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.

I read over at Phil Windley’s Technometria about these great fun games that Jane McGonigal is creating using Positive Psychology principles. Some of the Positive Psychology ideas that Phil says Jane mentioned in her talk are (from Phil’s site):

* Quality of life is the primary metric for evaluating everyday technology
* Positive psychology is a principle influence for design
* The public expects tech companies to have a clear vision of a life worth living

* To succeed, a brand or product must increase real happiness, the new capital.

I’m especially interested in this because playing games increases your positive emotion, and we know from Fredrickson and Losada’s work that a positive emotion to negative emotion ratio of 3:1 contributes to increased world view, a broadening of intellectual resources, and a building of intellectual, social, and physical capital (meaning that you have more reserves to do what you want to do in life). Here is Jane’s site and some interactive games she’s created.

Do you guys have suggestions for how games can influence your day-to-day life or your weekends or your interactions with friends?

What is harder than rock, or softer than water? Yet soft water hollows out hard rock. Persevere.
~ Ovid

If there is one key to creating what you want in your life, it is daily practice. When you repeat again and again, you learn so much about the habit you’re building and about yourself. There are nuances that you do not learn from a how-to guide. Such as how to persevere.

Why daily? And why action?

  • DAILY! Daily moves you toward putting in hours to develop your expertise and toward repeating an activity to develop discipline and focus. Whatever your regularity is, you build your own daily practice. You can choose if your daily means 5 days a week (work week daily) or seven days a week (whole week daily) or three times a week (M-W-F regularly).
  • ACTION! Action is a form of commitment. A thought can be transitory, passing. An action is you saying to the world, “I am ready and I am doing it.” An action is more powerful than a thought – by definition, Action = Thought + Activity.

But why do it? Why take regular, structured, self-scheduled daily action as opposed to acting whenever you feel like it?

The Deep Math Example. As my very good friend and a former math professor says,

“It takes a while to get into the problem. You need to sit with it at your desk for several hours at a time just to start to focus deeply enough to be able to create any new conclusions.”

It takes time to get deep enough into a subject that you are no longer skirting the surface.

The Ballroom Dancing Teacher Example. Have you found that some people who are excellent at what they do returrn to the basics from time to time? Like a yoga teacher taking a basic refresher course. Or an author going back to the structure of his characters? I know dance teachers who regularly take beginner classes. Why? Ballroom Dance
  • When you are at an advanced level, you get a lot more from beginner lessons. You start to see the nuanced distinctions that you didn’t notice at the beginning – “When I ask my students to ‘rock-step’ here, some are still thinking that they are rocking when the important distinction is that they are there-and-immediately back, on their toe and immediately forward… it’s more about the forward than it is about the rock-step back.” You start to see new ways of describing something, new ways of understanding and then being able to explain a concept.
  • You take the beginner class to come back to the beginner’s mind. To return to that joy that you loved about the activity to begin with, and to hear and see and feel and imagine what it is like to learn the steps for the first time. As Chip Heath and Dan Heath say in Made to Stick, we are sucked into the Curse of Knowledge: We are no longer able to often explain things to a five year old because we know too much detail. Avoid the Curse of Knowledge. Play as a beginner.
The Twyla Tharp Creativity Example. You make space for yourself – in your head and in your heart when you practice something regularly. You make space for yourself to be creative, to focus, to live in the moment. So much of life ends up being planning and rushing that unless you make the Creative Habit as Twyla Tharp says in her book, then you don’t ever create the discipline of creativity, the space for allowing yourself to do. That space is often only possible within the constraints of time allowed for that activity. Twyla Tharp
The Alaska Hiking Example. It is through action that you create a habit, and through habits that you create the life you want to live. According to Ann Graybiel, neural pathways – i.e. the pathways that create a new habit or new behavior pattern – form when you go over them again and again. Again and again. Like a hiking trail in Alaska worn by all the footsteps repeating over the ground again and again, so a new mental pathway forms when you repeat an activity. Best results are daily. Hiking
The Guitar Example. My guitar teacher years ago said, “The most important thing in learning guitar is daily practice. Even if you play 15 or 30 minutes a day, do just that. And if you have the choice to play once for 30 minutes or twice for 15 minutes, play twice for 15 minutes.” According to him and many other musicians, the mind learns when it starts a-new – when it comes to a project a-new. So scheduling that “new” regularly allows a habit to make that deep Alaskan hiking trail pathway. Guitar

And then, once you have taken the daily actions, keep track of them. Put a star on your wall calendar. Post about it on your blog. Write yourself an email accounting for that day. Track your progress. Roy Baumeister of Florida State University says (23-min interview) that one of the keys to creating a new habit is writing down those times when you have acted on that habit.

Is it really possible to achieve anything in life?
Let me ask that another way: what is harder than rock, or softer than water?

