“Too many rules get in the way of leadership. They just put you in a box . . . . People set rules to keep from making decisions.”

“The truth is that many people set rules to keep from making decisions. Not me. I don’t want to be a manager or a dictator. I want to be a leader—and leadership is ongoing, adjustable, flexible, and dynamic. As such, leaders have to maintain a certain amount of discretion.”

~ Mike Krzyzewski (Coach K)

Today, I was a guest on the FairGame radio program hosted by Faith Salie. Listen to the 6-minute segment of my interview HERE.

The interview was in reaction to this NYTimes article: Russia’s government mandate to broadcast at least 50% good news? You might think that a Positive Psychologist might support something like that, but Faith was fairly surprised at my answer … enjoy the interview.

The program aired tonight at 8pm on about 25 stations nationwide.

This was a fun interview to do, and I wish Faith, her producers, and the whole program huge success. After looking at her name and photo several times, I realized Faith was a year ahead of me at Harvard undergrad. We were in the same house – Leverett House.

What contributes the most to how many calories you burn each day?
a) your basal metabolic rate (click here to calculate yours)
b) the “thermogenic” effect of the food you eat (i.e. celery is negative calories, vegetables take a lot of effort to digest, sugar goes through immediately and doesn’t take much effort)
c) exercise
d) non-exercise movement throughout the day

Ok, which one?
And which is next, etc.?
If you said your BMR (basal metabolic rate) is the highest, you would be right – that is the energy required for core bodily functions and it accounts for about 60% of all energy expenditure. Then, the thermogenic effect of food has a small effect – only about 10% of your energy expenditure is affected. Then movement takes up the remaining 30% of energy expenditure. But which movement – exercise or non-exercise movement?

A study in this issue of the Mayo Clinic’s Endocrinology Update[i] describes that non-exercise movement can have a much larger effect than exercise, and be almost the entire remaining 30%!

“NEAT” Effect on Your Body

Non-exercise movement is referred to as “NEAT” – Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis. It turns out that for two adults “of similar size, daily energy expenditure varies by as much as 2,000 calories per day.” 2,000 calories per day difference!!! And since the BMR and effect of food is approximately the same in two adults of the same size, then that entire 2,000 calories difference can be due exclusively to movement!

But, Dr. James Levine of the Mayo Clinic says that most of the world does not exercise and he cautions, “Even for the minority of people who do exercise, for most of them, exercise accounts for an energy expenditure of 100 calories per day. Thus, NEAT explains why an active person can expend 2,000 calories per day more than an inactive person of the same size.”

Lean People Naturally Build More Movement into Their Lives

16 lean volunteers were taken and overfed by 1,000 calories per day. Some of them naturally increased the amount of activity they were doing – they naturally increased their NEAT in response to the calorie increase. Those who most increased their NEAT did not gain fat, even with overfeeding. On the other hand, Dr. Levine wanted to study how obese people move during non-exercise.

Obese People Tend Not to Move as Much
Dr. Levine and his colleagues put microsensors into the tightfitting clothes of obese and lean people. These microsensors measured movement every half-second for ten days. The result? Obese people are seated on average 2.5 hours per day more than lean people!

So, do get up to take breaks at work!
And do park your car further from the entrance to the mall so that you have to walk.
And maybe even start fidgeting.
And definitely get up from your seat to get more drinking water regularly.
And use the stairs whenever you have the chance!

[i] The “NEAT Defect” in Human Obesity: The Role of Nonexercise Activity Thermogenesis. Endocrinology Update. Mayo Clinic. 2(1). 2007

Full article as it appears in the American Heart Association is here.
Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis: The Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon of Societal Weight Gain by James A. Levine; Mark W. Vander Weg; James O. Hill; Robert C. Klesges

This Friday (April 27), 10:30-11:30am EST, I’m speaking at the Business Women’s Growth Summit.

This is a virtual conference. Here are the bios of all the speakers, and here is the list of talks.

My talk is “The Science of Happiness for Business Owners.”
Click here to register.

“The Science of Happiness for Business Owners”
Presented by Senia Maymin

There is a field that is even younger than the Internet – Positive Psychology! Positive Psychology was launched in 1998 as a branch of psychology that focuses on what is right with people. Just as Psychology after World War II studied diseases and illnesses, so now too, Positive Psychology studies optimal human functioning – happiness, success, and productivity. Senia Maymin is a graduate of the first-ever worldwide Masters’ Program in Positive Psychology at UPenn in 2006.

In this workshop, Senia discusses the main findings of Positive Psychology, the so-called “Science of Happiness,” and specific applications for business owners. Further bolstering the research findings by her own experience as a serial entrepreneur and as an Executive Coach to entrepreneurs, Senia creates an interactive workshop that gives participants actual take-away techniques to apply to their lives and their businesses.

