Monday, July 28, 2014

The True Thing

Only the hand that erases can write the true thing. Meister Eckhart

Comfort habits

Like the professor whose sticks to a daily routine of a quiet supper, an evening walk, and early to bed, we all need a space in our lives where habit relieves us of figuring out simple tasks which use up our limited mental strength each day. By finding comfort in his sedentary home life, the professor gives him room to explore wildly creative ideas in his field of study. He focuses his decision-making energy, giving  himself the stamina to deeply explore other areas.

If these patterns consist of inconsequential things, then these everyday habits can play a critical role in providing us with balance and continuity. But if we focus our attention on maintaining cherished inconsequential details to avoid life's bigger issues and the needs of others, then the box we have created for ourselves will keep us away from the things that refresh our spirits and give our lives meaning. In this case, the professor sadly sticks to his sedentary home life, but never uses the space to explore those "wildly creative ideas."

Stephen Goforth

Friday, July 25, 2014

Getting Acquainted

One of the greatest moments in anybody’s life happens every time he no longer tries to hide from himself but decides to get acquainted with who he really is.

The Best Advice

Talk a little less, and listen more. Less advice is often the best advice. People don’t need lots of advice; they need a listening ear and some positive reinforcement. What they want to know is often already somewhere inside of them. They just need time to think, be and breathe, and continue to explore the undirected journeys that will eventually help them find their direction.

Marc and Angel Chernoff

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Behind Door #3

Remember the old television show Let’s Make a Deal? Monty Hall would given contestants, typically dressed in outrageous costumes, a choice of three doors. The contestant would be given whatever was behind the door they selected. One door had a great prize behind it. Pick that door and you give the valuable gift like a car or a vacation. But behind the other two doors were gag gifts. It might be a rooster or a lifetime supply of paper clips.

There was always one extra twist in the show: Once you pick a door, before revealing what was behind it, Monty would do you the favor of opening one of the remaining two doors and show one of the gag gifts. At that point, he'd let you switch doors. Or you could stick with your original choice. Contestants were faced with the decision of whether to change doors.

What's the right move? Our instinct tells us to to stick to our guns. But you should go against that instinct--and switch. Why? The chances you’ve picked the wrong door is two-out-of-three. But with only two doors left, your odds of getting the great prize goes up to 50-50. The New York Times has set up a sample of the game. You can try the strategy yourself.
But there’s more afoot here than just winning a prize on a TV game show.

Economist M. Keith Chen says this phenomenon has been overlooked in some of the most famous psychology experiments. He claims The Monty Hall Problem shows there's a logical flaw in the idea of choice rationalization. Choice rationalization is the idea that once we reject something, we tell ourselves we never liked the one we rejected anyway. Psychologists say we do this because it spares us the pain of thinking we made the wrong choice. Chen believes it’s not the act of picking that makes people suddenly prefer one over the other. He claims the preference was there all along. It's just that the preference was so slight it was not initially obvious until other possibilities are cleared out. You can read his own explanation here.

Stephen Goforth

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Joys of life

One of the sanest, surest, and most generous joys of life comes from being happy over the good fortune of others. – Archibald Rutledge

Finding our Preferred Facts

Most of us have ways of making other people confirm our favored conclusions without ever engaging them in conversation. Consider this: To be a great driver, lover, or chef, we don’t need to be able to parallel park while blindfolded, make ten thousand maidens swoon with a single pucker, or create a pâte feuilletée so intoxicating that the entire population of France instantly abandons its national cuisine and swears allegiance to our kitchen. Rather, we simply need to park, kiss, and bake better than most other folks do. How do we know how well most other folks do? Why, we look around, of course—but in order to make sure than we see what we want to see, we look around selectively.

For example, volunteers in one study took a test that ostensibly measured their social sensitivity and were then told that they had flubbed the majority of the questions. When these volunteers were then given an opportunity to look over the test results of other people who had performed better or worse than they had, they ignored the test of the people who had done better and instead spent their time looking over the tests of the people who had done worse.

The bottom line is this: The brain and the eye may have a contractual relationship in which the brain has agreed to believe what the eye sees, but in return the eye has agreed to look for what the brain wants.

