Archive for July, 2009

Three Effective Ways to Enhance Your Willpower

I am a Zen Habits fan. The blog is full of wonderful ideas, but mostly I love how real it is. Who and what we learn about Leo is who he is. I think this is the way it should be when you write. The greatest compliment I have ever received came when someone told me they could hear me talking as they read some of my work.  That I could speak to them via my writing was a priceless gift for me. And that gift is many years old and it’s still awesome!

In the spirit of being real, the post below was written by Ian Newby-Clark of My Bad Habits and was shared on the Zen Habits blog. I wanted to share it again here as I think it is a great read. I love the inclusion of research studies (always a fascinating part of any article, book, or post), as I am a research geek. Enjoy!!


Control yourself! We all say it, mostly to ourselves. We say it when we ‘indulge’ in behaviors that cause short-term gain for long-term pain. And guilt. I cite many of the usual suspects: eating the wrong things, being lazy, staying up too late, drinking too much. There are others, of course. Why do we do such things? After all, aren’t we entirely in control of ourselves all of the time?


Research tells us that willpower is a limited resource. Each of us only has so much of it. The studies demonstrating this are rather ingenious. I will share one of my favorites with you, though there are many more.

You are a student at a mid-Western university and you are in a psychology experiment apparently concerned with taste-testing. The experimenter seats you at a table. In front of you is a plate of freshly baked chocolate chip cookies. There is also a plate of radishes. Your stomach is growling because, as instructed, you didn’t eat anything last night.

The experimenter asks you to taste-test the radishes. You are not to taste the cookies. In fact, don’t even touch them! No cookies for you! Next, the experimenter asks you to help out another experimenter with a puzzle experiment. You start working on the puzzle. It’s rather hard …

Times passes …

You are having trouble solving the puzzle. Undeterred, you press on.

More time passes …

You still can’t solve the puzzle! You sometimes get close, but then you make a mistake and start over. Eventually, you give up. When the experiment is over, you learn a couple of interesting facts. First, the two experiments, taste-testing and puzzle-solving, were related. Those sneaky psychologists! Second, some people taste-tested the cookies. Lucky ducks!

Persisting at the frustratingly difficult puzzle takes willpower. But will the radish-eaters and cookie-eaters have the same amount of willpower? The experimenters think that the radish-eaters have less will-power than the cookie-eaters because the radish-eaters had to resist grabbing a cookie. So, the radish-eaters should give up on the puzzle sooner than the cookie-eaters. That’s what happened.

That study, and dozens of others like it, show that people only have so much willpower. When you have to control yourself, there is less willpower available to you for other parts of your life. This fact is a good one to know because people who lose their will-power often do things that they would rather not. They become aggressive, sexually impulsive, and give up too early on puzzles.

This has nothing to do with being physically tired. Your self-control is at low ebb when you are mentally exhausted. So, what lessons can we learn from what the science is telling us? How can we be in more and better control of ourselves more often? I have three tips:

1. Anticipate and plan for your times of low self-control. Now that you know that self-control is a limited resource and that depleting it means less for later, you can do some anticipating and planning. For example, make sure that you’re not in the chips and cookies aisle of the grocery store after a long day at work. Don’t start on your tax return after a frustrating commute.

2. Exercise your willpower muscle to get more of it. Roy Baumeister, one of the leading researchers in this field, thinks that willpower is like a muscle. Exercising a muscle in the short-term leads to its exhaustion. In the long-term, though, exercising a muscle causes it to grow. In fact, there is some good evidence that exercising your willpower, though temporarily depleting, means that it will be stronger in the long run. So, push yourself. Things to do that will deplete your willpower:

  • Work on a tough to solve puzzle;
  • Watch a funny movie but resist the urge to laugh;
  • Watch a sad movie but resist the urge to cry.

3. Drink some orange juice. It turns out that glucose is one of the key ingredients that your brain needs for effective self-control. Willpower. It’s not just for breakfast anymore!

