Don’t Forget to Ask “Why?”

November 7, 2010 by  
Filed under Personal Development

The Journal of Consumer Research recently released a study concluding that people who become focused on how to achieve a goal may have a harder time achieving their aims than people who think abstractly about why they want to do something.

The authors of the study found that when people focus on concrete aspects of how a goal will be achieved, the person who is trying to achieve the goal becomes more close minded and less likely to take advantage of an opportunity that may fall outside of their plan. On the other hand, people who focus on the “why” are more likely to consider a new opportunity which could help them attain their goal.

This is not to say that forming a way to implement a goal is not valuable. It is. The study reveals that when people form “implementation intentions” they become overly focused on the specific details of the implemental plan and less focused on the overarching goal.

The mere knowledge of the outcome of this study may be helpful as you try to achieve your goal. Let’s say you recently discovered that you are pre-diabetic. Your doctor recommends an overhaul of your diet. Immediately, you shelve any and all white, refined flour. Day after day, you stick to your guns: no white, refined flour. What you don’t know is what your doctor may have failed to tell you: daily, moderate exercise may be an even more effective way to stave off diabetes. In comparison to someone who has not yet formed a plan for lowering their diabetes, are you more or less likely to add an exercise regimen?

While the authors may not have conclusive evidence to answer this specific question, they are likely to tell you that you may not value an ‘out of plan’ opportunity the same as you would your original plan. “Planning is more effective when people think abstractly, keep an open mind, and remind themselves of why they want to achieve a goal,” they write. In a sense, this seems counter-intuitive, as so much of goal-setting seems to be all about the ‘how’. Asking “why” may help you to stick to your intentions, especially as you face unexpected challenges. This helps all of us be our own life coach, answering the “why” as we move forward. The lesson learned here is to keep examining the role of your own mind-set as you pursue your goal. Otherwise, you may just be letting a good opportunity simply pass you by.

If any of you want to share your insights, let us know!

Scientists Discover What Makes Us Happy

October 7, 2010 by  
Filed under Personal Development

I have always been fascinated by what makes us all happy. After all isn’t that one of the big brass ring’s in life we all strive for? If someone walked up to you and gave you a million dollars or 10 million dollars would that make you truly happy? I’m sure for a certain period of time the answer would be yes, but I’m talking about real happiness for the long run.

I have in fact met millionaires that are miserable and a few that do seem happy and satisfied. Yes, money can make us all happy and I don’t want to discard the big buck, but I’m talking long term deep down happiness and satisfaction with life and living. And that’s what interest’s me. Lets take a look at what the scientists have to say.

A study published online Monday by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences provides evidence on what makes us happy.

Researchers from Australia, the Netherlands and Germany scoured data from thousands of German adults who were tracked for a quarter-century, from 1984 to 2008. Each year, they answered questions about their families, their careers, their health, their social activities and their “life satisfaction.”

Based on all this data, the researchers concluded that these things (in no particular order) contribute to happiness:
• Having an emotionally stable spouse
• Prioritizing altruistic goals like “helping other people” and “being involved in social and political activities”
• Prioritizing family (and, for women, having a spouse who prioritizes family goals is an added bonus)
• Having an active social life
• Regular exercise

And these things detract from happiness:
• Having a neurotic spouse
• Prioritizing “success and material goods”
• Working much more or much less than you’d ideally like (though being unemployed or underemployed is worse than being overworked)
• For men, being underweight
• For women, being obese
Here’s how the researchers summed up their findings: “Results showing that long-term happiness can be substantially affected by individual choices are good news, not only for economists but also for governments and humankind.”
There you go. A quick snapshot of what makes us happy. What about you? What makes you happy? I would like to know.

Fit and Fun?

June 1, 2010 by  
Filed under Personal Development

Fitness for life is something many of us would like to think that we have, but how do we measure our own success? If I can run a 5K without experiencing cardiac arrest, does it mean that I’m ‘fit’? Or if I’ve moved on to the advanced yoga class, will this classify me as ‘fit’? Just how do I rank amongst others my age and just what should fitness measure?

