S13 E13 Clearer, Closer, Better: How Successful People See the World | Dr. Emily Balcetis

In my most recent episode, I am joined by top motivation science speaker, author, and associate professor of psychology at NYU, Dr. Emily Balcetis. Emily has over 70 published scientific pieces of writing, her fantastic work has been featured by numerous publications and outlets such as Forbes, Newsweek, Time, and more. She has been a featured speaker of TEDxTalks, various media outlets, podcasts, universities, community organizations, and corporations. Over the course of 20 years, Emily has become one of the most sought-after voices on motivation science. 

Most recently, Emily has written and published a fantastic, insightful book, “Clearer, Closer, Better: How Successful People See the World.” Bill and Emily discuss concepts, practices, and ideas found in her new book. 

Here are a few takeaways: 

  • The psychology and science of motivation 
  • How to set goals, follow through, and achieve them 
  • What is visual experience and how can it help? 
  • Multitasking and task-switching 
  • Growing your toolbox to get the job done

As a CIO and Business IT Leader here are some wins you will get by listening:  

  • (1:50) Bill: “Everybody listening her has goals and things they’re trying to achieve and so I think as we go along there’s more science and more research than 20 years ago.”
  •  (3:30) Emily: “The origins of psychology and motivation science from those studies of how frequently we should give little food pellets to pigeons is really the basis for some of the most pressing questions that we’re grappling with today as scientists.”
  • (4:30) Emily: “People have thought vision is special, they think it’s the one sense that cannot be influenced by what we’re thinking, by our internal world. I disagree. Our visual experiences that we’re consciously aware of, that we recognize, are not the same and we don’t go about it in the same way.”
  •  (5:30) Emily: “If we are aware of that, we can harness that as a superpower that we have to help us better meet our goals, or to understand why we’re struggling in the first place.”
  •  (6:30) Emily: “Mental representation, that is one aspect of visual experience, the image that comes to your mind when you think about a concept. We also study other elements of visual experience like where I orient visual attention. Do I really pay attention to everything that’s there or just a subset of what my eyes are focusing on?” 
  • (7:00) Emily: “We study all of that in a controlled sense. Here’s a finish line for example, it’s in the same place for everyone but we don’t see distance the same way. It will look farther to you than me, or vice versa, depending on other factors we throw into that calculation.”
  • (15:30) Emily: “The way we think about time is what stands in our way of doing our best work and meeting our goals, especially when it comes to something that might need our daily investment or continual investment for something that won’t reap results until a far off future.” 
  • (16:00) Emily: “When people feel like something is far away, it is challenging to make that daily sacrifice, and so oftentimes they don’t do it or they think they’ll work on it tomorrow.” 
  • (16:30) Emily: “If we take that idea of narrowed focus of attention and apply it not so much to literally what our eyes are focused on in our environment but cognitively what am I focusing my thoughts on, my visualizations right now.” 
  • (18:30) Emily: “Why do people give up? Why do they throw in the towel? Why do they not go out to exercise in the first place? Their beliefs about that distance demotivates them from even trying in the first place.” 
  • (20:30) Emily: “Time is an element that can stand in our way, and what can we do to contract time when time is the problem.” 
  • (22:30) Emily: “With visual experience, there’s a direct connection between what we see and what we do. And a lot of the times that connection isn’t something that we’re aware of.” 
  • (27:00) Bill: “So you’re making the cognitive load of you’re setting yourself up for success because the vision is so powerful that it either can support or it can override depending for motivation.” 
  • (27:40) Emily: “Cognitive psychologists have said, ‘No, there isn’t such a thing as multitasking, it’s task switching.’ It’s just how quickly can you ping back and forth between things that might seem incompatible to be doing.” 
  • (29:30) Emily: “A lot of people don’t like that experience of multitasking as much as they might like the experience of flow.” 
  • (30:00) Emily: “Rather than trying to figure out is it good or is it bad, can we do it, can we not, let the philosophers figure that one out. Instead, why don’t we just think about it as a tool that there are different things that happen to our brain when we multitask or task switch and let’s be aware of it and use it to our advantage.” 
  • (32:30) Emily: “Stress isn’t always bad. It can jumpstart our neurological architecture that can help us make decisions better, it can think about what is that flight fight response doing.” 
  • (33:30) Emily: “Let’s be aware of what multitasking, task switching does to us, and let’s be conscientious in how we use it.”  
  • (35:30) Bill: Goal setting and achievement?” 
  • (35:35) Emily: “Step one is thinking about fresh starts; anything that we give psychological import to can be a fresh start. Choose a moment for a fresh start where people feel like they can put the past in the past and not carry baggage moving forward.” 
  • (37:00) Emily: “The second one is a lot of people like dream board within their businesses that reflects their desired outcome. It is important to know where are we headed? What is our five-year goal or 10-year plan? We need the ebbs and flows.” 
  • (39:00) Emily: “We also need to add foreshadowing obstacles. We need to think about what’s going to stand in our way, what are the possible challenges that I might experience, and troubleshoot possible solutions in advance of experiencing them.” 
  • (39:30) Emily: “If you are up against a major obstacle professionally, you’re going to be short on time, resources, people, power, and at a heightened level of anxiety which is not going to let us be our most creative selves.” 
  • (41:30) Emily: “Some disciplines, some industries, their brains are better wired, it’s more habitual for them to be thinking about risk and mitigating it in advance. Sometimes people don’t go through that activity is that they often think that this wouldn’t happen to them, bad things don’t happen to them.” 
  • (42:30) Emily: “We have this cognitive illusion, this cognitive bias to underweight bad things and overweight the likelihood of good things happening to us.” 
  • (47:30) Emily: “We need to expand our toolbox of tools that are available to us to help us get the job done, I encourage everybody to keep building out that toolbox of strategies that they have to help get their jobs done.”

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