Hi. I’d really, really like your advice. How can we describe as concisely as possible what Positive Psychology News Daily is all about?

The phrase I most like right now is: “Positive Psychology News Daily – your research-based daily boost of happiness.

How does this work for you?
I like “daily boost of happiness” and I like “research-based.”

Other thoughts? Other ideas? More about Positive Psychology News Daily is here to give you a sense of why we started the site and who the authors are.


To boldly go where no man has gone before.”
~ Star Trek

Go confidently in the direction of your dreams! Live the life you’ve imagined. As you simplify your life, the laws of the universe will be simpler.”
~ Henry David Thoreau*

“Whatever you can do, or dream you can, begin it…Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it.”
~ Goethe

“Do not yield to misfortunes, but advance more boldly to meet them, as your fortune permits you.”
~ Virgil

“It has been my philosophy of life that difficulties vanish when faced boldly.”

~ Isaac Asimov

“You must play boldly to win.”
~ Arnold Palmer

A friend of mine once started a company whose name was a play on the word BOLD. That’s the way to live life – boldly.

* This quote is quoted differently on the 43 things site of what people what to do. It reads here as, “Go forth boldly in the direction of your dreams; live the life you’ve imagined.”
Henry David Thoreau on 43 things

The “When I feel like it” reason sounds like this:

“I know. I know that’s important. But to call that person – that requires some guts. That requires some pushing of myself. I’m not sure. I know I’ll do it. Maybe tomorrow. I just feel that I have to feel confident before I make that call. I feel like I have to be sure of it.”

Surprise, surprise! Nothing in life in certain. Nothing in life is sure.

What are you going to do later today? And after that? How about even later?

Daniel Gilbert writes in Stumbling on Happiness, “Later! What an astonishing idea. What a powerful concerpt. What a fabulous discovery. How did human beings ever learn to preview in their imaginations chains of events that had not yet come to pass?”

Gilbert says the reason that “the human being is the only animal that thinks about the future” is that we have a well-developed frontal lobe. Alvaro and Caroline write wonderful entries about the interesting aspects of the frontal lobe all the time at SharpBrains (see here, here, and here). Gilbert says, “The frontal lobe – the last part of the human brain to evolve, the slowest to mature, and the first to deteriorate in old age – is a time machine that allows each of us to vacate the present and experience the future before it happens.”

Why do we care about the frontal lobe anyway? It turns out that without the frontal lobe, a person would not be able to plan. The words “today” and “later” would be blank concepts. A patient who suffered frontal lobe damage in a car accident at age 30 was asked to describe what he thinks about when he is asked to describe what he is doing tomorrow or even the concept of the word “tomorrow”: “Blank, I guess … it’s like being asleep … like being in a room with nothing there and having a guy tell you to go find a chair, and there’s nothing there….”

We think about “tomorrow” and “later” because we can – because our well-developed frontal lobes love that kind of activity, says Gilbert.

So, back to the original question: suppose you know that something is important. Suppose you know that you ought to do something. But you want to WAIT until…. until you’re better prepared, until you feel more confident about it, until someone else suggests that you do that action….

Let me tell you something briefly – the only context in which “until” is a beautiful word is in this quote by Jim Rohn:

“How long should you try? Until.”

If you don’t want to do the task that you know needs to be done… if you want to wait until you’re better prepared, you can blame your frontal lobe for its imagining just how prepared you’ll be tomorrow, and the day after that, and the day after that. It does a great job of imagining – down to the details like the stains on the carpet if you’re imagining giving a speech… BUT… but your imagination can be very-very-super-very wrong, says Gilbert. “Imagination works so quickly, quietly, and effectively that we are insufficiently skeptical of its products.”

The next time you want to wait until –

  • You’re better prepared
  • You’re dressed better
  • You have your materials with you
  • It’s sunny outside
  • It’s exactly 2pm when you place the call
  • Your voice sounds good

– the next time any of that happens, just stop yourself, and say, “Why not now?”

Waiting for the Muse
Once of the most interesting pieces of advice I ever received was from a former reality-TV-star who I knew from years back, who said, “You know people can’t really tell if you’re having a bad hair day, or if you haven’t shaved… those things that to you seem like a big deal and a big difference relative to how you like to present yourself, are just a SMALL, SMALL PART of what other people see about you. So there’s no point wanting to look perfect before you walk up to someone. Go up to that person the way you are.”

Try this. Avoid the “when I feel like it” reason. This is the what Dave Seah writes about here on waiting until you’re motivated (Hint: this is part of a list Dave comments on; the list is “10 Steps to Guarantee Failure”).

Try avoiding using the “when I feel like it” reason. Try using the “I will do it anyway” reason. Try it – see how you like it!

Image: Waiting for the Muse