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.

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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, 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] 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.

Hi folks,

I have a friend who will be teaching a day on social media in a business school. What references should I point my friend to? (Good ideas are about the power of social media, best ways to use it, great case examples). THANKS! Would love all suggestions, seriously!

Here are some I already recommend:





Updated (2-16-09 10pm ET):
I asked for more advice on twitter, and here are some case studies of social media:

* From Bridget’s article today about “Freedom and Happiness” on PPND, I learned that a great source of new articles can come from emailing new research papers to current authors, and that is something I can do! Getting info to folks who are looking for that info anyway.

* From Alan Beggs and the Human Dimension company in the UK that trains in positive psychology related concepts to corporations (i.e. the corporate athlete), I learned 1) brevity, and 2) return on investment. And really to start each positive psychology exercise in the workplace with a sole focus on ROI.

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,

I routinely think:

  • What is the next big win?!?!
  • Where can we do new, interesting things?!?!

I think about this for my career coaching clients – “Where can they have the most impact? Where can they move to what they most want?”

I think about this for myself – “What’s the most effective thing for me to do this week to move forward for next week? What can I do tonight that’ll make me better during the hoops game? What can I do to make the most exciting experience ever for this community I’m working with?”

Margaret Greenberg showed me some interesting keys to progress recently. You may remember Margaret from her Margaretisms. You may also have seen her journalistically-marvelous article on Toyota’s positive business practices in today’s Positive Psychology News Daily.

Margaret and I and two colleagues did a radio program together a few weeks back. I had sent out the questions for us to answer as a group. One afternoon, Margaret had a little extra time, and she replied to each question in detail, and sent them back to me. “So what?” you might be saying. “Big deal? She prepared for the program.” Yes – a month in advance!

So what happens in your brain when you complete a step of a project?!

Well, ACTUALLY, that was the subject of my Masters thesis at UPenn in ’06. What happens once you get some movement towards a goal is that the goal moves to your subconscious thought. And then, it actually PROGRESSES within your subconscious thought – as long as you have helped it out and put it there with enough ammunition – with enough detail and information for your brain to be able to mull over that thought. Some of that thinking continues to go on under your conscious level.

A lot of that thinking is called Level D thinking, and often when your consciousness meets some of those thoughts that have culled from the subconscious progress of the thought – often, then you have an intuition about the problem at hand.

So, one of the things that Margaret is doing by allowing herself to prepare for something early is that she sets her subconscious brain to help her think about those thoughts. She also REMOVES STRESS at the last minute. Finally, she allows herself to do projects that are very good, and thus actually get them done rather than seeking perfection. Have you heard the phrase, “The great is the enemy of the very good”?

I was once riding on an Amtrak train a decade ago, and came across an article that was titled or subtitled, “Discipline Gets You Freedom.” And I thought about it then, and still believe it now. It’s what gets me to the finish line – the discipline, the slow and steady.

And to me, that means something very practical:
* Doing something for 15 minutes to two hours each day.

That’s it. You may remember it from these posts on how to accomplish anything and on expertise being trainable. Literally, that is the slow and steady. Doing it each day.

So here I am again. :)

What if tonight while you were sleeping, a miracle occurred? And that which appeared to be a problem went away.

How would you know in the morning that the miracle had occurred? What would now be different?

Try this with a friend. Each of you tell each other what problem you’d been having. Then ask each other, “What if a miracle occurred, and overnight it went away? What would be the immediate signs the next morning that it had gone away? What would the world be like? What would you feel like?”

Try it. This one works best when I don’t explain it but you just give it a shot.

Also try it here in the comments – what would the world feel like today if something wild had occurred during the night and your problem suddenly went away?

Wonderful Friday to you!

I first heard this question in the context of appreciative inquiry at a conference a couple of weeks back.

There’s a delightful series of experiments about the power of owning something. One experiment goes like this:
* Students walk into an experiment and they are given a MUG.
* Other students walk into an experiment and they are given a PEN.
* Then a student gets the choice to switch his MUG for a PEN or a PEN for a MUG.
Almost nobody switches! They like the choice that’s been made for them.

Most behavioral economists explain this as the endowment effect – once you own something, just that owning it starts to make it more valuable to you.

I also think there’s a degree of automatic reaction and cognitive dissonance. What do I mean and why am I throwing around buzz words?
* Automatic reaction. Jon Haidt studies automatic reaction – the idea that sometimes you just react and later use your brain to rationalize why you may have reacted in that way. I believe the students just don’t want to give it away (whether because they don’t like change, whether because it’s more valuable to them now, or whether for no reason at all).
* Cognitive dissonance. “Well, I don’t want to give up my mug really. Maybe that means I like the mug more. Maybe that means the mug is more valuable to me.”
* Why buzz words? Because these two buzz word pairs signify EXACTLY the meanings of why people might be saying one thing but acting in another way. These words are like useful shortcuts right now.

So NO to “my MUG for your PEN.”

In another study (and this is from memory), some students were given a mug and then told that they could sell it. The mug cost about $5 at the campus bookstore, and all the students given the mug were willing to sell it – but at an average prce around $7!!! Other students were told they could buy a mug, and these students chose prices at which they would buy the mug – they chose about $3 per mug! So the value of the mug can depends on what eyes you look through.

Seth Godin makes this endowment effect very real and very immediate in his Loss vs. Gain story. In sum – he found “the perfect” domain name. He wanted it. He made a bid on it. The seller wouldn’t take $600 for it. The seller was very happy with his own endoment effect for that domain name. Seth was sad. It’s just this blasted endowmnet effect!

One of the best pieces by The Economist I’ve ever read on any topic is a blog post called Un-Endowing the Endowment Effect. The post states, “Now a new paper scheduled to appear in a forthcoming issue of the American Economic Review argues that this asymmetry might not be as formidable as it seems.” It looks like once you change a few things, the endowment effect may disappear. What would one need to change? Well, something that psychologists rarely like to hear in experimental settings … if the words used when handing the object to a student are different, that makes a difference. Also, if a student can be unobtrusively in signaling an interest to trade, that can make a difference. And if a student can inspect the other good before committing to the exchange, that can make a difference.

Please please please, go read this short Economist post, and especially the most delightful Economist words ever – the last line of this article!

Here is a Wired article on how Microsoft tested the game Halo 3 on 600 game players playing over 3000 times. Microsoft watched each interction, and documented each move in each game. Microsoft knows to the square foot where each player died in the game.

Why is this method useful for you if you’re not in the game space?

Because it works.
Because it’s methodical.
Because you can rely on it.
Because you’re constantly improving and questioning.
Because you get to know your customer better.
Because you’ll trust yourself more after you go through this prep.
Because your customers will trust you more after you go through this prep.