I hope that you find my message enlightening and helpful. Some of you, I am sure, will be disappointed to learn that your capacity for self-control is less than infinite. You do have willpower, just not as much as you might like. But now you know how to get more!

Read more from Ian Newby-Clark at his blog, My Bad Habits.

July 31, 2009 at 12:00 pm 6 comments

Relationship Rules

I recently went to see The Ugly Truth with friends and afterward, found myself wondering about relationship rules. Why do girls feel the need to adjust who they truly are, what they wear, what they like to do – all in the name of appealing to or “getting” the guy? I am not suggesting that both sexes should stop trying new things with each other even if you don’t want to.  I have found that being in the right company changes the dynamics of things so much that I like things I never used to. This is a good thing. I didn’t change my entire being though!

I really hated that book that came out with the formal rules girls were supposed to follow in order to get the guy. Then one of the writers from Sex and the City writes that book that is turned into a movie, He’s Just Not That Into You.  Notice, both books are for women to get us to wake up to the ‘facts’ (more like gobbledygook if you ask me) about how to gain a guy, not repel him.

Funny, in The Ugly Truth, Heigl’s character is her true self and Gerard Butler’s character ends up falling for her, just as she is.  She breaks up with the guy she thought she was into after she reveals she has been playing a version of herself that isn’t even her. Did she do this because she finally missed herself? Because she was tired of the charade? Or because she and Gerard Butler’s character finally realized their feelings for each other and she could be herself again?

For those Grey’s Anatomy fans out there, who doesn’t remember the “pick me, choose me, love me” scene in which Meredith tries to appeal to Derek when he is trying to decide to divorce Addison or not; this after Addison had an affair with his best friend.  Honestly, even typing those words, I can feel her anguish and her desire to have her fairy tale ending. Yes, yes, we all know where things are now! Do women identify with that scene in particular because we have had those moments ourselves?

I know, I know, just another movie version of a fairy tale.  Many movies are just one version of a fairy tale or another, with everything being all neatly tied up in the end with a bow. Life is not like a fairy tale.  We all deeply know this, but my question is, do we really? Or, do we secretly hope for the fairy tales in our own lives to come true?

For the record, I am a hopeless romantic and yes, I do hope the guy I have feelings for picks me, chooses me, loves me. Just as I am. This is still my hope and one day, I know it will come true.

July 30, 2009 at 8:47 pm Leave a comment

Do you want to be a mermaid or a whale?

I wanted to share this story that I received from my friend Angela. It made me smile and reminds me of one of my recent tweets:  The image of perfection doesn’t exist so accept yourself as you are 🙂

Recently, in a large French city, a poster featuring a young, thin and tan woman appeared in the window of a gym. It said: THIS SUMMER DO YOU WANT TO BE A MERMAID OR A WHALE?

A middle aged woman, whose physical characteristics did not match those of the woman on the poster, responded publicly to the question posed by the gym.

To Whom It May Concern:

Whales are always surrounded by friends (dolphins, sea lions, curious humans). They have an active sex life, they get pregnant and have adorable baby whales. They have a wonderful time with dolphins stuffing themselves with shrimp. They play and swim in the seas, seeing wonderful places like Patagonia, the Bering Sea and the coral reefs of Polynesia. Whales are wonderful singers and have even recorded CDs. They are incredible creatures and virtually have no predators other than humans. They are loved, protected and admired by almost everyone in the world.

Mermaids don’t exist. If they did exist, they would be lining up outside the offices of Argentinean psychoanalysts due to identity crisis. Fish or human? They don’t have a sex life because they kill men who get close to them not to mention how could they have sex? Therefore they don’t have kids either. Not to mention who wants to get close to a girl who’s skin is all scaly and smells like a fish store?

The choice is perfectly clear to me… I want to be a whale.

