Researchers Just Discovered A Way To Trick Your Brain Into Success

First, figure out whether you’re an early bird, night owl, or “permanently exhausted pigeon”

Hey, it’s cool, Obama: We do our best work when we’re tired.

When a test, project, or deadline looms, do you apply yourself harder or binge shows on Netflix? If you’re prone to the latter, you probably realize on some level that you’re engaging in “self-sabotaging” behaviors. In other words, your brain is trying to soften the blow of potential failure by manufacturing circumstances that prevent you from carrying out a stressful activity.

But a new study out of Indiana University (IU) reveals something surprising about self-sabotage: Whether you’re a person who identifies as a “morning person” or a “night owl”—terms that correlate with your peak hours of alertness and energy—you are most likely to undermine yourself when you should theoretically be at your best.

Why? Because avoidance takes nearly as much effort as actual work. “You can get yourself more worked up about something when you have the resources to be able to think it through,” says Ed Hirt, lead study author and professor of social psychology in the IU department of psychological and brain sciences.

Though Cori Magnotta, a product specialist in Portland, Connecticut, identifies as a night owl, she jokingly refers to herself as a “permanently exhausted pigeon.” In a recent example of self-sabotage, she needed to clean the house for her two-year-old’s birthday party but “was a sloth all day and then around 8 p.m. started running around and cleaning like a maniac,” she says.

Having bitten off too large a task to complete in the time, Magnotta stayed awake for “almost 24 hours straight to finish before the guests arrived.” The root of this behavior, she says, “comes from a place of feeling overwhelmed. Shutting down doesn’t take much effort, but dealing with the anxiety of knowing that I should be productive takes effort.”

[quote position="right" is_quote="true"]Self-sabotaging is almost always related to the woolly emotional monster that we call fear.[/quote]

Morning people suffer from self-sabotage, too. Antonia Malchik, a Montana writer and morning person who finds the brittle hour of 4 a.m. her most productive, has figured out how to sabotage her peak hours by staying up too late. “I know perfectly well that if I don’t go to bed by 9:30 at night, I won’t be getting up at 4 a.m.”

And she doesn’t stop there if she’s on a self-sabotage streak. “I’ll use up all my morning work time by checking Twitter,” she says, tracing this behavior to a fear of failure. “It would make a lot more sense to deal with fear by just doing the work, but there are times when the fear is overwhelming and I end up giving into panic.” TV is her drug of choice when the anxiety comes.

“Self-sabotaging is almost always related to the woolly emotional monster that we call fear,” Dr. Juli Fraga, a San Francisco psychologist, says. “People may self-sabotage when they are afraid of failure, or success for that matter… The fear of failing is larger than failure itself, [which] is really just an opportunity for self-growth.”

To understand these fairly common habits of self-sabotage, the IU research team administered intelligence tests to 237 students (male and female), either at 8 a.m. or 8 p.m., in accordance with whichever time the students identified as their peak hours.

Half of the group was told that stress would affect performance on the test, and the other half was told it would not. The research team then allowed students to use “recent elevated stress” as an excuse for why they would not do well on the test—in essence, testing to see who would self-sabotage by claiming stress.

[quote position="left" is_quote="true"]It would make a lot more sense to deal with fear by just doing the work, but there are times when it’s too overwhelming.[/quote]

“What we found was those people who were at their peak times were the ones who took advantage of that stress opportunity. Whereas people at their non-peak times, they didn’t exercise their opportunity to handicap in that situation, which seems against the odds,” says Hirt, adding that having “full resources and being more alert” is more likely to cause a person to engage in self-sabotage.

In short: Morning people should try working at night, and night owls should do the opposite.

The study also found that people who talk about their fear of not doing well—thus anticipating and articulating negative outcomes—are even more likely to sabotage themselves during their peak hours. For that reason, Hirt’s team is also studying how to help people focus more on the positive to drive them toward habits of success. “If you can shift … away from thinking about the negative and more toward approaching the positive and success, the [sabatoging] behavior seems to disappear.”

