1. Let’s imagine you are on a diet but the slice of cheesecake in the fridge was just too tempting. What should you tell yourself? A) ‘That was a stupid thing to do!’ B) ‘Keeping to a diet can be tough’.

B.) ‘Keeping to a diet can be tough.’ Researchers have shown that self-compassion or forgiveness is more effective than finger-wagging, carping, critical voices in our head. Self-compassion is like a supportive, non-critical friend who just wants to see you back on the wagon. Soft on bad behaviour? Who cares? It works.

2. You’ve come up with a brilliant idea. It’s going to cost a significant amount of money so you have to persuade the senior management team. The team is meeting all day. You are offered two slots to present your proposal. Should you choose 11.30am or 1pm?

1pm. Their glucose levels will be restored after lunch. Our brains guzzle glucose, especially when we are asked to make a difficult judgement, resist temptation or take a risk. If their brain fuel is low, the senior managers are more likely to go for the safe option of turning you down.

An Israeli study illustrates how powerful the effect of glucose levels can be. The researchers gave judges hearing prisoners applying for parole some fruit and a sandwich in a mid-morning break. They compared their decisions before and after. The safe decision is to refuse a prisoner’s application. Granting parole is not only risky, but takes more thought. Before the fruit and sandwich, the judges only granted parole 20 per cent of the time. After? 65 per cent.

3. True or false? ‘One of the best ways to help kids (and adults) achieve is to boost their self-esteem’

False. Self-esteem is a good thing, but focusing on it could be harmful. ‘Wow an A! You must be really brainy/talented/artistic’ might seem encouraging, but it promotes the idea that achievement is about talent, not effort. Children and adults with that fixed mindset are less inclined to practise (because 'talented people don’t need practice'). They are also less inclined to stretch themselves with challenges because any failure would suggest they were not talented after all.

Researchers report that self-esteem doesn’t have much to do with achievement. What little connection there is seems to be more a result of success than a cause of it.

4. You are preparing your presentation. What’s most likely to make your key ideas memorable? A) What you say B) Your pictures C) It depends on each person’s learning style

B) Your pictures. If you hear information, it’s likely that you’ll remember 10 per cent of it three days later. Add a picture and you’re likely to remember 65%. Dr John Medina, from the University of Washington School of Medicine, says, ‘vision trumps all other senses’. He advocates appealing to combinations of vision, sound, touch, taste and even smell.

We’ve moved on from believing that we have to find learners’ preferred learning styles and cater for them specifically.

5. Which percentage of New Zealand employees change job each year? A) Less than 5% B) 30% C) More than 50%.

C) More than 50%. We have one of the highest turnovers in the world, but the champion job-hoppers are the Aussies at 62% a year. The figures come from the Kelly Global Workforce Index 2013 – a survey with 120,000 respondents.

6. Generally speaking, does changing jobs make employees happier?

No, though it depends a bit on their age. In the Kelly survey, only slightly more than half of Gen Ys said they were happier in their new jobs. Moving was even less successful for Baby Boomers. Only 40% reported being happier in the new organisation.

7. Which sense is most likely to trigger a memory?

Smell. It’s surprisingly effective. Let’s say we give you popcorn to eat while you watch a movie. Later, we pipe the aroma of popcorn past you while we ask you for details about the movie. We’d expect you to remember 10-50% more with the popcorn trigger wafting past you than without it.

About to give a presentation? Maybe rehearse with perfume and put a few drops on your hand for the performance. We can’t quote research on that one, but it’s worth a try.

8. You've signed up for a fitness programme at the gym for a year. How could it help if you were pessimistic about completing the programme?

You could think, 'I might not complete the programme because I'd think things like, 'I'm too tired, too stressed or I need to get home to see the kids before they go to bed'. That's the first part of the strategy to keep you on track. Now, think of what you would do if those thoughts occurred to you. Maybe: 'If I think I'm too tired or stressed, I'll just go anyway' and maybe: 'That's a good point about the kids. I'll change to the morning class'.

How much difference would a dose of applied pessimism make? Researchers taught the strategy to women who knew they should be exercising more. Four months after the study, those women were exercising twice as much as women who were just reminded of the benefits of exercise.

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