Tips for a Good Life


My first job out of college was at a commodities trading company and I’d be lying if I said I did a good job of keeping myself busy full time with company tasks.  I’d let my mind wander.  I’d surf the internet.  Hell, I even read books on my computer.  Don’t get wrong I got all my work done, but what should have taken me 4 hours would somehow always take me 8.

One of my favorite ways to pass time was to use StumbleUpon. For those that have never used the site, you pick different categories and the app takes you to random websites within the selected category.  Great way to kill time and learn new things.

My three favorites?  Travel. Books. Quotes.

It’s here where I began to feed my desire to travel.  It was here I found more and more ideas for books to read.  And it was here I added dozes of pages to my already all-to-long document of quotes.

I was cleaning my room last weekend and came across something: a list.  As soon as I saw it I knew how I’d found it.  Somewhere in the countless sites I visited via StumbleUpon, I came across a list of things to do to live a good life.  Now, I’ll be the first to admit that a “good life” is a very subjective term that could apply to countless situations based on personal goals, desires, and overcoming pre-established conditions you had no part in creating.

With that said, life goes by in the blink of an eye and most people end up with regrets of some sort.  I’ve written about some of my rules for life before, but this was a list I found years before I created mine.   I have no idea who wrote this list, but there are definitely a few that got me thinking. As I read through the list I made notes of what I already do well, what I need to work on, and what I need to start doing.   I wanted to share it in the hopes that maybe a few of them will hit home with you as well.

  1. Exercise daily.
  2. Get serious about gratitude.
  3. See your work as a craft.
  4. Expect the best prepare for the worst.
  5. Keep a journal.
  6. Read The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin.
  7. Plan a schedule for your week.
  8. Know the 5 highest priorities of your life.
  9. Say no to distractions.
  10. Drink a lot of water.
  11. Improve your work every single day.
  12. Get a mentor.
  13. Hire a coach.
  14. Get up at 6 a.m. everyday.
  15. Eat less food.
  16. Find more heroes.
  17. Be a hero to someone.
  18. Smile at strangers.
  19. Be the most ethical person you know.
  20. Don’t settle for anything less than excellence,
  21. Savor life’s simplest pleasures.
  22. Save 10% of your income each month.
  23. Spend time at art galleries.
  24. Walk in the woods.
  25. Write thank you letters to those you’ve helped you.
  26. Forgive those who’ve wronged you.
  27. Remember that leadership is about influence and impact, not title and accolades.
  28. Create unforgettable moments with those you love.
  29. Have 5 great friends
  30. Become stunningly polite.
  31. Unplug your TV.
  32. Sell your TV.
  33. Read daily.
  34. Avoid the news.
  35. Be content with what you have.
  36. Purusue your dreams.
  37. Be authentic.
  38. Be passionate.
  39. Say sorry when you know you should.
  40. Never miss a moment to celebrate another.
  41. Have a vision for you life.
  42. Know your strengths.
  43. Focus your mind on the good versus the lack.
  44. Be patient.
  45. Don’t give up.
  46. Clean up your messes.
  47. Use impeccable words.
  48. Travel more.
  49. Read As You Think
  50. Honor your parents.
  51. Tip service people well
  52. Be a great teammate
  53. Give no energy to critics
  54. Spend time in the mountains
  55. Know your top 5 values.
  56. Shift from being busy to achieving results.
  57. Innovate and iterate.
  58. Speak less, Listen more.
  59. Be the best person you know.
  60. Make your life matter.

Which ones do you do well? Which ones do you need to work on?

The best way to keep up with my adventures is to follow me on Instagram- Todds_Tales.

Stay Gold.


Ten Ways to Live a Less Complacent Life





Written by Tyler Cowen and published on LinkedIn

Americans often point with pride to our role as the world’s leading innovator. And yet despite this leadership and innovation, if you compare America today to forty years ago, the country seems to have lost its mojo.

The passion and perseverance that fueled progress in America has been falling since the 1960s, back when we dreamed of seeing flying cars and colonies on other planets by the turn of the century. Instead, recent innovation tends to be on the margin rather than fully transformational—like more ways to socialize online, play games, and get services without leaving the house. While seemingly small, Americans’ complacent, safe decisions end up meaning a great deal for the wider economy.