Meanwhile, Fraga recommends the following tips if you tend to destroy your chances at success: Start small—perhaps breaking scarily big tasks into manageable bits. And when you recognize that you’re feeling fear, try confronting it (rather than avoiding it) by asking yourself, “What would I do if I weren't afraid?”

But the best move might just be the simplest, no matter how counterintuitive: Work when you’re tired. Your brain and body will be too exhausted to get in your own way.

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The problem with American Sign Language (ASL) is that over 500,000 people in the U.S. use it, but the country has over 330 million people.

So for those with hearing loss, the chances of coming into contact with someone who uses the language are rare. Especially outside of the deaf community.

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Looking back, the year 1995 seems like such an innocent time. America was in the midst of its longest streak of peace and prosperity. September 11, 2001 was six years away, and the internet didn't seem like much more than a passing fad.

Twenty-four years ago, 18 million U.S. homes had modem-equipped computers, 7 million more than the year before. Most logged in through America Online where they got their email or communicated with random strangers in chat rooms.

According to a Pew Research study that year, only 32% of those who go online say they would miss it "a lot" if no longer available.

Imagine what those poll numbers would look like if the question was asked today.

RELATED: Bill and Melinda Gates had a surprising answer when asked about a 70 percent tax on the wealthiest Americans

"Few see online activities as essential to them, and no single online feature, with the exception of E-Mail, is used with any regularity," the Pew article said. "Consumers have yet to begin purchasing goods and services online, and there is little indication that online news features are changing traditional news consumption patterns."

"Late Night" host David Letterman had Microsoft founder and, at that time the richest man in the world, on his show for an interview in '95 to discuss the "the big new thing."

During the interview Letterman chided Gates about the usefulness of the new technology, comparing it to radio and tape recorders.

Gates seems excited by the internet because it will soon allow people to listen to a baseball game on their computer. To which Letterman smugly replies, "Does radio ring a bell?" to laughter from the crowd.

But Gates presses Letterman saying that the new technology allows you to listen to the game "whenever you want," to which Letterman responds, "Do tape recorders ring a bell?"

Gates then tells Letterman he can keep up with the latest in his favorite hobbies such as cigar smoking or race cars through the internet. Letterman shuts him down saying that he reads about his interests in magazines.

RELATED: Bill Gates has five books he thinks you should read this summer.

The discussion ends with the two laughing over meeting like-minded people in "troubled loner chat room on the internet."

The clip brings to mind a 1994 segment on "The Today Show" where host Bryant Gumbel and Katie Couric have a similar discussion.

"What is internet anyway?" an exasperated Gumball asks. "What do you write to it like mail?"

"It's a computer billboard but it's nationwide and it's several universities all joined together and it's getting bigger and bigger all the time," a producer explains from off-stage.

Photo by Li-An Lim on Unsplash

The future generations will have to live on this Earth for years to come, and, not surprisingly, they're very concerned about the fate of our planet. We've seen a rise in youth activists, such as Greta Thunberg, who are raising awareness for climate change. A recent survey indicates that those efforts are working, as more and more Americans (especially young Americans) feel concerned about climate change.

A new CBS News poll found that 70% of Americans between 18 and 29 feel climate change is a crisis or a serious problem, while 58% of Americans over the age of 65 share those beliefs. Additionally, younger generations are more likely to feel like it's their personal responsibility to address climate change, as well as think that transitioning to 100% renewable energy is viable. Overall, 25% of Americans feel that climate change is a "crisis," and 35% feel it is a "serious problem." 10% of Americans said they think climate change is a minor problem, and 16% of Americans feel it is not a problem that worries them.

The poll found that concern for the environment isn't a partisan issue – or at least when it comes to younger generations. Two-thirds of Republicans under the age of 45 feel that addressing climate change is their duty, sentiments shared by only 38% of Republicans over the age of 45.

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