Psychological Self-Help

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One can never consent to creep when one feels an impulse to soar.
-Helen Keller
Greissman (1987) interviewed over 60 highly successful people
and found they had several things in common. They (a) love their
work, (b) become highly competent in a specialty, (c) commit
themselves to their work, giving it their time--their life, (d) meet most
of their needs through their work, (e) long for recognition and self-
fulfillment, (f) focus on and "flow" with their work--loosing themselves
in it, and (g) quickly see and use new ideas and opportunities at work.
They pay a price for success, such as few friends, little partying, little
travel, and even isolation from their family, but they have few regrets.
Talent matters, but devotion determines the winner most of the time.
No one can tell you exactly how to become so devoted...or even if it is
a good idea. 
Attribution Theory and Achievement
Another related theory to help us understand behavior and
motivation, like John's procrastination, is attribution theory. In the
18th century, Hume (1739) argued that assuming there are causes for
everything that happens is an inherent part of observing the world,
because it makes the world more meaningful. Humans want to know.
For instance, if someone bumps into you, you wonder why. You may
assume he/she is aggressive, clumsy, flirting, that you are in the way,
etc. Obviously, what you assume is the cause of the bumping makes a
big difference. Likewise, John might ask himself, "Why do I put off
studying?" And answer, "because I am dumb" or "because it is boring."
He attributes his procrastination to his slowness or to the dullness of
the reading. These kinds of assumptions about causes (we seldom
know for sure the real causes) will certainly influence how we behave
and how we feel. 
Heider (1958) was one of the first modern psychologists to write
about how the ordinary person thinks about causality--what causes
what, or what is attributed to what. Since 1960, hundreds of studies
have contributed to understanding why some are highly motivated to
achieve and others are not. According to attribution theory (Weiner,
1980), a high achiever will: 
Approach rather than avoid tasks related to succeeding because
he/she believes success is due to high ability and effort which
he/she is confident of. Failure is thought to be caused by bad
luck or a poor exam, i.e. not his/her fault. Thus, failure doesn't
hurt his/her self-esteem but success builds pride and
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