Everything we value in the lives we’ve built rests in part on our bad decisions.

Is there anyone who doesn’t have a time or phase of their lives they regret? Something that they can’t quite forgive themselves for?

For me and many women I know, it’s stuff from our chaotic late teens and early 20s. A lot of us came into adulthood like an asteroid entering the atmosphere, burning up our own selves and everything in our path. …

Image by cromaconceptovisual from Pixabay

There’s a quote that makes the rounds on social media that asks something like, “Remember when you desperately wanted to be where you are right now?”

Although I get the point, I always found this question annoying. The implication seemed to be that as soon as we notice that we’ve gotten where we were trying to go, we will automatically know how to find the destination satisfying.

Maybe that works for some people, but to me it was more like a restatement of the problem than a solution. Like: yes, I thought being an academic and publishing books would make…

Anger is a means of refusing a reality we find unacceptable. This can be a problem, especially when it’s a reality we think really needs to change.

Image by Lothar Dieterich from Pixabay

Anger often happens when we refuse to accept something we already know to be true. This kind of anger is like an emotional protest lodged against the universe.

By this I don’t mean that we only feel it when we’re literally on a protest march or demonstration.

I mean that we feel this anger when we believe something simply should not be the way it is. When the world violates our sense of…

How do we measure the value of individual growth and aspiration in a moment of mass collective crisis?

By personal development, I don’t mean self-care or seeking support for your mental health. I think the point of those in the present is pretty obvious. Who couldn’t use some help just maintaining the status quo right now?

But unlike self-care or therapy, personal development is fundamentally aspirational. It’s not about making the status quo survivable; it’s about taking big leaps into something else or something more. For one person, it might mean going to a meditation retreat, for someone else it…

The best life coaches teach clients to accept the full range of human emotion. So why do we all show up with the same relentlessly positive tone?

Image by Lucija Rasonja from Pixabay

The tone of the mindset-coaching world is relentlessly upbeat. Which seems to make sense, given that mindset coaching promises to give you power over how you experience the world. Why would someone promise that they can help you feel better, and then turn around and also tell you that they feel fucking terrible? It wouldn’t exactly be good advertising.

But it’s actually a bit more complicated than that. In general mindset-coaching tools enable…

Because we could all use a reminder that dark times eventually end

Image by Mysticsartdesign

The first time I did something to mark the winter solstice, I wrote down everything I wanted to leave behind in 2016 on little sticky notes and burned them in my cast iron skillet. (This destroyed the skillet, by the way — definitely do NOT do that.) I am not a religious or spiritual person so I felt a bit awkward setting this up. Like I was playing Druid or something.

But living where it gets dark at 3:30 pm in December taught me to love the winter…

Here’s what to do instead

Most of us believe some version of the expression, “you catch more flies with honey” when it comes to other people.

We wouldn’t try to get a kid to work harder in school by telling them they’re stupid. We wouldn’t train a dog with smacks instead of treats. If we wanted someone to take on a project, we wouldn’t start by reminding them of all the ways they’ve failed at similar things in the past.

But when it comes to the inside of our own heads, this knowledge goes right out the fucking window. Because…

When we stop treating envy as a personal failing and starting treating it as a form of emotional intelligence, we get access to powerful data about who we think we are meant to be.

Envy and what should (not) be

Envy is often treated as a kind of psychological or even spiritual mistake. If we could just stop comparing, we’re told, then we’d stop despairing. The assumption seems to be that when you’re evolved enough, you just won’t concern yourself with what anyone else does or has.

So envy becomes doubly shameful. Not only do we not have what we want, but we’re petty and misguided…

Image by SvetlanaKv from Pixabay

Most of us assume that our brains easily and routinely change their thoughts to accommodate new information and perceptions. Yet decades of studies have shown that brains do they opposite: they shape any incoming information to fit the thoughts we already have.

This happens because of what I call thought inertia. Building new neural pathways is energy intensive, so our brains only do it as a last resort. Until that point, they just interpret any the data in a way that matches existing, well-established thoughts.

It is difficult to over-estimate the power of thought inertia. …

How the Good-Student Mindset Destroys Us, and What to Do Instead

Image credit: Yann Cœuru

The same work ethic that made us such good students becomes a form of self-destruction when applied to academic jobs in the UK humanities. There is an alternative.

Most of us hired as academics have spent a good portion of our lives being excellent students. (To be clear, this is also true of anyone who has ever applied for an academic job; I’m just focusing here on people in full-time jobs.)

By this I mean we did everything asked of us in an academic context to exceedingly high standards, and we were usually rewarded for doing so. …

Jane Elliott PhD

Coach | Academic | Writer

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store