Today, only 7-8% of US companies are startups—down from 12-13% in the 1980s. More new businesses are failing while established giants consume the industry landscape. Job relocation rates have fallen more than a quarter since 1990. And year after year, we’re seeing sluggish productivity growth from the economy as a whole. I describe these trends in detail in The Complacent Class: The Self-Defeating Quest for the American Dream. I argue that Americans have become more fearful of risk and more comfortable with the status quo. And these qualities are passing on to our children, who are becoming more sheltered both literally and psychologically.

However, complacency cannot last forever. The dissent and unrest leading to the election of President Trump and the subsequent fallout signal that we may be approaching a great reset. From all perspectives, people are starting to feel empowered to act against ideas they disagree with. But will that be enough to move people to create change, take calculated risks, and break the mold?

Below are ten steps individuals can take to lead less complacent lives that will in time translate to broader social change. Before beginning, take the “How Complacent Are You?” quiz to see whether you can use a little less complacency in your own life.

1.    Get Out of Your Bubble

It’s easy to get cozy and watch Netflix on a weekend instead of going outside and exploring new things. With apps that deliver food, groceries, laundry, entertainment, and everything in between, why go through the trouble of leaving the house?

By doing so, we miss new experiences, opinions, and interactions that help shape our worldview. Many people attribute Trump’s surprise win to a lack of awareness of other opinions that can happen as people wall themselves off—in the real world and online—from the new and different.

Instead of doing the same old same old, take the opportunity to leave your neighborhood and explore the great unknown. Talk to someone you don’t normally interact with in your social circles. Go to a specialty grocery store and pick up new ingredients you haven’t tried before to cook a new dish. Learn more about getting involved in your community. If you have the resources, book a ticket somewhere new rather than your summer condo in Florida.

2.    Don’t Use Convenience Technology for Everything

It’s easier than ever to get exactly what you want through the use of “sorting” technology. This applies to everything from small, everyday decisions like where to eat (Yelp), what music to listen to (Spotify), and what books to read (Amazon), to lifelong decisions like who to marry ( While these tools are helpful in cutting through the noise, they also weed out options that we may enjoy but will not appear because they don’t meet our “matching” standards. If you met your spouse in real life 20 years ago, but he or she didn’t fit every standard you set for a mate on paper, would they even show up online as an option for you today?

Instead of depending on this technology, use it as a starting point and don’t disregard the thrill of natural discovery. Next time you are in a new city, go outside and explore to find dinner rather than going to the highest rated place on TripAdvisor. Meet new people in the real world and open yourself to the possibility of dating someone who doesn’t come from the same background as you. Go to a bookstore or record store to browse. While this may seem old-fashioned, you never know what hidden treasures you may find.

3.    Keep Learning

Just because you finished school doesn’t mean you should stop learning. Even in the working world, you need to keep learning to be effective at your job and improve your value as a worker. Even better, your new talents could lead to greater compensation in the future or the creation of something new. You also shouldn’t feel wedded to the career you started out with for the rest of your life, but rather you should constantly evaluate whether it’s the right career for you.

With the Internet, there are more opportunities than time allows to learn new skills. Everything from building a website and remodeling your home to learning statistics and mastering a foreign language is readily accessible at your fingertips, often for free. Take advantage of the wealth of knowledge available and put it to use.

4.    Ask for What You Want

As the cliché goes, you miss 100% of the opportunities you never take. All too often people don’t ask for what they want out of fear of rejection or because they undervalue their own worth: Maybe I don’t deserve what I want?

Knowing what you want is the first step in changing outcomes—whether it’s getting out of a dead-end job, pursuing a relationship, or making a major change in your life by moving or chasing a new passion. Don’t be afraid to ask for what you need to improve your life and add greater value to the world. Often, the worst that can happen is a “no” which is better than regret of the unknown.

5.    Have Difficult Conversations

As social media becomes the dominant form of communication, more of us find ourselves building communities of people who reinforce our positions or only engage with us in a positive way. By self-segregating online, we only reinforce segregation in the real world, as seen by the growing segregation of America by socioeconomic status and in some ways by politics (the liberal coasts versus conservative flyovers). We are also seeing this aversion to opposing viewpoints at universities as riots increase over controversial speakers and issues of free speech. The popularity of “trigger warnings” and “safe spaces” teaches the next generation that it is okay to silence people who don’t share your views of the world rather than trying to understand them—or better yet, challenge them constructively.

Instead of shielding yourself from ideas you oppose, take the time to engage them and who knows, you may change some minds along the way.

