December 13th, 2011 by Art Markman You Can Be as Smart as Dr. Phil
Dr. Art Markman is a guest blogger and the Annabel Irion Worsham Centennial Professor of Psychology and Marketing at the University of Texas at Austin. He is one of the premier cognitive scientists in the field and has written over 125 papers. He is a member of the scientific advisory board for the Dr. Phil show. He blogs frequently for Psychology Today, Huffington Post and Harvard Business Review.
For the past 5 years, I have been a member of the scientific advisory board for the Dr. Phil show, and on January 3, 2012, I had the privilege of being a guest on the show to discuss my new book Smart Thinking from Perigee Books. Before my turn came, Dr. Phil worked with a couple who was engaged in a difficult custody battle, in which their own needs took precedence to the needs of their kids. I watched as he expertly cut through the layers of animosity between the couple, and ultimately helped them see a road in which they served as co-parents to their children rather than using their kids as pawns in their own ongoing argument.
What made Dr. Phil so successful? Does he just have more raw intelligence than the rest of us? Or is it something else?
Based on the research I describe in Smart Thinking, I argue that no matter how well you score on an IQ test compared to Dr. Phil, youre not going to solve problems of the type he solves unless you engage the three core principles of Smart Thinking.
Smart Thinking requires (1) developing Smart Habits to (2) acquire High Quality Knowledge, and (3) to Apply that Knowledge when you need it. Let me walk through each of these elements.
Smart Habits Most of our habits are good for us. When you drive your car, you want to be able to press the gas and the brake pedals without thinking about it. You want to follow your route to and from work or the store without having to think carefully about how to get there. You want to be able to change lanes or make a turn without thinking carefully about the steps involved in doing that successfully.
Your habit learning system is the one that allows you to develop smart habits. You learn to do something without thinking whenever there is consistency between the world and an action and you repeat that action several times. You can create a habit to press the gas and brake pedals, because the gas is always on the left and the brake is always on the right. If the pedals switched their locations every time you got in your car, you would never be able to create a habit. You can also create habits for actions that promote Smart Thinking.
High Quality Knowledge The second component to Smart Thinking is acquiring High Quality Knowledge. The most important thing to learn is information about how the world works. Psychologists call this kind of knowledge causal knowledge. Dr. Phil has dedicated years of his life to understanding human behavior and motivation. When guests come on the show, that knowledge helps him to determine how peoples actions are affecting the people around them. That was the kind of knowledge that allowed him to help the couple on the show I attended.
Without knowledge about the way things work, even people who score incredibly well on IQ tests will not solve problems effectively. I cant speak for Dr. Phil, but I know that I have no understanding at all of how the engine in my car works. If I try to start my car in the morning and it makes a funny noise before wheezing to a stop, I can only stare at it in frustration. I have to take the car to a mechanic who really understands how my car works in order to get it fixed. My mechanic has knowledge about the world that I dont, and so he is able to solve problems that I cant.
Apply Your Knowledge The third aspect of Smart Thinking is Applying your Knowledge when you need it. Sometimes, you are in situations that are almost exactly like ones you have been in before. Each drive home from the grocery store is probably almost identical to past trips you have taken. In that situation, it isnt hard to apply what you know.
Sometimes, though, it is harder to figure out whether you know anything that might help you solve a problem.
Take the case of James Dyson. In the 1970s, he noticed that as the bag of a vacuum cleaner fills up, the vacuum starts to lose suction. The dirt in the bag clogs the pores in the bag. Eventually, the vacuum wont clean any more until the bag is emptied. Vacuum designers who wanted to improve the performance of vacuums typically tried to design more effective bags that wouldnt clog as easily.
Dyson didnt think about the problem as one of making a better bag. Instead, he thought broadly about the problem that a vacuum cleaner is trying to solve. He described the problem as the vacuum taking in a combination of dirt and air and having to separate the dirt from the air. Once he described the problem in this more general way, he was able to use his extensive mechanical experience.
