Runner Crossing the Finish Line

Moving From “Wishing” to “Doing”: 5 Keys to Getting Things Done

I’m often told that people fall into 2 categories: “wishers” and “doers.”Individuals who tell me this are often surprised to hear my response: that my experience and research indicates that this is almost always absolutely untrue!My conclusion may seem counter-intuitive at first, but I recently conducted a scientific study on this topic and found some very interesting results that might be helpful to both your business and your personal life.

My team and I spent about 2 years researching the difference between wishing and doing. During our investigation, it became apparent that no one is either a doer or a wisher. During the course of almost every day, all of us do some things we want to do and all of us also spend some time simply wishing we could do other things. Even if it is only eating when hungry or using the restroom when necessary, everyone does something on a regular basis. On the other hand, we did not encounter one person who did not have something that they wished they did more often; some wised they were more efficient at work or that they were better at doing things related to leadership excellence – others wished they exercised more or spent more time with loved ones.

It quickly became apparent that, since we all do and wish from time to time, the trick is not to become a “doer.”  Instead, it may make more sense to (a) identify the factors that influence us to do the things we want to do more often, then (b) become more skilled at putting these factors to work for us (and others in our lives) on a daily basis. At the end of our 2 year-long study, we feel as though we were able to shed some light on how to do this.  Five factors that strongly differentiate between wishing and doing are listed below along with some brief explanations:

  1. Perception of enough time to do what we wish to do. We tend to only attempt to do what we believe we have time to do – and find all kinds of ways to avoid what we do not think we will have time to do.  Ironically, many people report that they often find between 20-40 hours every week that they could have used to do more of what they wanted to do.  Clearly,perception of time availability is not always reality.  We normally have much more time than we perceive to do what we wish – if we are willing to stop doing certain things we do not want to do as much! Doing fewer less important things increases our time perception – and doing levels go up as our perception of time increases.  Click here for ideas on how to increase time perception.
  2. Motivation to do what we wish to do. Wishing without doing is often associated with an inability to perceive powerful pay-offs for doing certain things on a consistent basis.  When individuals are trained in the art of internalizing more of their motivation, they often find themselves actually doing many more things than they used to only wish they could do.  This is because internal motivation is the only kind of motivation that is completely under our control – if we depend completely on outside influences to motivate us, our doing is under the control of these sources.  This often leaves people in a state of “wishing” that someone else would come to motivate them to “do” more.  Click here for ideas on how to increase motivation.
  3. Accessibility to necessary materials and training. Wishing is also associated with having less access to information and materials related to activities we wish we would do than one has for the activities that tend to get done in our lives.  People who become more skilled at attaining these resources (rather than simply wishing they had them or that someone else would provide them) often find themselves moving from wishing to doing more and more frequently.  Click here for ideas on how to increase accessibility.
  4. Enjoyment of the process (not just the outcome) of doing what we wish to do. Doing is linked with a certain level of enjoyment for getting the small things on the path to achievement done, while wishing is associated with dreading these small things (and wishing that they were already done for us).  Many people are surprised to find out that enjoyment is often more under their control than they realize – most activities can be enjoyed more by putting enjoyment-enhancing mechanisms into play.  For example, the book Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience is an excellent resource for some ideas on how to enjoy activities more.  Click here for ideas on how to increase enjoyment.
  5. Social support for consistently doing what we wish to do. The more that the important people in our lives encourage us to do what we wish, the more we do. On the other hand, we tend to wish more and do less if these individuals are not supportive of our doing.  A key here is becoming aware of the different types of social support and how to consistently recruit our favorite kinds of support into our lives (and minimizing our time with those who do not provide us with our favorite types of support).  Click here for ideas on how to increase social support.

This article was written with Brian Higley

This article originally appeared in the Excellence Tree Journal:

FOr leisure article  (1)

Self-Mastery Tip: Using Leisure Time in Satisfying Ways

Being able to truly “relax and recharge” during leisure time is often so important to feeling good about one’s life, both personal and professional.  Using our leisure time well can result in increased energy, better moods, fewer illnesses and enhanced creativity.  It can also result in more feelings of optimism, self-esteem and enjoyment.  Tasks that seem difficult or people who we just cannot seem to work with can all become much less of a challenge when we face them refreshed and energized.  All too often, we either set aside little to no time for deeply satisfying leisure or choose to utilize the leisure time we do have in ways that drain (rather than recharge) us.

Leisure time can be used in more satisfying ways by understanding how important this is (to ourselves and to those around us) and committing to doing so regularly.  Here are some ways people have been able to use their leisure time to truly recharge themselves:

