On PPND, we’re having a discussion this month of what additional strengths may be worth pursuing.

Here are the nominations so far:

Are you high in one of these strengths?

Are there others you may propose?

Full list of strengths is here.

Sometimes I forget.

I get caught up in “This is the most important project I should be working on!” And I forget. And then things go downhill: my mood changes (I feel rotten, don’t want to be around people, get sad more often), my attitude changes (“everything sticnks”), my drive and motivation change.

And then, one morning, I wake up and say, “Hey! I haven’t exercised all week.” What kind of example is this to clients that I’ve worked with? Whenever I’ve worked with a coaching client, he/she has “homework” between each session: a Body Exercise as well as a Mind Exercise. Ask any effective coach: the best progress for a client happens between sessions. When people are focused on gradual, deliberate change (often in the same time at the same place: more on this below). There is something to be said for consistency in life. What we do each day is what we can see as results in hindsight.

That’s why exercise seems trivial, and at the same time, exercise can decrease depression, anxiety, and stress. Even more interestingly (!), not only can exercise make us healthier, but lack of exercise can make us feel depressed (I searched for the specific result I wanted [that not doing 30 min of exercise per day is linked with increased depression], and cannot find it right now, but will find it for you later and update here; the closest immediate result I found is that lack of exercise is the key between depression and cardiovascular disease).

Just last week, 2,000 adults polled in the UK turned out to not have been exercising enough. This article says that minimum exercise for adults is 30 min per day for five days. Others say 10,000 steps per day is a good metric of exercise. Still other fitness devotees say interval cardio three times a week for 20 minutes each time, and weight lifting three times a week for under an hour.

Whatever your choice of HOW is great as long as the choice is TO DO. I’ve just returned to my choice of TO DO. I cannot believe I dropped the ball on exercise.

Me who says it’s the second most important thing towards happiness here and here.

The last thought as I go back to the large project I’m working on is based on the research by Dr. Wendy Wood at Duke: a habit is something people do at the same time in the same place. Think of brushing your teeth: same time, same exact location. How can you make exercise a habit? For me, it’s running when I wake up, and running generally the same path, but with increasing the number of minutes each week. What’s your trick?

Great summer to you!
(Or winter if you’re in Oz or NZ). :)

Business Week

Here’s the story online:

If you want to leave comments at the article, please feel free to. Would love to see them.

IF YOU ARE NEW TO MY WEBSITE and are coming over from Business Week, Welcome!

News for you:

  • Looking to learn more about how positive psychology can boost your business and your life? PositivePsychologyNews.com – I’m the Editor-in-Chief of this site with over 30 wonderful authors and daily updates in three languages. (To get free daily news about positive psychology in your email in-box, click here).
  • Looking to talk to a positive psychology coach? Our coaching page at PositivePsychologyNews.com or call 1-877-818-NEWS to discover which positive psychology coach is the best fit for you.


An excerpt:

Once an entrepreneur knows his or her strengths, it’s time to put them to use. That’s what Melanie Morlan, owner of FirstBreathe.com, a wellness and athletic training company in Spokane, Wash., needed to do. She spent a decade working with the U.S. Olympic Committee and professional cyclists, including Lance Armstrong, before taking time out to raise her son.

She wanted to reenter the workforce by building a larger consulting practice than she’d once had, offering nutrition counseling, coaching in weight loss and stress reduction, and building a Web site and blog. But she couldn’t get started. “I’d get scared and set up roadblocks,” she says, telling herself she’d never succeed and ignoring her to-do list. She eventually called on Senia Maymin, a coach and, like Pollay, a graduate of Seligman’s program. Maymin [Editor-in-Chief at PositivePsychologyNews.com] also holds an MBA from Stanford University, and she knows family business and entrepreneurship firsthand, having worked alongside her father and brother at their hedge fund and co-founding three tech startups. Maymin helped Morlan exploit her strengths, of which creativity is first. So if Morlan lost a valuable client or made a bad decision, instead of spending the afternoon moping, she would turn to designing and building her Web site. “Creativity stimulates me,” she says.

