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PERMA: A theory of well-being

By Christian Staal

Everybody wants to be happy, but what is happiness? One of the most widely recognised theories of happiness, is Martin Seligman’s PERMA-model, which posits five elements of psychological well-being:

  • Positive emotions (feeling good)
  • Engagement (experiencing flow, using your strengths)
  • Relationships (connecting with other people)
  • Meaning (making a difference)
  • Achievement (accomplishing something worthwhile)

Flourish (book) by Martin Seligman
The New Era of Positive Psychology (TED Talk) by Martin Seligman
Grit (TED Talk) by Angela Duckworth
Flow (TED Talk) by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi

Second-Order Consequences

By Christian Staal

Do you think about the consequences of your actions? Most people think about the direct effects of their actions (the first-order consequences).

If you want to take your thinking to the next level, start thinking about what happens as a result of the direct effects of your actions (the second-order consequences).

Second-Order Thinking: What Smart People Use to Outperform (article) by Farnam Street.

Principles (book) by Ray Dalio

The Peak-End Rule

By Christian Staal

Think of one of your most cherished memories. What do you think determines how you remember it today? You would think that your memory of the experience is determined by how good you felt, and for how long. However, research shows that the duration of an experience is mostly neglected when we think about our past.

Two things influence how you remember an experience: how you felt at the emotional peak of the experience, and how you felt at the end. 

The riddle of experience vs. memory (TED Talk) by Daniel Kahneman
Thinking, Fast and Slow (book) by Daniel Kahneman

The world is getting better

By Christian Staal

Most people think that the world is getting worse. That’s the picture painted by the news. It seems like there’s more violence and misery in the world than ever before.

In reality, the opposite is true: the world is richer, happier, healthier and safer than ever before.


Feeling overwhelmed? Try this.

By Christian Staal

What do you when you’re feeling overwhelmed? My favourite answer to this question comes from Jocko Willink (former Navy SEAL Commander): “Prioritize and execute.”

It’s as simple as that. Make a list, get clear on what’s most important, and executive on your priorities.

Tribe of Mentors (book) by Tim Ferriss, p. 539.

How do you make people feel?

By Christian Staal

People are emotional creatures. When you’re having a discussion, creating a piece of art or helping someone you love, be mindful of your emotional impact on your fellow human beings. As Maya Angelou said: people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel. 


How to Win Friends and Influence People (book) by Dale Carnegie.

Origin of the Maya Angelou quote (quoteinvestigator.com).

What are you bad at?

By Christian Staal

It’s never fun to find out that you’re bad at something, but it’s often a blessing in disguise. Everybody has weaknesses, and only by seeing yours clearly, can you overcome them.

In Principles, Ray Dalio puts it eloquently: You shouldn’t be upset if you find out that you’re bad at something – you should be happy that you found out, because knowing that and dealing with it will improve your chances of getting what you want.


Principles (book) by Ray Dalio [from principle #1.10e]

The Tipping Point

By Christian Staal

Ideas spread like epidemics: From one person to another. The Tipping Point occurs when an idea reaches a level of momentum, where it takes on a life of its own, and keeps rolling by itself.


The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell
Unleashing the Ideavirus by Seth Godin

The other side of the river

By Christian Staal

People tend to overestimate how well they understand each other. This is a dangerous mistake to make, because it reinforces false beliefs and blinds us to reality. Your best defense here is humility. When talking to someone who disagrees with you, don’t assume that she doesn’t understand you; assume you don’t understand her. It’s only by realising how little you know, that you get to learn more.


Mindwise (book) by Nicholas Epley

The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People (book, habit #5) by Stephen Covey

Love the Plateau

By Christian Staal

When learning a new skill, it’s common to experience rapid progress at first, followed by a longer period of stagnation. If you want to master a skill, you will spend the majority of your time on various plateaus. This is difficult to accept, because we want quick results. If you want to become a master of a given discipline, you must learn to love the plateau.


Mastery (book, chapter 4) by George Leonard

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