Daniel Gilbert
Stumbling on Happiness

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

The Power of Touch

A study of NBA players who found the best teams touch each a lot--while the losing teams touched each other very little. Tesearchers at the University of California at Berkeley looked at what happened between teammates during the 2009 season and found the most touch-prone were the Boston Celtics and the Los Angeles Lakers, two of the league’s top teams at the time. The mediocre Sacramento Kings and Charlotte Bobcats were at the bottom of touch list. The same held true for individual players. The study took into account the possibility of teams high-fiving just because they were winning and adjusted accordingly. Even when the high expectations surrounding the more talented teams were taken into account, the correlation persisted.

A warm touch reduces stress by releasing hormones that promote a sensation of trust. This can free up the part of the brain that regulates emotion to engage in problem solving.

The investigators also tested couples, finding with more touching came greater satisfaction in the relationship. Previous research has suggested students receiving a teacher's supportive touch on the arm or back or arm were much more likely to volunteer in class and a sympathetic touch from a doctor gives patients feeling that a visit lasted twice as long as it actually did.

Stephen Goforth

Monday, July 21, 2014


One good husband is worth two good wives; for the scarcer things are, the more they're valued. - Ben Franklin.

My Life with One Arm

Two months to the day after my accident, I went to see a therapist for the first time in my life. I didn’t know where to begin. We discussed loss and resilience and the will to live and adapt. But when I started talking about the outpouring of love and support that I had received since my accident, I began weeping uncontrollably. I realized that for the first time in my life, I was truly letting love into my heart. Losing an arm has connected me to others in a way I have never felt. Yes, I have suffered a tremendous loss, but in a way, I feel as if I have gained much more.

Miles O’Brian
Writing in New York Magazine

Friday, July 18, 2014

Easy deceit

Nothing is easier than self-deceit. For what each man wishes, that he also believes to be true. – Demosthenes

Spreading Blame

Researchers at UCLA say blame is contagious. Even when we just observe a public display of blame we are more likely to do the same. Volunteers were asked to read about California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger blaming others for a problem while a different group read how the governor accepted personal responsibility for the crisis. Both groups then wrote about a failure in their own lives. Those who saw blame modeled for them were almost a third more likely to join the blame game and put the fault for their failure on someone else. However, the number of blamers dropped when volunteers first wrote down their core values.

The researchers theorized that a reminder of how to make wise choices made it less likely individuals feel the need to defend themselves by blaming others and more willing to take responsibility. A USC professor conducted similar experiences and came to the conclusion that publicly blaming others dramatically increases the likelihood that the practice will become viral.

When leaders, parents or even friends make a practice of blaming others for their failures, they are encouraging people in their circle of influence to do the same. People become less willing to take risks, they become less innovative and less creative and less likely to learn from their mistakes. Blame creates a culture of fear.

Stephen Goforth

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Risk Management

When we say that someone has fallen on bad luck, we relieve that person of any responsibility for what has happened. When we say that someone has had good luck, we deny that person credit for the effort that might have led to the happy outcome. But how sure can we be? Was it fate or choice that decided the outcome?

Until we can distinguish between an event that is truly random and an event that is the result of cause and effect, we will never know whether what we see is what we’ll get, nor how we got what we got.

When we take a risk, we are betting on an outcome that will result from a decision we have made, though we do not know for certain what the outcome will be. The essence of risk management lies in maximizing the areas where we have some control over the outcome while minimizing the areas where we have absolutely no control over the outcome and the linkage between effect and cause is hidden from us.

Peter Bernstein
Against the Gods

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Feeling Inferior

No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.
Eleanor Roosevelt

Meet the Box People

You probably know someone who is one of the "box people." Whenever they meet someone new, the box people try to identifying which box you belong inside: "What do you do?" is the first step to determining your box label. Once they know your "box" (which could be based on class, politics, religious affiliation, etc) then they can related to you in the way they've learned to treat everyone with that label.

If it turns out you are living outside the set of predetermined boxes, then you are going against the fundamental box people belief that everyone lives inside one of the boxes. Or everyone should live life in a box with a label. If you don't, your very existence is a challenge to the comfort level of "box people." This is when their actions will demand that you "Get yourself inside a box! I don't approve of your non-box-affiliated lifestyle."

Do you know that feeling? Of being treated as a prepackaged echo of a personality rather than a unique person?

Stephen Goforth