show people you aren’t dating that you value them – and to make sure you’re as well-informed as you need to be.

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    3. Don’t be too needy.

    “Desperation,” says a character in the movie Singles, “is the worst perfume.” Spend a date leering or pawing at your date, or explaining how very, very, very, very lonely you are is a sure way to get the brush-off. Nobody likes a loser, and that’s exactly how you come off – winners date people they’re totally into, not whoever will have them. This is true throughout our lives as well – lots of people have noticed how much easier it is to get a job when you already have one (and it’s said that the best job interview is the one you come to straight from work) than when you’re down to plucking couch-cushion change for macaroni money. Of course, you have needs – everyone does – but you can get a lot farther in life making it clear to everyone that you’re driven by your passions and talents, not your needs.

    4. Be decisive.

    Partners of both sexes like to see their dates make decisions quickly and effectively – it lifts the burden from them, and it shows a confidence that most find attractive. Unfortunately, we often think it’s nice to offer our date a bunch of choices to pick from, thinking that it shows we respect their wishes, when what it really does is throw them into decision paralysis – and increase their anxiety because they’re suddenly fumbling and looking bad in front of you. In life, as in dating, making decisions quickly and firmly, while respecting other’s input, is a sure sign of leadership. Even bad decisions made boldly often turn out to be better than good decisions made hesitantly.

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    5. Smile a lot.

    People like people who smile. More than that, there’s a lot of evidence that the physical act of smiling actually triggers changes in our brain chemistry that make us happier. On a date, that means less stressed, more confident, and more attractive to our partner. In life, that means the same thing – even when we’re not perfectly comfortable, a big smile conveys to others that we are, and often gives us the boost we need to actually become more comfortable.

    6. Have an exit strategy.

    Not from life – that’s a little morbid. What I mean is this: when you go on a date, you have an idea of how, at various stages, to end it. There’s the perfect “kiss at the door” evening (or “breakfast in bed” night), there’s the pre-planned “emergency” phone call from a friend at 8pm to give you an excuse to bail on a bad date, there’s the $20 spare cash tucked away in case things turn scary and you need a cab, etc. In life’s undertakings, too, it pays to have a couple of escape plans ready, as well as a clear image of what success will look like. Grinding away at a project that no longer has any purpose isn’t very smart, but we often feel compelled to “finish the job” even when it no longer matters to us. Likewise, turning up for a dead-end job day after day is a ticket to depression, at best. As the cliché goes, “plan for the best but prepare for the worst” – go into big projects with a clear idea of how much you’re willing to sacrifice and how little you’re willing to gain to consider it worthwhile.

    I have a half-dozen more tips, but that’s plenty for one post. I’ll be back soon with more ways life could be more like dating, and our selves could be more like the selves we are when we date. In the meantime, how about sharing your tips for dating and how they might apply to the rest of our life (or why they couldn’t)?

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    Last Updated on September 18, 2019

    How to Take Notes Effectively: Powerful Note-Taking Techniques

    How to Take Notes Effectively: Powerful Note-Taking Techniques

    Note-taking is one of those skills that rarely gets taught. Almost everyone assumes either that taking good notes comes naturally or, that someone else must have already taught about how to take notes. Then, we sit around and complain that our colleagues don’t know how to take notes.

    I figure it’s about time to do something about that. Whether you’re a student or a mid-level professional, the ability to take effective, meaningful notes is a crucial skill. Not only do good notes help us recall facts and ideas we may have forgotten, the act of writing things down helps many of us to remember them better in the first place.

    One of the reasons people have trouble taking effective notes is that they’re not really sure what notes are for. I think a lot of people, students and professionals alike, attempt to capture a complete record of a lecture, book, or meeting in their notes — to create, in effect, minutes. This is a recipe for failure.

    Trying to get every last fact and figure down like that leaves no room for thinking about what you’re writing and how it fits together. If you have a personal assistant, by all means, ask him or her to write minutes; if you’re on your own, though, your notes have a different purpose to fulfill.

    The purpose of note-taking is simple: to help you work better and more quickly. This means your notes don’t have to contain everything, they have to contain the most important things.

    And if you’re focused on capturing everything, you won’t have the spare mental “cycles” to recognize what’s truly important. Which means that later, when you’re studying for a big test or preparing a term paper, you’ll have to wade through all that extra garbage to uncover the few nuggets of important information?

    What to Write Down

    Your focus while taking notes should be two-fold. First, what’s new to you? There’s no point in writing down facts you already know. If you already know the Declaration of Independence was written and signed in 1776, there’s no reason to write that down. Anything you know you know, you can leave out of your notes.

    Second, what’s relevant? What information is most likely to be of use later, whether on a test, in an essay, or in completing a project? Focus on points that directly relate to or illustrate your reading (which means you’ll have to have actually done the reading…). The kinds of information to pay special attention to are:

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    Dates of Events

    Dates allow you to create a chronology, putting things in order according to when they happened, and understand the context of an event.