  • Decrease time spent in dissatisfying leisure activities. Very often, it can seem as though we do not have enough time to engage in satisfying leisure time.  However, it is frequently the case that we do have this time; it is just often spent in dissatisfying (and frequently unconscious) ways.  To become more aware of how we spend (or mis-spend) our leisure time, it can be helpful to identify 2-3 of the most time-consuming leisure activities that take up our time that do not truly recharge and/or relax us and seek to minimize time spent in those activities.  Some common examples of such activities that we have encountered over the years are channel or internet surfing, spending time with draining/dissatisfying people, or worrying about things that we have no control over.  Decreasing time spent in activities that we do not truly love to engage in often opens up more time for the things we really want to do.  In fact, it’s been our experience that people who become more aware of how they use their leisure time often find 5-20 extra hours every week!
  • Increase time spent in satisfying leisure activities. Once we have minimized dissatisfying leisure activities, it is often the case that 5, 10 or even 20 more hours are available to us every week for satisfying leisure time.  It can then be helpful to take more control over our leisure time by identifying 2-3 activities that we really enjoy doing to replace the old, less satisfying activities.  Some examples of activities that people we have worked with over the years have chosen are reading, spending more time in favorite places/with favorite people, engaging in a class just for the enjoyment of it, catching up on some sleep from time to time or engaging in activities that bring about more centered, peaceful states of mind.  Becoming clear about what truly satisfies and recharges us makes it more likely that we will experience a more energized, focused and calm mind and body.
  • Recruit “satisfying leisure social support.” Some of us can find ourselves in social circles (both personal and professional) that do not understand or value the power of satisfying leisure time.  Some people falsely believe that spending time in satisfying ways is “bad” or “lazy,” which can motivate them to try to make those of us using our leisure time in satisfying ways feel guilty about it.  Because this can be such a common attitude toward leisure time, it can be important to find people who are supportive of our commitment to satisfying leisure, rather than dismissive of it.  Finding others who recognize how important it is to relax and recharge on a regular basis can make it more likely that we continue to do so.  Click here for more on recruiting effective social support.

    This article was written with Brian Higley

    This article originally appeared in the Excellence Tree Journal:


Education In Service of Experience

Human beings have a natural telos, an end that we seek above all others, an end for which our every fiber reaches as soon as we are able to perform goal directed action. Our telos, as feeling beings, is to exist  in a feeling state where we desire no other mode of being. This is the clearest and most accessible goal that is an end in and of itself. Some have called this state happiness, flourishing, contentment or optimal experience. We wish to make this experience as durable and frequent as we are able. And we are able to understand that others can either help or impair our ability to attain or maintain this state. We are also able to empathize with others so that we can understand that they, too, have a claim to that same optimal experience. The goal of education is to fulfill the personal and social desire for a more optimal experience. Education is the effective facilitation of a longer term and richer experience through learning. We educate in service of a flourishing society, or more precisely, in service of more people with  more optimal experiences more consistently. If this is true, then our informational concerns are tertiary and subservient to optimal experience.

If this is our goal, then the content of our societal knowledge—math, science, and history—shouldn’t dictate the path of education.  The experience of the learner should determine the route to her education. Depending on which goal we focus upon, the results are very different. If the educator considers the declarative knowledge or skills acquisition  primary, or as important in and of themselves, then the only concern is the correctness and truth-value of the student’s belief; however, if the experience of the student is the transcendent concern, then we evaluate the quality of the student’s experience first, and consider how new information might improve that experience. When optimal experience is our goal, we’ll constantly look to sharpen experience and not information alone. We’ll appreciate a communicated experience because of its intrinsic value as experience. We’ll see the information as what it is, as more than just a truth-value. The student’s one spoken idea, whether correct or incorrect, is just one sharp corner to a vast labyrinth of a deep personal system of desires, experiences, and processes.

An educator possesses the primary concern of discovering the method to connect the student’s experience to the shared experience of those who came before them in science, math, and history, and so on, allowing them to enrich themselves in the elaborate experience of others. In other words, the educator aids the student in rediscovering the information for herself in a way that enriches her and those around her. In order to correctly facilitate this connection between experience points—between the student and paradigms of thought, to draw them together—the educator must understand where the student is, within the student’s own experience.  To do that, the educator must create a match between the student’s experience and the educator’s own.

We cannot create this match without first appreciating the experience as they do. Because if we are not experiencing it as she does, then all we have touched upon is the meager propositional content of her words, a fraction of her real learning and representation of that content.  To find this match between the experience of the educator and the student entails that the educator suspend all judgments and simply attempt to experience as the student experiences. If the educator fails doing this, it is a little like a colorblind person using the word “red” or “blue” and thinking he understands that word. The educator posses the student’s spoken words, and he can use them in sentences and among a relation of other facts and figures, but he has not really reached the experience of the student: he has the students words, but he cannot understand it in relation to the student’s rich network of processes, desires, background experience, and beliefs that gave rise to the student’s presented ideas, memory of the content, or understanding of the content.

Beyond failing to actually understand what the student says when she speaks her ideas on a given topic,  when the educator focuses upon the truth-value or correctness of the content or learning alone, he risks causing a kind of motion parallax in the student. Instead of the student seeking diverse, elaborated, and longer-term vital experiences, like a hiker enjoying a slow exploratory walk, the student sprints and focuses only upon the blur of motion that signals the distance to finish. In this case, the student races to get beyond being stamped with knowledge. By pointing at the experience, we necessarily point towards novelty seeking and expanding consciousness because the student is seeking something new to enrich her experience.

By valuing the student’s experience prior to the truth-value and correctness of the content, the educator also reduces fear of appraisal, and helps the student to share her experience because others will value that experience simply because it is her experience. When she speaks it freely, she is able to enter into a process where that experience is informed and enriched by the experience of those around her. This focus on the quality of experience prevents the student from becoming tied only to what she believes, correctly or incorrectly, to be certain, accepted or correct. She will be free to attempt to find ways to express experiences that she or the English language may not yet have words to describe, or perspectives that the educator and class had not yet considered.  In this case, she has become free to be generative and not simply formatted.

