Caroline Webb (Ep.22): Behavioral science and your best self

I often get listener pushback when we discuss happiness and introspection — this skepticism comes from the fact that the learnings aren’t grounded in data and they lack the pragmatism and relevance to our daily jobs. Today’s guest, Caroline Webb is here to bridge that gap. She’s a former McKinsey partner, leadership coach, and economist and is used to C-Suiters pushing back on topics that are too “woo-woo.” She’s the founder of SevenShift, where she uses insights from behavioral science to help executives improve their working life. We discuss humans’ natural tendency to scan our environments for threats and how this impacts our brains. Are these threats real? How do we stop negative thought spirals? Is technology a source of threats? And a reader favorite, is fear a good motivator?

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Learn More about Caroline

  • Caroline’s book “How to Have a Good Day” (Learn more, Buy a copy)
  • Visit to download a free chapter of the book and sign up for Caroline’s occasional newsletter.
  • Take the Good Day Index Quiz to get your “GDI score” (i.e. the chances of having a good day) plus some immediate tips for raising your score.
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Books Discussed

Show Notes

How to “quantify” the impact of leadership and self-awareness work

A useful thought exercise is the question: How often are you at your very best? You can do a little back of the envelope, what if I were at 100% more often? What I may be able to do via output?

What was the “median” response for a group of execs? (100% being their best)

It was a great way to get into the topic. They’d look at me with a chasing look and say “Yeah, we’re only at our best 60% of the time.”

On not anchoring to what peers thought of her

I took a total side-step during my time at McKinsey. The reason I was able to not get attached to my sense of progression (…) was because I just thought I was different, I was a sample of 1. And what other people were trying to do (…) didn’t apply to me.

Shutting down our threat detection reflex

If you can “catch” your initial reaction [to a threat] research is very clear on this, if you say “Oh, how exciting?” or “What a fascinating challenge I have in front of me?” you have a chance to tell your brain that this is arousal of the good sorts.

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