Thirteen quick things to change your life today

19 08 2012

If our lives are the sum of things we do, then changing what we do can change our lives, one moment at a time. Here are thirteen things that can be easily achieved.

1. Exercise. If you are currently doing nothing, then ten minutes exercise will make a difference. If you are already exercising, make it an extra ten minutes.

2. Wear sunblock. Australians have the highest rate of skin cancer in the world, so as a red-head growing up in Australia, I know what I am talking about! Sun block is not only the one thing most guaranteed to keep you looking young, it may also save your life.

3. Eat some vegetables. Preferably green and leafy ones. A variety of fresh vegetables will keep you healthier and help with weight control.

4. Do the hard thing first. There is probably something you have been putting off, some emotionally challenging thing. Do it. Delaying doesn’t make it any better (in fact it usually makes it worse), and having it dragging around your neck doesn’t help your enjoyment of life now.

5. Act As If. A psychological principle whereby you can trick your brain into believing you are what you want to be. Smile, and your brain will think you are happy, and studies say you will start to feel happier. Michelangelo decided he was the world’s best artist years before he achieved it, but having this image meant he accepted the big projects (Sistine Chapel) that made his dream a reality.

6. Get organised. But don’t be overwhelmed. If your house is a mess, try scheduling fifteen minutes a day to do one room each day. Fifteen minutes is achievable and not overwhelming.

7. Stand up! Studies show that the more you sit down during the day, the earlier you die. It is now possible to get a desk to work at standing up.

8. Make time for a friend. Our lives can become very isolated a we get busier. Make time to enjoy others.

9. Have some downtime. Meditation is ideal, but even if you don’t know how to, have some quiet thinking time in a peaceful place. It doesn’t matter if you all asleep.

10. Get enough sleep. While we don’t really know he purpose of sleep, we o know it is necessary. Regular, sufficient sleep rejuvenated the body and mind, helps us think straight, manage our emotions, and have enough physical energy to exercise, dal with cravings and look after ourselves.

11. Give up one bad habit now. One less cigarette, one less biscuit, one less alcoholic drink – one less s a good thing. Then build on it.

12. Drink water. Water helps flush toxins from the body, helps control hunger, helps develop healthy skin and organs, and can help resolve headaches (some headaches are related to dehydration).

13. Live your life one moment at a time. (thanks to Maggie for this one). If losing weight, getting fit, finishing your study, tidying your house etc is too much, don’t think of he big goal. Just make he best decision for now. Faced with a range of lunch options, pick the healthy one now. How will you spend the next ten minutes?





Is stress the 21st century’s black death?

18 03 2012

The Japanese have a specific word for death from overwork: karoshi. Although useful for describing early death, this is not comforting to know that this syndrome is recognised enough to have its own word.

So here is a pretty interesting infographic. No surprises at some of the top most stressful jobs – but PR officer? On the other hand, my future career is as a philosopher, which features in the least stressful jobs. Of course I might be stressed about income in that job – does anyone pay for philosophers these days?

However two shockers for me:
1. Apparently relationship with boss, although a top reason for leaving a job, was not a major factor in stress levels (really? I beg to differ. See earlier postings about Psychopaths in the workplace
)

2. women who felt they had some level of control in the workplace were MORE likely to die early. (The complete opposite of the Whitehall study findings from the 1960s – when the public service was 90% male. This study found that those who felt they had some level of control over their work / environment etc had better health outcomes than those who were lower down the food chain and largely powerless. We women cant seem to catch a break.)

I do however wonder how they measured stress other than early death. What doesn’t kill us makes us stronger and other platitudes.

The original link is here.


Interested in dysfunctional workplaces and stress? Have a look at
When organisations turn cannibal

Psychopaths in the workplace





Citizen juries

22 02 2012

photo credit: D-G-Seamon

Since my last post on the impact of social media on the jury system, I have been thinking about the concept of juries. Clearly from the examples given, there are some not-very-bright people being chosen for this very important task. These people, who hold the fate of another in their decision-making process, didn’t have enough common sense to not comment on cases on social media, not contact defendants and other participants in the trial via social media, or in one instance, to not brag about escaping jury duty on social media. And the woman who used a Facebook Poll to help her decide about a defendant’s guilt – words escape me. Quite frankly if I had been involved in any of these trials I would probably have been glad to see the back of these people.

