Saturday, September 18, 2010


How you frame a problem or activity to school kids determines which kids will excel. We all know the academic high-achievers, arms waving, butts lifting out of their chairs, ready to tackle the problem while the rest of us are slumped in our chairs waiting for the whole thing to be over. 
            Which are you, a high-achiever or a slumper? What about your partner, or your kids?
            It’s important to know. When researchers posed the problem as being challenging, requiring mastery, and a way to demonstrate excellence, the high-achievers kicked butt.
And the slumpers? Well, they slumped.
Surprisingly—or maybe not so surprisingly—when the very same problem was posed as being fun and exciting, the high-achievers slumped and the slumpers ruled.
Overall, the slumpers kicked butt. They were even more successful than the successful high-achievers. But only if the problem was posed as being fun. 
            The words you use to think about or describe the things you want to do in your life will influence how successful you are. The same is true for your kids, or your partner.
            Decide if you, or they, respond more to fun and exciting, or to challenge and mastery. Then use your words carefully. As we explained last time, questions are often a more powerful motivator than statements. So, though it might feel strange at first, experiment with one of the following, putting in, of course, whatever it is you want to have fun with, or want to master.
             “Will I go to the gym this week and have a great time spinning my butt off while singing old disco songs at the top of my lungs?”
            “Will I go the gym and meet the challenge of lifting x amount of weight y amount of times showing that I am master of my universe?”   
             If you're like school kids and research participants, though it may seem odd, asking yourself the right questions each day using words that work for you will help land you in the gym and wherever else you want to be in your life more often than simply bossing yourself around with statements that start with, "I will."
             'May I', is also a good way of beginning to ask for what you want.
             Try it and let me know what you think.

Friday, September 17, 2010

How Do You Talk to A Genius?

We all talk to ourselves all day long and often throughout the night. Sometimes, we’re beating ourselves. Sometimes we’re talking nicely. In either case, our self-talk is often a way of coaching ourselves so we can get what we want out of life.
But are we doing a good job?
We know we need to watch the negative stuff, and that’s hard enough.
But what about the good stuff we say to ourselves? 
We may set goals and repeat positive affirmations.
 “I will master the guitar during the next year.”
“I will find the love of my life.”
Maybe we read that affirmations work better if we put them in the present tense.
 “I have found the love of my life and am masterfully playing the guitar.”
Present tense and efficient.
            But can we do better? Research, new and old, suggests we can.
University of Illinois researchers found that, “Will I master the guitar during the next year?” is much more powerful and successful than, “I will master the guitar during the next year.”
“Will I find the love of my life?” is better than, “I will find the love of my life.”
The questions open deeper levels of possibility and commitment in test subjects, while the “I will” statements bring up resistance and guilt.
            Buddhist prayers, or affirmations, often begin with “may”. “May my heart be filled with loving kindness.”
It’s not exactly a question, but it’s close, and it has a very different feel from, “My heart is filled with loving kindness.”
The question is expansive and open to something bigger than us.
“Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.”
Again, it’s not a question. There is faith in it, but it is a request, a deep form of asking.
            Genius. Genie. God. Maybe you can get what you want out of life, but you’ll have a better chance if you know how to ask. And how to work your butt off.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Leash The Lizard Unleash Your Creativity

Seth Godin, marketing genius extraordinaire, has been talking about the lizard brain lately—that’s the older emotional/reptilian part of your brain that deals in fear, sex, and food. Lizard brain often kicks up fear when you do something new and creative.
If you are lucky enough to get paid to do creative work, you are being paid to do stuff that scares you. So deal with it. Fear increases as you get closer to the delivery date for your creative work. Lizard brain will make sure of that.
Here is one idea for taming lizard brain—or at least putting him or her on a leash. 
Research from Columbia Business School has shown that posture affects testosterone levels. Puff out your chest, lean over your desk, or kick up your feet, and testosterone, the power hormone, goes up; cortisol, a stress hormone, goes down.
What you do with your body will affect how you feel.
But what is your body doing? To find out, you need to be able to pay attention. And that’s hard when we get stressed and fearful.
I’m a big proponent of meditation and mindfulness practices, simply sitting quietly each day for 15 minutes and paying attention to your breathing and what is going on in and around you, while letting your thinking come to rest. This daily practice builds your muscle for paying attention and being able to handle upsetting thoughts and physical feelings like fear.
It may not sound like much, but paying close attention to your thoughts and bodily sensations and acting mindfully, such as breathing fully or standing tall, when you feel like collapsing like a kicked dog, is a very powerful technique for calming down lizard brain, dealing with fear, and delivering your creations on time. 

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

The Agony, the Ecstasy, and Therapy

A husband and wife team of psychiatrists, Michael and Annie Mithoefer, have published a study in the Journal of Psychopharmacology showing that psychotherapy done with patients while they were high on Ecstasy, the drug MDMA, was quite effective in treating difficult cases of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Mithoefer proposes that Ecstasy increases the clients' abililty to handle the difficult and traumatic material that must be processed to successfully work through and resolve the issues associated with PTSD.

One of the most successful therapeutic approaches for working with PTSD, and a number of other trauma-related conditions, is known as somatic experiencing (SE). SE is part of the burgeoning field of somatic, or body-focused, psychology, that looks at how difficult psychological material is experienced in the body, and  then uses the body's resources to restore the client to better physical and emotional health.

A key practice of SE is to 'resource' the client, to give them a felt sense of integrity, possibility, groundedness, and a sense of their  own power and ability to heal and flourish. This is done before ever approaching difficult material. In a sense, you work to make sure the client is high enough before you take them low--if you get my meaning. Then you work slowly, so the client can process the challenging material without feeling overwhelmed.

You have a good bit of ecstatic circuitry built into your nervous system. If you didn't, Ecstasy wouldn't work. So, you don't need to be high on Ecstasy to process difficult and even traumatic material. You just need to be high enough, and you've been blessed with a nervous system that can do just that, though sometimes it may need a little help from a good friend, or a coach, or in very extreme situations, a white pill.