The Bad from the Good

A comment from a reader of my previous column on Philippe Petit, the 'Man on Wire,' reminded me that sometimes, we can draw Bad from the Good.

Making the Best of Tough Holiday Work Schedules

Here are some tips for staying positive at work when everyone else is at play.

How Deep is the Divide between Therapy and Science?

Is there a Mackenzie Phillips-sized family secret lurking in the heart of psychology? I take a look at the often-profound disagreement over how can our profession best serve our clients.

Parenthood and the Intentional Life

With kids heading back to school, parents can be stretched thin. So it's time to get back to the basics with three strategies for better parenting.

What the Health?!?

Assault rifles, death panels, and the end of democracy. No, it's not Invaders from Mars, it's the health care debate. Here's a look at some of the reasons why this debate has gotten so out of control.

Are We Ourselves?

Our bodies apparently have 10-20 times as many foreign, microbial cells in them as they have human cells, and research increasingly focuses on our colonization by these critters as a factor in our health.  Are we simply Microbe Motels?

Living Longer. And Better.

We tend to focus more on living long than on living well. Why can't we do both?

Sucker-phobia: The fear of being taken

A recent report suggested that we prefer confident rather than diffident experts...even when the confident ones are wrong. There are two kinds of experts: the folks who are very, very confident about what they know - and the folks who are very, very aware of the limits of what they know. A football running back is a confident expert - hit the hole, hit it fast, hit it hard. (Even the Minnesita Vikings recognize this!) Running back-style experts say things like - DRINK TWO GLASSES OF RED WINE A DAY!!!!! A scientist is usually a tentative expert - see the data, see the limits in the data, present the highly qualified possibilities of what the data might mean if we can get more data that look a lot like the data we just reported. Can we get people to listen to the second kind?

Meaningful Work

A famous story relates the following encounter: Three men are found smashing boulders with iron hammers. When asked what they are doing, the first man says, "Breaking big rocks into little rocks." The second man says, "Feeding my family." The third man says, "Building a cathedral." To many of us who study and consult in occupational and organizational contexts, we would call what this third man does meaningful work.

Definitely Sweat the Small Stuff!! (and it's mostly small stuff)

The Flash of Insight, The Grand Gesture, The Rousing Speech, The Last Straw. All of these are doppelgangers of The Big Thing, which too many of us wait for to come along and change our lives. The secret is, of course, that it's not coming. Worse, by waiting for The Big Thing, you could let the little things that make life rich, and accumulate into the important experiences of your life, slip away.

Coffee, Community, and the Quest for Meaning

One Friday evening in January, I went to the lone, independently owned coffeeshop on my side of town to do a few hours of work. When I got there, though, I found out that the coffeeshop was going out of business. What happened next was a stirring brew of passionate leadership, meaningful work, community mobilization, with a little new social media to sweeten things up.

Searching for Godot: Fulfillment Won't Necessarily Come Find You

In Samuel Beckett's masterpiece "Waiting for Godot," two characters anxiously wait for a man they both claim to know but whom neither would recognize. Too often, it seems like people act like Beckett's characters, passively waiting for a meaning for their lives to come up and poke them in the chest and shout, "I am here!" How can we break out of this passivity?

What Does It Mean to Be Happy?

Somewhere around 2500 years ago, a little argument developed among a bunch of free Greek men with too much time on their hands and too many neurons for their own good. They were trying to create a definitive description of the Good Life. Believe it or not, their argument isn't really settled even now.

To Mean, or Not To Mean

"The tragedy of modern man is not that he knows less and less about the meaning of his own life, but that it bothers him less and less." -Vaclav Havel- For the sake of argument, let's say that the esteemed Vaclav Havel is right and we are bothered less and less by the question of meaning in our lives...is that bad? Several decades of research have been conducted on this question, and the evidence is strong.

Not My President?

Wild-eyed Congresswoman Michelle Bachmann recently called on her constituents to get "armed and dangerous" to protect America.  Congresswoman Bachmann invoked the spirit of Thomas Jefferson to urge a revolution, so we don't lose our country, you know.  Who is the threat?  President Barack Obama.  Twice in eight years, some Americans have wondered whether the guy in the Oval Office is the president.  What do these sentiments say about the meaningful life?

What Do Kids See When They Look at Their Art?

A child's art is a glimpse of a hidden world. (And apparently there are no jobs for art critics in that world). Let's be honest, kid art is objectively bad. Yet, kids have the seemingly magical ability to see their self-expression for what it is, not for what it is not.

The Recession and Me(aning), Part 2: Making Meaning Even if You're Not Making Money

We all have that friend who is never fazed by anything. "Hey Chip, sorry to hear you lost your job." "Oh, that's OK, it gives me more time to write my memoirs." These people drive us crazy. Their response to set-backs seems insane at best, and designed to torment us at worst. Perhaps some part of us wishes we could be so laissez-faire, but wouldn't we be missing some crucial piece of living if we didn't have to overcome hardship? Many psychologists believe that people grow through their stressful circumstances by making meaning from them.

Death and the Miser, or Making Sure You Don't Leave the Most Important Things Behind

Meaning can be found in the strangest places. It's not just the joyful things that help us feel our lives matter; often it's the most painful things. It's a venerable paradox. The more you dive into life and love those around you, the more you risk losing when death comes. Yet, if you don't love strongly, fully, and heedlessly, life is hollowed out and is just a shadow of what it could be.

The Recession and Me(aning), Part 1: If You Are What You Do, Who Are You When You Lose Your Job?

The ubiquitous ritual of beginning conversations with strangers with some version of "Hi, I'm so-and-so. What do you do?" creates the impression that the most important thing about us is our job. Perhaps we are what we do? What happens, though, when the sacrifices you've made for your employer are repaid in worthless company stock or a pink slip?

What is the Meaning of (Your) Life?

Psychologists don't study "The Meaning Of Life" (cue portentious music).  Instead we study the meaning in life...