So does the jury system stack up? Twelve people randomly selected from the eligible adult population, panelled to hear evidence which may be of a highly technical nature, in an adversary system. Shouldn’t there be an IQ test? Perhaps expert jurors who know and understand the law might be a better option? And why twelve? Presumably it is a small enough number that a decision might actually be reached, yet still large enough to allow for the….hmmm, shall we say “outliers”? A large enough number for any extremist views and crackpots to be ameliorated by the others. And then of course they do try to screen out the true crackpots and those with vested interests and strong prejudices.

Now I am not a lawyer, nor do I work in the legal system, but I have come across the concept of citizen juries in the health system. And this might restore all of our faith in the system.

Citizen Juries in health decision-making are provided with a variety of unbiased information such as costs of alternate treatments, population numbers and demographics, health statistics, epidemiology (how many people are affected by a particular illness or disease). This information should be unbiased and factual in nature, not opinion-based. In this way it does differ from the adversarial legal system where the two sides of the case are presented by the legal teams who are paid to present a particular point of view. Citizen juries are randomly selected, and are often paid a small stipend for their time.

WA Health Economist Professor Gavin Mooney has trialled the use of Citizen Juries as a way of increasing public participation in the health care system, and more importantly, in the prioritising of health care expenditure. With Australia’s ageing population increasingly calling on the health system for lifestyle and age-related diseases, increased expectations of the population in general that medical care can and will do everything to resolve their illnesses, and the technological and pharmaceutical boom which is creating more and more high-end expensive treatments and diagnostics, our health budget is unable to keep pace. Many years ago I saw a statistic that showed if the South Australian health budget continued to grow at its (then) current rate, it would absorb the entire state budget by 2032. Clearly that is not viable.

So somehow as a society we need to make decisions about what health services we do and do not want to provide on the public purse. So for instance, we make decisions between relatively cheap treatments that might improve the health of millions of people versus an extremely expensive treatment for a disease or condition that occurs for one in 20 million people. And between prevention strategies and emergency care (keeping in mind that the stats for health run at ~$1 prevention saves ~$9 cure later on). And between groups in the community already at considerable health disadvantage – for instance Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people – and other groups that already have a longer health expectancy and have access to resources to assist themselves in remaining healthy. And between those groups that we have compassion and sympathy for – for instance premature babies – and those that we feel less compassionate about – for instance those we consider to have caused their own illnesses.

Now of course, when you yourself are unwell, you want everything possible done, so these decisions need to be made in advance and in a theoretical framework. Prof. Mooney has facilitated seven such exercises in Australia: “two at a state-wide level in WA (one on health care in general and the other specifically on equity); one in an area health service; three in general practice and primary health care; and one in an Aboriginal health service”, and has published a free handbook on Citizen Juries, which is available here. In the handbook Prof Mooney is careful to point out that the juries are developing broad principles and priorities to inform the decision-making rather than specific decisions and allocations of dollars.

So do they work? From what I have read, and in my opinion yes, but it has to be noted that this is at least because (disclaimer here) the decisions the juries came to concur with my own opinions. The following excerpts are from the handbook:

in each of the citizens’ juries I have facilitated, greater equity has been identified as a priority. The citizens consistently want a better deal for the disadvantaged, especially Aboriginal people. They also have some concerns for other disadvantaged groups and want a shift to more prevention and away from cure.

and the handbook gives a specific example of a 2005 jury identifying as priorities:

the principles of greater transparency in decision-making, greater equity, more prevention and increased resources for mental health. To achieve this, they were willing to give up some small inefficient hospitals and Emergency Departments.

(And just to be clear, decision-making in health doesn’t mean cutting out all emergency services and redirecting all funding to prevention – it is a balance of the priorities across numerous very valid and deserving services.)

These are not the priorities you would come to if you based your judgement on the television news or the front page of the newspaper, but (IMHO) they are the priorities you would choose if you saw the statistics on effectiveness and took a long-term view of population health.

Bravo!

Want more information? Prof Mooney’s website has links and his contact details.





Top Five New Year’s Resolutions

30 12 2011


According to the Sydney Morning Herald, the top five New Year’s resolutions are:

1. Lose weight / get fit

2. Give up smoking and/or drinking

3. Achieve financial security

4. Spend more time with family

5. Get organised

Yes, sadly, we are not unique, everyone comes up with the same resolutions. And somehow we aren’t all thin, fit, smoke-free, financially secure and living well-organised lives with our lovely and loving families.

