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Clearer, Closer, Better

How Successful People See the World

By Emily Balcetis
15-minute read
Audio available
Clearer, Closer, Better by Emily Balcetis

Clearer, Closer, Better (2020) teaches us to view the world through the lens of high achievers. Drawing on vision science, motivational psychology, and case studies from all kinds of successful people, author Emily Balcetis shows us how to reframe our perceptions in order to overcome challenges and meet our goals.

  • Anyone with their sights set on a goal
  • Those who can’t see the forest for the trees
  • Anyone curious about new ways of looking at the world

Emily Balcetis, PhD, is a social psychologist and an associate professor at New York University. She’s authored more than 70 scientific publications and received numerous awards for her work.

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Clearer, Closer, Better

How Successful People See the World

By Emily Balcetis
  • Read in 15 minutes
  • Audio & text available
  • Contains 9 key ideas
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Clearer, Closer, Better by Emily Balcetis
Synopsis

Clearer, Closer, Better (2020) teaches us to view the world through the lens of high achievers. Drawing on vision science, motivational psychology, and case studies from all kinds of successful people, author Emily Balcetis shows us how to reframe our perceptions in order to overcome challenges and meet our goals.

Key idea 1 of 9

Narrowing the focus of your visual attention helps you reach your goals more effectively.

Running a marathon is no easy feat. Winning one is something very few individuals achieve. In 1984, Joan Benoit Samuelson became the first-ever female Olympic marathon champion. What helped her win? It wasn't so much about having the right shoes or eating the right breakfast. She attributes her success to maintaining a narrow focus.

When Samuelson runs, she doesn’t dwell on the 26.2 miles ahead of her. She instead scans the runners ahead of her, picks one, then passes. And once she leaves that runner behind, she picks another runner to pass, and so on. By setting small, manageable goals, the Olympic gold became hers.

The key message here is: Narrowing the focus of your visual attention helps you reach your goals more effectively.

The first key visualization strategy, adopting a narrow focus, can help you improve the quality of not only physical exercise, but any long-term goal you set for yourself.

In one experiment, the author and her research team studied gym goers’ perceptions about exercise, and found that how they looked at their surroundings produced significant results.

The team added weighted cuffs to the gym goers’ ankles, which increased their body weight by 15 percent, and asked them to walk as quickly as possible to a finish line. One group was told to keep their eyes on the finish line and to avoid looking around. A second group was told to look around as they would normally. The group that focused solely on the finish line estimated that it was 30 percent closer than the other group. They also used 17 percent less effort in walking to the finish line and got there 23 percent quicker.

The benefits of a narrow focus translate into other aspects of life, such as financial planning. Take, for example, retirement savings. An experiment conducted by social psychologist Hal Hershfield suggests that visualizing your life as a retiree motivates you to start saving money for retirement at an earlier age. He found a way to introduce young people to their future selves. How? He took photos of people in his community and edited them into aged versions of themselves. Those faced with a visualization of themselves in 45 years’ time planned to set aside 6.2 percent of their current salary for retirement. In contrast, those who saw photos of their current selves set aside only 4.4 percent.

Keeping your eyes on the prize is integral to achieving your goals – but this is just one visualization strategy that successful people implement.

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