All this is not to say that the informational aspects of education are not important —for they are surely constitutive to education’s contribution to optimal experience. Instead, we must keep in sight the most universal problem education was created to solve. We should avoid Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi’s almost prophetic statement, “It is a common fate of many human institutions to begin in response to some universal problem until, after many generations, the problems peculiar to the institutions themselves will take precedence over the original goal(Csíkszentmihályi, 1992)”.  We should avoid an over focus on the content of education, such as equations, facts, and skills, and keep our eyes focused firmly upon enriching personal experience.


God, Gadgets, and Generation Y: Part 3

This series is about why today’s generation is shifting away from formal religion.

Many factors are being explored and part three will address technology and social networking.

Social identity. Online presence. Connected. To be relevant in today’s world, having a distinctive voice and solid understanding of what it means to be plugged in is necessary. Today’s generation is taking networking to a new level, and studies are finding that their connectedness has put them more in touch with diversity than ever before. Perhaps this familiarity with multiculturalism is one of the factors in Millennials’ movement away from the traditional institution of religion. At an age when identity is everything, these young adults are giving more thoughtful consideration to the process. Religious, racial, and political affiliation are holding more and more weight in this increasingly media-aware world. So what role does social networking and technology play when young adults are trying to reconcile their parents’ religion with their own burgeoning identity?

In an age where everything – from the meals they eat to the vacation spots they visit – is considered worthy enough to snag a spot on their coveted walls, news feeds, and tweets, it should come as no surprise that today’s generation considers social networking an integral part of their identity.1 Taking Facebook as an example of a social networking website, there are multiple ways in which one can construct an online identity. For instance, when looking at creating a profile, there are areas to input one’s work and education history, relationship status, hometown and current location, contact information, gender, birthday, languages, religious and political views, and sexual orientation. There’s even an “About You” section where one can list such things as his or her interests, life goals, brief history, world views, etc. With such an expansive way to catalog one’s “selfdom,” this generation is arguably more keenly aware of their differences and similarities than ever before. The word identity now encompasses an even broader spectrum of choices and orientations. Thus is seems to have less to do with the private, intimate sense of the word and more to do with the public, social element of their identity.

By having these opinions and affiliations on display, it virtually forces the user to acknowledge these distinctions. Without any face-to-face confrontation, these social networking websites have allowed users to construct a fully fleshed out profile leaving hardly anything to the imagination. This generation is not shy about who they are, what they are passionate about, and who sees it. In one poll, Millennials even cite their proficiency and use of technology as a major difference between their generation and the generations that preceded them.2 This could even account for some of the nicknames for today’s generation having a connection to the Internet and technology, e.g., MyPod Generation, First Digitals, ‘Net Generation. In 2010, 75% of Millennials say that they have created some type of a social networking profile, which is a quarter more than Generation X, which comes in at only 50%.3 The Millennials are definitely more plugged in than their counterparts, possibly because of their comfort with newer technologies which allow them Internet access even on the go.

Additionally, more than half of Millennials surveyed say that new technologies allow them to connect to their friends and family more easily and even make them feel closer.4 This makes sense especially for individuals that might have family spread out across the state, country, or even overseas. Arguably, the growing diversity that today’s generation comes in contact with every time they log onto a social networking website is impacting the way they build relationships with one another. The idea of global connection is even in the title “World Wide Web” – it’s not only a worldwide platform but an intertwined web where everything and everyone operates on the same network. This generation is more engaged than critics might think. “Contrary to prevailing attitudes that Generation Y is somehow socially and politically disengaged because of technology… they are more connected than ever in large part because technology facilitates contact in ways unfathomable even 10 years ago.”5 Again, Millennials are not only accepting of new approaches, they embrace the unconventional and innovative methods.

Some call it voyeuristic, but this open stage on which players perform for all the world to see, is here to stay. Just like the prime time lineup on the CW, this generation bares all the nooks and crannies of their experiences without a shadow in which to hide. Break ups, flings, weddings, parties, vacations, and telling self-portraits are all documented, photographed, and organized for your viewing pleasure. The highest of the highs and the lowest of the lows are there on display for family, friends, and frenemies to see. Author E.J. Westlake comments on the Facebook phenomenon, saying these exhibitions “are neither deviant nor passive. They are energetic engagements with the panoptic gaze: as people offer themselves up for surveillance, they establish and reinforce social norms, but also resist being fixed as rigid, unchanging subjects.”6 This social transparency comes naturally to the Millennial generation. Connections are taking place on a fluid, two-way-street where people of diverse religious and cultural backgrounds can come together and exchange experiences in a non-confrontational manner. Thus, these connections have broken down the preconceptions and stereotypes that religion has placed on groups. In turn, the generation that eagerly consumes technology, has been forced to get rid of the “us vs. them” mentality touted by conservative religion, and instead throw themselves headfirst into the oft diverse waters of social networking.

1 Aine Dunn, Margaret-Anne Lawlor, and Jennifer Rowley, “Young People’s Use of Online Social Networking Sites – a Uses and Gratifications Perspective,” Journal of Research in Interactive Marketing 4, no. 1 (2010): 46-7, (accessed July 6, 2012).

