Life is tough and we’ve all got problems.
But hey, look on the bright side – this article has three science-backed tips to help you live your life smarter, and it’s free!
Any or all of these three tips could end up making a difference in your life.
If you like these tips, please share this article with family and friends to help them live smarter too. Enjoy!
1. Take The Earliest Interview Possible
If you earn an interview, schedule it for the morning.
In this study, the hypothesis was in the form of an example: “An interviewer who has already highly recommended three applicants on a given day may be reluctant to do the same for a fourth applicant.”
Information collected from more than 9,000 M.B.A. interviews supported this hypothesis. And through auxiliary studies, alternative explanations were found to be “unlikely.” In plain words, they found that successful early interviewees “ruined the party” for later interviewees.
This makes sense because of how interviewers expect an even distribution of candidates. When interviewing six people, the interviewer might expect two excellent candidates, two good, one average, and one guy with a fake resume. So when an interviewer encounters three excellent candidates in a row early on, (s)he may unknowingly frame the remaining candidates in a more negative light in order to confirm their expectation bias.
Life tip: Since this passes the common sense test and has a study based on 9,000 interviews to confirm it, there is a clearly a “best time” to be interviewed, and it’s as early as possible. Woe to thou who sleepeth in!
2. Eat Or Drink Sugar For Extra Willpower
Picture this: In his first triathlon, a biker is greatly fatigued, so he reaches for his energy drink or gel pack to replenish his carbohydrates. He’s merely restoring his physical energy reserves, right? No! The science suggests that he’s also replenishing his willpower to continue the race.
One of the first examples of the mind needing and consuming energy was in 1898, when scientist J.C. Welsh gave people a mental task, and told them to push on a dynamometer, which measured the amount of force that they were able to exert. He found that almost all mental tasks reduced their maximum physical force by as much as 50 percent! One could argue that a lack of focus on pushing is what “weakened” them. Fair enough, but it will be hard to argue that after we look at this next study.
Roy Baumeister, a PhD professor from Florida State University, is THE guy you want to talk to when it comes to understanding willpower. He says, “In a study in my lab, we invited some students to eat fresh-baked chocolate-chip cookies, and asked others to resist the cookies and munch on radishes instead. Then we gave them impossible geometry puzzles to solve. The students who ate the cookies worked on the puzzles for 20 minutes, on average. But the students who had resisted the tempting cookies gave up after an average of eight minutes.” (source)
Personally, I love eating raw radishes. They have a delicious kick! But anyway, this study demonstrates that willpower is a diminishing resource with use. The students who resisted cookies the first time gave in much sooner when faced with the math problem than those who ate the cookies. Kids, show this article to your mom and tell her you need a cookie because “it’s the only way I’ll have the willpower to do my math homework. Sorry mom, it’s simple science.”
So what about after you use willpower? For the people who ate radishes, was their willpower gone for the day, or could it be replenished and how?
“My former student Matthew Gailliot, PhD, and I discovered the role of glucose in self-control, more or less by accident.” Baumesiter says, “While testing a different theory, we stumbled on the finding that people who got some food showed improvements in self-control afterward — regardless of whether they had enjoyed the food. This led us into several years of work aimed at finding out how glucose is related to self-control.” (source)
He then says, “replenishing glucose, even just with a glass of lemonade, improves self-control performance.”
Food is the answer to all of your willpower problems, it seems. Actually no, willpower is like a muscle that can be strengthened, as Baumeister mentions in the same interview. But for short term willpower boosts, yes, food that becomes glucose energy is the way to restore it.
This is a cruel irony for those attempting to limit their caloric consumption, isn’t it? The only way to boost their willpower to resist consuming extra calories is to consume calories. Doh!
But moderation and food choice are key. Apples and candy bars both give you a good dose of sugar, but the overall effect is very different, as apples are much lower in calories, lower on the glycemic index, and higher in nutrients.
Apples: 19g sugar, 90 total calories + more than 25 health-critical vitamins and minerals (most ranging from 1-5% of the daily value) + anti-inflammatory polyphenols
Snickers bar: 27g sugar, 250 total calories + 4% DV Calcium and 2% or less of Iron, Vitamin A, and Vitamin C
Now, the issue here, and the reason why an apple might not be the best emergency willpower choice, is that it might consume ever more of your willpower to choose an apple over a snickers bar (like the radish/cookie example). Not only that, but apples will give you a “slow and steady” glucose boost while candy bars will deliver glucose faster. The speed at which food becomes glucose energy is defined by it’s glycemic index.
About The Glycemic Index
The glycemic index measures the manner and speed in which food is converted into glucose energy (your body’s primary fuel source). Pure glucose is the base measurement at 100, as the body doesn’t need to convert it and it becomes usable energy very quickly. Fruits and vegetables mostly have a low glycemic index. Apples, for example have a glycemic index of 35, compared to a Snickers Bar’s glycemic index of 68.
This is a key difference between most fruits and vegetables and processed sugary foods. The sugar from most fruits and vegetables – their other health benefits aside – is converted to energy by the body relatively slowly over time. Sugary candy and other “simple carbohydrates” like white bread, however, spike your blood sugar higher quickly and then drop it. It’s these crashes that make you extremely susceptible to caving in to temptation, whatever your temptation may be.