Lesson and Take-Away: 1) Take daily action and 2) write down your daily actions!

Images: math, dance, Twyla Tharp, hiking path, guitar.

Senia Maymin Senia Maymin, MBA, MAPP is an Executive Coach, and presents workshops to corporations about Positive Psychology. Senia is the Editor of Positive Psychology News Daily, and posts her latest ideas about positive psychology, business, and coaching at Senia’s bio.

Here is a new way to show that you LOVE this site! Please do click on it!


New website Damiga allows you to make a button and put it on your website, in your blog, anywhere – that allows people to express a particular emotion for you! Damiga (meaning: “d’amiga” is “of the friend”) is a really fun site to play with – enjoy it! Damiga!

And please let me know ONCE YOU MAKE YOUR OWN BUTTONS so that I can go and click on them!!!

[email protected]

Keywords: positive psychology, coaching, entrepreneurship, button, damiga, new,, happiness

Positive Psychology has been in the news recently (full summary here at Positive Psychology News Daily).

  • EU citizens report themselves as 87% happy! From this Reuters news, the Eurobarometer survey asked social questions to nearly 27,000 people in the EU during Nov and Dec 06. While 87% of people on average considered themselves happy, Denmark led with 97% and Bulgaria (which joined the EU in January) was the lowest with 45%.
    FYI, Map of the EU here. FULL RESULTS of the Eurobarometer survey here.

    Conclusion? What’s the point then of happiness research – if it turns out people are pretty happy already? Depends – if you’re happy, do you still want to know how to get happier, more successful, and more productive? Or is generally happy the goal, and no higher? Maslow says self-actualization is one of the main needs of people – always becoming better at who we are. Is he right? I think so.

  • Scientific American writer calls for more historical-based research of happiness. I disagree. I don’t like historical research when your goal is to find out how a person feels or thinks. FYI, historical research consists of looking at old documents, diaries, newspaper clippings to try to evaluate the person’s mindset. A person could be very crotchety on the outside – sayings to friends, even diary – but could be wonderfully content and happy on the inside.

    I believe one of the VERY BEST THINGS ABOUT POSITIVE PSYCHOLOGY is that it BELIEVES IN THE PERSON. Positive Psychology believes that a person knows best about himself or herself. There is no “objective measure” of happiness. In fact, the Ed Diener-created SWB (subjective well-being measure) is explicitly a measure of how the person believes he is.

    I do agree with the author that happiness can be time- and context-dependant. But I think the way to make positive psychology and happiness research more universal is not by going backwards, but by going forwards. George Vaillant has made a research life of studying the longitudinal Adult Grant Study. This is a study of people that were generally healthy people at ages 20, and what happens to them over their lives. He studies alcoholism, mature emotional defenses, happiness, success, and all because he had regular interviews and interesting follow-ups with the same people. (For more information, I recommend the immensely interesting read Aging Well.)

    Conclusion? We will get stronger and more interesting conclusions from positive psychology when we study it both in short-term studies and in logitudinal studies.

  • Dissertation of the Year is on Positive Psychology. Very interesting dissertation of the year. Kudos to Virigina Ambler! FULL TEXT of dissertation here, and summary here.

    Conclusions? 1) It’s a very interesting dissertation, and 2) while there so far only one Ph.D. program in Positive Psychology and only one Master’s program, there will likely be more universities offering both Master’s and Ph.D. degrees in the near future since there is an interest in further research in these fields.

How should you choose an executive coach? If you are in an organization or if you are working on changing careers, how do you know who can help you with that process? How can you choose someone who will know enough about you, about your business, and about your goals that that person can become like a sports coach for you – giving you exercises, training, homework, and most importantly, direction? In the case of executive coaching, often the direction comes from the client but with the in-depth question-asking and assessment-taking of the coach.

How do you find the best executive coach for you or your organization?

1) Know what you want to work on. (The Topic, The Goal)

You can’t start training unless you know whether you’re training for a marathon, a dance recital, or a mountain bike ride. What are the general parameters of the question you’re asking? What is the general topic? What even is a goal – whether at this point specific or not?

Do you want to be promoted? Become a stronger manager? Create a full work-life balance? Become a better salesperson? Become more valuable to your organization? Grow your own business?

In positive psychology coaching, the goal is the question and the answer. It can always be further refined – and should be! because people are changing. In positive psychology coaching, the client knows – whether logically or not yet logically – but the client himself and herself knows what the goal is. It’s the role of the positive psychology coach to draw out the larger goal and then work on creating subgoals and plans and a training routine (and potentially even some veering directions off the main one), but the formulation of the goal comes from the client. The client knows.

2) Know how you want to work. (The Style)

Are you a rusher or a through planner? Are you in a hurry or do you want to cover all the details? Are you a multi-tasker or a single-tasker? Are you looking forward to this goal or is it a chore?