2Andrew Kohut, Paul Taylor, and Scott Keeter, “The Millennials: Confident. Connected. Open to Change. – Pew Research Center,” p 14

3 Kohut, et al., “The Millennials: Confident. Connected. Open to Change. – Pew Research Center,” p 25

4 Kohut, et al., “The Millennials: Confident. Connected. Open to Change. – Pew Research Center,” p 26

5 EJ Westlake, “Friend Me if You Facebook: Generation Y and Performative Surveillance,” TDR: The Drama Review 52, no. 4 (2008): 21, (accessed July 9, 2012)

6Westlake, “Friend Me if You Facebook: Generation Y and Performative Surveillance,” 23


God, Gadgets, and Generation Y: Part 2

The children of the Baby Boomers have decidedly taken a large step outside the realms of conventional belief systems. Ambiguous words like “Godly,” “moral fiber,” and “pure/purity”  no longer incite the same feelings of religious guilt and obligatoin in Millennials as it may have in previous generations. In the same study that showed reinforced connections to religion for the 45-65 age range, an overall departure from a traditional religious establishment is present in the Echo Boomer generation. For instance, 26% of Millennials identified as religiously unaffiliated, the highest of all the generations surveyed (Greatest, Silent, Boomer, Gen X).1 For those that might argue that Millennials are cited as less religious solely because they are in their youth and are consequently in a period of transition, statistics show that “Millennials are also more unaffiliated than members of Gen Xers were at a comparable point in their life cycle (20% in the late 1990s) and twice as unaffiliated as Baby Boomers were as young adults (13% in the late 1970s).”2 Moreover, for those that do claim a religious affiliation, only 37% say that they consider themselves to be a strong member of their particular religion3 and a mere 18% report they attend religious services on a regular basis.4 Their absolute certainty in the existence of God/a God is listed as 53%, the lowest of not only all the generations surveyed currently, but also of all the generations surveyed when they were in the same age range as Millennials are now.5 Thus it would seem that Millennials are indeed identifying less and less with the conventional religious framework.

Perhaps the shift could be credited to Millennials identifying themselves as more tolerant and less concerned with absolutes. Politically, one study has found that “a plurality (45%) of Millennials identify as Independent, compared to 33% who identify as Democrat and 23% who identify as Republican.”6 Lines between religion and politics seem to blur increasingly with such topics as gay rights, abortion, and treatment of immigrants taking the spotlight in both the government and the media.

Looking first at same-sex marriage, one could suggest that Biblical scriptures are playing a major role for those that object to gay rights. Then it follows suit that Millennials – they favor the legalization of same sex marriage at 63% -7 say they don’t take the Bible literally. Only 27% say “the Bible is the actual, literal word of God.”8 If Millennials find no intrinsic authority in religious texts, then the “laws” or “rules” therein hold no legitimacy. They tend to read Scriptures either as a story no different than Aesop’s Fables, or through a historically critical lens, viewing the characters’ social mores as somewhat archaic with relation to their time-frame. One person’s faith is another person’s fiction.

What about women’s rights and abortion?  How do religion and the law co-mingle with today’s generation?  Of all Millennials surveyed on the legality of abortion in most or all cases, 52% were in favor, and of the Millennials that attended a private college or university, a whopping 68% were in support.9 Again, since Millennials are moving away from traditional religion and are less tied to the literal interpretations of Scriptures, issues that challenge the conventionality of morality are met with a more broad-minded attitude. In regards to Christianity and the Bible, many could argue that it doesn’t have a very female-friendly reputation. So, if the Bible recognizes the male as the head, and the Church demonizes sexuality, it is no surprise that the modern world would disregard the texts as legitimate grounds for influencing such legal matters as female contraception and abortion. In moving away from the sexist undertones seen in conservative religion, female and male Millennials have become more open-minded when it comes to previously taboo topics of sexual health issues.

Beyond their tolerance is an underlying hospitality and general lack of xenophobia.  Their feelings on the issue of immigration have a lot to do with how they perceive themselves.  Overall, 61% of Millennials support the DREAM Act, wherein undocumented immigrants who came to this country as children would be granted citizenship if they either attend college or join the military.10 Perhaps their acceptance of immigrants has to do with the fact that “only 57% [of] Millennials self-identify as white … 21% identify as Hispanic, 14% identify as black, 6% identify as some other race, and 3% identify with two or more racial categories.”11 Denying immigrants their fair chance to go for the “American Dream” would essentially be to deny themselves, their family, their friends, their neighbors that possibility, too. And fair is something that’s important to the Millennials. Their childhood was riddled with parents never letting them feel less-than at any cost. Thus, the political issue of immigration seems to be two-fold: fairness and self-identification. Therefore, withholding opportunities from immigrants seems unjust to a generation that is, itself, racially diverse with approximately 43% non-Caucasian individuals.

In summary, approaching such political hot buttons with open minds is quickly becoming a trademark of the Millennial generation. Sixty-two percent even think that “what makes America great is that it is open to change and new ways of doing things.”12 Regardless of how the upcoming elections turn out, Millennials continue to push issues they feel strongly about – gay rights, birth control, abortion, immigration – into the forefront of their communities, both locally and large scale.  If the droves that turned out for the Occupy Wall Street movement are any indication, Millennials are a force to be reckoned with if they feel their voice isn’t being heard.  Today’s generation is not only accepting of changes to the traditions of this country, but they encourage these transformations.