6.    Take Risks

Risk-taking is a key American trait. Our ambition has led to great achievements over the last century, and we need that drive again to conquer today’s greatest challenges.

Every new venture requires a little risk. While you shouldn’t be foolish with the risks you take, allow for some calculated risk and be prepared for failure. Most great inventors have several failures before they land their golden ticket.

In your everyday life, this could mean applying for that job you’ve always wanted but didn’t think you stood a chance at getting. It could mean pursuing a relationship with someone who you thought was out of your league. It could mean going back to school to finish that degree you’ve always regretted not finishing. It could mean breaking out and starting your own side gig. It could also mean losing something, but learning along the way to inform a future success.

7.    Move Around

Americans traditionally have thought of themselves as great movers, and indeed that was true through most of the twentieth century. But since the 1980s, Americans have become much less restless and less likely to move across the country. Here is this change in a single number: The interstate migration rate has fallen 51% below its 1948–1971 average, and that number has been falling steadily since the mid-1980s.

The decision to move reflects something very fundamental about one’s life. People move for better jobs, for marriages, for a different climate, for new and different social networks, or sometimes just to shake things up. But now, people are not moving because they stay at the same job longer, geographic differences are fewer than they used to be, or they are not willing to uproot their lives to change their circumstances—whether it’s poverty or unemployment.

If you are able to do so, move at least once in your life. Experience what it is like starting over in a new place where you need to establish your professional career and social circle virtually from scratch. Choose a place that is unfamiliar but of interest, where you can discover new things, talk to new people, and learn something about yourself.

8.    Plan for the Future, and Make It Happen

It might make sense to sit on the couch and keep doing what you are doing today. But what does that mean for tomorrow?

It is easy to get caught up in the busyness of day-to-day life and suddenly, the years have gone by and too many opportunities have passed. Why did I never spend that year traveling the world? Why have I never read the most influential books of all time? Why did I not pursue my passion project? Why did I not keep more relationships?

Instead, make a plan today to achieve what you want in the future and create specific steps to make it happen. Work hard, save money, and build toward the future you want. Life will get in the way, as it always does, but setting your intention can go a long way in achieving your goals.

9.    If You Don’t Like What You See, Do Something

Some people would argue that there are institutional barriers that make it difficult for people today to make radical change. Things like business regulations, an aggressive litigation environment, and social conventions can all create hurdles to innovation. However, more often than not, you don’t see people taking to the streets to remove those barriers. You also don’t see people taking to voting booths—the United States still has one of the lowest voter turnouts of any developed country. They may complain on social media, but to actually take steps to solve the problem requires another level of effort.

To get out of complacency, you have to be motivated into action. I’m not suggesting anything as radical as the riots we saw in the 60s and 70s, but a more deliberate response to injustice in the world: Responses like voting, getting involved on the local level, reaching out to politicians or private-sector influencers, the media, or starting a movement on your own. Already, we are seeing this brew through current political protests.

10. Don’t Give Up

More important than intelligence and status, people need grit—passion and perseverance toward long-term goals—to overcome obstacles to achieving their greatest potential. If everyone had more grit and fewer excuses, we could see greater levels of job growth, new discoveries, and improvements in our culture. Psychologist Angela Duckworth said in a Freakonomics interview that a person’s level of “stick-to-itiveness” is directly related to their level of success. For a long time, Americans have held this value, but in some cases, they have been using it to dig their heels in and stay where they are. Instead, we should be channeling our grit toward improving our lives and the lives of others.

Homeless Man at a Piano Reminds us not to Judge Others

Really good reminder not to judge others especially based on their appearance…

“It is very easy for all of us to quickly judge someone by their appearance, but we need to keep reminding ourselves that the most unlikely people may possess the most amazing minds and talents no matter how unfortunate their circumstances.

And the video you are about to watch proves just that. This homeless man sat at a piano with the intention of making a few bucks but it has now reached the hearts of millions around the world. Have a listen let it make you stop and think about many brilliant and talented souls you may be passing on the street everyday.

The man in the video is Donald Gould a 51 year old who turned to substance abuse when his wife passed away which led to him to end up homeless living on the streets. Since the video has gone viral Gould is said to have been offered employment opportunities and may even star as a street performer.”

Originally found on Spirit and written by Kasim Khan



Originally written by Mark Manson

Everybody wants what feels good. Everyone wants to live a carefree, happy and easy life, to fall in love and have amazing sex and relationships, to look perfect and make money and be popular and well-respected and admired and a total baller to the point that people part like the Red Sea when you walk into the room.

