Hosted by Dr. Kevin Majeres and Sharif Younes, co-founders of OptimalWork, The Golden Hour will help you learn to challenge yourself in each hour of work according to your highest ideals. We'll discuss all aspects of Dr. Majeres's approach to work, which he developed in his private practice and teaches at Harvard Medical School, and show how it applies to everyday situations like professional work, study, sleep, and relationships. For a set of online tools to help you put the ideas into practice, visitwww.optimalwork.com. Please send questions for discussion firstname.lastname@example.org.
If someone around you has some defect that annoys you, it can cause a kind of obsession that develops into a critical attitude towards the very person. In this episode, Dr. Kevin Majeres and Sharif Younes discuss how this annoyance develops, what it means for the relationship, and what to do about it.
The New Year provides a unique opportunity for a fresh start. To make the most of this opportunity, approach your resolutions with hope and creativity: hope so that you strive for the highest things (ideals, bonds) and creativity so that you can strategize how to achieve them. In this episode, Dr. Kevin Majeres and Sharif Younes discuss a broad array of questions related to New Year’s resolutions.
The more you find yourself complaining or dreading, the more you’ll benefit from reframing, the skill that is most essential to OptimalWork. In this episode, Dr. Kevin and Sharif take several examples of difficult situations, pointing out possible reframes and, in the process, shedding light on the different ways to find meaning in the challenges you face.
In this episode, Dr. Kevin Majeres and Sharif discuss some questions received by email about service. Working with a spirit of service means shaping yourself so that you’re the kind of person who is ready to give cheerfully to all those around you. Although this requires that the actual work you’re doing is helpful, the essence lies instead in the way you do it: with a willingness to form and prioritize bonds with those closest to you.
In this episode, Dr. Kevin Majeres and Sharif discuss how to approach your repeating tasks in a new and better way. It comes down to three steps. First, identifying a goal to aim for, either in your way of working or what you will accomplish. Second, crafting a strategy to achieve this goal. And, finally, laying out the steps according to the strategy. You can use these steps whenever you are seeking to improve your work or change well-established habits.
In this episode, Dr. Kevin Majeres and Sharif discuss the importance of rising early to meet the challenges of the day head-on. They present an email from someone who uses OptimalWork asking for advice: whether she should adjust her schedule to be much earlier to accommodate a morning workout. They apply OptimalWork’s approach to this question and examine the results it yielded.
In this episode, Dr. Kevin Majeres and Sharif discuss the question of worrying. Worrying is when you have some bad outcome that you continually think about how to avoid. It is one of the top reasons people get stressed out, experience burnout, and feel fatigue. Dr. Majeres helps clarify the precise nature of worrying, as well as steps to take to overcome it.
In this episode, Dr. Kevin Majeres and Sharif discuss the “cloud of unknowing.” Whenever you are on the edge of your understanding, you will experience a kind of cloud, in which the way forward is unclear. This cloud can be daunting, and you may try to leave it for a safer path — but in fact it is a condition for innovation. Dr. Majeres gives advice on how to advance through the cloud toward discovery.
In this episode Dr. Kevin Majeres and Sharif discuss the differences between applying OptimalWork at home versus a more controlled work environment like an office or library. Certainly, it may be easier to perform an uninterrupted Golden Hour in a more controlled environment. Nevertheless, since OptimalWork is all about learning how to work for the highest motives, namely, for the sake of the bonds with those closest to you, in important ways our approach really applies most easily to working at home.
Perfectionism is a commonly-used label, but it's often not clear what it means. In this episode, Sharif and Dr. Kevin Majeres discuss the issue of perfectionism, its causes, signs, and effects. And they show how OptimalWork's approach is the perfect antidote.
In this episode, Sharif and Dr. Kevin Majeres dive further into the concept of “theta locking,” a pattern of brain activity that occurs when we recollect our attention. What it shows is that mindfulness is not a fixed trait, but a kind of muscle that we can develop through practice. Our ability to sustain our attention is something that can be directly practiced in every time of meditation. Such practice leads to the greatest sustained intensity of our attention in work.