P.S. We are in an age when media puts into our heads the idea that only skinny people are beautiful, but I prefer to enjoy an ice cream with my grandkids, a good dinner with a man who makes me shiver and a latte with my friends. With time, we gain weight because we accumulate so much information and wisdom in our heads that when there is no more room, it distributes out to the rest of our bodies. So we aren’t heavy, we are enormously cultured, educated and happy. Beginning today, when I look at my butt in the mirror I will think, “Good gosh, look how smart I am!”

July 29, 2009 at 3:28 pm Leave a comment

Are you a life-enricher?

I was in the bookstore the other evening, doing something I haven’t done in a while.  I let my curiosity run amok and looked at a ton of different books among the stacks.  I don’t do this very often because if there is one material weakness I have, it is books. Oh sure, you already know about my love for office supplies, but honestly, I do without very easily. I don’t know why, but checking out the stacks at the local library isn’t as fun as it used to be.  Plus with budget cutbacks, their hours are more limited than ever (which I think is a shame).  Doesn’t anyone remember the RIF (reading is fundamental) campaign??

I pulled a few books to look at more and settled into a chair.  One book in particular caught my attention and one of the lines halfway in caught my attention.  Simply, it asked, are you a life-enricher?

It stopped me short. I would love to think I am, but am I?  Do I question myself based on my daily perception or overall, throughout my life?  Then I started wondering if I surround myself with life-enrichers.  I am sure the other people in the bookstore wondered what I was doing because I was no longer reading the book but just sort of staring off into space at this point.

Here’s what I think.  I don’t think you can really start examining this within yourself until at least college, but definitely after that point.  It helps to look at yourself in big chunks of time, like the first half of the year, the prior year, etc.  Right now, I can say that for the past few weeks, I have been an inconsistent life enricher for both myself and others.  Sometimes, I just don’t have the positivity for my life, which in turn doesn’t allow me the positivity outward to others.  However, if I look at myself for the first half of this year, I have been.

But I also think when it comes to others, I have been lucky that most of the persons I have surrounded myself with are life-enrichers. They are loving, kind, fun, funny, challenging, intellectually motivating, creative, and inspiring.  Hmm, you think, she said most.  Well, not everyone in my life is enriching, but I think that there are some persons in your life that are there no matter what (at work, etc.) and maybe the lesson we can learn from those types is to appreciate the life-enrichment in ourselves and others. I know that’s what I have been doing!

July 24, 2009 at 11:32 am Leave a comment

Crystal balls and Magic 8-balls

I have a magic 8-ball on one of my bookshelves. From time to time, I pick it up and ask it a few questions.  I truly wish and hope that the answer is what I am hoping for.  Of course, if you are like me, if you don’t like the response, you will play the best out of 3 game (or best out of 5).  How’s that for science!! Reminds me of picking leaves from a flower – ‘ he loves me, he loves me not’ and so forth when again, it’s a fruitless exercise.

Despite my playing around with this toy, I don’t actually believe whatever the answer is, even if I get the one I want first time asked. But I have often wondered if the answer became the truth and as time passed, it became less a toy and more a crystal ball.  But my question is – if you could see into the future, would it change how you live today?  Think about that for a second.

If you knew that your something tragic was going to happen to a member of your family (not hoping for this for anyone), would it impact how you treat them now? Or if there’s been a rift between you and a previously really close friend, would knowing that person was struck with a terminal disease cause you to forgive and forget?

What if you knew that instead of it being a family member or your friend, it was your life that was going to end sooner than you expected? Because let’s be real, we all think we are going to die of old age, with a smile on our face, in our sleep.  Would you live your life differently now?  There are some people who have been given this ‘gift’ of a second chance and as a result, have made completely different choices because medically, they were given the opportunity to live beyond the two-months or whatever bit of life sentence given to them by doctors. Some have said that getting the disease and then being cured was the best thing that happened to them as it caused them to quit blindly walking through life.

Why do we need these types of wake up calls? Why would a glimpse into your future via a crystal ball change what you decide to do now?  Is this all based in our fear of change? Or our need for security? Or our desire to take the path so easily chosen?

