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What to #STOP! doing to reduce stress, enhance joy and live a life on purpose

October 27, 2016

Jim Collins, author of the business classic Good to Great, talks about the 20-10 assignment: “Suppose you woke up tomorrow and received two phone calls. The first phone call tells you that you have inherited $20 million, no strings attached. The second tells you that you have an incurable and terminal disease, and you have no more than [ten] years to live. What would you do differently, and, in particular, what would you stop doing?”[i] Collins goes on to describe how that assignment became a turning point in his life. Asking himself those two questions caused a shift in how he allocates his most precious resource: time. I encourage you to think about this 20-10 exercise as you read this book. Life is short, time is precious, and I have never heard of anyone making this deathbed...

October 20, 2016

Higher personal performance means that we perform our chosen endeavors with a greater degree of skill, talent, knowledge, or acumen. For an Olympic sprinter or swimmer, that means faster times. For a schoolteacher high performance may mean the ability to help students master the subject matter at hand. The word telos (from the Greek τέλος for “end,” “purpose,” or “goal”) means an end or purpose, used by philosophers such as Aristotle. It is the root of the term “teleology,” roughly the study of objects with a view to their aims, purposes, or intentions.[i] Today, we define teleology as the study of personal performance.

In contrast to telos, techne is a term etymologically derived from the Greek word τέχνη (Ancient Greek: [tékʰnɛː]), that is translated as “craftsmanship,” “c...

October 6, 2016

"Control of consciousness determines the quality of life." 

―Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience

Close your eyes . . .

Breathe deeply . . .

Focus on your body as you breathe . . .

Think about a calm, relaxing ocean wave coming over your body as you breathe in . . .

Think about the wave receding down your body as you breathe out . . .

Repeat . . .

Does this sound familiar? Does it remind you of a meditation class? Mindfulness has recently become the buzzword from experts in both mental and physical health. Mindfulness is paying attention to the present moment with intention, while letting go of judgment, as if our life depends on it, says expert Jon Kabat-Zinn, PhD, founding executive director of the Center for Mindfulness in Medicine, Health Care, and S...

October 1, 2016

It is not enough to be busy. So are the ants. The question is: What are we busy about?

—Henry David Thoreau

Are you so busy that you don’t know if you’re coming or going? If I did not actively and consciously manage my schedule, it would fill up to the point that it would manage me. I came to the realization about a year ago that one of the largest sources of stress in my life was lack of control over my time, particularly my work time. The solution for me was to STOP overloading my calendar.  Because my calendar was too full, I did not have enough time for what Cal Newport calls  "Deep Work" in his book of the same name.

Richard Swenson, MD, coined the term "Margin" in his book of the same title to describe the need we all have for space in our lives. Look at the page you a...

September 24, 2016

Wellbeing is defined as the state of being happy, healthy, or successful. My friend Gene Harker, MD, PhD, defines well-being as a state that exists when organisms function in an environment in harmony with how they were made. A plant is in harmony with its environment when it has the proper amount of sunlight, water, and carbon dioxide and nutrients. Humans experience well-being when they are in harmony with their environment, when they know their needs and have the means to meet them while also helping to meet the needs of others.


Removing barriers that zap our energy, like distractions, multi-tasking, poor eating habits and lack of exercise frees us to focus on our strengths, talents, and experiences that bring joy and reduce stress for...

September 17, 2016

I love naps!  As often as I can I take a fifteen- to thirty-minute nap after lunch.

By the way, when did Americans stop taking naps? My grandparents took a nap after lunch every day, and they accomplished more on their farm daily than most non-nappers. Naps are a lost art and indulgent pleasure, not to mention a ritual that provides health benefits.

Here are 3 great reasons to #STOP! in the middle of the day to take a short nap.

  1. A nap is an indulgent pleasure to close your eyes and fall asleep

  2. A nap allows your body to use energy to digest your lunch rather than to sluggishly power your brain

  3. A nap restores your energy for the afternoon.

Some employers are installing nap pods like the one pictured here to allow employees to take a short nap.  The pod is equipped wit...

September 9, 2016

Even when faced with death, most people didn’t STOP stressing their bodies and minds. If you’re stressed out, your life may depend on how willing you are to STOP doing what’s gotten you into your current state. Einstein said the definition of insanity was doing the same things over and over again and expecting different results.

More than 97 percent of American adults do not meet four basic characteristics of a healthy lifestyle, researchers at Oregon State University found in a study published in the Mayo Clinic Proceedings at the time of this writing. Although two-thirds had at least one or two vital healthy habits—a good diet, moderate exercise, healthy BMI, and not smoking—researchers were stunned that so few people had all four.[i] We have to STOP and look at ourselves.

I wel...

September 1, 2016

Researchers at MIT attached brain scanners to rats and placed them in mazes to find the exit.  They learned that a great deal of activity took place in their cerebral cortex while learning the maze.[i] However, after numerous attempts, the rats learned the route and the cortex registered less activity.[ii] The brain converts the sequence of actions into chunks or bundles and transfers those bundles down to the primitive part of the brain, the basal ganglia. This transfer frees up the cerebral cortex for good slow thinking.[iii] In this regard, we are like rats. 

One way in which we think fast is to form habits. According to Charles Duhigg in The Power of Habit, we respond to cues, such as time of day, location, or our emotional state with routines that deliver a reward.[iv]...

August 25, 2016

We all deal with stressors on a daily basis. Any time we encounter something that disturbs us either mentally or physically, stress results. It’s omnipresent in life. A particularly stressful event triggers the fight-or-flight response, causing hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol to surge through your body. A little bit of stress, known as “acute stress,” can be exciting, and keeps us active and alert. The big problem comes in when you are dealing with long-term, chronic stress, which I call bad stress. Being under constant stress—either on the job or at home or both—can have dire detrimental effects on your health.

Ironically, studies have shown that healthcare workers and doctors are some of the most stressed-out people among all professions, and yet we...

August 18, 2016

We make hundreds of decisions every day. These decisions vary from the mundane to the complex such as:

  • Should I have a fruit shake for breakfast, a bowl of cereal, or just skip it because I’m late?

  • While playing chess with my son, what move should I make next as I predict his next set of moves? 

According to Nobel winner Daniel Kahneman, we make decisions by deploying two systems—thinking fast and thinking slow. System 1 is thinking fast and is automatic, based on patterns that have developed in our brain from past experience and memory. In fast thinking, we rely on rules of thumb and preconceived notions. System 1 engages first, quickly and every time. Examples of fast thinking include driving a car on an empty road.

System 2 is thinking slow and is conscious, delibera...

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#STOP! Thinking fast to do a behavior tune-up

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© 2016 by Eric Parmenter