In this episode Sharif and Dr. Kevin Majeres discuss the phenomenon of mindfulness and how you can use it to strengthen your attention. There are three key skills of attention that are developed through these exercises: monitoring your thoughts, disengaging from distractions, and redirecting your attention to the task at hand. When we deliberately train, through both physical exercise and attention exercises, we improve the "hardware" of our brain, so that it can perform better.
Procrastination always involves a double-deception. First, you get deceived by the thought of all the effort the task will take, as if that is what you face when starting the task. Next, you deceive yourself by putting it off, even though you know it’s better to get started. In this episode, Sharif and Dr. Kevin Majeres take a deeper look at the underlying causes of procrastination. Understanding the cause reveals the path to overcoming procrastination.
If you’re trying to build a new habit but get frustrated by failure, you might think you need more discipline, more willpower. In this episode, Sharif and Dr. Kevin Majeres discuss the real source of constancy in struggle and growth: sincerity. Sincerity about your motives leads to a willingness to sacrifice particular satisfactions or outcomes in the pursuit of ideals. It thus provides the sure foundation for growth and change.
You may have wondered how to apply OptimalWork's principles to "passive" activities like attending class or meetings. This week, Sharif and Dr. Kevin Majeres discussed how to actively challenge yourself in these situations, in particular, by doing a "post-pre flip" to completely change how you prepare for them.
In this episode, Dr. Majeres and Sharif discuss the common, but avoidable, tiredness that often hits after lunch. It can lead to discomfort, decreased productivity, and longer work-days. Dr. Majeres outlines some key principles for engaging the afternoon slump as an opportunity for growth.
We’ve often discussed anxiety: it develops over time as you train your amygdala to perceive certain challenges as threats to be fled. Anger is the flip side of anxiety, when you train your brain to perceive challenges as threats to be fought. In this episode, Sharif and Dr. Majeres discuss how to shape your response to anger. Since it frequently occurs in the context of close relationships, we can discover in anger an opportunity to grow closer.
Dr. Majeres and Sharif discuss an approach to sleep developed by Dr. Guy Meadows, as found in his book, The Sleep Book, and an app he has called Sleep School for Insomnia. The approach, which is centered around the idea of acceptance, mirrors OptimalWork's approach to any challenge: essentially, applying reframing, mindfulness, and challenge to sleep. We cover the theory and practice of this approach so that you too can master sleep — and use the principles to master anything else!
Note: In the conversation, the app was referred to as The Sleep App for Insomnia, but is actually Sleep School for Insomnia.
Dr. Kevin Majeres and Sharif discuss the neurological phenomenon of thalamic gating: the way your brain selectively filters sensations based on what you act on. By changing your behavior — for example, your response to pain or fears — you can train your brain to simply stop noticing these triggers. The key conclusion is that being willing to suffer in the end reduces suffering. This episode presents the neuroscience to support this claim.
This week we discuss the nature of addiction, that is, repeatedly giving into a craving in which the costs outweigh the benefits. Addiction comes in many varieties. One mild example discussed is frequently giving in to distractions in work. The pattern of how addictions form is generally the same, and they are likewise broken by following the three steps of the Golden Hour, reframing, mindfulness, and challenge.
A major new study in the American Journal of Psychiatry highlights three behavioral factors that substantially affect the likelihood of depression. In this episode, Dr. Kevin Majeres and Sharif discuss the study, as well as depression in general, and connect it to OptimalWork's approach.
The practice of mindfulness is becoming more and more popular, but it can be difficult to understand what
it really is, and what effects it has. In this session, we discuss the practice
of mindfulness, distinguishing different types of mindfulness, and explaining how certain practices can
help you to work at your best, by training your attention through the deliberate effort to attain silence.
Exercise has a tremendous power to transform your brain. Surprisingly, exercise has been shown to be one of the most effective treatments for depression. In this video, we discuss why this is the case, and why exercise offers unique benefits for everyone, from shaping the way you approach challenges to the way your brain functions.
