Category Archives: Psychology

The power of a streak

One very intensive day of language training can teach you something, but in general, it will not improve your knowledge significantly. However, consistent 15-minutes a day is sure to bring results.

One very intensive day of sports training can teach you something, but the same as with a language, it will neither significantly improve your sporting abilities, nor your condition. However,… you guessed it right! Consistent even only 15-minutes a day exercises will render much more sustainable results.

I have been talking about the power of small steps for a while, but here is an important add-on to it —

coupled with the power of a streak, you will be surprised how far you can get.

The most important caveat here is consistency. When I say “every day”, that means “EVERY day!”. With all capitals in “every” and an exclamation point at the end. 🙂

No excuses like “I will skip today because I am so tired…” or “I will have to skip today because we are going to that party”. Nope. That doesn’t work like that. If one day is lost, the streak is lost. As simple as that.

In the language app I am using (Duolingo), my streak recently crossed 200 days mark. That means that for more than 200 hundred days EVERY single day I spent at least 15 minutes doing exercises in Dutch. I can tell you, it got me far! As far as being able to have a fluent conversation in Dutch at a party we attended last month. For the record, Duolingo is of course not the only source of learning for me, as the app is more for practicing and — which is probably the most important — for streak-keeping.

Now, the last part is actually very important.

It is a pure psychological trick — a “satisfaction-banana” for our “monkey-brain”. If we see the counter and it is consistently increasing, after a very short while it is kind of sad to lose this streak. For instance, you have already the proverbial 21-days (needed to form a habit), you would not want to go back to zero and start all over, would you?

(Even more, if you do, there is a big chance that you will not pick it up again).

Keeping streak helped me make the learning of Dutch into a daily habit, but it likewise worked for 5 minutes of meditation, a daily plank, and some other small habits – my small steps – of improving my life. Thus I wholeheartedly believe that streak-keeping is an important power working together with the power of small steps towards getting to any big hairy audacious goals you can come up with.

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Spotting an illusion of choice

I like the philosophy of choice the school of our kids lives by. Kids are working around projects. From as early as 2,5-3 years they are encouraged to pick the theme which interests them and then explore it, learning a whole bunch of things along the way. That all sounds nice in theory, however then the reality strikes: I am hearing the same songs about exactly the same themes for the second round already. It is surely possible that the interests of the group where our daughter was perfectly coincide with those of our son’s group two years later, but let’s be realistic — what’s the chance of such a coincidence?

Continue reading Spotting an illusion of choice

Don’t “call me maybe”… or why I am not that fond of phone calls

I heard that this is one of the traits of my generation, but I will refrain from generalizing and speak about myself. I don’t like calls. I don’t like calling myself and I hate when people call me. For a long time I thought I am just scared of calling, in other words that I have some issues with my self-esteem or whatever. Yet that’s not true. Let me explain.

Imagine a setting: I have eventually after a struggle of more than half an hour got our baby to close her eyes and snooze. Precious time! Now I have a moment for myself, a moment to relax, or a moment to finally get down to writing an article or working on something else. My time! And then there is a call… A call that will wake up the baby and that will totally screw up my plans. A call that could have been a message, an email or better — not be there at all. 

I truly don’t get the point of all those cold calls from companies trying to push you their super-amazing offer. Look, if I need something, I will find the information and arrange it myself. You cannot sell it to me by a cold call. For the record, I really feel for people whose job involves cold calling, as I can imagine how many people just hang up on them or even say something rude. I also hang up, yet usually saying: “Thanks, not interested. Have a nice day! Bye!”. Ultimately that’s also hanging up, but at least not so rude. I hope.

When I think about calls in general I perceive them as an intrusion into my personal space. They cut through my silence, they arrogantly demand my attention and they by definition mess up with my plans.

Besides, a lot of calls require providing certain information, which through a call can easily be distorted. It is so easy to misspell the name, to mix up the address or whatever else, so why even bother? An email would cater to that much more efficiently. 

For the calls I need to make myself I apply the same sensitivity. Thus, I would always check if there is an option to contact a person through an email, or through some sort of a contact form on the website. To give them an option to reply to me at their convenience. Besides, most of the time it’s everyone’s convenience. Like, see an example which immediately comes to mind: doctor’s appointments! Why would you try to schedule an appointment through a phone call?! It is so much easier to have an immediate access to doctor’s agenda, where you see when are the open slots and you can just pick. As simple as that! Actually that holds for any scheduling. 

To cut the long story short, if you are not my close friend or if we haven’t agreed on the call in advance, just send me a message, ok? 🙂 

And by the way, what is your attitude to calling?

Traps on the way to solutions

We encounter problems of a different scale on an everyday basis. Sometimes we succeed at finding desirable solutions, yet more than often the road to them turns out to be bumpy. In this short article, I would like to explore three common traps that make a problem-solving exercise very complicated at best.

To begin with, the trap number one is overthinking a problem. Continue reading Traps on the way to solutions

Understanding emotions

Why do we need to understand emotions in the first place? The short answer would be: to better understand ourselves, our triggers, motivation, reservations and ultimately even dreams. They say that there are only six basic emotions: happiness, sadness, fear, anger, surprise, and disgust. Each of the six, however, is a whole spectrum, not just a single state. Are we able to spot these emotions in ourselves? Do we know when we are angry or sad? Can we unambiguously tell fear from disgust? Even more so: are we sure we can recognize happiness?…  Continue reading Understanding emotions