Everyone would like that — it’s easy to like that.

If I ask you, “What do you want out of life?” and you say something like, “I want to be happy and have a great family and a job I like,” it’s so ubiquitous that it doesn’t even mean anything.

A more interesting question, a question that perhaps you’ve never considered before, is what pain do you want in your life? What are you willing to struggle for? Because that seems to be a greater determinant of how our lives turn out.

Everybody wants to have an amazing job and financial independence — but not everyone wants to suffer through 60-hour work weeks, long commutes, obnoxious paperwork, to navigate arbitrary corporate hierarchies and the blasé confines of an infinite cubicle hell. People want to be rich without the risk, without the sacrifice, without the delayed gratification necessary to accumulate wealth.

Everybody wants to have great sex and an awesome relationship — but not everyone is willing to go through the tough conversations, the awkward silences, the hurt feelings and the emotional psychodrama to get there. And so they settle. They settle and wonder “What if?” for years and years and until the question morphs from “What if?” into “Was that it?” And when the lawyers go home and the alimony check is in the mail they say, “What was that for?” if not for their lowered standards and expectations 20 years prior, then what for?

Because happiness requires struggle. The positive is the side effect of handling the negative. You can only avoid negative experiences for so long before they come roaring back to life.

At the core of all human behavior, our needs are more or less similar. Positive experience is easy to handle. It’s negative experience that we all, by definition, struggle with. Therefore, what we get out of life is not determined by the good feelings we desire but by what bad feelings we’re willing and able to sustain to get us to those good feelings.

People want an amazing physique. But you don’t end up with one unless you legitimately appreciate the pain and physical stress that comes with living inside a gym for hour upon hour, unless you love calculating and calibrating the food you eat, planning your life out in tiny plate-sized portions.

People want to start their own business or become financially independent. But you don’t end up a successful entrepreneur unless you find a way to appreciate the risk, the uncertainty, the repeated failures, and working insane hours on something you have no idea whether will be successful or not.

People want a partner, a spouse. But you don’t end up attracting someone amazing without appreciating the emotional turbulence that comes with weathering rejections, building the sexual tension that never gets released, and staring blankly at a phone that never rings. It’s part of the game of love. You can’t win if you don’t play.

What determines your success isn’t “What do you want to enjoy?” The question is, “What pain do you want to sustain?” The quality of your life is not determined by the quality of your positive experiences but the quality of your negative experiences. And to get good at dealing with negative experiences is to get good at dealing with life.

There’s a lot of crappy advice out there that says, “You’ve just got to want it enough!”

Everybody wants something. And everybody wants something enough. They just aren’t aware of what it is they want, or rather, what they want “enough.”

Because if you want the benefits of something in life, you have to also want the costs. If you want the beach body, you have to want the sweat, the soreness, the early mornings, and the hunger pangs. If you want the yacht, you have to also want the late nights, the risky business moves, and the possibility of pissing off a person or ten thousand.

If you find yourself wanting something month after month, year after year, yet nothing happens and you never come any closer to it, then maybe what you actually want is a fantasy, an idealization, an image and a false promise. Maybe what you want isn’t what you want, you just enjoy wanting. Maybe you don’t actually want it at all.

Sometimes I ask people, “How do you choose to suffer?” These people tilt their heads and look at me like I have twelve noses. But I ask because that tells me far more about you than your desires and fantasies. Because you have to choose something. You can’t have a pain-free life. It can’t all be roses and unicorns. And ultimately that’s the hard question that matters. Pleasure is an easy question. And pretty much all of us have similar answers. The more interesting question is the pain. What is the pain that you want to sustain?

That answer will actually get you somewhere. It’s the question that can change your life. It’s what makes me me and you you. It’s what defines us and separates us and ultimately brings us together.

For most of my adolescence and young adulthood, I fantasized about being a musician — a rock star, in particular. Any badass guitar song I heard, I would always close my eyes and envision myself up on stage playing it to the screams of the crowd, people absolutely losing their minds to my sweet finger-noodling. This fantasy could keep me occupied for hours on end. The fantasizing continued up through college, even after I dropped out of music school and stopped playing seriously. But even then it was never a question of if I’d ever be up playing in front of screaming crowds, but when. I was biding my time before I could invest the proper amount of time and effort into getting out there and making it work. First, I needed to finish school. Then, I needed to make money. Then, I needed to find time. Then… and then nothing.