Embracing challenges starts with your judgements about them. If you’re stuck seeing challenges as threats, you need reframing. Rather than avoiding challenges, or forcing yourself to get them over with, reframing means recognizing each challenge as an opportunity for growth or service, by placing it in its true context of your whole life. Reframing is not just a mental trick — it causes an identifiable change in your brain. Among other things, this episode covers why it’s important and how to do it — with a thorough example.
How motivated are you to tackle the challenges of the day? For many, motivation comes and goes, which means it’s not really under your control and, more importantly, it’s not really coming from you. You get motivated by things, rather than you motivating yourself to do what’s best. Kevin and Sharif discuss what motivation really is, what the only true stable source of motivation is, and how to cultivate it so you can always feel motivated to give your best.
In this episode, Kevin and Sharif discuss motives and priorities. It's common to see outcomes — like getting into the best school, securing a well-paying job, etc. — as ends in themselves. This approach has major costs: if you don't achieve the outcome, you get frustrated and double down on your outcome-focus; if you do, it just leads to you raise the bar and pursue an "even better" outcome. The alternative is to treat outcomes as means, not ends in themselves. They are a way to help you stretch yourself and ensure that you're serving others. You can tell you're being controlled by a desired outcome if you often sacrifice things — like relationships — that should actually be served by the outcomes you pursue.
This discussion was inspired by the following question: "If you posit that there’s a lot of service in most careers and that you can do them with love and that you can learn to focus and flow in most of them, then why choose one over another if it’s not for the increased paycheck, prestige, etc.?"
In this episode Kevin and Sharif discuss the nature and cause of anxiety. Understanding how anxiety works and what it really is — which is quite simple — can help you transform your approach to it. Crucially, as Kevin explains, anxiety is not a disorder or something to be avoided. Anxiety can be transformed into your best performance by following three steps: reframing, mindfulness, and engaging the challenge. You can follow these three steps before a time of work, turning it into a Golden Hour of focus and training yourself to embrace anxiety and use it to your advantage.
Last week, we discussed the left-brain/right-brain paradigm as it bears on work, and this week we are building off the discussion to address motives. Psychiatrist Iain McGilchrist re-popularized this paradigm in his 2009 book The Master and His Emissary, grounding it in neuroscience and using it to explain aspects of psychology, society, and culture (in contrast to previous pseudo-scientific versions of the theory). The approach has profound implications for understanding what motivates your actions — fear or love?
Kevin and Sharif discuss the different roles of the two hemispheres of the brain ("left brain" and "right brain"). Psychiatrist Iain McGilchrist re-popularized this paradigm in his 2009 book The Master and His Emissary, grounding it in neuroscience and using it to explain aspects of psychology, society, and culture (in contrast to previous pseudo-scientific versions of the theory). The approach has profound implications for understanding how to work at your best — with creativity and motives of service.
This week we used the feeling of frustration as our starting point. In the course of the discussion, we also talked about self-labeling (what we call "schemas"); the true nature of success and failure; and the benefits of focusing on process rather than outcome. This episode gets to the heart of OptimalWork's approach. Schemas are contrasted with ideals: schemas result from and lead to motives of fear, whereas ideals, especially service, offer motives of love. When we act independently of the schemas we (implicitly) have, we become free to learn, practice, grow, and serve.
We discuss the default mode network, a network of brain regions that have profound implications for the way we work and live. The default mode is involved when you get distracted, but it can also be trained to help you focus better.
Mastery is one of the central concepts of OptimalWork. It means doing work well, and is cultivated through the development and practice of strategies. The projects and templates tools on www.OptimalWork.com are meant to help you make good strategies, and refine them over time.
Some of the questions we discussed in this video are:
What is mastery?
How can you grow in mastery?
What's the role of mentoring and collaboration in growing in mastery?
What's the relationship between strategies and mastery?
