Happiness by Removing “Second Darts”

We’ve all been there before…sitting at the airport…patiently waiting at the gate for our flight to board…excited to kick off our “much needed” vacation…then the announcement…

“This flight has been DELAYED” Of course, just as soon as you hear the word “Delayed” a series of negative reactions ensue:

“I told her to book the earlier flight, why did she not listen and book this one!”
“This always happens to me!”
“Who is responsible for this!?”
“There goes my vacation!”[sound familiar?]

These reactions are referred to as Second Darts. Second darts most often serve no real purpose and disproportionately harm us compared to the inevitable first darts. Simply, they are a result of the mind reacting negatively to the experience.


When first darts don’t even exist

One of the saddest parts of all is that many first darts don’t even exist — they are entirely drummed up in our mind.

Have you ever thought about the scenario of your boss calling you into their office to tell you that you’ve been laid off. Perhaps you’ve been called out in meetings the past few weeks and are feeling less than comfortable about your work product. On top of that, you’ve heard rumors circulating around the office that layoffs are coming soon! So what do you do???
Naturally, you fire off a first dart → I’m going to get laid off. Then, the second darts ensue….

“How am I going to pay for my son’s school!?”
“We are going to have to move in with my parents because I can’t afford our mortgage!”
“The market is terrible, how the heck am I going to find a job!?”
“My wife is going to think I’m a failure!”

Wait. Wait. Wait. You are now thinking about moving in with your parents (which is more than likely depressing you and affecting your current mood) based of an entirely hypothetical situation — getting laid off. Doesn’t this seem crazy?


Negative reactions to positive events

Sometimes we actually react negatively to situations that are inherently positive in nature. Think about a time whenever something that was supposed to be great for you actually resulted in you thinking about it in a negative light.

So your boss just offered you a great opportunity at work to step up and take on a bigger role → you can’t stop thinking about whether or not you’ll fail and disappoint (second dart)…

“What if I look dumb in a meeting with Executives?”
“I’m not supposed to be in charge of something this important?”
Am I even smart enough to do this?
“So what’s happening in the brain”

​It is extremely important to realize that even just thinking about a first dart kicks off a series of effects on the body. To paint the picture a bit more, here is the chain of events that occur once a first dart is set off in the untrained mind.


First Dart: Getting laid off from work…

  1. The thalmus (this is the “relay station” in the middle of your brain) sends an alert signal to your brain stem — causing a release of norepinephrine throughout your brain.
  2. The sympathetic nervous system (SNS) sends signals to your major organs and muscle groups preparing them to“fight or flight”.
  3. The hypothalamus (the brain’s main regulator of the endocrine system) prompts the pituitary gland to signal the adrenal glands to release epinephrine (adrenaline) and cortisol — better known as the “stress hormones”.


How to avoid second darts

The good thing about all of this is that with a little bit of self-awareness and positive filtering of your thoughts, you can save your body and mind from the negative physiological and psychological impacts.Here are a few ways:

  • Accept the inevitable (first darts) — no use crying over spilled milk. Pain and heartache are some terrible aspects of life, but are outweighed by the greatness of it all.
  • Look on the bright side — find the positive side of what just happened. Your flight got delayed…go walk around the airport and get some exercise before you have to sit for 4hrs. You are getting laid off…finally you get a chance to find a job you actually want!
  • Be mindful of your thoughts — start by noticing when a second dart (or hypothetical first dart) arises and just acknowledge that it’s there. Over time, you’ll notice the second darts won’t try to come in anymore because they know you won’t grasp on to them. Try MeditateBot to start forming a daily meditation practice.
  • Practice makes perfect — your brain is a muscle and needs to be trained. The more you act or believe a certain way those neural pathways are strengthened.
  • Think about what’s happening in the brain — just knowing that these negative thoughts are sending signals to your body and causing unnecessary stress is sometimes all you need to catch them before you start.
  • Relax your body and breathe slow — by doing this you will activate the calming part of your nervous system and halt the fight-or-flight area.
  • Understand second darts are unnecessary — our brains have an evolutionary bias to focus on the negative. This was of course back when we roamed with deadly lions and bears and needed to focus our attention on what might harms us.

