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Motivate Yourself 111: What doesn't kill you makes you stronger

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Jessica Hartnett
Let me tell you about a psychology teacher named Jessica Hartnett.
In the autumn of 2007, at Northern Illinois University, Jessica started research into what's called Affective Forecasting. Which is about predicting how we will feel in the future about something that has just happened. Previous studies have shown that we tend to overestimate the influence of both positive and negative events.

Using what is called the PoMS, The Profile of Mood States, students who took part were simply ticking boxes on a computer program that asked them to rate how highly they felt a variety of emotions.
NIU Memorial

All started out fine until Valentines Day 2008 when one of the students at the University took 4 guns into school and shot 26 people, 5 of whom died, and then he killed himself.

The school was closed for a week and after a memorial was opened back up so that everyone could try to put their lives back together as best they could.

Jessica's research carried on for another 2 weeks, but because there had been an obvious change in everyone's circumstances, the original study had to be scrapped.
But it gave her a wonderful tool. A way of comparing how people feel before and then after a serious psychological trauma.
What she discovered is that, despite what had happened to them, everyone was surprisingly positive.
Let me tell you a little about the PoMS, The Profile of Mood States.

It goes through a 36-item scale that asks participants to rate, from 1 to 5, the extent to which they are currently experiencing a variety of different emotions that can be split into 6 subscales.

Depression
Vigor
Tension
Fatigue
Confusion
Anger


Here's what she found.
Average Before The Shooting:
Average Afterward:
Depression:
Vigor:
Tension:
Fatigue:
Confusion:
Anger:




1.48
2.2
1.51
2.12
1.68
1.43




1.52
2.11
1.51
2.17
1.79
1.7




The only slight shift is Anger, and then it's not even half a point!

Now, heres the really interesting part.
The following year they repeated the exercise with new students but asked the participants to fill it in twice. The second time they were asked to fill it in based on how they imagined they would feel if they had been a student at the time of the shooting.

What it showed is that they massively underestimated how emotionally strong they would be.
Their expectation of Depression and Confusion was double what the genuine scores were. Anger and Tension was predicted at even more than double and their expectation of vigour and fatigue was totally wrong too.
It seems we are not very good at predicting to what degree negative events would upset us.
In fact if you look at student attendance at that same University. The year of the shooting virtually no students dropped out of their course!
Yet everywhere else would routinely lose 15 percent of its students. Something at that University encouraged students to complete their studies, when they wouldn't normally have done so.

Friedrich Nietzsche
Knowing that Friedrich Nietzsche was right and his quote is actually more than just a cliché can allow us to let go of our fears of the future.

It turns out that it won't actually matter if we make the wrong decision with our degree, our job or our relationship. We will get over a bad situation quite quickly and become more reliant because of it.
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Episode List

Episode 138: Keeping Up With The Joneses
Episode 137: The Likeable You
Episode 136: Why It's OK To Be A Loser
Episode 135: The Psychology Of Extremism
Episode 134: Are You A Lobster?
Episode 133: Critical Thinking
Episode 132: There Is Nothing Either Good Or Bad
Episode 131: The For And Against Of Imagination
Episode 130: Loneliness & Social Networks
Episode 129: Letting Go Of The Past
Episode 128: What Is Love?
Episode 127: Procrastination
Ep. 126: Who Were You Before The World Changed You?
Episode 125: Stop Saying "Sorry"
Episode 124: Emotional Contagion
Episode 123: Patience
Episode 122: Building On Your Foundations
Episode 121: Dealing With The Critics
Episode 120: Being Assertive. Just Say No!
Episode 119: Inactivity
Episode 118: Social Functioning & Evolution
Episode 117: Unleash Your Inner Superhero
Episode 116: Goals, Values and Priorities
Episode 115: 10 Tips To A Happier Life
Episode 114: Lies And Confabulation
Episode 113: Confirmation Bias
Episode 112: Are You An Imposter?
Episode 111: What Doesn't Kill You Makes You Stronger
Episode 110: Are New Years Resolutions a good idea?
Episode 109: The African Violet Queen Of Milwaukee
Episode 108: Reframing
Episode 107: Spiders And Behaviourism
Episode 106: Practise Makes Perfect
Episode 105: Fear Of Flying
Episode 100 - 104: Happiness
Episode 99: Body Image And The Media
Episode 98: Evolution and Adaptation
Episode 97: Reflections And Regrets.
Episode 96: Dealing With Fear
Episode 95: Confidence
Episode 94: Enthusiasm
Episode 93: Tips To Relieve Christmas Stress
Episode 92: Dealing With Change
Episode 87 - 91: Self Esteem
Episode 86: Correlation Does Not Imply Causation
Episode 85: The Importance Of Being Lazy
Episode 84: Elephant Chains
Episode 83: Eating Bananas And Setting Goals
Episode 82: Ignoring The Media And Listening To Music
Episode 81: Awakening The Instincts
Episode 80: The Fine Line Between Love And Hate
Episode 79: The Best Medicine
Episode 78: A New Start
Episode 77: Time Distortion
Episode 76: Making Decisions
Episode 75: What's In A Name?
Episode 74: Pushing Ourselves Further
Episode 73: Conformity
Episode 72: Purpose
Episode 71: Perspective
Episode 70: Expectation
Episode 69: The Mind / Body Link
Episode 68: Overcoming Shyness
Episode 67: Mood Boosting
Episode 66: Sabotaging your goals
Episode 65: Self Talk
Episode 64: Money Makes The World Go Round
Episode 63: First Impressions Count
Episode 62: False Belief
Episode 61: Absolutes
Episode 60: The Psychology of feeling calm
Episode 59: Belief
Episode 58: Anchoring Emotions
Episode 57: Negativity and Perspective
Episode 56: Health And Happiness
Episode 55: Imagination vs Reality
Episode 54: Change