    For instance, knowing Isaac Newton was born in 1643 allows you to situate his work in relation to that of other physicists who came before and after him, as well as in relation to other trends of the 17th century.

    Names of People

    Being able to associate names with key ideas also helps remember ideas better and, when names come up again, to recognize ties between different ideas whether proposed by the same individuals or by people related in some way.

    Theories or Frameworks

    Any statement of a theory or frameworks should be recorded — they are the main points most of the time.

    Definitions

    Like theories, these are the main points and, unless you are positive you already know the definition of a term, should be written down.

    Keep in mind that many fields use everyday words in ways that are unfamiliar to us.

    Arguments and Debates

    Any list of pros and cons, any critique of a key idea, both sides of any debate or your reading should be recorded.

    This is the stuff that advancement in every discipline emerges from, and will help you understand both how ideas have changed (and why) but also the process of thought and development of the matter of subject.

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    Images

    Whenever an image is used to illustrate a point, a few words are in order to record the experience.

    Obviously it’s overkill to describe every tiny detail, but a short description of a painting or a short statement about what the class, session or meeting did should be enough to remind you and help reconstruct the experience.

    Other Stuff

    Just about anything a professor writes on a board should probably be written down, unless it’s either self-evident or something you already know. Titles of books, movies, TV series, and other media are usually useful, though they may be irrelevant to the topic at hand.

    I usually put this sort of stuff in the margin to look up later (it’s often useful for research papers, for example). Pay attention to other’s comments, too — try to capture at least the gist of comments that add to your understanding.

    Your Own Questions

    Make sure to record your own questions about the material as they occur to you. This will help you remember to ask the professor or look something up later, as well as prompt you to think through the gaps in your understanding.

    3 Powerful Note-Taking Techniques

    You don’t have to be super-fancy in your note-taking to be effective, but there are a few techniques that seem to work best for most people.

    1. Outlining

    Whether you use Roman numerals or bullet points, outlining is an effective way to capture the hierarchical relationships between ideas and data. For example, in a history class, you might write the name of an important leader, and under it the key events that he or she was involved in. Under each of them, a short description. And so on.

    Outlining is a great way to take notes from books, because the author has usually organized the material in a fairly effective way, and you can go from start to end of a chapter and simply reproduce that structure in your notes.

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    For lectures, however, outlining has limitations. The relationship between ideas isn’t always hierarchical, and the instructor might jump around a lot. A point later in the lecture might relate better to information earlier in the lecture, leaving you to either flip back and forth to find where the information goes best (and hope there’s still room to write it in), or risk losing the relationship between what the professor just said and what she said before.

    2. Mind-Mapping

    For lectures, a mind-map might be a more appropriate way of keeping track of the relationships between ideas. Now, I’m not the biggest fan of mind-mapping, but it might just fit the bill.

    Here’s the idea:

    In the center of a blank sheet of paper, you write the lecture’s main topic. As new sub-topics are introduced (the kind of thing you’d create a new heading for in an outline), you draw a branch outward from the center and write the sub-topic along the branch. Then each point under that heading gets its own, smaller branch off the main one. When another new sub-topic is mentioned, you draw a new main branch from the center. And so on.

    The thing is, if a point should go under the first heading but you’re on the fourth heading, you can easily just draw it in on the first branch. Likewise, if a point connects to two different ideas, you can connect it to two different branches.

    If you want to neaten things up later, you can re-draw the map or type it up using a program like FreeMind, a free mind-mapping program (some wikis even have plug-ins for FreeMind mind-maps, in case you’re using a wiki to keep track of your notes).

    You can learn more about mind-mapping here: How to Mind Map: Visualize Your Cluttered Thoughts in 3 Simple Steps

    3. The Cornell System

    The Cornell System is a simple but powerful system for increasing your recall and the usefulness of your notes.

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    About a quarter of the way from the bottom of a sheet of paper, draw a line across the width of the page. Draw another line from that line to the top, about 2 inches (5 cm) from the right-hand edge of the sheet.

    You’ve divided your page into three sections. In the largest section, you take notes normally — you can outline or mind-map or whatever. After the lecture, write a series of “cues” into the skinny column on the right, questions about the material you’ve just taken notes on. This will help you process the information from the lecture or reading, as well as providing a handy study tool when exams come along: simply cover the main section and try to answer the questions.

    In the bottom section, you write a short, 2-3 line summary in your own words of the material you’ve covered. Again, this helps you process the information by forcing you to use it in a new way; it also provides a useful reference when you’re trying to find something in your notes later.

    You can download instructions and templates from American Digest, though the beauty of the system is you can dash off a template “on the fly”.

    The Bottom Line

    I’m sure I’m only scratching the surface of the variety of techniques and strategies people have come up with to take good notes. Some people use highlighters or colored pens; others a baroque system of post-it notes.

    I’ve tried to keep it simple and general, but the bottom line is that your system has to reflect the way you think. The problem is, most haven’t given much thought to the way they think, leaving them scattered and at loose ends — and their notes reflect this.

    More About Note-Taking

    Featured photo credit: Kaleidico via unsplash.com

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