1 Allison Pond, Gregory Smith, and Scott Clement, “Religion Among the Millennials – Less Religiously Active Than Older Americans, But Fairly Traditional In Other Ways,” Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life, February 17, 2010, p1, (accessed July 6, 2012).

2 Andrew Kohut, Paul Taylor, and Scott Keeter, “The Millennials: Confident. Connected. Open to Change. – Pew Research Center,” Pew Research Center Publications, February 24, 2010, p 85, (accessed July 7, 2012)

3 Andrew Kohut, et al., “The Millennials: Confident. Connected. Open to Change. – Pew Research Center,” p 5

4 Andrew Kohut, et al., “The Millennials: Confident. Connected. Open to Change. – Pew Research Center,” p 7

5 Kohut, et al., “The Millennials: Confident. Connected. Open to Change. – Pew Research Center,” p 13

6 Robert P. Jones, Daniel Cox, and Thomas Banchoff, “A Generation in Transition – Religion, Values, and Politics among College-Age Millennials,” Public Religion Research Institute – Faith in the Numbers, April 19, 2012, p 1, (accessed July 7, 2012).

7 Pond, et al., “Religion Among the Millennials – Less Religiously Active Than Older Americans, But Fairly Traditional In Other Ways,” p 18

8 Pond, et al., “Religion Among the Millennials – Less Religiously Active Than Older Americans, But Fairly Traditional In Other Ways,” p 15

9 Jones, et al., “A Generation in Transition – Religion, Values, and Politics among College-Age Millennials,” p 26

10 Jones, et al., “A Generation in Transition – Religion, Values, and Politics among College-Age Millennials,” p 35

11 Jones, et al., “A Generation in Transition – Religion, Values, and Politics among College-Age Millennials,” p 6

12 Jones, et al., “A Generation in Transition – Religion, Values, and Politics among College-Age Millennials,” p 34


God, Gadgets, and Generation Y: Part 1

God, Gadgets, and Generation Y: Researching the Rejection of Religion”

is a series for Mind In Psychology wherein the various factors of

Generation Y’s turn away from religion will be explored and examined

They say that there are two things that should never be discussed in polite company: religion and politics. However, these are topics that have become increasingly difficult to shy away from given how present they are in both the media and the everyday encounters amongst today’s culturally and religiously varied youth. Not only does today’s generation face diversity head on, they also do more talking than ever before. What they are talking about is just as important as where they are talking, and that seems to be anywhere and everywhere.

At a conference in Washington, D.C. studies found that they “are voracious users of new technologies, from Smartphones to social networking sites [and] are the most diverse generation in U.S. history.” 1 Along with such racial diversity comes cultural and religious diversity as well. At a time when many young people are embracing their differences and unique backgrounds, it seems interesting that statistics are showing a decrease in claims to any one specific brand of religion. In fact, out of people ages 18 to 70 plus, more young people than older people are stating that they are religiously unaffiliated. So what are some of the links between this generation’s abandonment of the traditional institution of religion?

Before delving into the factors of rejecting religion, who is this generation that is making headlines? Though some people differ on the actual time frame, most experts think they were born anywhere from the late 1970s or early 1980s to the late 1990s or early 2000s.2 3 And they go by many different names: Generation Y, Generation Why?, Generation Next, Generation Now, Millennials, Echo Boomers, The MyPod Generation, First Digitals or The ‘Net Generation. One of the most telling clues of influence comes from one of their nicknames, “Echo Boomers,” because they are the progeny and echo of their parents, the Baby Boomer generation. Thus, the first factor to be examined is the relationship between the Echo Boomers and the Baby Boomers.

Significantly, the Baby Boomer generation experienced economic highs coming off the back of the end of World War II. In Born at the Right Time: A History of the Baby-Boom Generation, author Douglas Owram states that “a growing economy, an improving set of government social programs, and a wide dispersion of wealth meant that the average citizen benefited.”4 With a strong financial foundation, an optimistic outlook, and strength in numbers, the Baby Boomers revolutionized the political and cultural landscapes of which they found themselves to be the majority. During the timespan when the Boomers were coming of age, the early Boomers saw racial integration under the Kennedy administration, bra-burning feminists, free love, Woodstock, mind-altering drugs in the mainstream, and for those at the end of the Boomer generation, they even tasted the monetary and material excess of the Wall Street era 1980s. For the parents of the Millennials, their youth was filled with affluence, optimism, and a type of “the world is your oyster” mentality.

Perhaps, as Boomers became parents, they wanted to make sure their children experienced the same success and optimism as they did. With many parents taking the helicopter or hover method to raising their children, there is an understandable swing of the pendulum once those children enter adulthood. Especially when the “everyone is a winner/gets a trophy” mentality falls flat in the real world, the praise received from their parents can seem superficial. As this generation finds more emptiness than substance in the words and support of their parents, it’s no wonder they strive to find something real in their faith. Millennials are pushing away from their parents’ ideologies in an attempt to forge their own identities out from underneath the umbrella of their parents’ shelter-style parenting.

