Give people and yourself control

When people believe they’re in control, they tend to work harder and push themselves more. They are, on average, more confident and overcome setbacks faster.

An internal locus of control emerges when we develop a mental habit of transforming chores into meaningful choices, when we assert that we have authority over our lives.

Internal Locus of Control

People with internal locus of control tend to praise or blame themselves for success or failure, rather than assigning responsibility to things outside their influence. They also tend to make more money, have more friends, stay married longer and report greater professional success and satisfaction.

Internal locus of control can be influenced by training and feedback (e.g. students who were praised for their hard work took on harder challenges relative to those who were praised for their talent).

Self-motivation is a skill

Unless we practice self-determination and give ourselves emotional rewards for subversive assertiveness, our capacity for self-motivation can fade. Self-motivation, in other words, is a choice we make because it is part of something bigger and more emotionally rewarding than the immediate task that presents itself.

Self-motivation flourishes when we realize that replying an email or helping a coworker, on its own, might be relatively trivial. But it’s part of a bigger project that we believe in, that we want to achieve, that we have chosen to do.

A team of average performers can achieve great things if they work together

It doesn’t matter who is on the team, what matters is how the team works together. (e.g. SNL). Make sure

  • Everyone on the team has a voice.
  • Everyone understands why their work is important.
  • Everyone understands their work is meaningful.
  • Everyone has their goals and objectives clearly defined.
  • Everyone trusts each other.
  • Everyone has psychological safety.

See More on Google’s project Aristotle

Creating Psychological Safety

  • A leader should never interrupt.
  • Leaders should be good at listening and summarize what they’ve heard.
  • A leader should be transparent and admits when they don’t know something.
  • Teams succeed when everyone feels like they can speak up and when members show they’re sensitive to how one another feels. We need the right norms to make arguments productive rather than destructive. Otherwise, a team never becomes stronger.

Pay attention to Cognitive Tunneling

Once in a cognitive tunnel, we lose our ability to direct our focus. Instead, we latch on to the easiest and most obvious stimulus, often at the cost of common sense. You can think about your bran’s attention span like a spotlight that can go wide and diffused, or tight and focused. Our attention span is guided by our intentions. We choose, in most situations, whether to focus the spotlight or let it be relaxed.

Create Mental Models

People who’re good at managing their attentions create mental models:

  1. Create pictures in your mind of what you expect to see
  2. Tell yourself stories about what’s going on as it occurs
  3. Narrate your own experience within your head
  4. Answer questions with anecdotes than with simple responses
  5. Visualize your day with more specificity

My Goal: Find an aviation story that illustrates mental models

What will happen first? I’ll compile a list of aviation experts.

What distractions are likely to occur? There will be a ton of emails waiting

How will I handle that distractions? I won’t check my email account until 11:30

How will I know I’ve succeeded? I’ll have made at least 10 calls and spoken to 4 aviation experts

What is necessary for success?  I’ll need a cup of coffee so I’m not tempted to get up

What will I do next? I’ll research leads and prepare a call list for the next day

Visualize your day ahead

If you need to improve your focus and learn to avoid distractions, take a moment to visualize with as much detail as possible what you’re about to do. It’s easier to know what’s ahead and when there’s a well-rounded script inside your head.

To-do lists can backfire

To-do lists are just a list of short-term objectives. We feel satisfied each time a task is crossed off. This reinforces our desire for closure. Result is we spend hours answering unimportant emails instead of writing a big, thoughtful memo, because it feels so satisfying to clean out our inbox.

Stretch your SMART Goals

  1. Establish your stretched Big Hairy Audacious (BHAG) goal.
  2. Breakdown the stretch goal into multiple short-term SMART goals. Within psychology, these smaller ambitions are known as “proximal goals”, and repeated studies have shown that breaking a big ambition into proximal goals makes the large objective more likely to occur.

Know 5 Workplace Cultures

  • Star culture
  • Engineering culture
  • Democratic culture (decision is usually controlled by lots of middle managers)
  • Autocratic culture (decision is usually controlled by the top manager)
  • Commitment culture

Researchers found that commitment culture is best management culture because:

  1. The teams have better relationship and therefore more trust
  2. There were fewer lay-offs
  3. The teams have access to dedicated training and development
  4. Customers stayed loyal because they had relationships that stretched over years. Commitment firms dodged one of the business world’s biggest hidden costs: the profits that are lost when an employee takes clients or insights to a competitor.

Get better at decision-making using PPA

Good decision making is contingent on a basic ability to envision what happens next. Uncertainty can be confronting and scary, but there are ways to deal with it:

  1. Probability: As close as you can get to fortune-telling.
  2. Patterns: What you already know and what patterns have already been established.
  3. Assumptions: Based on our experiences in life and what we’ve encountered. Pay attention to both successes and failures.

Innovation is more important than ever

Living in a fast-paced world, where everything seems to be accelerated, the need to innovate has become more significant than ever. Our lives are so saturated that the need for originality is increasing and becoming more difficult. Innovate and innovate fast:

  1. Refinements – taking different, proven ideas and transforming them in new, better ways.
  2. Drawing on experience – looking at our own life, experiences and finding an opportunity we want to explore (e.g. Disney team drew upon their relationships to build that of Anna, Elsa and the theme song ‘Let it go’)
  3. Disrupting – disrupting the norm, changing the team’s dynamics by assigning a new leader or changing the way we’ve been working to uncover the sparks

Information is abundant. Understanding is scarce.

Being surrounded by data (information overload) often makes it harder to decide. When we’re presented with huge amounts of information, our brains revert to a decision “Do I attempt to understand this huge amount of info or simply ignore it?” So, break down huge information into small bits and pieces. Absorb it bit by bit.

To retain better, make it disfluent

Make information harder to interact with (e.g. “Elementary Initiative” and weight loss graphs).

When receiving information, work through it, engage with it (students who took notes performed better on tests than those who typed, because there’s more disfluency)

Learn more


Kyaw Wai Yan Tun

Hi, I'm Wai Yan. I love designing visuals and writing insightful articles online. I see it as my way of making the world a more beautiful and insightful place.