Friday, May 27, 2011

The transforming power of inner motivation

In his recent bestselling book, Drive, Daniel Pink discusses how
incentives can actually block the results they are designed to achieve.
Studies show that the more we are motivated from outside forces, the
more we act in unethical and addictive ways. On the other hand, the
more our motivation comes from within, the happier and more honest
we become.

The last time that I was a guest lecturer in Professor Lhotka’s AWC
Comparative Religion class, we explored the question of motivation.

During the discussion, one student expressed a philosophy that gives
her a strong sense of purpose. I asked the class, “Can we adopt her
statement for ourselves?” There was lively dissent, focusing on the
students’ widely differing perspectives on life.

I suggested that as a group they try to develop a common purpose. In
two minutes there was consensus - “Life’s purpose is to help others
without hurting them and to do the same for oneself.”

The clarity of this statement created a significant effect on the students.
They began expressing honest concerns that their actions were not
consistent with their ideals, admitting that in their experience it seemed
easier to “do bad things than good.”

This classroom experience has direct application to addictions, which
persist because addictions sap the energy to close the gap between
one’s actions and one’s aspirations. As the students clarified their
purpose, they immediately had energy to examine their actions.

This is precisely what Pink’s studies showed – as one taps into one’s
internal motivation, one finds a strong desire to help others. As the
students demonstrated, this desire quickly evolves into an honest
evaluation of one’s actions and a desire to act more consistently with
one’s higher aspirations. What more can we ask for?

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Getting enough vitamin X

As essential as it is for good health, scientists have yet to be able to put vitamin X in a pill. It relieves depression, decreases diabetes and heart disease, increases energy, improves sleep, and keeps one slim. Maybe you have already guessed that Vitamin X is exercise! The next question is - how much Vitamin X do you need?

Studies have shown that 30 minutes of moderate exercise three times a week has major health benefits. Moderate exercise is defined as the level of exercise achieved by walking 90-100 steps per minute.

Would more exercise lead to greater benefits? Yes, more exercise leads to more benefits. But public health experts are concerned that advocating too much exercise will discourage people from even getting started. One practical answer to the exercise dilemma of “how much” is to adopt the following two-tiered approach;

Tier I - No matter what, commit to 30 minutes of exercise 3 times per week. If you need to work up to that level, use the next 6 weeks to get there.

Tier II – At the start of every month, decide whether you will go beyond 90 minutes of exercise per week. Then do whatever you can to reach this level, but if you fall short, that’s ok. However, don’t ever let your level of exercise fall below the Tier I minimum. Then when the next month begins, decide your new target level.

No one else but you can provide your Vitamin X. If you have had difficulty starting or maintaining an exercise program, try the 2-tier method. It is a great tool for success.