In positive psychology coaching, there are many assessments that the coach usually presents to the client – many upfront and many during the coaching process. Again, as with the goals, in positive psychology coaching, we believe that the client knows. These self-assessments are just that – self-assessments. They are ways for the coach to isolate certain parts of a client’s personality so that both the coach and the client can examine the subparts together. For example, an assessment may be about strengths or learning style or optimism or various routes to happiness. When the coach and client look at the summaries of the self-assessments, this allows the coaching experience to be more targeted.

3) Know how the coach works. (The Fit)

Do you like to be challenged? Do you like to be listened to? Do you prefer many exercises or few? Do you prefer more general talk or more specific exercises?

In positive psychology coaching, exercises are important for two reasons. Trying something in a new way through exercises allow the mind to play (which is question #5) and exercises isolate various experiences.

Know how the coach likes to work. What kind of exercises does the coach prefer? How frequently? Is this how you like to improve? Is this how you like to train? Does the coach’s demeanor fit with yours? Does it complement yours? These are all questions of fit.

4) Know how much you want the goal. (The Motivation)

Sometimes motivation and self-regulation are large issues and sometimes they almost disappear as issues. Coaches can provide motivation and increase a client’s self-regulation. Is this part of your goal (your answer to #1)? In most cases it is. The key is to realize that for some reason, the client may not have made certain changes before, and that the client may be looking to the coach to change the experience so that in this case the changes stick.

In positive psychology coaching, both self-regulation (mindful self-control) and self-efficacy (the belief that one can do something) are key parts of a coaching experience. Like an athletic coach giving exercises and training regimens, an executive positive psychology coach creates the environment for success in the coaching. Some of the tools of positive psychology make self-regulation fun, and the tools that do this for hte client are the best ones to use for that particular client.

5) Know what is fun for you in coaching. (The Play)

How do kids learn best? By playing. One of the only ways to learn so that it doesn’t feel like learning is by playing. If it feels like learning, often the brain closes down, and says, “not now, no thank you.” Play jumps right through that barrier. The brain never knows that it’s working. Some of the best ways to learn are by making mistakes and trying new ways. The best place to make mistakes is in practice (although often in real events the mistakes stay stronger), and that practice can come in the form of play.

In positive psychology coaching, there are many tools and techniques that you can play with on an active level, experientially. But you don’t ever need to be “working” or “intellectually learning” to get something. A lot of the tools from positive psychology allow a person to get himself fast and thoroughly. Many of the assessments and exercises in positive psychology do not appear to be work or effort, but appear to be unusual and sometimes inexplicable until they are completed. That’s what makes many of these tools games as opposed to work.

In summary, you will end up choosing an executive coach based on the coach’s jizz, that overall impression of Goal, Style, Fit, Motivation, and Play. Enjoy!

Welcome to February. Has your life changed since the New Year? Do you want it to?

What is the #1 habit you want to create right now? Do you want to eat healthier? Become more organized? Remember where you put your keys? Give up alcohol?

Here are some new results from Positive Psychology that could help you create new habits and break old behavior. Let’s look at the stories behind these new results to see whether they work for you.


Self-Regulation It turns out that one of the strongest things you can do for yourself to create a new habit is to exercise self-control in some area of your life. Roy Baumeister of Florida State University and his colleagues sum up three studies of self-control in a pre-publication.

The posture study: if you ask college students to watch their posture for two weeks – simply to improve it whenever possible – and then have the students take a self-control activity test, those who had been asked to work on their posture improved their self-control. Moms and ballet teachers all over the world must be celebrating this news.

Self-Regulation as a Muscle Self-control is often referred to as “self-regulation,” and the fascinating thesis of Baumeister and colleagues is that self-regulation can act as a muscle! What are some things that we know about muscles? 1) Muscles can be trained to get stronger over time, and 2) If weak, a muscle can be easily fatigued.

Baumeister postulates that the same two ideas can be applied to self-regulation. If a person is tempted multiple times, “Have a drink…. Come on, have a drink…. Have just one drink,” then each time, it becomes harder to say no. On the other hand, if a person trains his self-regulation, then it becomes easier to say no to temptations. How can you train your self-regulation? Self-regulation is your personality process to exert control over your thoughts, feelings, and actions.

Baumeister proposes an interesting result – if you do ANYTHING that requires self-regulation, then that makes it EASIER for you to have self-regulation in EVERYTHING.

Self-Regulation Improves Many Habits

Sounds strange, doesn’t it? Baumeister reports on two studies – the exercise study and the money study. In the exercise study, students were taught a cardio and weights exercise regimen and were told to follow it closely for two months. At the end of two months, not only did their self-regulation increase under test circumstances (link how do scientists measure self-regulation?), but also the exercisers had less junk food, cigarettes, alcohol, and caffeine. I know what you’re saying – those things are all related to getting healthier and exercising. True. But additionally, the students reported studying more, watching TV less, and doing more household chores like washing dishes. Why is it that if you start to exercise regularly, then that may result in you getting better grades or being a neater person?