He realized that sawmills have to solve the same problem. When logs are being milled into lumber, the large saws generate a lot of sawdust. Vacuums suck the sawdust out of the mill, where the sawdust is separated from the air using an industrial cyclone. This device uses a cone to create a spinning column of air that forces the sawdust to the sides of the cone where they slide into a receptacle. Dyson created a miniature industrial cyclone in a vacuum cleaner, and in the process developed a multi-million dollar business.
In this case, not only did Dyson know about the way sawmills work, he was able to re-describe his problem in a way that let him be reminded that his knowledge of sawmills could be used to make a more efficient vacuum.
In the end, you can become smarter and maybe even as smart as Dr. Phil. The exercises in Smart Thinking can help put you on the path to being more effective in whatever you do.
21 DAY CHANGE A HABIT CHALLENGE - Jan 1 - Jan 21
This challenge will not be starting until Jan 1, however you can sign up for it now and post your goals now.
You do not have to be a Dr.Phil "fan" to be a part of this challenge.
Here is what the 21 day challenge concept is based on:
As Dr.Phil teaches us in his book - our life style either supports a life of being over weight or it supports a life of not being over weight - it's our choice.
Oh yes, many of us have inner issues that got us where we are today weight wise. Low self esteem, abuse, marriage troubles, family issues etc etc. However I am learning that we can work on over coming those issues and heal while we are losing our weight - we do not have to wait to be "all better" before getting healthy.
Many studies have been done that show 21 days is the "magic" number of days for something to become a habit in our life. That habit can be a negative or a positive habit.
So for the next 21 days lets pick something to either remove or add to our life to support ourselves in some manner that will help us reach our weight loss goals.
At the end of our 21 days, lets see how many things that we are doing to support our being over weight have been replaced with things that now instead support our losing weight and getting healthier.
Please do not feel the need to chose more then 1 - 3 areas to challenge yourself in. We learned from our first challenge ( done in 2006 ) that taking on to many things only made this challenge more frustrating - this challenge idea is to not to create a miracle in the next 21 days, but rather to help you change 1 - 3 areas of your life and to help you gain the tools to go on from there and continue these and new changes as you are ready. Please don't put extra pressure on yourself
There is a fine line between not requiring enough from ourselves and requiring too much - so with this in mind, I encourage each of you to move out of your comfort zone a little bit ( or it would not be a challenge lol ) but yet not to feel pressure from yourself or any one else to push beyond what you are able to give of yourself.
I will post articles and anything I find that I think will be helpful as we travel these 21 days.
If there is enough interest, we will have a series of 21 day challenge threads - as one ends, I will start a new one.
We did this last year for a few months and it was helpful as well as fun and a great way to develop new habits
If you come here after the 1st - feel free to jump in and do your challenge for a many days as there is left of the 21 days
Beth - It Is Never Too Late To Be What You Might Have Been... By: George Eliot
My DT Weight Loss Journal
Change Your Habits - Transform Your Life
By Henrietta Elegunde
Roses are blue, violets are red, but bad habits are, like comfortable beds. They are very easy to get into, but they are very hard, to get out of. So I say to you, watch your thoughts, for they usually become words. Watch your words, for they become actions. Watch your actions, for they become habits.
Watch your habits, for they become character. Watch your character, for it will become your destiny. Not your authentic destiny, but your self made one. Bad habits can really disturb our destiny, from manifesting. Actually, many people have gone to their grave, with unfulfilled potentials, because of their bad habits. So as we can see, our bad habits go to go.
The problem is habits are almost automatic. So instead of choosing our best option, we tend to keep doing what we are used to them. And instead of stopping the habits, whenever we want, we are more likely to keep repeating the pattern, because of the controlling power of bad habit. But be rest assured, today you're going to learn 3 simple steps that are going to help you, control any habits, as opposed to them controlling us. And these simple steps are called: Causation, Formation and Transformation.
So the first simple step I'm going to talk about: Causation, The meaning of causation is identifying what caused something to happen. What I mean by causation is identifying the root cause of a habit. There is usually no smoke without a fire. Causation is identifying patterns that trigger the habit. For instance, in whose company does the habit usually occur, what kind of thoughts triggers the habit, and how often does the habit occur daily. This will empower us to kick the habit.