Coach Maymin delves into this with her clients, many of whom seek her out when they are between ventures. She says that to be able to get routinely into the mental state that Mihály Csíkszentmihályi (pronounced “cheeks sent me high”), another founder of positive psychology, calls “flow”—complete absorption in a task—entrepreneurs must craft a workload that’s challenging but not too tough. Its demands should fully use an entrepreneur’s abilities, the same way endurance athletes train just at their physical limit. “In the athletic domain, everyone can see it,” she says. Psychologically, too, “self-regulation is a muscle you can train over time.” She assigns her clients a small, daily exercise challenge each week, based on research that says if you accustom your body to pushing just past its comfort zone toward ever-retreating goals, “you can do the exact same thing in your company”—push past your comfort zone and achieve goals once thought to be out of reach.

Senia’s twitter profile for updates on happiness, jobs, and entrepreneurship.

The Maximizer Quiz

What is your decision-making style? Are you what’s called a maximizer or a satisficer? Answer these few questions YES or NO:

Items from the Maximization Scale
(These are 7 of 13 total questions on the Maximization Scale by Schwartz et al., 2002 – reference is in the comment section)

1) When I watch TV, I channel surf, often scanning through the
available options even while attempting to watch one

2) When I am in the car listening to the radio, I often check other
stations to see if something better is playing, even if I’m
relatively satisfied with what I’m listening to.

3) No matter how satisfied I am with my job, it’s only right for
me to be on the lookout for better opportunities.

4) I often find it difficult to shop for a gift for a friend.

5) When shopping, I have a hard time finding clothing that I
really love.

6) No matter what I do, I have the highest standards for myself.

7) I never settle for second best.

Are YOU a Maximizer?

Now count up how many Yes’s you have. If you have 6 or 7 Yes’s, you are likely to be a maximizer. If you have 1 or 2 Yes’s, you are likely to be a satisficer. In between, you have some maximizer tendencies.

Maximizers look for the one best version of something – the best meal at a restaurant, the perfect movie night, the best school, the best gift, etc. Satisficers look for something that is good enough to meet their general criteria: a good meal, a good gift, etc. Here’s the problem with being a maximizer during the holidays. It can lead to the following says Barry Schwartz, author of the super-successful Paradox of Choice: Why Less is More. Maximizing behavior can lead to:

  • Stress
  • Decision Paralysis (“analysis paralysis”)
  • Regret

If You Want to Stop Being a Mazimizer

If you want to stop being a maximizer, you can take specific steps to create what I call “GOOD Constraints” and to limit your actions in certain areas. For example, shopping a large part of the day? Going store to store? Putting pressure on yourself to find a really good gift? Try these three actions:
presents and happiness

  • Give yourself ___ time to make the decision – 20 seconds, 5 minutes, 2 days – limit yourself. Specifically, giving yourself three hours to get all your presents may be plenty.
  • Know that “almost good enough” is good enough. (This is a major Barry Schwartz thought). Specifically, going to one store may be plenty.
  • Once you make the decision, look only at the benefits of that decision to avoid buyer’s remorse. Specifically, if you see a different sweater for your sister and you’ve already bought one, you don’t need to examine the new sweater.

If you want to read more about maximizing, please enjoy these articles on PPND:

Finally, here is a wonderful video on Choice on Australian Broadcasting Corporation (click the “Windows Media” or “Real Player” links at the top) . Barry Schwartz is featured in this video and so is the above “former maximizer”! Great video that explains this so well.

+ + + + + + +
p.s. The Story: I wrote all this up because I had a great time being on Live with Lisa Radio today, and telling Lisa about these techniques and also about the story of Barry Schwartz and his students. Barry started studyng maximizing and satisficing because he was finding that college students graduating from Swarthmore were taking jobs at Starbucks.
Schwartz –> students –> Starbucks.
After speaking informally with some students, Barry learned that they felt they had so many options (banking, consulting, start-ups) that they weren’t sure what the BEST option was, and they were delaying deciding by taking a job at Starbucks.