I read a brilliant quote in a book for school the other day that stated “if you are afraid of conflict, you are afraid to grow”.  The authors were referring to teams and leaders, but I think it applies to everyone. However, I will take that a step further and say that if you are afraid to take a chance on yourself, on your happiness, on your life — then you are afraid to live.

Are you living? Or are you just going through the motions, getting by and hoping for the best?  Remember, you are the captain of your destiny. Start navigating!

July 22, 2009 at 6:28 pm 1 comment

Blogs of the World III – zen habits

I don’t know how many of you out there are zen habits readers, but it’s an awesome blog. The author, Leo Babauta, is a bloggerX2 and a now a novelistx2.  His blog, the aforementioned zen habits, is hugely popular and sprung forth a book, The Power of Less.  He had also previously written an ebook, Zen To Done: The Ultimate Simple Productivity System, that was touted as the most successful productivity ebook sold in history. I have no idea if that is true or not, but that was said at the time!

He has written another book co-authored with  Eric Hamm called The Essential Motivation Handbook. He calls it a companion to his Zen to Done ebook.  If it is anything like it or the Power of Less book, this one will be a winner as well. I am devouring it now so stay tuned!! If you are interested in purchasing, check it out:    Click here to view more details

And for those of you who wondered, hey she said he was a bloggerx2, don’t forget to check out write to done. He shares some awesome writing tips, not just for bloggers, but for all writers.  Check it out!

July 21, 2009 at 8:22 pm Leave a comment

Wild About Omaha

The weekend is coming!  Come out this weekend, July 24th and 25th!

Don’t Miss Mutual of Omaha’s Wild About Omaha Weekend!

Join Mutual of Omaha in celebrating 100 years! Wild about Omaha Weekend will be two days of fun-filled events at several Omaha arts & entertainment venues. Whether you’re young, old, somewhere in between, single or want to bring the family – there’s something for everyone. And – it’s FREE!


Thanks to SPN for the great picture!!

July 20, 2009 at 12:44 pm Leave a comment

The cavalry is coming

When you hear this phrase, what immediately came to mind? Are you wrestling with an issue and felt some relief that help was coming? Do we all still feel a need to be rescued sometimes?

I believe help comes in many forms. The trick is you need to be aware and ready for the help.  It doesn’t help if you are turned in a different direction or your eyes are closed.

Lately, I have been having some challenges with anxiety.  By nature, I am a  planner, an organizer, a linear thinker. I am also creative, spontaneous, with boundless energy. These two sides can come into conflict which causes anxious moments. Right now, I have many been struggling with my doctoral program while finishing up my coaching practicums toward PCC certification, adjuncting at one college while working full-time at another. That’s just the big stuff 🙂

But what do you do when the anxiety hits?

Luckily, I am good at recognizing when I am anxious and keyed up. I have not always been successful about how to mitigate those feelings though!  But thankfully, I have taken some steps lately and by doing so, the phrase ‘the cavalry is coming’ always springs to mind and I immediately feel relieved.  As a coach, some of the same steps that I use to assist my clients are ones that I utilize myself. And luckily, they are wonderfully effective.  I’m curious. What do you do to help yourself and practice a little self-care?

July 17, 2009 at 10:01 am 2 comments

It’s a 2X2 world

This post has been bouncing around in my head for some time now and think it’s more appropriate than ever.

We live in a 2×2 world.  It seems like everything is set up for couples (and by extension, families).  Shoot, what’s the point of a booth if not to look longingly at your significant other across the table? I actually don’t believe this, but it was said to me very recently. Friday and Saturday nights are still called date nights, not that one can’t have a date with oneself. But let’s get real, when you see someone siting in a restaurant or movie alone, don’t you wonder why they are alone and where their significant other is? Are they on their way? Did they have a fight? Why couldn’t that person have chosen to go out alone?

Have you ever tried to go to a concert alone? A movie? a 5-star restaurant?  A vacation? A play or musical? Just to name a few. How did it go?  Were you thinking the whole time about having someone next to you? Did you bring a book with you? Did you call someone so that you wouldn’t seem so alone? Were you texting the whole time?