We discuss the Golden Hour, the central method behind OptimalWork. A Golden Hour is like exercise for your work, when you deliberately practice working at your best by preparing for your work with three steps: reframing, mindfulness, and challenge. The Golden Hour can be practiced at www.optimalwork.com! Some of the questions we discussed are:
What is a Golden Hour and how do you do one?
Why did we develop the idea of the Golden Hour? What's its origin and purpose?
Will the Golden Hour help me find meaning and purpose in my work? (Hint: yes!)
We discuss the Inventory, one of the primary tools of OptimalWork. The Inventory is a 24-item questionnaire, a unique measure of how much you're embracing challenge and growing right now. Some of the questions we discussed in this video are:
What's wrong with the idea of temperament and personality tests?
What is the Inventory and what's unique about it?
How does it differ from other personality tests?
How did the Inventory develop?
What does my Inventory score mean?
What's the best way to use the Inventory?
Kevin and Sharif, OptimalWork co-founders, discuss how to "materialize your ideals," that is, how to bring them to life: into reality, into your actions. The key to this is the practice of order, intensity, and constancy: three ideals that you can perfect in each hour of work, and that ultimately shape your practice of any other ideal. An example we discuss in the video is kindness. How can you bring kindness to life? First order: think about how you're going to practice it, what situations; get a good picture of what it will look like. Then intensity: apply yourself in a particular situation with your whole attention. Then constancy: challenge yourself over the course of, say, a conversation to look for more opportunities to practice kindness. This is key to understanding a saying we like to repeat: the way you work is the way you live.
Kevin and Sharif, OptimalWork co-founders, discuss how to get traction from distraction. Kevin explains our unique theory of distractions, and draws out the practical conclusions: how to prevent them, and, if they do come, how to find the opportunity for shaping yourself and practicing ideals.
Some other topics that came up:
What to do if you wake up before your alarm goes off.
Good use of technology/phones
Kevin and Sharif, OptimalWork co-founders, discuss how to gain victory over tiredness - in the context of afternoon tiredness, naps, and missed sleep. The discussion was mainly inspired by the following questions:
If every time I feel tired I jump on the treadmill will that amplify the feeling of tiredness because I am acting on it?
Can you address the advisability of the short afternoon nap?
How do we get back on track of our sleeping schedule, once we had left it?
Dr. Kevin Majeres, co-founder of OptimalWork, gives the 11 best reasons to jump out of bed the moment your alarm first sounds. This practice is one of the keys to personal transformation and growth (along with a daily Golden Hour).
Kevin and Sharif, OptimalWork co-founders, discuss the "illusion of simultaneity" and how to get effective sleep. The discussion was mainly inspired by the following comment: One question that I have for you, is how can I begin to regulate and improve sleep hygiene? In this time of quarantine, because there aren't specific deadlines at my job, I have the luxury (if you can call it that) to sleep in and fall asleep late.
Kevin and Sharif, OptimalWork co-founders, discuss what to do when you feel overwhelmed, how to make a schedule, and how to prioritize.
The discussion was mainly inspired by the following question: The question I have is about decision paralysis/decision fatigue. I have been overwhelmed by all the projects I could do, and in the choosing, I usually fatigue out and then proceed to watch Netflix. How can I overcome decision paralysis?
Kevin and Sharif, OptimalWork co-founders, discuss how to aim for ideals in difficult relationships, and how to respond to negative emotions. The discussion was mainly inspired by the following comment: I am on quarantine. Three of the people I live with are insufferable characters. They hijack conversations, aggressively contradict people who are just sharing information (not even opinions) and needlessly complain. I'm not anxious of getting covid-19. That virus cannot hold a candle to the virulence of my housemates.
Kevin and Sharif, OptimalWork co-founders, discuss how to develop resilience in this new work environment.
Here are the questions we answered:
How can I ensure that I will persevere in good work habits for weeks or even months?
How should we maintain a distinction between work and family life? (E.g., thinking about work during family time; getting distracted with family when I should be working.)
How do I choose what to do to stay productive, given that I have few serious responsibilities?