Despite fantasizing about this for over half of my life, the reality never came. And it took me a long time and a lot of negative experiences to finally figure out why: I didn’t actually want it.

I was in love with the result — the image of me on stage, people cheering, me rocking out, pouring my heart into what I’m playing — but I wasn’t in love with the process. And because of that, I failed at it. Repeatedly. Hell, I didn’t even try hard enough to fail at it. I hardly tried at all.

The daily drudgery of practicing, the logistics of finding a group and rehearsing, the pain of finding gigs and actually getting people to show up and give a shit. The broken strings, the blown tube amp, hauling 40 pounds of gear to and from rehearsals with no car. It’s a mountain of a dream and a mile-high climb to the top. And what it took me a long time to discover is that I didn’t like to climb much. I just liked to imagine the top.

Our culture would tell me that I’ve somehow failed myself, that I’m a quitter or a loser. Self-help would say that I either wasn’t courageous enough, determined enough or I didn’t believe in myself enough. The entrepreneurial/start up crowd would tell me that I chickened out on my dream and gave in to my conventional social conditioning. I’d be told to do affirmations or join a mastermind group or manifest or something.

But the truth is far less interesting than that: I thought I wanted something, but it turns out I didn’t. End of story.

I wanted the reward and not the struggle. I wanted the result and not the process. I was in love not with the fight but only the victory. And life doesn’t work that way.

Who you are is defined by the values you are willing to struggle for. People who enjoy the struggles of a gym are the ones who get in good shape. People who enjoy long workweeks and the politics of the corporate ladder are the ones who move up it. People who enjoy the stresses and uncertainty of the starving artist lifestyle are ultimately the ones who live it and make it.

This is not a call for willpower or “grit.” This is not another admonishment of “no pain, no gain.”

This is the most simple and basic component of life: our struggles determine our successes. So choose your struggles wisely, my friend.


Taking Up These 10 Hobbies Will Make You Smarter

Written by  and originally published on LifeHack

There is a general perception that we can’t do much to enhance our intelligence. It’s almost always believed that whether you’re smart or not is determined right at birth and you can’t do anything about it.

However, these are all misconceptions. While some people have conditions that prevent them from being able to increase their intelligence level, for most people, there are plenty of things that can be done to make them smarter.

Hobbies are integral parts of our lives, and once developed, we find ourselves immersed in them on a regular basis. Hobbies are fun and invigorating- and they can also have a great influence on our intelligence.

Below are 10 hobbies that will help to make you smarter- all backed up by scientific studies and experiments:

1. Play a musical instrument.

Confucius said a long time ago, “Music produces a kind of pleasure which human nature cannot do without”. Music stimulates your brain, and this has been proven by research as well.

Music has the power to invoke complex emotions and psychological states. Various researchers have shown that both listening to music and playing a musical instrument increases memory capacity.

Playing a musical instrument also teaches you patience and perseverance for it takes time and effort to learn to play a musical instrument. It also sharpens your concentration.

2. Read voraciously.

Reading goes a long way towards increasing your intelligence level- this is further the case if you read voraciously across many different topics, from fiction and biographies, to anthologies.

Reading reduces stress, helps you to experience multiple emotions, and teaches you a lot about many subjects. All these factors help you to feel better about yourself; being at peace with yourself is one of the most important foundations for positive wellbeing.

Reading is very important for enhancing your knowledge on a subject, preparing for all sorts of situations and being more productive in how you go about achieving your goals.

3. Meditate regularly.

The foremost benefit of meditation is to help you focus on yourself and to get you to know your true self. Being engrossed in meditation helps individuals transcend to a higher state of being.

Meditation helps to reduce stress levels and gets rid of all sorts of worries. With a calm and composed state of mind obtained through meditation, you can learn, think and plan things in a much more effective way.

Regular meditation helps you to have full control over yourself. Being aware of distractions and effective methods of self-control are of the utmost significance when working to improve your intelligence.

4. Work out your brain.

Just as you need to work out regularly to keep your body fit, you also need to work out your brain to keep it in good shape. Regularly challenging the brain to do new things enhances its abilities and helps to keep you sharp.

