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A publication from Medium on personal development.


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An idle mind is not a lazy mind

Illustration: Justin Cassano

I’m not generally good at doing nothing. I’m a time-management and productivity expert, and I also have five children; I’m almost never idle. But I was recently reminded how sometimes you have to create a little idleness in order to let a new idea in. On a beach trip, I was technically “doing something” as I waded in the waves, but navigating the breakers required very little attention. So my mind wandered — right to a solution for a problem I’d been ruminating on for weeks. There it was in my mind, clearly worded and ready to be typed up.

The question that changed my way of being

Close up of a man smiling with his eyes closed.
Close up of a man smiling with his eyes closed.
Photo: Gen Nishino/The Image Bank/Getty Images Plus

It’s funny how the smallest, silliest thoughts can have a catalytic effect on a person. I had one of those thoughts recently, and it 180’d me into a new way of being.

I’d been thinking about how I spend far too much time dwelling in dark feelings, or what I call “emotional murk.” I’ve lived this way for most of my life: When I was growing up, my dad always valued negative emotions more than positive ones — to him, feelings such as anger, depression, sadness, frustration, and anxiety gave someone depth. Those emotions were valuable. They were real. In…

Our natural biases make us focus on scary news, but that doesn’t mean you have to live in fear

Photo: pixelfit/Getty Images

We all do it about a hundred times a day: Open our preferred news app; read a terrifying headline about scary new health research; experience that now-familiar anxiety level spike. Consume too much media and it can feel like the world is ending every day. Trust me, I get it.

As a doctor, I get my medical information from validated scientific sources. But when I want to catch up on the latest “health tips” that my patients might be seeing, I check my Facebook feed. …

Your brain wants to protect you from your own decisions, but you can decide to override it

Photo: alvarez/Getty Images

Deciding to become a full-time freelance writer was itself a full-time job for me. I spent hours every day — for months — making lists of the pros and cons of being self-employed. But the more I deliberated over it, the more anxious I got, and then I would start the process all over again.

It feels a lot like what happens at the supermarket: I’ll pick up a box of cereal only to put it back down again and come back to it later.

The human instinct to weigh up the risks associated with each option is a survival…

The best lessons from films and fiction on what makes a hero

Robin Williams and Matt Damon in ‘Good Will Hunting.’ Photo: Miramax Films

Every now and then, we come across someone who’s simply awe-inspiring. They’re magnetic, glowing, irresistible. What makes them this way? Why do we look up every story they’ve written, watch every video they’ve appeared in, and listen to their entire backlog of podcast interviews?

I wonder about this every day. The reason I write stories about triumph is so that I can study heroes. It’s the only way I’ll ever understand what it takes to become one. …

It’s easy to ask someone else for permission. A therapist explains how to grant it to yourself.

Photo: Tom Werner/Getty Images

Lately, many of my therapy clients have asked some version of the same question: “It’s okay to not have it all together, right?”

It’s a question I’m seeing plenty of in my personal life, too. I’m on a group text with friends where we regularly send photos of towering laundry piles and chaotic kitchens, or confess that we had tater tots for dinner again. It’s cathartic to read their messages, to see the mess of other peoples’ lives instead of the tidy lies posted to social media. …

It’s basic math, really

Photo: Jose Luis Pelaez Inc/Getty Images

Life is a constant series of trade-offs: Everything you do is something you choose at the expense of something else.

Many of these choices, especially on a day-to-day level, are meaningless — for instance, both a banana and an apple are perfectly fine snack options, and your selection probably won’t alter the course of your life. Yet some choices come with profound implications. Say you’ve been offered an exciting job, but accepting would require moving to a city you might not like. You have just a few days to decide. What should you do?

To make the best decision possible…

As Forge turns one, we look back at the stories that helped us make sense of the last 12 months — and provide a blueprint for your future

Photo: Pradeep Kumar/EyeEm/Getty Images

One year ago, we introduced our new publication, and characterized its world like this:

“Self help” has come a long way, and in its current iteration we talk more about progress, bravery, and mindfulness; doing more, and being more creative. The field has become less gendered, more universal and global, and a whole lot more interesting than it once was.

Here at Forge, we’re all obsessed with the individual’s engagement with the world. What we didn’t know in June 2019 was how crucial that engagement would become. The pandemic, the ongoing fight against racial injustice, and the financial crisis are…

Feeling socially connected is a need all of us share, but human interaction isn’t the only way to get it

Photo: Bettina Mare Images/Getty Images

There was a point, midway through quarantine, where I started to wonder if I was made for it.

I’m used to alone time in abundance — I spent seven years living on my own. And I know firsthand that loneliness and being alone are two different things, and that the presence or absence of other people isn’t necessarily tied to the emotional state. Still, as the time in lockdown stretched on, I braced myself for the wave of loneliness to hit.

Strangely, it never did. I’m not saying I’ve been enjoying this time — I’d do some terrible things for…

Just the act of making a plan has huge benefits

Illustration: Andrea Chronopoulos

I’m supposed to be at a music festival in Germany right now, not at home writing this column. My friend and I made the plans months ago. For obvious reasons, that festival isn’t happening.

My kids should be preparing for camp right now. Back in January, I created a camp spreadsheet organizing where each of my four school-aged children would be during July and August. Now all those camps have been canceled as well.

When nothing goes according to plan, it’s tempting to conclude that planning is a giant waste of time. Life is unknowable. …

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