“There is only one way to happiness,” Epictetus taught the Romans, “and that is to cease worrying about things which are beyond the power of our will.”
― Dale Carnegie, How to Stop Worrying and Start Living

15 Quotes To Help You Be More Mindful Today

When we think about mindfulness, the act of being mindful in our daily lives, we often refer to it as the state of being completely in the present moment. This means no mind wandering about the past or the future. It’s difficult, but important if we want to reduce stress and start to build that inner power to resist future stressors – which really do carry a negative impact on our overall well-being.

Here are 15 quotes to help get you into that mindful state and living in the present moment. Really take some time to think about each and apply them to your day.


1. “Do not dwell in the past, do not dream of the future, concentrate the mind on the present moment.” -Buddha

2. “Every morning ask ‘if today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?” -Steve Jobs

3. “It is a mistake to try to look too far ahead. The chain of destiny can only be grasped one link at a time.” – Sir Winston Churchill

4.  “Time is a created thing. To say “I don’t have time”, is like saying, “I don’t want to”.” -Lao-Tzu

5. “Thousands of candles can be lighted from a single candle, and the life of the candle will not be shortened. Happiness never decreases by being shared.” -Buddha

6. “How soon, not now, becomes never.” -Martin Luther

7. “Nurture your minds with great thoughts. To believe in the heroic makes heroes.” –Benjamin Disraeli

8. “Often he who does too much does too little.” -Italian Proverb 

9. “A great attitude does much more than turn on the lights in our worlds; it seems to magically connect us to all sorts of serendipitous opportunities that were somehow absent before we changed.” –Earl Nightingale

10. “The shorter way to do many things is to do only one thing at a time.” -Mozart

11. “Peace comes from within. Do not seek it without.” -Buddha

12. “When you arise in the morning, think of what a precious privilege it is to be alive – to breathe, to think, to enjoy, to love.” -Marcus Aurelius

13. “At the center of your being you have the answer; you know who you are and you know what you want.” -Lao-Tzu

14. “What you focus on expands.” – Buddha

15. “Meditation is exercise for the mind.” -Chade-Meng Teng

Three Quotes To Help Answer Stoicism’s Two Big Life Questions

Stoicism, which spread throughout the Roman and Greek world until around the 3rd century AD, is a type of philosophy that focuses on personal ethics and how you can live your best life. Alongside the positive trends of mindfulness and self-awareness, many of the principles of Stoicism have come back into relevance as of late.

The Stoics (most well-known being: Marcus Aurelius, Seneca, Epictetus) spent their time trying to find answers to the two major life questions below:

1. How can we lead a fulfilling, happy life?
​2. How can we become better human beings?


Here are 3 of my favorite Stoic quotes (without commentary) that help serve as a guide to these questions:

“If it is not right, do not do it, if it is not true, do not say it.” – Marcus Aurelius

“Failure to observe what is in the mind of another has seldom made a man unhappy; but those who do not observe the movements of their own minds must of necessity be unhappy. – Marcus Aurelius

“The bravest sight in the world is to see a great man struggling against adversity.” – Seneca



The Tiger and the Strawberry: A Short Zen Story About Living in the Present Moment

Let’s stop and have a think on this old Zen parable about living in the present moment…the only time that really matters!

One day while walking through the wilderness a man stumbled upon a vicious tiger. He ran, but soon came to the edge of a high cliff. Desperate to save himself, he climbed down a vine and dangled over the fatal precipice…

As he hung there, two mice appeared from a hole in the cliff and began gnawing on the vine…

Suddenly, he noticed on the vine a plump wild strawberry. He plucked it and popped it in his mouth…

It was incredibly delicious, the best strawberry he ever had!


The Takeaways

  • The strawberry represents all of the amazing things around us in life. The vine symbolizes the timeline of life (between the cliff = birth; precipice = death). Choose to celebrate the strawberry (the good things in life), always.
  • Forget the past, don’t worry the future, and live in the present moment. Only by that way can we live happily.
  • Reminds me of this Mark Twain quote, “I’ve had many worries in my life, most of which never happened.”