But rather than tell you exactly what to do, I want you to understand these factors. Then you can realize, “So last week when I went on the sugar-packet frenzy, that’s why I was able to resist smoking for a while, but then my blood sugar crashed and I smoked 17 packs. Ah, that makes sense.” Since willpower is limited, it’s very helpful to know how to manage it to get yourself to live how you’d like to live.
Life Tip: For willpower, which we know requires glucose, try to maintain a steady, but adequate supply of glucose with your diet. If weight loss is your goal and you need willpower to resist food, hopefully you can hold off the junk food, but if you can’t, moderation is key. Try eating an apple or a banana instead. Or if you need a quick glucose boost, a potato is a healthier alternative that has a very high glycemic index. No, not french fries. But can I have one? Ah, I mean no! No fries!
If you’re one who doesn’t care about a few extra calories and a bit of unhealthy sugar, now you know exactly what a glass of lemonade can do for your willpower. But at the same time, a steady flow of glucose is better than rising and dropping your blood sugar like a roller coaster. Eating fruits and vegetables will help keep your blood sugar, energy, and willpower more stable.
Surprise surprise, huh? Another article is recommending that you eat fruits and vegetables. 🙂
3. To Increase Creativity, Reduce Your Options
People tend to think of creativity as “opening the mind to all possibilities.” This is false. Creativity is more like “closing the mind off to most possibilities.”
For example, say you want to create an original story. You let your mind jump from pirates to murder mysteries to coming-of-age stories to James Bond. But where does it get you?
When your mind is wide open to all possibilities, you can’t focus well on any one of them, and that lack of focus thwarts creativity. Eventually, you will have to pick something specific, and continue to narrow your focus until true creativity can be achieved.
Maybe you’ll pick a pirate story, and then decide that your pirate is a former magician who uses magic to intimidate people (similar to Edward Teach, also known as Blackbeard, who reportedly used to light the ends of his hair on fire for intimidation purposes). If that’s not creative enough, narrow your focus further to enrich your characters and their world.
Creativity Is In Depth, Not Breadth
Harry Potter is a “kid wizard who has to defeat an evil wizard.” That doesn’t sound very creative, but J.K. Rowling took that broad idea and dug deeper and deeper until she had created a wholly unique, creative world.
Focusing makes creativity happen. You don’t need more ideas, you need to go deeper with fewer ideas. Science agrees.
Knitting is a hobby that allows for immense creativity, and researchers decided to see how the number of yarn options affected creative output of knitters. Their hypothesis? “We proposed that moderate rather than extensive choice of creative inputs makes experienced consumers more effectively focus on a few rather than many creative paths.” (source)
After the knitters made a scarf, they self-evaluated how creative they thought it was on a scale of 1-7 with 7 being most creative. Those who had extensive choices in yarn gave their scarves an average creativity rating of 5.09, while those with moderate choice gave an average rating of 4.55. So that’s it, more extensive choices make us more creative. Actually, no. This only shows that more choices make people feel more creative, but as we’ll see, feelings aren’t always correct!
What they did next is bring in two creative knitting experts to judge the scarves. Not knowing which scarves were made by whom and with what materials, these judges were asked to give the scarves a creativity rating based on their professional opinion. While the knitters self-graded their scarves on a 7 point scale, these experts used a 10 point scale (I’m not sure why), with 1 being “not creative at all” and 10 being “extremely creative.”
Scarves made from extensive yarn choice options received an average score of 5.56. But the scarves made from fewer choices of yarn earned a far higher average score of 7.67. Of note, these results were from the scarves of experienced knitters (inexperienced knitters scored equally regardless of the number of choices they had).
This is just one example of many out there that shows how creativity is gained through focusing, and that more options seems better, but ultimately worsens creativity. And to verify these results yourself, take a look at the scarves from this study. On the left are scarves made from extensive yarn choices, and on the right are scarves made from a moderate amount of yarn choices.
I’d say it’s pretty clear which scarves are more creative. What do you think?
Life tip: When it comes to creativity, fewer options brings more creativity. For any project, reduce your number of inputs by choosing a few good ones to work with and then continue to narrow your focus. Don’t let the allure of “all possibilities” freeze your creative focus.
Studies like these are very helpful in life, because they uncover universal human traits, like how we favor those we interview first, or how we can consume sugar to resist temptation, or how we’re most creative when we limit our options. If this kind of science interests you, but you’re not one to read boring studies, you’d love subscribing to Deep Existence. I share the science in an entertaining ways, and you’re not going to want to miss the book I’m writing on habits.
At Deep Existence, we focus on focusing. A boost in creativity as we learned here is one of many benefits of focusing. If you decide to sign up for my “Focus Tuesday” Newsletter, I’ll send you my eBook and 40 exclusive focus wallpapers for your computer, all free. If you’re interested, you can get everything here. Join the growing number of us doing our best to stay focused in a distracted world.
Lifestyle choices are important. Do you know the answer to this question? Are Your Lifestyle Choices Killing You? Make sure you read these 8 Simple Rules To Live Long and Strong.
|Written on 9/20/2013 by Stephen Guise. Besides writing for his own blogs Stephen is a featured writer here at Dumb Little Man. Be sure to stop by Stephen’s ‘featured writer page‘ right here on Dumb Little Man to find links to more of his articles.|
Photo Credit: Robin Ducker