Finding Your Purpose


Do you have a sense of purpose?

For decades, psychologists have studied how long-term, meaningful goals develop over the span of our lives. The goals that foster a sense of purpose are ones that can potentially change the lives of other people, like launching an organization, researching disease, or teaching kids to read.

Indeed, a sense of purpose appears to have evolved in humans so that we can accomplish big things together—which may be why it’s linked to better physical and mental health. Purpose is adaptive, in an evolutionary sense. It helps both individuals and the species to survive.

Many seem to believe that purpose arises from your special gifts and sets you apart from other people—but that’s only part of the truth. It also grows from our connection to others, which is why a crisis of purpose is often a symptom of isolation. Once you find your path, you’ll almost certainly find others traveling along with you, hoping to reach the same destination—a community.

Here are six ways to overcome isolation and discover your purpose in life.

Source: How to Find Your Purpose in Life

Shared Brain – not just a joke, maybe

You may perceive the world the way your friends do, according to a Dartmouth study finding that friends have similar neural responses to real-world stimuli and these similarities can be used to predict who your friends are.

The researchers found that you can predict who people are friends with just by looking at how their brains respond to video clips. Friends had the most similar neural activity patterns, followed by friends-of-friends who, in turn, had more similar neural activity than people three degrees removed (friends-of-friends-of-friends).

Published in Nature Communications, the study is the first of its kind to examine the connections between the neural activity of people within a real-world social network, as they responded to real-world stimuli, which in this case was watching the same set of videos. (A pdf of the study is available upon request.).

Source: Your brain reveals who your friends are

Improv Can Open Up Learning

“We always talk about the four ‘c’s of improv: creativity, critical thinking, collaboration and communication,” says Deana Criess, director of ImprovBoston’s National Touring Company, about how she teaches the form to seventh-graders. To persuade students to abandon their fear of mistakes, she insists on unconditional support to all answers, then works to build trust among the group and invite risk-taking. “Once we have confidence in our ideas and in our teammates, we can free ourselves up to have fun,” she says. “So support, trust, risk, confidence and fun. That’s what improv is all about,” Criess says.

Source: How Improv Can Open Up the Mind to Learning in the Classroom and Beyond

Strategic Planning – A Big Lie?

Actually choosing a strategy entails making decisions that explicitly cut off possibilities and options. An executive may well fear that getting those decisions wrong will wreck his or her career.

The natural reaction is to make the challenge less daunting by turning it into a problem that can be solved with tried and tested tools. That nearly always means spending weeks or even months preparing a comprehensive plan for how the company will invest in existing and new assets and capabilities in order to achieve a target—an increased share of the market, say, or a share in some new one. The plan is typically supported with detailed spreadsheets that project costs and revenue quite far into the future. By the end of the process, everyone feels a lot less scared.

This is a truly terrible way to make strategy. It may be an excellent way to cope with fear of the unknown, but fear and discomfort are an essential part of strategy making. In fact, if you are entirely comfortable with your strategy, there’s a strong chance it isn’t very good.

Source: The Big Lie of Strategic Planning

Picking Your Best Idea


In virtually every human pursuit, from personal growth to the arts to business, ideas and the execution of those ideas is what drives us forward.

And when it comes to ideas, there are basically two kinds of people:

Those who struggle to come up with what feels like good ideas
Those gifted with a ton of ideas, but who struggle to pick the right idea to pursue
And because struggling stinks, the good news is that no matter which of these two camps you’re from, what follows can help you.

As for me, I come from camp #2. Ideas come to me in waves, and when the waves hit they’re like tsunamis. I’ve got the debris—dozens of notebooks and countless sticky notes, napkins, even birch bark with my barely legible notes about the idea on them—stuffed in manila envelopes to prove it.

My problem, however, used to be that when it came time to work on a new thing—in my case a new article, video, book, or business, for example—I’d review all my ideas and feel… CONFUSED AND OVERWHELMED.

Because there were actually many ideas scribbled in my notebooks and stuffed in my manila envelopes that were good. And how on earth do I pick just one idea? Especially if I was going to be investing significant amounts of my time and energy into it.

Source: How to Pick Your Best Idea (Especially If You Suffer from Idea Overload!)

Intellectual humility and openness to other viewpoints

One way to increase intellectual humility, at least in the short term, is to encourage a belief in the malleability of intelligence.

Tenelle Porter and Karina Schumann at the University of Pittsburgh created a new intellectual humility questionnaire that asks participants to rate their agreement with 9 items like “I am willing to admit if I don’t know something”. The questionnaire is based on their conception of intellectual humility as recognising your own fallibility and the value and intellectual competence of others. Find the full list of items below (the letter R at the end of a statement means that greater agreement is a sign of less humility):

Source: Something we could use a little more of – studies link intellectual humility with openness to other viewpoints

For a younger-working brain -Cognitive training


Researchers at the Center for BrainHealth at The University of Texas at Dallas say their research could provide new hope for extending our brain function as we age. In a randomized clinical study involving adults age 56 to 71 that recently published in Neurobiology of Aging, researchers found that after cognitive training, participants’ brains were more energy efficient, meaning their brain did not have to work as hard to perform a task.

To investigate changes in brain efficiency, the research team studied neural activity while the participant performed a task. For the study, 57 cognitively normal older adults were randomly assigned to a cognitive training group, a wait-listed control group, or physical exercise control group. The cognitive training utilized the Strategic Memory Advanced Reasoning Training (SMART) program developed at the Center for BrainHealth.

Source: Cognitive training helps regain a younger-working brain

The psychological effects of climate change

“People who worry about animals and nature tend to have a more planetary outlook and think of bigger picture issues,” Helm said. “For them, the global phenomenon of climate change very clearly affects these bigger picture environmental things, so they have the most pronounced worry, because they already see it everywhere. We already talk about extinction of species and know it’s happening. For people who are predominantly altruistically concerned or egoistically concerned about their own health, or maybe their own financial future, climate change does not hit home yet.”

Those with high levels of biospheric concern also were most likely to engage in pro-environmental day-to-day behaviors, such as recycling or energy savings measures, and were the most likely to engage in coping mechanisms to deal with environmental stress, ranging from denying one’s individual role in climate change to seeking more information on the issue and how to help mitigate it.

Source: Researchers explore psychological effects of climate change

Declining trust imposes real-world costs on US society

“Although we see some evidence that previous eras also experienced a decline in trust in institutions, this trend seems to be more pronounced now than in the past,” said Michael D. Rich, co-author of the report and president and CEO of the nonprofit, nonpartisan RAND Corporation. “Today we see that lack of trust across many more pillars of society – in government, media and financial institutions – and a far lower absolute level of trust in these institutions than before.”

Researchers also identify Truth Decay’s four causes: humans’ natural mental habits, changes in the American information ecosystem, competing demands on the educational system that limit its ability to keep up with changes in that information ecosystem, and political, sociodemographic and economic polarization.

Source: Declining trust in facts, institutions imposes real-world costs on US society, RAND report finds

Better Motivation for Better Health

Trying to stay motivated while changing your lifestyle to healthier habits is tough but here are some tips and resources to make it easier.

As I said, there’s no doubt in my mind that the best way to create more energy and motivation is to take action, even if it’s small. Excitement grows and catches on when we see progress.

It bears repeating:

Action breeds motivation, not the other way around.

If you are looking to make some lifestyle changes to improve your health and want to get (and stay) motivated, you’ve chosen a worthy cause! No matter which habit you’ve chosen to take on, I’ve found these seven steps can help keep motivation strong:

Source: How to Stay Motivated for Better Health | Wellness Mama