The stats also show that 35% of New Year’s resolutions are abandoned within the first week – or not actually started at all.

But some people do make resolutions (New Year’s or otherwise) and succeed. How do they do it?

Richard Wiseman, a psychologist from the University of Hertfordshire is quoted in The Guardian as mentioning two factors…

1. Don’t make the resolutions spur-of-the-moment

2. Break the goal down into smaller steps.

So following on from the recent posting on planning …here are a few suggested steps for consideration.

1. lose weight / get fit: aim initially for ten minutes exercise per day. Drink a glass of water before each meal. Cut portion size. Replace one junk food meal a week with something healthier.

2. quit smoking / drinking: this is one area where cold turkey seems to be the best option. However, you are not alone. There are prescription medications available to assist (ask your doctor if they are suitable for you) and over-the-counter substitutes.

3. achieve financial security: set up an automatic pay deduction for savings. Work out a plan for paying off debts. Set up an investment account / share-market account. Read a book to educate yourself about finances. Write a financial plan.

4. Spend time with family: set a particular time to spend “hanging” with the family. Write a list of activities you can do with the family (that they will enjoy as well). Sit down with the family and ask them what they want to do.

5. Get organised: Write a plan on what areas of your life you want to get organised in, and put in a weekly / monthly schedule of what you will do to achieve this. Perhaps it is one room in the house per week / month.

The steps need to be small, doable but meaningful. They need to build – so you might start with ten minutes exercise per day but build in five-minute increments to half an hour a day. But the most important thing about putting the plan into action is that if you skip it on day or week, that doesn’t mean the entire plan goes out the window. New Year’s Resolutions fail when you see them as all or nothing (one lapse means you have failed) or you allow lapses to snowball (I didn’t exercise yesterday or the day before, so there’s no point in doing it today). Pick up where you left off and keep going. Your plan tells you what you need to do next.

That’s how you achieve your New Year’s Resolutions.

This post is part of a series on goal-setting. Others are below:
Goal Setting – Ch-Ch-Ch-Changes!
Goodbye to old (bad) habits
It’s about the JOURNEY (as well as the goal)
Harvard Business School study….or urban internet myths
Being Accountable
Analysis Paralysis





Analysis Paralysis

28 12 2011

Summit of Mt Everest

A friend sent me a blog where the author was saying how he had completed a marathon (from starting as a non-runner), started eating healthier, and got rid of his crippling debt through four easy steps.

And the kicker was, that he had given up setting goals.

Now given the overwhelming focus on goal setting that this blog has had over the past few days, it is possible that she was trying to tell me something……but instead it got me thinking more about goal setting and analysis paralysis.

The author of the blog linked above proclaims that his success is that he gave up setting goals. Instead he focussed on starting small, doing one change at a time, enjoying the process of the small steps he was taking, and being grateful for each step.

Now kudos to him for finding what works for him. He seems to have changed his life in some very significant ways.

But while he may not be writing goals…..he is clearly still setting them. He is looking at his life and deciding what aspects he is unhappy with. And he is developing a plan of small steps to get there. And he is integrating the changes into his life, celebrating the wins and recognising the importance of the changes he is making.

So the question is, do you set big inspiring goals, or do you set little do-able goals? Clearly the answer for me is both, but the downside of the big inspiring goals is they can be scary, demotivating – paralysing. If your goals is so big that you can’t actually see the path there, you might find you don’t do anything. But if they are small and don’t add up to a bigger goal….then are they worth the effort?

PS – this might be an example of confirmation bias – finding things that support your opinion and ignoring those that do not support your opinion – but the following posting on the same blog focuses on the importance of focussing on one thing at a time, and in fact focussing on one aspect that will build to the bigger goal, then moving onto the next. I have to say, that is a plan if ever I heard one!