There is a movement called Quirkyalone. Have you heard of it? I learned of this site many years ago after stumbling upon the book. It’s to celebrate the choice to be single but what I have noticed is that there are many ways for those quirkyalone folks to get together. Is this a way to celebrate or just another way to bridge that gap to “not” being alone?  Shoot, they have even started their own holiday!

Do not misunderstand – I am not knocking quirkyalone. I love the concept actually and think we should celebrate singlehood more. Just as I think we should celebrate those persons who CHOOSE not to have kids, instead of bashing them, making them feel like they aren’t a contributing member of society or a leper.  The point is really this – why do need to celebrate these differences from what is expected, or more specifically, what is believed to be the norm?

The norm seems to be this 2×2 world, with 2.2 kids, a white picket fence and all other trappings. If you are different than this, then you are different.  But why?  Do we need to label like this? Do we need to really follow social convention anymore?  Hasn’t the past taught us anything?  There is no ONE answer for the world, for people, for coupling. Or for being single.  Does it matter that you have been divorced twice? Or that you have never been married at 35? or even 45?  And for those that are married, why the convincing that it’s the best? Can’t we all agree that the grass is always greener so living happily in one’s own world instead of comparing is really the way to go?

Just a few thoughts I have been mulling lately with no real answers yet …

July 16, 2009 at 8:50 pm Leave a comment

Blogs of the World II

I am a fan of two sites with a similar themes and wish in fact that what they were striving for were the status quo instead of the few.  But I notice that the concepts are coming into favor more and more.

The first blog is from Cali and Jody, who wrote a book called Work Sucks and How to Fix It that discusses their concept of ROWE, or the Results Only Work Environment. It’s a fantastic read and is where I learned of their term sludge, which I have used in past posts.  The first company to implement a ROWE was Best Buy and was subsequently profiled in BusinessWeek. Essentially, people work when they need to, not when they have to or because they need to put in their 8 hours, which leads to unproductive websurfing and other time wasters to “put in the time”, otherwise known as presenteeism.  Reminds me of George Costanza and his look-busy-philosophy to appease his bosses.

Right now, the post that has been resonating with me is about summer hours.  I have many different jobs but within one, they have instituted summer hours for the month of June and July.  For these two months, all that is required is that I am available virtually (email or phone) for five hours a week.  I do not need to be in the office at any time for these two months. However, I still go to my office on occasion as I have meetings and other resource needs, and sometimes because I would rather work there than at home. I have noticed that I am almost drowning in sludge by the time I leave by many of the same coworkers who benefit from these summer hours. WHY? I wonder this every time and then decidedly stay away even more to avoid the crush of sludge.  Why is this necessary?  If everyone is doing their respective jobs, the needs of our customers are being met, and objectives are adhered to, why why why?  It just boggles my mind.

The other blog is from Ashley Acker, PhD, who is also a ROWE proponent.  One of her recent posts about onboarding in a virtual world captured my attention as this is a subset of my dissertation topic.  Her goal is to help organizations restyle their culture to be more ROWE-oriented and is grounded in extensive research.

Each of these blogs really speak to me, as I have long been an outspoken proponent of working to your own preferences. I think punching a clock can be absurb as well as having people work certain hours because that’s when you deem they should work. Why not let people work when it is best for them? This may not work in every occupation, but for those that do, why the limitations and the restrictions? I wonder how much control plays a factor into this. Regardless, asking people to work 8-5 every day, even if they prefer working 6-3 or 10-7, or having them do ‘busy work’ to fill an 8-hour day seems oddly ineffective and fiscally wasteful.  We have all worked our share of long days, at home in the evenings after a full day at the office, over the weekend, etc. So don’t you think you will get the time back if, say, a person left at 4 instead of 5 one day?  Just a thought.

July 13, 2009 at 1:07 am Leave a comment

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