Hi, I am trying something new.
I will have office hours Wednesday, 8/13, 5-7pm.

If you’d like to:

  • Have a free, brief coaching session about a specific topic.
  • Investigate what a month-long coaching with me might be like
  • Learn about the latest research-based tools for increasing happiness, productivity, and success

PHONE NUMBER: 1-877-SENIA-01 (1-877-736-4201).

This means that I will be open to discussing any issues you have on your mind.
Call in anytime 5-7pm New York-time, and leave a message if I am on the phone with another office-hours session. More on coaching.

My best,

If I told you I could teach you two sets of skills – one anticipating and the other defensive – which would you choose first? Which would you be more excited about learning?

I’ll give you concrete examples. I was teaching some great MBA students this past week, and my colleague and I were teaching them both types of skills.

* How to have a good-communications relationship so that misunderstandings are less likely to happen, and good interactions are more likely to occur?
* How to increase the strength of your immune system by being more aware of the good things going on around you?
* How to use your strengths more to bring you more productivity and enjoyment?

* When something bad happens – like your boss calls you into his office with no warning, and says, “I have a concern,” how do you react and how do you handle yourself?
* When someone seems to lose trust in you, what do you do?
* When everything seems to go wrong, how do you pick yourself back up and put yourself together and keep going?

Which of these sets of questions attract you more?
I’d be very interested!


I gave an intro course on Positive Psychology a few days ago, and folks asked me for recommended Positive Psychology books. Here are my TOP TEN recs.

Recommendations for Books on Positive Psychology?

Number 1 – This is the definitive MUST READ:
Authentic Happiness by Martin Seligman

Number 2 – This is where a lot of the original research came from:
Learned Optimism by Martin Seligman

Number 3 – This is like the non-textbook textbook on the field.
A Primer in Positive Psychology by Chris Peterson

Number 4 –
Flow by Mihalyi Csikszentmihalyi

Number 5 –
The Happiness Hypothesis by Jonathan Haidt

Number 6 –
Happier by Tal Ben-Shahar

Number 7 –
The Paradox of Choice by Barry Schwartz

Highly recommended:

* What You Can Change and What You Can’t by Martin Seligman

* The How of Happiness by Sonja Lyubomirsky

* Stumbling on Happiness by Dan Gilbert

* Mindset by Carol Dweck

* Positive Psychology Coaching by Robert Biswas-Diener and Ben Dean

* Train Your Mind, Change Your Brain by Sharon Begley

* The Resilience Factor by Karen Reivich and Andrew Shatte

* Aging Well by George Vaillant

* Handbook of Positive Psychology edited by C.R. Snyder and Shane J. Lopez

* The Appreciative Inquiry Summit by James Ludema et al.

I’ve been giving some thought to why I think self-regulation is so important, and it comes down to one simple thing:

What are you telling your body? “I care” vs. “I don’t care?”

When I …

  • Haven’t sorted my laundry
  • Haven’t done the dishes
  • Haven’t exercised
  • Haven’t had fresh vegetables
  • Haven’t had enough water and feel dehydrated
  • Haven’t accomplished my goals

… then I feel pretty terrible.

And why is that? Why do I feel terrible when I’m not doing small simple things? Because those little things are signs. Those little things are signs just like Bandura’s mastery steps are signs… if you want to become an expert at something, practice, practice, practice. Each time I have a clean kitchen and watered plants and have done exercise that day, I FEEL GREAT THAT DAY.

They are all little markers in my progress. All these little accomplishments are reminders of my self-valuable habits. They’re reminders of which habits are useful to me.

It’s like me speaking to myself and saying, “Body! I’m the boss here.”

“Who, you, up there? Nah, I got you beat. I just throw a few TV shows and heavy food at you, and you’ll dose off.”

“Yes, you used to, you did, but now I’m in charge, cleaning things up, exercising, keeping things orderly and on time. Sorry, body, you better shape up.”

“I thought you didn’t really care.”

“News for you: I care.”