To answer these questions, I’ve decided to take the plunge and take the President’s Fitness Challenge Program. As you may remember from Junior High days, The President’ Council of Physical Fitness and Sports focused on youth fitness, seemingly trying to motivate kids towards healthy fitness levels. I remember these tests as being nothing but humiliating, confirming that “jocks” were indeed jocks, and that the non-athletes (me) should just give it up. I shared the same amount of love for physical fitness tests as my love for my starched gym uniform. None.
Fast forward a few years (okay, more than a few) and here I am wondering if my own fitness levels are up to federal standards. Fortunately, the President’s Council has created the first-ever Adult Fitness Test. “What began as a national youth fitness test has grown up. Today, the President’s Challenge takes staying active beyond the school gym and into everyday life.”

The Adult Fitness Test is actually a series of four tests that give one a general measure of fitness in four health related areas: aerobic capacity, muscular strength and endurance, flexibility, and body composition. First, you need to find out if you are healthy enough for testing, easily accomplished via a screening questionnaire. Second, it is recommended that adults find a partner to help collect and record the results for each challenge.

Fortunately, you don’t need to perform the challenges in any particular order or even on the same day. Once you’ve finished, you can record your results online and even get suggestions of ways to improve fitness in that particular area. Each test includes a “FITT” box which recommends Frequency (F), Intensity (I), TIme (T) and Type of exercise (T). Put the four together (FITT) and you get specific ways to improve your level of fitness. You can also compare your results to others and follow your own progress. And no starchy uniforms! What’s not to like?
This June, I’m off to visit and I’m inviting others to join in. Be sure to let us know what you think of the test after completion. Not a bad way to start the summer, eh?

Finding My Own oomph!

May 11, 2010 by  
Filed under Personal Development

I just started to read a very smart motivational book called “The Genius in All of Us” by David Shenk. I picked this book up to give myself a much needed boost for my work as a website publisher for

By looking at his background on the back of the book cover, David Shenk is not your typical motivation writer. He has been a correspondent for The Atlantic, National Geographic, The New York Times and The New Yorker. He is also the author of five other books.

Motivational gurus from Dale Carnegie, Tony Robbins, and most recently preacher/motivator Joel Osteen have promised to find access to hidden stores of genius within us all (and sometimes additional help from a higher power). Now here comes David Shenk with “The Genius in All of Us,” which argues that we have before us not a “talent scarcity” but a “ latent talent abundance.” Our problem “isn’t our inadequate genetic assets,” but “our inability, so far, to tap into what we already have.”

One of the main themes in this book (I have not finished the book yet), is simply practice, practice, practice. (and oh God, I can relate to this!) Whatever you wish to do well, Shenk writes, you must do over and over again.

Shenk describes the work of the psychologist Anders Ericsson, who states, “repeated attempts to reach beyond one’s current level,” often results in “frequent failures.” This is known as “deliberate practice,” and over time it can actually produce changes in the brain, making new heights of achievement possible.

Shenk is vague about how, exactly, this happens, but to his credit he doesn’t make it sound easy. “You have to want it and want it so bad you will never give up. You also have to want it so bad that you are ready to sacrifice time, money, sleep, friendships, even your reputation,” he writes. “You will have to adopt a particular lifestyle of ambition, not just for a few weeks or months but for years and years. You have to want it so bad that you are not only ready to fail, but you actually want to experience failure: revel in it, learn from it.”
I don’t agree with the part where he talks about sacrificing friendships and reputation (those are too important to me), but I get what he means here…work hard for your own genius, or as I would like to say, for your own oomph! (Am I over doing the oomph thing here?) I do agree with the part about experiencing failure, and to learn from it, and then pick your self up and move forward.

I can certainly relate to this concept, in regards to oomphTV. My talented and gifted partner Tammy 0’ Connor and I have worked a few years now on trying to get this project fueled, financed, and lifted off the ground.
oomph! has taken on different lives. First we worked to get oomph! off the ground as a TV series (along with another great gifted and talented partner Grady Candler) for PBS. After a few close corporate financing possibilities came and went, oomph! the public television series morphed into The concept and content remained basically the same. The difference is that we finally now have a home. And this new internet home might be the perfect fit due to the social engagement opportunities you can have on the internet that you can’t have with television.

