Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Childhood Programming

As I was working on my latest manuscript “I Chose Hope—and that Made the Difference,” it became clear that my journey toward discoveryto viewing my life in color rather than in black and whitereally began when I decided to go back in memory and recall and identify to the best of my ability what I’d heard and had been told during childhood: what I’d heard people say about me and what individuals had directly said to me (verbally or nonverbally) about who I was or was not, what I was or was not capable of doing, what I could or could not pursue in terms of options, and whether I would likely be successful or unsuccessful. Metaphorically, “start reading the script that was handed to me at birth (if not before). What I uncovered was a bit disconcerting because it became clear that for whatever reason, I had “believed” what I had heard and had been told. I had internalized their words to represent genuine and absolute truth—rather than perceiving that what they thought was only their brain’s opinion based on their own learning and life experience. 

Monday, September 18, 2017

Choose Close Friends Carefully

In life it is critically important to select your friends carefully for any number of reasons. Studies have shown that you become the average of the four or five people with whom you spent the most time. Studies have also shown that within a period of two or three years, you have an increased risk for picking up the behavioral patterns of those same individuals. This is especially true in relations to smoking, eating, obesity, exercising, and happiness, etc.. Take obesity, for example. Researchers have discovered that people whose close friends were obese were fifty-seven percent more likely to become obese, as well—and obesity is associated with more than 50 diseases including dementia. This doesn’t mean that you “will” mimic their behaviors but that it is more likely that this will happen—you have an increased risk.” Part of this susceptibility may be due to mirror neurons in your pre-frontal cortex ‘firing’ as you watch other do a behavior. Part is likely due to the conversations you have with those friends and what you hear them say to themselves and to others.

Friday, September 15, 2017

Aphorisms, 13

  • This too shall pass; it might pass like a kidney stone but it will pass
  • Life takes you to unexpected places—love brings you home
  • To those who know they are loved, a kind word is a morsel; to those who are love-starved, a kind word is a banquet
  • Love is all around you but you may miss it unless you open your heart and look for it
  • Help your brain enjoy the rewards of driving its own vehicle: your brain
  • It’s far easier to be rude to words on a screen than rude to a face—either way you can’t take them back
  • Play ‘till the end—miracles still happen

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Crafting Affirmations

“But I do not know what words to use!” is a comment I sometimes hear. As far as I know, there is no encyclopedia of “perfect affirmations.” By staying aware of what you tell yourself and listening to the style used by others when giving directions, it becomes easier and easier to recognize effective versus ineffective styles. I ask myself, “Do the words create a one-step picture or do they create a two-step picture that requires the brain to change the first picture into something else?” I was discussing Dr. Wegner’s work with a group of college freshman and said, “Don’t think about the white bear.” One of those college brains said, “Okay that tells me what not to do. What do you want me to do?” Another brain said, “Think about a brown bear.” The first brain asked, “Is that what you want me to think about? A brown bear?” It was such a clear example of unclear instructions.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Brain Susceptibility

Your brain is susceptible to what others say about you and may even record that (along with what you say to and about yourself) in the same place in the brain—so it is important to protect your brain (insofar as it is possible to do so) from negative input. Children are less able to do that. Consequently it is critical to evaluate what you were told about yourself and what you heard others say about yourself—or you may be risk for believing them. What they said was only their brain’s opinion but if you believed them if could derail your success or even influence you not to do something that your brain could be very good at doing. 

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Three Caveats

Your brain can only do what it thinks it can do—and you are the one who tells it what it can do.

Your brain believes what you tell it and then does everything it can to make what you are saying to and about yourself happen.

If you think you can or you think you can’tyou’re right.

Monday, September 11, 2017

Pygmalion Effect

Admittedly studies of the Pygmalion effect are difficult to conduct because they must be done in an unnatural and controlled environment which is not ‘real life,’ as some put it. Nevertheless, study results have shown a positive correlation between leader expectation and follower performance. Researchers have argued that the perceptions a leader has of a follower can cause the Pygmalion effect. That a leader's expectations are influenced by their perception of the situation or the followers themselves. And it is possible that perception and expectation may even be found in a similar part in the brain. Anecdotally, many report observing the Pygmalion effect in personal and professional relationships, in homes, schools, and in the workplace. [Whiteley, P., Sy, T., & Johnson, S. (2012). "Leaders' conceptions of followers: Implications for naturally occurring pygmalion effects". The Leadership Quarterly, 23(5), 822–834. doi: 10.1016/j.leaqua.2012.03.006] More tomorrow.

