Why We Act Irrationally: Harvard Psychologist Ellen Langer Reveals the One Word That Drives Our Senseless Habits

It was 1977 and, although nobody knew it at the time, psychologist Ellen Langer and her research team at Harvard University were about to conduct a study that would change our understanding of human behavior.

It all started when Langer asked her research assistants to cut in front of innocent people waiting in line at the photocopiers in the library.
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The 5 Triggers That Make New Habits Stick

In his best-selling book, The Power of Habit (audiobook), author Charles Duhigg explains a simple three-step process that all habits follow. This cycle, known as The Habit Loop, says that each habit consists of…

  1. The Trigger: the event that starts the habit.
  2. The Routine: the behavior that you perform, the habit itself.
  3. The Reward: the benefit that is associated with the behavior.

The image below shows how these three factors work together to build new habits. [1]

The 3 R's of Habit Change

Each phase of the loop is important for building new habits, but today I’d like to discuss the first factor: habit triggers.

There are five primary ways that a new habit can be triggered. If you understand each of them, then you can select the right one for the particular habit that you are working on. Here’s what you need to know about each trigger…
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Bob Mathias on How to Master the Art of Self-Confidence

By the time his senior year in high school rolled around, Bob Mathias had developed into a talented track athlete. He could run fast, jump high, and throw far. Given his wide-ranging talents, his high school coach suggested that Mathias try decathlon–a grueling combination of 10 track and field events.

Mathias succeeded immediately, winning his first competition. Just a few months later, he qualified to compete at the 1948 Olympics in London. 1

Completely off the radar heading into the competition, Mathias stormed the Olympics. He placed first in four of the ten events and ran away with the gold medal. Just seventeen years old and fresh out of high school, Mathias became the youngest gold medalist to ever win a track and field event. When news of his victory reached his hometown of Tulare, California, the local factory blew the whistles for 45 minutes straight. He had entered the Olympics as an unknown kid and returned to America as a national hero.

How did a teenage underdog develop the self-confidence required to win a gold medal on the world’s biggest stage? What type of mindset did Mathias bring to his competitions? And what can we learn from it?
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  1. This is a numeric footnote!

Albert Einstein’s Incredible Work Ethic: Lessons on Creativity and Contribution

As soon as he hung up the phone, Ralph Morse knew that he needed to get moving. He was still 90 miles away and there wouldn’t be much time before people began to hear the news. Albert Einstein had just died.

Morse was a photographer for LIFE Magazine. He drove down to Princeton, New Jersey as fast as possible, but other members of the media had already been alerted by the time he arrived. Morse would later recall the situation by saying,

“Einstein died at Princeton Hospital, so I headed there first. But it was chaos — journalists, photographers, onlookers. So I headed over to Einstein’s office at the Institute for Advanced Studies. On the way, I stopped and bought a case of scotch. I knew people might be reluctant to talk, but most people are happy to accept a bottle of booze, instead of money, in exchange for their help. So I get to the building, find the superintendent, give him a fifth of scotch and like that, he opens up the office.” [1]

When Morse walked into Einstein’s office, he snapped a photo of the desk where Einstein had been working just hours before.

Nobody knew it yet, but Einstein’s body would be cremated before anyone could capture a final photo of him. As a result, Morse’s photo of Einstein’s desk would soon become the final iconic image of the great scientist’s career. [2]
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Announcing the 2015 Habits Seminar (Live Event on February 18th)

Today I am excited to announce the 2015 Habits Seminar, which is a live online class that I will be hosting on February 18th.

Each year, I conduct one seminar on the science of behavior change and how to build habits that stick. We’ll talk about what’s working now, what always works, and what to avoid if you want to stick to good habits and break bad ones. Hundreds of people have already signed up and I’m going to take this opportunity to share more details about the event.

First, let me talk about why you would want to attend…
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Fear vs. Ambition

Last year, I started adding little pieces of inspirational hand-drawn art to my articles. I’m not much of an artist, but I’ve enjoyed visually displaying the ideas and values that our community believes in.

Because the feedback I’ve received about the images has been popular, I’m going to start sharing them more frequently. Occasionally, I’ll share an image by itself (like today) and let the image spark some thoughts for you rather than writing a full post on the subject.

Here’s a new one on creativity, entrepreneurship, and sharing your work with the world. I hope you like it.
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Vince Lombardi on the Hidden Power of Mastering the Fundamentals

It was July of 1961 and the 38 members of the Green Bay Packers football team were gathered together for the first day of training camp. The previous season had ended with a heartbreaking defeat when the Packers squandered a lead late in the 4th quarter and lost the NFL Championship to the Philadelphia Eagles.

The Green Bay players had been thinking about this brutal loss for the entire off-season and now, finally, training camp had arrived and it was time to get to work. The players were eager to advance their game to the next level and start working on the details that would help them win a championship.

Their coach, Vince Lombardi, had a different idea.
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