Following this further, Dr Phil once famously says, we can't change what we can't acknowledge. Let's face it, we all have bad habits. So to motivate ourselves to stop, ask yourself what your habits are stealing from you. Because habits are thieves, they can steal your time, your joy or your self confidence, among other things. For instance, a habit of negative self-talk can steals confidence, a habit of unhealthy eating can steals a positive self image, and a habit of laziness can steals future success.
In the same way, you didn't form your habits in a day, so don't expect to stop them in a day either. It's going to take some time, some effort, and consistency. But you know you are worth it. So acknowledge that you have a habit, and start working on it today. Invariably, kicking a habit is not easy, but keeping the habit will cost you more. It will cost you your joy, your wellbeing and your freedom.
So the second simple step I'm going to talk about: Transformation.
Transformation is becoming the improved version of your self.But in order to transform yourself, you have to first change. But any change in life, without first changing the underlining bad habits, is just temporary. For instance, someone who has a low self esteem, and had a plastic surgery in order to feel better, about themselves, will only feel better for a short while, until they find something else they want to change. This is because they are trying to fix an internal problem, like low self esteem, with external measures. Without first changing the habitual pattern that led to a problem, the getting rid of the low self esteem is just, will just temporary.
It easy to see that, if you want something to change in your life, the changing the underlying habit starts with you. I mean we can't keep doing the same thing, and expect a different result. 1+1 will always be 2. So, if we keep doing the same thing, we will always get the same result. But the good new is, research shows, it only takes 21 days to form a new habit, so start today.
On the other hand, our habits are usually triggered by what are called triggers. In fact, it is not life events that make you respond to life the way you do, but your triggers and your conditioning. For example, school children can be conditioned to being hungry by the school bell, shocking isn't it. The truth is, anytime they hear the school bell for lunch, whether they were hungry or not, they become hungry instantly. But when they can avoid the exposure to the bell, which is the trigger, let's say on school holidays, they would avoid the emotional hunger that the bell creates, after about 21 days of forming the new habit.
In the same way, identifying, avoiding and replacing any psychological triggers will empower us to kick the habit. This is known as positive feedback. Having said that, negative feedback can help you kick your habits, if it is your cup of tea. Negative feedback involves putting a rubber band on your wrist, so anytime you become tempted to do the habit, you snap the rubber band on your wrist. Ouch, I know which one I prefer. But seriously, negative feedback trains the mind to avoid a habit, in order to avoid the pain. But both negative and positive feedbacks work. And the choice is yours.
The third simple step I'm going to talk about: Formation.
Formation is act of forming something. But what I mean by formation is forming new good habits, to replace the bad ones, in order to change your life. Find something else to focus on to distract you from your habit. The devil uses idle hands. And our focus usually becomes our desire. Find something positive that will overshadow your habit, to desire. For example, someone who has a negative thinking habit, and decides to starve their negative thinking to death, with positive self talk. This will starve their habit to death, and they will end up developing, a new positive mindset.
Moreover, find a new hobby that helps you to maximize your strengths or a new hobby that helps you to develop new strengths. For instance, learning to play music, learning to write or learning to paint, are good diversions from any bad habit. These kinds of hobbies are also therapeutic. Besides that, beware of what I call the comfort zone syndrome. Because every time you step out of familiar a ground, that is your comfort zone, You will develop some anxieties, due to fear of the unknown. All you need to do is to keep talking your self out of the anxiety. Keep reminding yourself what have to gain, when you lose the habit. If you are consistent for about 21 days, you will lose the anxiety, and gain more confidence, about your ability to stay away from your unwanted habits.
So lastly, as Shaquille O'Neal famously said, you are what you repeatedly do. And I am saying to you, in order to become what you want, make a habit of doing only things that are becoming of you.
Henrietta Elegunde is an Author, Life Coach, ordained minister and Motivational Speaker. She specializes in teaching how to cultivate spiritual, mental, physical and emotional growth, in order to achieve total wellbeing (being made whole) in your li