MeditateBot: Creating a Daily Meditation Habit in Facebook Messenger

Over the past few years, Facebook Messenger has become the go to place for over a billion people worldwide to engage in their daily conversations. Though over the past year, it’s also quickly become the place where these same people are getting their daily news, weather updates, booking travel, style advice and much more.

This phenomenon began back in April 2016 when Facebook opened up their API for developers to create chatbots — programs to simulate human conversation. The rise of chatbots are giving brands an entirely new way to communicate with their audience at scale, a way that is so innately human…through conversation.

New Habits are Hard
When launching a new technology product, one of the biggest challenges is getting people to use it daily. New apps struggle with this often. Think about all of the times you’ve downloaded an app, used it once or twice, then deleted it or never opened it again. It’s hard to create that stickiness that keeps people coming back.

This same issue product makers face with getting people to use their apps daily, we all face in our lives with trying to creating a new positive habit.

Want to start working out? Ok, you go to the gym three days straight, then something comes up and you can’t make it, then again you miss it. A few weeks later the thought of going to the gym is so far in the back of your mind it never resurfaces.

In my opinion, the key to forming and sustaining any new habit is two fold:

  1. Making the barrier to entry as low as possible.
  2. Working it into your existing daily routine.

An Idea
As I thought through this with one of my own habit struggles, meditating daily, I decided to test the forming of a new habit by leveraging the power of Facebook Messenger — a place which already had my eyeballs as it was quickly becoming part of my morning routine for news, weather, etc.

The end result of a weekend personal hack-a-thon was MeditateBot — a Messenger chatbot that teaches the benefits of meditation, surfaces a variety of meditations, and even lets you schedule a daily reminder — all for free within Facebook Messenger.

I’m extremely happy to say that after 4 weeks since launch I have successfully meditated daily using MeditateBot. And more importantly, so have over 25,000 other people 🙂

Here’s how I made it habit forming enough for me keep it up a daily practice for 4 weeks and counting…

Schedule a Daily Reminder​

This feature is the linchpin to the entire experience. By asking what time works best for people and sending them a reminder daily at that time, they are empowered to make meditation work for theirschedule. At the scheduled time, a simple push notification is sent that gently nudges them to kick off their daily meditation.

I personally check Messenger in the morning while I’m eating my breakfast, so I schedule my daily practice reminder at 8:00am every day. It fits nicely into my routine and I know I’m not distracted at that time.

Analyzing the data of scheduling on MeditateBot, it was insightful to see that user’s reminders were almost perfectly distributed across all times throughout the day — morning, afternoon, and evening. This proves that everyone has their own “best” time. Make it work for you!

Showing the Benefits

Some people needed a little backing as to why daily meditation would be good for them, especially those that may have just stumbled across MeditateBot after it was featured in Messenger (grateful for that!)

Succinctly explaining the benefits of meditation, then having a CTA (call to action) immediately after to meditate has resulted in a >70% conversion to completing a meditation. Priming with benefits is important for driving action. 

Having Options, But Not Too Many

Too many options is too much, make it simple and don’t let the mind wander when the attention is already there. I’ve seen too many apps that have an endless amounts of options, this makes it hard to select the “right” one — which causes frustration (not a good primer for meditation!).

For MeditateBot I’ve kept the categories high level and made sure all speak for themselves. No explanation required for the three types:

  1. Breathing
  2. Body Scan
  3. Self Guided

Time Variations

Another important option in building a new habit is to not bite off more than you can chew. If you’re forcing yourself to do a 20 minute meditation daily out the gate, you will get frustrated. 
Why is my mind wandering? Is it over yet? Am I doing this right?

Having the option to choose a length that your willing to devote, keeps the barrier to entry low. Even getting 1 minute of that meditative state is shown to bring a heap of benefits.

I continue to believe in the power of technology applications that present themselves in channels where users already live — Facebook Messenger is just one, great, example of this. You can check out all of our creations for: Alexa, Chrome and Messenger — here