Friday, September 8, 2017


Some are frightened by the term affirmations as they think it involves some type of self-fulfilling prophecy or is part of the law of attraction, so called, or are scarily powerful. Affirmations are powerful. You may have heard of the Pygmalion effect (named after the Greek myth of Pygmalion), the phenomenon whereby higher expectations lead to an increase in performance. It is also known as the Rosenthal effect (named for Dr. Robert Rosenthal, a Distinguished Professor of Psychology at UC Riverside and arguably the expert on self-fulfilling prophecy. Rosenthal and Lenore Jacobson believed a study they did supported the hypothesis that reality can be positively or negatively influenced by the expectations of others, called the observer-expectancy effect—arguing that biased expectancies could affect reality and create self-fulfilling prophecies. The corollary to the Pygmalion or Rosenthal effect is the Golon effect: the phenomenon whereby low expectations lead to a decrease in performance. [Rosenthal, Robert; Jacobson, Lenore (1992). Pygmalion in the classroom (Expanded ed.)] 

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Flattery vs Affirmations

“When I try to be affirming,” one person told me, “my words come across as flattery and that’s embarrassing.” Understand that affirmations and flattery reside on different planets. Flattery can be described as insincere and excessive praise, compliments, or adulation—given to further one's own interests or advance one’s own goals or manipulate another into agreeing to something they might not otherwise do. It involves using complimentary words to obtain what one wants, as in an attempt to initiate a romantic or sexual encounter or to obtain a financial or social advantage. Think of flattery as Most associations with flattery are negative—even in history. Dante reportedly thought flattery was so offensive that he compared flattering words to human excrement. Now that’s quite a mental picture! 

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Talking to Others, Cont’d

Visiting in a home recently, a couple 3-year olds (a girl and a boy) were playing with large blow-up balls about 18 inches in diameter. There were at least 4 balls, but the energetic and typically active little boy was trying to grab all the balls. Each time the little girl got one, he took it from her, which triggered her tears. “Don’t take her ball,” the mother kept saying. The little boy kept taking it. His mother’s voice rose in volume. No behavioral change. I suggested she say, “Give one ball to the little girl.” She looked at me like I was from another planet, rolled her eyes, and then said, “Give one ball to the little girl.” Immediately, the little boy walked over and handed the little girl a ball, and returned to playing with the other three. The mother looked like she actually might faint on the spot. Her son had followed the picture her words created in his brain.

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Talking to Others

This new self-talk style applies not only to personal self-talk, it can also apply to addressing others, children especially. “Don’t forget your homework” is less effective than “Joan, remember your homework.” “Don’t be late to fencing class,” is less helpful than “Jay, be on time to your fencing class.” It this self-talk style a guarantee of 100% compliance? Of course not. However, it can rather dramatically increase the likelihood of success, because the new self-talk style is a 1-step process. What you say creates the picture you want your brain to follow. Some individuals were attempting to walk on a 2x4 raised a few inches off the ground. A group of friends started chanting “Don’t fall, don’t fall,” and about 85% of the time the individual stepped off the 2x4 from picturing ‘falling.’ The reverse was also true. Words such as, “Put your arms out. Balance. Stay on the 2x4,” resulted in success about 85% of the time.

Monday, September 4, 2017

Effective Self-Talk Styles

Used correctly, affirmations can be very effective. Telling yourself: “Don’t forget to go by the cleaners,” is less effective than “_____, remember to stop at the cleaners on your way home.” Instructing your brain: “Don’t be scared to make that presentation,” is less helpful than saying “_____, you are presenting in a way that the audience finds interesting.” Moaning to yourself: “I can’t do this. It’s too hard. I can’t be successful” is a recipe for disaster compared to saying: “_____, you are doing this project. You are successful. You are having fun.” Rehearsing, “I’m not pretty enough—or smart enough, or handsome enough, or loveable enough,” programs your brain for negativity. However, telling your brain you can jump off the Eiffel Tower in Paris and fly just by waving your arms and thinking you can is not genuine, realistic, or doable. If something is possible to do, however, affirmations can program your brain to put its best foot forward and its shoulder to the proverbial wheel—and help you accomplish it.

Friday, September 1, 2017

Benefits of New Self-Talk Style

The researchers and independent evaluators found that the participants who used their ‘first name’ and ‘you’ had less anxiety, were more confident (_____, you can do this), performed better, perceived less shame for making mistakes, and experienced less social anxiety not only before the event but also afterward in post-event processing, when people tend to chew over their performance and find themselves lacking. This self-talk style depersonalizes things slightly, more objectively directs your brain to accomplish what you want to do, and empowers you to view as a challenge what others see as a threat. According to Dr. Kross, the distance gained by using your ‘given name’ and the pronoun ‘you’ confers a type of wisdom and resolves what he dubs King Solomon’s paradox: people often reason more wisely about the social problems of others than they do about their own. First-name self-talk shifts the focus away from the self; it allows people to transcend their inherent egocentrism and fear—and that helps to make them as smart in thinking about themselves as they typically are about others.