You can work out your brain in plenty of ways such as through: sudoku, puzzles, board games, and riddles. All these activities help the brain to continue forming new connections. Through such activities you also learn to respond to situations in creative ways, develop the ability to see things from a lot of different perspectives and become significantly more productive.

5. Exercise often.

A healthy body helps to ensure that you have a healthy brain. After all, your brain is like another muscle in your body. Exercising regularly keeps your brain and body functioning as they are supposed to. It reduces tension and helps you to sleep better.

Doctors agree that better blood circulation to the brain means increased brain function. Various studies on mice and humans have shown that cardiovascular exercise can create new brain cells, and thus improve overall brain performance.

6. Learn a new language.

Learning a new language may not always be an easy task but it definitely has numerous advantages-making you smarter, being one of them.

The process of learning a new language involves tasks such as analyzing grammatical structures and learning new words, which enhances your intelligence and brain health.

It has also been proven through various experiments that people with high levels of verbal-linguistic intelligence are great at planning, decision-making and problem-solving.

7. Write your feelings down.

There are tons of benefits that you can receive from writing, including increasing your overall level of intelligence.

Writing improves your linguistic abilities, of course. But it also helps you to develop such skills as focus, creativity, imagination, and comprehension.

Writers are often considered as having very high levels of intelligence. You can write in different ways. You can write things with your hand or you can create your own blog. Whatever you do, you are giving words to the images in your mind; learning to express yourself clearly is a great way to boost your intelligence.

8. Travel to new places.

Travelling is not just a way to kill your boredom- there’s lot more to it than that. Travelling can really boost your intelligence.

The physical and mental workouts involved with travelling, rid your mind of stress. As you become stress-free, you are more able to focus on tasks, observations, and deepening your understanding of subjects.

Every new place you travel to offers new things to learn. You encounter diverse people, food, culture, lifestyle and society while travelling, which puts you in touch with ideas you might never have thought of previously.

9. Cook different kinds of meals.

Many of us feel that cooking is a mere waste of time and it’s something we very much want to avoid.

But instead of whining, you should feel happy when you have the opportunity to cook. Regular cooks, particularly the ones who try out a variety of meals, have high levels of creativity. They are committed to quality, aren’t afraid to try things out and they pay great attention to details.

Whenever you cook something, you are learning to multitask, measure with precision and make quick decisions. With all of these skills you’re acquiring, you’re becoming smarter too.

10. Participate in sports actively.

Participating regularly in sports activities doesn’t only exercise the muscles but also does the same for the brain. Playing sports regularly makes the brain more flexible and improves overall brain health.

Sports have added benefits too. Watching sports has been linked with increased brain function, and through exercising you work out your muscles. Involvement in sport also enhances responsiveness, coordination, capabilities, and confidence.

Top athletes are known for their special form of intelligence. It doesn’t matter whether you play football, basketball or cricket. Consider being regularly involved in some form of sport to boost your brain’s performance.

The Emotions That Make Us More Creative


Originally posted on Harvard Business Review by Scott Barry Kaufmann

Artists and scientists throughout history have remarked on the bliss that accompanies a sudden creative insight. Einstein described his realization of the general theory of relativity as the happiest moment of his life. More poetically, Virginia Woolf once observed, “Odd how the creative power brings the whole universe at once to order.”

But what about before such moments of creative insight? What emotions actually fuel creativity?

The long-standing view in psychology is that positive emotions are conducive to creativity because they broaden the mind, whereas negative emotions are detrimental to creativity because they narrow one’s focus. But this view is too simplistic for a number of reasons.

It’s true that attentional focus does have important effects on creative thinking: a broad scope of attention is associated with the free-floating colliding of ideas, and a narrow scope of attention is more conducive to linear, step-by-step goal attainment. However, emerging research suggests that the positive vs. negative emotions distinction may not be the most important contrast for understanding attentional focus. Over the past seven years, research conducted by psychologist Eddie Harmon-Jones and his colleagues suggests that the critical variable influencing one’s scope of attention is not emotional valence (positive vs. negative emotions) but motivational intensity, or how strongly you feel compelled to either approach or avoid something. For example, pleasant is a positive emotion, but it has low motivational intensity. In contrast, desire is a positive emotion with high motivational intensity.

