Monthly Archives: August 2012

Overconfidence May Lead You To Incompetence

Some new research gives a new twist to the “Peter Principle” – the idea that people often rise up in their career to their level of incompetence. This study found that being overconfident can increase one’s social status, including greater power to sway others and subsequently achieve higher levels of success. However, the downside is that the overconfident person may convince themselves that they are more skilled and capable than they really are. That is, they can delude themselves and others; and be promoted beyond their actual level of competence. The research was conducted at Berkeley’s Hass School of Business, and summarized by Medical News Today in the following report: Continue reading


Five Steps That Reveal Your Life’s Purpose

Like many of us, you might feel that there’s a true purpose to your life but you haven’t yet found or discovered it, especially when trapped within a life that’s unfulfilling or feels out of synch with your true purpose for being. Teachings of Eastern mystics say each of us have a particular purpose in life, though we might not know how to recognize it. Interestingly, some new research suggests ways to discover and pursue your true purpose. Moreover, having a purpose in life is found to protect yourself from mental decline – not a bad bi-product.

Some are awakened to it from an event or moment of illumination that opens the way. A recent example: Adam Steltzner, the NASA scientist who headed the team that designed and carried out the successful landing of the Mars rover, Curiosity. In an NPR interview Steltzner spoke of having played in a rock band after high school rather than going to college. While waiting for stardom, his friends went to college and on with their lives. On his way home from a gig one night he looked up and was suddenly fascinated with the stars, especially the constellation Orion.

 “The fact that it was in a different place in the sky at night when I returned home from playing a gig… that was it. I was totally turned on by this idea of understanding my world.” He had to know all about the laws that govern the universe. Seltzner enrolled in a physics course, and over the next several years earned a Ph.D., which led to where he is today.

Most of us, though, have to work at discovering our purpose. Too often it’s clouded over by our conditioning and adapting to life experiences and choices – from family and culture; our educational and career path; our relationships. We’re so enraptured with our outer life – or absorbed by it – that awareness of our true purpose dims to just a flicker. Consequently, many go through life feeling off-track, out of tune in some way. That creates major stress over time, and new research finds that such stress will increase your risk of death from all sources.

Here are five steps that can help activate your life’s purpose: Continue reading


People Are Motivated To Help Others By Thoughts Of Giving, Beyond Self-Interest

This research from the Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania, and the University of Michigan adds to the evidence that people are more prone to help others when they focus and reflect on giving and helping. I think this helps you move beyond self-interest and towards awareness of connection with others – which underlies service to others, promoting the common good, and actions that are an antidote to greed and self-absorption.

The study was summarized in Medical News Today, from a report in the journal Psychological Science, as follows:


We’re often told to ‘count our blessings’ and be grateful for what we have. And research shows that doing so makes us happier. But will it actually change our behavior towards others?

A new study published in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science, suggests that thinking about what we’ve given, rather than what we’ve received, may lead us to be more helpful toward others.

Researchers Adam Grant of The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania and Jane Dutton of The Ross School of Business at the University of Michigan wanted to understand how reflection, in the form of expressive writing, might influence prosocial behavior. They observed that when we reflect on what we’ve received from another person, we might feel an obligation to help that person, but the motivation to help doesn’t necessarily extend to other people. And reflecting on what we’ve received from others may even cause us to feel dependent and indebted.

The researchers wondered whether thinking about times when we have given to others might be more effective in promoting helping. They hypothesized that reflecting on giving could lead a person to see herself as a benefactor, strengthening her identity as a caring, helpful individual and motivating her to take action to benefit others.

In their first experiment, Continue reading


Why A Transparent Relationship Is The Key To Emotional And Sexual Intimacy

A couple drives to a dinner party in stony silence. Each is harboring feelings about a disagreement over a financial matter from earlier that afternoon. Both had shut down after a few minutes of talking about it. Neither one revealed their deeper concerns, which were the true source of the disagreement. So now, they continued driving in silence, hoping the residue wouldn’t weigh on them throughout the evening as they tried to stay engaged with their friends. But the unspoken thoughts and feelings added another brick in the wall between them.

Like many, this couple often concealing parts of themselves from each other, especially around deeper, more intimate feelings and thoughts. Practicing what I call Radical Transparency could have helped them stay connected while getting to the root of the conflict. This post explains why a transparent relationship is essential for sustaining intimacy in a romantic relationship.

Consider this irony: Transparency is burgeoning all around us, but relationships seem to be stuck in a last-century time warp, untouched by the changing world and the public exposure of most everything that used to be easy to hide. That is, our hyperconnected, social-media dominated world bursts with transparency via public exposure of truths and realities that appear almost immediately via YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, blogs and a host of other vehicles. The lies of politiciansatrocities by despots who try to deny their actions, ethical transgressions by corporations and their executives all become quickly exposed to the world.

The Problem

Relationships are hard. Couples grapple with Continue reading


Stress Increases The Risk Of Death From Any Source

Research keeps accumulating that confirms the damaging impact of stress — all kinds — upon our mind/body/spirit. This analysis of several studies, reported in the British Medical Journal, sound that stress is linked with increased risk of death, from all sources. I think the larger issue that this highlights, indirectly, is that we are socially conditioned to adapt to values and behavior and a number of norms that, themselves, are unhealthy. That, in turn, generates a wide range of emotional and physical consequences. The report was summarized in MedPage today:

Even at low levels, psychological distress was significantly associated with an increased risk of mortality from several causes, researchers found.

A meta-analysis of 10 British cohort studies showed that the risk of all-cause mortality in adults with the lowest level of psychological distress — termed subclinically symptomatic — was significantly higher than that of asymptomatic adults at an age- and sex-adjusted hazard ratio of 1.20 (95% CI 1.13 to 1.27), Tom Russ, MRCPsych, of the National Health Service Scotland, and colleagues wrote online in BMJ.

The study measured the association of psychological distress with death by any cause, cardiovascular death, cancer death, and deaths from external causes using data from the Health Survey for England. The survey included data from 1994 to 2004 on 68,222 adults ages 35 or older, mean age 60 years, who were free of cardiovascular disease and cancer, and who lived in a private household in England at baseline.

Participants had measures of psychological distress taken at a household visit using a 12-item version of the General Health Questionnaire (GHQ-12) — a unidimensional scale of psychological distress that includes symptom measures for anxiety, depression, social dysfunction, and loss of confidence. Continue reading