This post is part of a series on goal-setting. Others are below:
Goal Setting – Ch-Ch-Ch-Changes!
Goodbye to old (bad) habits
It’s about the JOURNEY (as well as the goal)
Harvard Business School study….or urban internet myths
Being Accountable





The Harvard Business School study….or urban internet myths

28 12 2011

I mentioned in a previous posting the Harvard Business School Study where a graduating class was asked whether they had written goals, then followed up ten years later. The source of this story seems to have been the book by Mark McCormack, What They Don’t Teach You At Harvard Business School: Notes From A Street-Smart Executive. The details of the study are reported to be as follows:

The 1979 Harvard Business School Graduating Class were asked the following question: “Have you set clear, written goals for your future and made plans to accomplish them?” 3% reported they had written goals and plans; 13% had goals, but not written down and 84 percent had no specific goals. The follow-up, ten years later showed that the 13% who had goals were earning an average twice as much as the 84% who did not have goals. And the 3% who had written goals and plans were earning ten times as much as the other 97% put together.

A pretty compelling case, wouldn’t you say? If only the story were true.

Like many urban myths, while there is truth in the sentiment – the moral of the story, if you will – the actual story is not true. This study was not conducted on the Harvard Business School Graduates. Nor was it conducted at Yale in 1953. Yale apparently gets a lot of questions about this and even have a response posted on their website.

Thankfully, Gail Matthews PhD from Dominican University has now done the study – and more . Her study looked at the benefits of having goals v writing the goals down v having an action plan v having an accountability mechanism (in this case, submitting a weekly report to a friend on progress). And the results all support what you would expect.

Study on goal setting by Gail Matthews, PhD, Dominican University

So the keys are:
1. be clear on your goals and write them down.
2. develop a plan on how you are going to achieve them.
3. Develop an accountability mechanism. This needs to be external to you – sadly we are not very good at keeping ourselves accountable, which is why the various weight-watching companies which require you to turn up weekly are all so successful.

This is part of a series on goal-setting. To read the other postings, click below.
Goal Setting – Ch-Ch-Ch-Changes!
Goodbye to old (bad) habits
It’s about the journey as well as the goal
Being Accountable





It’s about the JOURNEY (as well as the goal)

28 12 2011

photo credit pdbreen

“To get through the hardest journey we need take only one step at a time, but we must keep on stepping” Chinese Proverb

So you know where you want to go? Once you’ve set your goals, the next step is to PLAN how to get there.

This is the step that is often missing in New Year’s Resolutions and goal-setting generally. It’s relatively easy to think about what we want, the destination, but often the goal seems remote, unattainable. Or, as mentioned in the previous post, it requires daily effort, daily decisions. Many goals founder on the rocks of daily life.

So the next trick is to make achieving the goals automatic. Take away that decision-making point – make the decisions now and plan out what you are going to do. This is about sensible motivated you-of-the-present safeguarding against tired, unmotivated you-of-the-future.

This is the real reason why you need to put you goals into positive statements, not negative statements. You can plan to DO something, but planning to not do something just leaves a hole and a question – if you aren’t doing that, then what are you doing? If you aren’t having the cigarette, then what are you doing? If you aren’t eating junk food, what are you eating? Too much decision-making at the “crunch-time” will increase stress….and potentially lead to failure as you become more focussed on what you are giving up.

So, if your plan is to give up cigarettes, plan to replace them with something else – chewing gum, knitting, blogging – something that can truly take the place of the time taken to smoke and distract you. Plan to avoid situations where you are most tempted – smokos at work, bars, that friend you always smoke with – but do it by planning something to fill those gaps. Perhaps you can arrange that you have a regular gym-date with the friend.

If you are planning to lose weight, plan how that is going to happen on a daily basis. Perhaps you could have a glass of water when you feel the urge to binge coming on. If you are planning to save money start a business, get organised, plan it out month by month, week by week, day by day, so that when the time comes, you don’t have to stop and work it out for yourself at the time, you can go to your plan, or your list, and just follow your own instructions.

Don’t make your plan unattainable – if you program every last second of your life you will undoubtedly rebel at some stage. If you plan to save every last cent over basic living requirements, then you aren’t going to make it. Set a realistic goal and if you exceed it – great! If you fall down one week – get back on the plan.

“It is good to have an end to journey towards; but it is the journey that matters in the end.” Ursula K LeGuin

Want more on how to stay strong on your New Year’s Resolutions? This post is part of a series on goal-setting. Others are below:
Goal Setting – Ch-Ch-Ch-Changes
Goodbye to old (bad) habits
The Harvard Business School Study…or urban internet myths
Being accountable