Baumeister attributes it to a well-trained self-regulation muscle. In the money study, participants were asked to manage their finances for four months by following a specific system. Not only did the participants increase their average savings rate over four months from 8% to 38% of their income, but they also improved study habits and doing household chores and decreased cigarette use. Baumeister and colleagues use these results to say that self-regulation is not specific to one domain… being self-regulated in your money management leads to self-regulation in other areas. Does that mean that a person who develops great study habits may suddenly lose a lot of weight and become amazingly buff? Maybe, says Baumeister.

In the current issue of Health Psychology, Peter Hall of Ontario’s Waterloo University studies which part of the brain leads to good self-regulation. His answer is the strong executive function of the frontal lobes. Hall gives participants the Stroop test (try it here) in which the word GREEN may appear in red color. As one author describes, “to answer correctly you have to mentally override the impulse to read the word. The same effortful overriding—and the same underlying neuronal activity—is presumably needed to keep showing up at the gym, even when it hurts.”

STARTING Self-Regulation Today

What is something you can start doing today to put more self-regulation into your life? You can create more structure. Whether you decide that you will pre-pack your lunch so you don’t have something unhealthy at the local café. Or whether you schedule out exercise time for the remainder of the week. Or whether you clean your room. Or whether you decide to pay attention to posture. Or decide that you will open your email only every three hours – 9am, noon, 3pm, 6pm, 9pm – for no more than a half hour each time. Structure something concrete into your life. That’s the best way to develop self-regulation. Structure something simple into your life so it doesn’t turn everything in your life upside down but so that it does create some structure.

Start with a little bit of self-regulation – to get an effect across many habits.

This article is part of a series on creating new habits and behavior modification and originally appeared here.

Senia Maymin Senia Maymin, MBA, MAPP works in the financial industry and consults to corporations about Positive Psychology. Senia is the Editor of Positive Psychology News Daily, and runs a blog about positive psychology at Senia’s bio.

Senia writes on the first of each month, and her past articles are here.

“Happiness and moral duty are inseparably connected.”
~ George Washington

“Achievement of your happiness is the only moral purpose of your life, and that happiness, not pain or mindless self-indulgence, is the proof of your moral integrity, since it is the proof and the result of your loyalty to the achievement of your values.”
~ Ayn Rand

“The purpose of morality is to teach you, not to suffer and die, but to enjoy yourself and live.”
~ Ayn Rand

“About morals, I know only that what is moral is what you feel good after and what is immoral is what you feel bad after.”
~ Ernest Hemingway

“As a child I was taught that to tell the truth was often painful. As an adult I have learned that not to tell the truth is more painful, and that the fear of telling the truth—whatever the truth may be—that fear is the most painful sensation of a moral life.”
~ June Jordan

“Goodness is the only investment that never fails.” …and… “Nature is goodness crystallized.”
~ Henry David Thoreau

“If you would convince a man that he does wrong, do right. But do not care to convince him. Men will believe what they see. Let them see.”
~ Henry David Thoreau

“Ethics begins when we are free: it is freedom itself, when that freedom is considered and controlled.”
~ André Comte-Sponville

How can you be happy unless you have some self-respect? And how can you respect yourself unless you control yourself, master yourself, overcome your failings? … Ethically speaking, it’s pointless wishing you were someone else. You can dream of being rich, healthy, good-looking, happy … But it is absurd to dream of being virtuous. Whether you are a villain or a good person is for you and you alone to decide: you are worth precisely what you want.
~ André Comte-Sponville

The essence of morality is a questioning about morality; and the decisive move of human life is to use ceaselessly all light to look for the origin of the opposition between good and evil.”
~ Georges Bataille

“The only immorality … is not to do what one has to do when one has to do it.”
~ Jean Anouilh

“The happiness of your life depends upon the quality of your thoughts: therefore, guard accordingly, and take care that you entertain no notions unsuitable to virtue and reasonable nature.”
~ Marcus Aurelius

“Happiness is inward and not outward; and so it does not depend on what we have, but on what we are.”
~ Henry Van Dyke

“Think of yourself as two people, and one of them is inside of you, and he’s a scorekeeper. And he keeps score of your idea of the world. … And when you have a conflict with your scorekeeper, that’s unhappiness. Happiness is being completely in sync with your own perception of goodness.
~ Will Smith

“. . . happiness is the highest good, being a realization and perfect practice of virtue, which some can attain, while others have little or none of it. . . .”
~ Aristotle

Note: Posted on 1-26 for 1-25.