And as these parents are aging, a Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life study that spanned from the 1970s to the present, found that the Boomers are returning to or are stronger in their religious beliefs. There was an increase from 47% to 62% of Boomers that reported they prayed daily.5 Perhaps even more astonishing is that “73% have an absolutely certain belief in God.”6 Boomers across the board also went from 39% in the 1970s to 60% in 2010 in saying that “religion is very important in their lives.”7 Therefore, whether Boomers are either coming back to their religious roots, or they have always maintained an enduring religious affiliation, their statistics are at an all time high showing a strong value placed on traditional religion and their practices.

Therefore, one contributing factor of Generation Y’s rejection of conventional religion could be that they have become disillusioned with their parents’ ideologies and beliefs. As today’s generation continues to ask “why?” perhaps they are turned off by their parents’ absolute certainty about life and God. Millennials seem to want more substantial answers than “It’s God’s will” and want better explanations than “Because the Bible/minister/church says so.” The traditional religious institution of their parents does not seem to embody the diverse, curious nature that has become the trademark of the Millennial generation. Doubt is no longer a dirty word.

Stay tuned for next week’s installment where politics will be

examined as the next factor for Generation Y’s

abandonment of conventional religion

1 Judy Woodruff, “Millennials Study Captures Snapshot of Young America | PBS NewsHour | Feb. 24, 2010 | PBS,” PBS: Public Broadcasting Service, (accessed July 6, 2012).

2 Rebecca Leungm “The Echo Boomers – CBS News,” Breaking News Headlines: Business, Entertainment & World News – CBS News, (accessed July 6, 2012).

3 Peter W. Singer, “Millennial generation the next big thing – CNN,” Featured Articles from CNN, March 24, 2011, (accessed July 6, 2012).

4 Douglas Owram, “Preface,” in Born at the Right Time: A History of the Baby-Boom Generation, p x. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1996

5 Allison Pond, et al., “Religion Among the Millennials – Less Religiously Active Than Older Americans, But Fairly Traditional In Other Ways,” Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life, February 17, 2010, p 9, (accessed July 6, 2012).

6 Pond, et al., “Religion Among the Millennials – Less Religiously Active Than Older Americans, But Fairly Traditional In Other Ways,” p 12

7 Pond, et al., “Religion Among the Millennials – Less Religiously Active Than Older Americans, But Fairly Traditional In Other Ways,” p 11

Caution This brain has no brain use yours

The Student-Teacher Split: The Domination of Evaluation.

You rush to class, get in, scoot around a horde of other students, and then, when you catch your breath, you realize: I don’t want to be here. Normally, when you get into a social situations, your brain works more efficiently. However, there is one striking difference between school and other social situations.

The striking difference arises from something called evaluative threat. People are afraid of being judged. This seems ubiquitous in daily life, but in the modern university, the school is built on evaluation. Teachers scrutinize every comma, every citation, and every argument. Student’s are GREed, MCATed and LSATed.

Carl Rogers knew this. He swore off teaching, and one of those reasons was that it caused a student to distrust her own experience. He believed that every slash of the red pen resulted in the student becoming continually bifurcated. The student inhibits her personal cognitive, emotional and behavioral resources in order to avoid being penalized by critical evaluation. She restricts herself so that she may fit the provided mold.

Michel Foucault possessed a similar belief. He believed that testing and evaluating was a cultures way to normalize its people. Every time the student participated in the class work, she participated in her own domination. Every grade and red mark showed her what she should or shouldn’t be.

You expect to see a few things if what these men say is true. If the student is bifurcated and dominated by education, then you should see a wandering mind, reduced cognitive and emotional engagement in the learning process, and you wouldn’t expect the student to be happy.

Research shows that this is true. In one experiment, the researchers placed the participants in two conditions. The research stood behind the participant of the experiment in both conditions but remained visible to the participant. The only difference was that in one condition the participant was told he would being doing something performance related, and in the other the work was presented as a game. The performance condition was the condition meant to make the participant feel evaluated; the game condition was the non-evaluated condition.

As expected, in the game condition the participants showed greater fluidity and intelligence on the follow up test, and the evaluated condition reduced that participants ability to use their cognitive resource. In other experiments, researchers have shown that when people are placed in evaluation conditions, their creative performance, their memory, and their mood is significantly decreased—while their anxiety, frustration and mind wandering increases.

Where the presence of a person once facilitated performance, it now damages it. We should build from the social person, from that primary motivation, to the information. Instead, we are stamping students with information and dominating them with evaluation. Effectively, we are shutting the student off from their own experience, and building a wall between one student’s experience and another’s.





Trapped Teaching Badly: An Escape.

Teachers fight to motivate their students, to get them to learn willingly, to persist on difficult problems and to learn from their mistakes. They struggle and burn out because their students seem to be lost in a perpetual state of torpor, with only obsequious pedants leaching motivation from the teets of authority appearing different. The problem of motivation, however, is not motivation–it is the teaching. The motivation was there: teaching mollifies it.

Teachers set deadlines, teach text and rush through topics to make sure the students have covered everything required by the convention of the individual schools that are manipulated by the state–all shaped by the overal context of anachronistic  paragons.  I feel like I’m downing just thinking about it.

Teachers are trapped in a bad system, and they are damaging students and themselves because of it. So how do they escape the threat of the obdurate, heavy system that gently rocks over their head, with the subtle promise that each deviation from norm  could result in opprobrium and financial sanctions? The answer is that they sneak in freedom–they excite the motivations of the child by allowing the students to follow their muse within a topic, while the educator gives subtle suggestions that emphasize topic-specific proximal goals.

