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Self Improvement

In Forge. More on Medium.

Train your brain to master the art of controlled anticipation

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Tell me if this rings a bell: After a long, long, long stretch of pandemic sameness, you finally have something on the calendar that has you looking forward — maybe a date with a friend you haven’t seen in forever, or a weekend day trip, or just a coveted afternoon alone, away from the people you’ve been cooped up with. You’re excited. You’re eager. You’re ready. And then, suddenly, it’s here and then over — and by the time the next week is out, you can barely remember how great you felt.

It’s natural. We have a tendency to tear…

📋 Today’s tip: Write your to-do list on a piece of paper.

There are so many neat apps and other digital tools out there that promise to keep us more organized and on-task, and thank goodness, in These Scattered Times, for that. But sometimes, as Rosie Spinks writes for Forge, the absolute best to-do list is the one you write down, with a pen, on paper.

This is not just for the usual reasons (writing something by hand can help solidify it in your brain, etc). As Spinks points out, a written to-do list can be as intimate and revealing…

📚 Today’s tip: A history book can help you see things a little differently.

Contrary to popular belief, the best way to become an informed citizen isn’t to watch the news or constantly check Twitter. Instead, as Ryan Holiday writes, you can gain an incredible amount of perspective by reading history books. In his annual list of recommendations, Holiday praises titles such as How to Be a Leader by Plutarch, A Calendar of Wisdom by Leo Tolstoy, and Leadership: In Turbulent Times by Doris Kearns Goodwin. “Reading is the way to gain easily what others have gained by difficult experience,”…

Nine phrases to try for yourself

Photo: Carol Yepes/Getty Images

I have finally learned how to say “no.” I am 43. It’s taken 25 years of my adult life to get comfortable with these two tiny letters. Why? Three reasons, the combination of which is the perfect storm for someone like me: 1) I am a people pleaser; 2) it’s human nature to be really needy and demanding, even more so now that we’re trapped at home; and 3) We live in a “say yes to life” culture. But, of all the things that the pandemic has taught me, this is probably the most powerful one: “No” is the new…

Here’s how to maintain your digital resistance

Image: Sukanda Panpa / EyeEm / Getty

If you made a resolution to get off your phone, it’s probably starting to fall apart. The senseless alerts are back, your resolve to “just check one thing” bleeds into the next digital thing, and before you know it an hour (or two or three) have gone by.

You know what it’s costing you. You don’t want to be like the majority of Americans who spend on average 1,200 hours a year on their phone — a full waking month out of every year, a full waking year out of every decade. …

A classic survivor test shows us the danger of abandoning your mission whenever things get uncomfortable

Photo: Klaus Vedfelt/Getty Images

Let’s try something. Imagine you’ve just crash-landed somewhere in the Sonoran Desert, deep in the American Southwest. Though the aircraft is now a smoldering wreck, you miraculously survived uninjured, and now find yourself all alone as the sole survivor. Temperatures are topping 110 degrees, and you’re stranded.

Thankfully, you’ve managed to find a few supplies in the wreckage. But while some of the things are vital to your survival, others are useless. To stay alive until rescuers arrive, you must decide which among these items are most important:

  • A loaded .45 caliber pistol
  • A book titled Edible Plants and Animals…

A list for anyone struggling to see beyond this pandemic moment

Credit: Westend61/Getty Images

Over the past year, we’ve all been tested. Many of us have failed.

The pandemic made some of us callous. It infected others with conspiracy theories. Too many of us gave into apathy and chaos, losing all sense of structure (and spending who knows how many hours watching Netflix). Now, with the pandemic in the home stretch, but still with us, we have to get serious. We have to get serious about the tried and tested way to wisdom: reading.

Books are an investment in yourself — one that can come in many forms: novels, nonfiction, how-to, poetry, classics, biographies…

A pocket knife is an act of kindness. Really.

Person using pocket knife to peel apple skin.
Person using pocket knife to peel apple skin.
Photo: Westend61/Getty Images

I am a firm believer in the altruistic tool — the object you always have handy for other people as much as for you. I once wrote about the impeccably clean hanky. This time, it’s the folding pocket knife. Next time, I’m thinking it will be the wallet Band-Aid.

Whenever I pull my Benchmade 940 pocket knife from my right front pocket, my kids roll their eyes and say, “We know, we know: Always carry a knife.” …

How to turn short-term compassion into long-term empathy

Woman riding train while wearing a face mask.
Woman riding train while wearing a face mask.
Photo: Brasil2/Getty Images

These days, I don’t have to scroll very long before coming across a long-winded rant about pandemic restrictions or a sunny vacation photo with nary a mask in sight. These are people I know, people who have shown me kindness and care through low times in my own life. Each time, the cognitive dissonance makes my head spin.

I recently came across a Twitter thread from the editor Sigrid Ellis that put words to what I’d been feeling: “Americans are really good at acute compassion, but pretty bad at chronic empathy,” the thread begins. “We, without question, haul strangers out…

From drawing a bird to forgiving your ex

Illustrations by the author

A few years ago, I was feeling lost. “Stuck in the weeds” was how I kept referring to my state of existence. A little voice in my head kept telling me, incessantly, “You can’t do anything.” It literally said those words!

One day, I woke up feeling tired of the voice. So I decided to slap back. “Surely I can do some things!” I said out loud. (A word of advice: It’s best to argue with the mean voices in your head in the privacy of your own home.)

I decided to make this a project: I would write about…

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