Have we found our own “Genius?” I don’t know, but what I do know is working on this project has been a great deal of hard work and we have yet to find financing (except my own) On the other hand, we are starting to find a small, but engaged audience (finally) and that is success.
I have also been given the opportunity to work with the very best partners one could ever hope for. This project has also been a wonderful creative outlet. In addition, I have been given the opportunity to meet some of the most amazing people I have ever met in my life, due to the webisodes we have been producing. I am grateful for this project in more ways than one. I can say the process has been fruitful in many personal and creative ways.
Will we find the fuel and financing needed to take oomphTV to the next level? Oh yes, but, I’m sure, with more stumbles, failures, help from a higher power, and plain old hard work.

Gratitude and Oomph!

April 25, 2010 by  
Filed under Personal Development

One of the next videos we are working on is in part based on the person that inspired oomphTV…. my own 80-year old mother. Jeanne Dowell, along with my sister, Dana Windatt, recently launched an eco-friendly clothing line, called “Green Buddha.” (see more photos of the Green Buddha event on oomphTV’s Facebook page). The clothing and accessories are all based on the spirit of Gratitude. You can check them out at: Green Buddha

Today I finished reading an ongoing research project about Gratitude that is being done at UC Davis. The findings are interesting and I had to share them with you.

Gratitude can be a powerfully transformative practice. Psychologists Robert Emmons of U.C. Davis and Michael McCullough of the University of Miami have found that practicing gratitude can actually improve our emotional and physical well-being. Their ongoing research project on Gratitude and Thankfulness has found that people who keep weekly gratitude journals had fewer physical symptoms, exercised more, had a better outlook on life and were more likely to reach their goals.
Gratitude Interventions and Psychological and Physical Well-Being

• In an experimental comparison, those who kept gratitude journals on a weekly basis exercised more regularly, reported fewer physical symptoms, felt better about their lives as a whole, and were more optimistic about the upcoming week compared to those who recorded hassles or neutral life events (Emmons & McCullough, 2003).

• A related benefit was observed in the realm of personal goal attainment:  Participants who kept gratitude lists were more likely to have made progress toward important personal goals (academic, interpersonal and health-based) over a two-month period compared to subjects in the other experimental conditions.

• A daily gratitude intervention (self-guided exercises) with young adults resulted in higher reported levels of the positive states of alertness, enthusiasm, determination, attentiveness and energy compared to a focus on hassles or a downward social comparison.

• Participants in the daily gratitude condition were more likely to report having helped someone with a personal problem or having offered emotional support to another, relative to the hassles or social comparison condition.

• In a sample of adults with neuromuscular disease, a 21-day gratitude intervention resulted in greater amounts of high energy positive moods, a greater sense of feeling connected to others, more optimistic ratings of one’s life, and better sleep duration and sleep quality, relative to a control group.

• Children who practice grateful thinking have more positive attitudes toward school and their families (Froh, Sefick, & Emmons, 2008).
Measuring the Grateful Disposition

• Well-Being:  Grateful people report higher levels of positive emotions, life satisfaction, vitality, optimism and lower levels of depression and stress.  The disposition toward gratitude appears to enhance pleasant feeling states more than it diminishes unpleasant emotions.  Grateful people do not deny or ignore the negative aspects of life.

• Prosociality: People with a strong disposition toward gratitude have the capacity to be empathic and to take the perspective of others.  They are rated as more generous and more helpful by people in their social networks (McCullough, Emmons, & Tsang, 2002).

• Spirituality:  Those who regularly attend religious services and engage in religious activities such as prayer reading religious material score are more likely to be grateful.  Grateful people are more likely to acknowledge a belief in the interconnectedness of all life and a commitment to and responsibility to others (McCullough et. al., 2002). Gratitude does not require religious faith, but faith enhances the ability to be grateful.

• Materialism:  Grateful individuals place less importance on material goods; they are less likely to judge their own and others success in terms of possessions accumulated; they are less envious of  others; and are more likely to share their possessions with others relative to less grateful persons.

• Oomph: Grateful people have more oomph! (however, there is no scientific evidence to support this claim)
I am proud of my sister and 80-year old mother in more ways than one. Starting a new business, especially an apparel business in these challenging economic times, is no easy task. My sister and mother have done an amazing job and have worked very hard in making Green Buddha happen. The clothing line is beautiful and so are the accessories. Most important, they are reminding people about the power of Gratitude and that can give us all some real oomph!

I am inspired by them both and I’m sure you will too, when you get to see the video. I will let you know.

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