What all this means is that the educator forces little. They give the students the material, and suggest some standard of time or value for completion that is fully manageable for the students, but they prescribe nothing and let the student worked unsupervised. This method has been proven to greatly foment interest and persistence on difficult problems, while, at the same time, motivating more work within the topic in the students’ off-time.

The other side of this is that the educator should foster self-disclosure in the classroom, so that the student has ample forum to discuss areas where they feel like they didn’t excel, without fear evaluation. Research has shown that self disclosure increases the students’ ability to learn from their mistakes, while the fear of evaluation restricts the students’ ability to draw from their cognitive resources.

By letting the student work without the fear of evaluation and encouraging students to have open dialogue–that judges ideas and not students–and encouraging the student to set proximal goals for working through content, the educator attenuates the damage of the current system, benefits the students’ educational attainment, reduces his or her own exhaustion, and obviates the concern about teaching enough material.


1) before suggesting deadlines, observe the average student’s ability.

2) Eliminate evaluative threat by reframing critique and dissent as benefiting the  class as a whole and the individual at whom it is directed–this allows for interpersonal regulation of mastery standards and increases innovative uses of the material.

3)Use collaborative grading/assessment. It demands that the students develop their own personal locus of self evaluation and collaboratively shape it–it helps them develop an internal set point. This prevents the students from become dependent on the teacher. It prevents the students from seeking after tokens, where the salient topic is the grade and teacher, and it helps them to focus on the mastery of the content, itself, where mastery of the content is the motivator.


Sad soldier

Developing PTSD: A History of War and Trauma.





The fact that military combat can result in long lasting psychological aftereffects on the psyches of soldiers has been understood by wise men over the centuries. In the 16th century William Shakespeare demonstrated his insight into the emotional aftereffects of war in his play The First Part of King Henry IV. In Act II Lady Percy gives voice to the silent complaints that worry all soldiers’ wives as she confronts her husband, the warrior Knight Henry Percy, surnamed Hotspur:

                                   “For what offense have I this fortnight been

                                   A banish’d woman from my Henry’s bed?

                                   Tell me, sweet lord, what is’t that takes from thee

                                   Thy stomach, pleasure and thy golden sleep?

                                   Why dost thou bend thine eyes upon the earth,

                                    And start so often when thou sitt’st alone?

                                    In thy faint slumbers I by thee have watch’d

                                    And heard thee murmur tales of iron wars,

                                    Speak terms of manage to thy bounding steed,

                                    Cry ‘Courage! To the field!”……

                                    Thy spirit within thee hath been so at war,…

                                    That beads of sweat have stood upon thy brow”.

In the United States the first description of psychological exhaustion symptoms in soldiers exposed to combat stress was after the Civil War, when in 1871 Dr. Mendez DaCosta described what he thought was a cardiovascular condition “Soldier’s Heart”.  Since then military psychiatrists have called these problematic effects of combat stress various names: During World War I, artillery had made significant advances in firepower, consequently many soldiers were subjected to the horrors of prolonged artillery bombardment.

When these soldiers were unable to continue to fight, the condition was called “Shell Shock” because the source of the condition was thought to be a type of brain damage resulting from exposure to the concussions of exploding artillery shells. Yet hundreds of autopsies on these men found no evidence of brain damage.

During World War II and the Korean War the diagnostic term was “Combat Fatigue” or “Combat Exhaustion”. These diagnoses evolved as military psychiatrists realized that even documented heroes, men with prior awards for valor, could become psychological casualties after exposure to frequent and intense combat. Their thinking was that this disorder was similar to physical fatigue, a kind of energy drain where the soldier’s psychological adaptive resources had been depleted.

The corollary was that every man, even a decorated hero, has his breaking point.  A major difficulty with their understanding of combat fatigue is that these military psychiatrists considered the aftereffects of combat, again like physical fatigue, as only temporary. Standard treatment for Combat Exhaustion consisted of removing the soldier from the front lines, providing hot showers, hot meals and sedative enhanced sleep.  After a few days of such therapy the soldier was returned to his unit.

Still for many soldiers this limited treatment was not enough; they remained overwhelmed by their battlefield horrors. For these more troubled soldiers, their diagnosis was changed because American military psychiatrists were still under the spell of Sigmund Freud’s Psychoanalytic Theory, which emphasized imaginary childhood traumas rather than actual adult traumas like wars. Incorrect diagnosis resulted in ineffective treatments.

Finally during the 1970s Veterans Administration psychologists and psychiatrists recognized that they were treating the psychological symptoms of Vietnam veterans that were directly related to combat stressors, which had occurred years before. Informally it was termed  “Post Vietnam Syndrome”.   A critical advance in psychological understanding materialized in 1980 with the publication of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manuel of Mental Disorders Third Edition (DSM-III) by the American Psychiatric Association.

This manual is the diagnostic bible of psychiatry and within its third edition was, for the first time, a diagnostic classification which acknowledged that post trauma psychological problems can be enduring. The new terminology introduced then is still in use; it is “Post Traumatic Stress Disorder”, most often referred to by its acronym PTSD. It consists of three subcategories: “Acute”, when the onset was immediate, “Delayed Onset”, when symptom onset is at least six months after the stressor, or “Chronic”, when symptoms persist over six months.