The researchers showed participants funny video clips of cats (triggering emotions of low motivational intensity) and clips of delicious-looking desserts (bringing out high motivational intensity). Even though both evoked positive emotions, the cat videos, which were simply amusing, broadened the mind (measured by subjects making more holistic matches to a target stimulus), whereas the dessert clips that carried higher motivational intensity narrowed subjects’ scope of attention (subjects made more detail-oriented matches to a target stimulus). And it was similar when looking at video clips that tapped into negative emotions: sadness (a state of low motivational intensity) broadened attentional focus, whereas disgust (a state of high motivational intensity for avoidance) narrowed focus.

Motivational intensity, they concluded, was a more important variable affecting scope of attention than the mere experience of positive or negative emotions. Presumably, this is because low motivational states facilitate the search for new goals to pursue, whereas high motivational states focus us on completing a specific goal. So next time you want to keep an open mind and see the big picture, it’s probably best if you’re just in a pleasant (or even sad) mood. If you are too passionate about the activity, you may miss the forest for the trees. If, however, you really need to buckle down and focus on making a new idea practical, high motivational intensity can be just the ticket.

At the end of the day, the ability to broaden attention and the ability to narrow attention are both key contributors to creativity. A recent neuroscience study led byRoger Beaty (and which I was a collaborator on) suggests that creative people have greater connections between two areas of the brain that are typically at odds: the brain network of regions associated with focus and attentional control, and the brain network of regions associated with imagination and spontaneity. Indeed, the entire creative process—not just the moments of deep insight— involves states of euphoria and inspiration as well as states of calm, rational focus. Creative people aren’t characterized by any one of these states alone; they are characterized by their adaptability and their ability to mix seemingly incompatible states of being depending on the task, whether it’s open attention with a focused drive, mindfulness with daydreaming, intuition with rationality, intense rebelliousness with respect for tradition, etc. In other words, creative people have messy minds.

Other research has also found that people who reported experiencing extreme or intense emotions on a regular basis scored higher on measures of creative capacity than those who simply reported feeling positive or negative emotions. There’s something about living life with passion and intensity, including the full depth of human experience, that is conducive to creativity. In my own research, I found that “affective engagement”— the extent to which people are open to the full breadth and depth of their emotions— was a better predictor of artistic creativity than IQ or intellectual engagement.

We are also rarely purely happy or purely sad— we tend to experience mixed emotions. Research scientist Christina Fong at Carnegie Mellon University has investigated the effects of “emotional ambivalence”— the simultaneous experience of positive and negative emotions— on creativity. Fong’s research suggests that simultaneously experiencing multiple emotions that are not typically experienced together (e.g., excitement and frustration) signals “that one is in an unusual environment where other unusual relationships might also exist.” This increased sensitivity to unusual associations is another important contributor to creativity.

Prior research hints at some situations that tend to increase emotional ambivalence: Women who are in higher-status positions report greater emotional ambivalence than women in lower-status positions, and when people are engaged in organizational recruitment and socialization, they report higher levels of emotional ambivalence. Fong suggests that perhaps managers “would benefit from scheduling creative thinking tasks for these time periods or could assign creativity tasks to new organizational members (who are likely undergoing socialization processes).” In other words, it may be during these moments of high emotional ambivalence when the emotions of employees are ripe for creativity.

Fong’s research also suggests that emotional ambivalence and the unusualness of one’s environment may go hand in hand—and that employees who believe they are in an unusual environment can show increased creative thinking. Highly innovative companies such as Disney and IDEO are well aware of this, as their employees benefit from such unusual working environments. IDEO’s workplace in Palo Alto, California has airplanes and bicycles suspended from the ceiling, plastic beaded curtains used as doors, and Christmas tree lights on display all year round. Everywhere you go are toys, gadgets, and prototypes from past projects. Indeed, multiple psychological studiessuggest that a crucial trigger of creativity is the experience of unusual and unexpected events. Unexpected events can certainly mix emotions, and mixed emotions, as Fong as shown, can increase sensitivity to unusual associations and ideas.

Taken together, the latest research on the role of emotions in creativity suggests that instead of focusing exclusively on bringing out positive emotions among employees — or attempting to dispel negative emotions — managers may want to consider additional factors, such as whether the environment brings out emotional ambivalence (Is the environment unusual? Will it tap into a wide range of seemingly contradictory emotions?) and motivational intensity (Will it broaden or narrow someone’s focus?) when trying to stimulate creativity. It’s time to move beyond such simplistic black-and-white notions of the role of emotions in innovation, and instead embrace the inherent messiness of the creative process.

Author’s note: Thanks to Adam Grant for bringing many of these studies to my attention