Let’s examine the terminology. “Trauma” means any extremely dangerous experience, which involves the threat or fact of serious physical harm or death, be it military combat, rape or torture. “Post Trauma” means after the trauma. “Post Trauma Stress” means the stress, that is the emotional symptoms and problems, persists after the trauma. It is a “Disorder” because “ the disturbance causes clinically significant distress or impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning”.  Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) thus means the psychological symptoms that may disturb a person after being exposed to a severely dangerous experience like combat in a war.





A common sight

PowerPoint Power and Abuse

Is PowerPoint an alternative to Ambien? Feldman & Silvia (2010) advised psychological practitioners and students to refrain from the pervasively poor presentation; to cease lulling their audiences with text-ridden overheads and redundant oration. Seth Godin aptly labeled the consequence of the predominant style as “death by PowerPoint” (as cited in Reynolds, 2008, p. 10). The preceding critiques deserve serious consideration given the pervasiveness of presentations in academia.

The Standing of Presentations in Education

            A study by Yimazel-Sahin (2009) corroborated the preceding sentiments: students dread the redundant recitation of slides by their professors. Conversely, students desire concise presentations that foster dialogue. A substantial consequence that Yimazel-Sahin feared is the production of passive learners that are unacquainted with critical inquiry; rumination and critique consume time that professors allot for conveying lecture material.

            Yimazel-Sahin(2009) further argued that the disparity between undergraduate and graduate presentation styles reflects their desired effects: undergraduate professors focus on relaying an abundance of information whereas graduate professors seek intercommunication and depth. Fixating on excessive material is notorious for overloading the cognitive resources of students—an outcome antithetical to learning.

Cognitive Overload and Deleterious Effects

            The role of working memory is to assimilate external stimuli for immediate or delayed use (i.e., stored in the long-term memory). The complexity and modality (e.g., audial, visual) of incoming stimuli constrain the capacity of working memory and inhibit its functioning. As a result, the stimuli act as cognitive loads. Leahy, Chandler, & Sweller (2003) outlined two sources of cognitive load: intrinsic, which accounts for individual intelligence and complexity of the material; and extraneous, the controllable processes involved in learning (e.g., configuring a presentation).

            Researchers in the proceeding studies examined the cognitive load of particular presentations by testing participants’ retention of a lecture session (e.g., processes involved in braking an automobile; Mayer & Johnson, 2008). Leahy et al. (2003) found that concurrently using two modalities (i.e., audial and visual) resulted in superior test performance and working memory capacity in comparison to participants in a single modality condition (i.e., visual information only).

            Additionally, the presentation of redundant information (i.e., reading and hearing the same text) strained working memory and caused inferior test results, although sequential presentation of stimuli mitigates this effect (Leahy et al., 2009; Jamet & Le Bohec, 2006; Kalygula, Chandler, & Sweller, 2004). The use of brief, redundant captions, however, enhances test performance (Mayer & Johnson, 2008).

Simple Solutions

            Presenters, fortunately, are necessarily in control of extraneous factors that amplify cognitive load. The foremost tip is for presenters to resist reading slides to their audience: reading to a literate crowd is unnecessary as they can do it for themselves. One simple method for dealing with the redundancy effect is to remove its source: presenters can excise text from their presentation slides and replace it with a snippet of text, or presenters can elect to forego text by using a relevant image.

            A general recommendation is for presenters to split a text-heavy slide into several (see Figure 1), thus mitigating cognitive load and providing greater control over pacing for possible clarification and discussion.
            Making these considerations should support greater audience satisfaction and learning. Presenters may gain further presentation design and execution insight by reviewing Garr Reynold’s Presentation Zen and Nancy Duarte’s Slide:ology: The Art and Science of Creating Great Presentations. A conclusive reminder to presenters is to be mindful of their audience and to encourage dialogue – to remember that great discussion and thought precluded the projector.



Feldman, D. B., & Silvia, P. J. (2010). Public speaking for psychologists: A lighthearted guide to research presentations, job talks, and other opportunities to embarrass yourself. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.

Jamet, E., & Le Bohec, O. (2007). The effect of redundant text in multimedia instruction. Contemporary Educational Psychology, 32(4), 588-598. doi: 10.1016/j.cedpsych.2006.07.001

Kalyuga, S., Chandler, P., & Sweller, J. (2004). When redundant on-screen text in multimedia technical instruction can interfere with learning. Human Factors: The Journal of the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society, 46(3), 567-581. doi: 10.1518/hfes.46.3.567.3795

Leahy, W., Chandler, P., & Sweller, J. (2003). When auditory presentations should and should not be a component of multimedia instruction. Applied Cognitive Psychology, 17(4), 401-418. doi: 10.1002/acp.877

Mayer, R. E., & Johnson, C. I. (2008). Revising the redundancy principle in multimedia learning. Journal of Educational Psychology, 100(2), 380-386. doi: 10.1037/0022-0663.100.2.380

Reynolds, G. (2008). Presentation Zen: Simple ideas on presentation design and delivery. Berkeley, CA: New Riders Press.

Yilmazel-Sahin, Y. (2009). A comparison of graduate and undergraduate teacher education students’ perceptions of their instructors’ use of Microsoft PowerPoint. Technology, Pedagogy and Education, 18(3), 361-380. doi: 10.1080/14759390903335866