Monday, December 30, 2019

The BENEFITS of Being Closed-Minded

I was a subscriber to Berkeley Repertory Theatre and happened to run into its director. Michael Leibert. I asked if he wouldn’t mind a bit of feedback. He said, “Yes, I would mind.”

I was shocked. I thought, "He doesn’t have to accept it but he could at least listen to see if it was worthy. After all, open-mindedness avoids our becoming stale, it facilitates our growing, and even makes us better liked because we’ve reacted well to people’s ideas.

But I’ve come to realize that closedmindedness has benefits. I describe them in my article today.

Sunday, December 29, 2019

10 Parenting Guidelines

There are 10 guidelines, even if implemented imperfectly, that should make you a plenty good enough parent. I list them in my article today.

Saturday, December 28, 2019

High Tech vs High Touch

My most recent article, Changes in a Lifetime,  described societal changes in the past half-century. My article today projects forward.

Friday, December 27, 2019

Changes Over the Past Half Century: A net good?

Recognizing my advanced age —I’ll be 70 in June —a reader asked me what’s changed over my lifetime. I offer my thoughts in my article today.

Thursday, December 26, 2019

Doables Easy actions that can make a difference in your career and personal life

Most people find it hard to make big changes. The ideas I offer in my article today are more doable— No personality transplant required. Yet they can make a difference in your life.

The Decade in Review: Psychology-related developments

The 2010s have brought major psychology-related developments in: singlehood, sexual fluidity, religion, mind-altering drugs, ascendance of women/decline of men, genetics, assisted suicide, and President Trump.

I describe them in my article today.

Wednesday, December 25, 2019

Alone During the Holidays: It can be a great time to journal, write a mock letter, or a short-short story

By choice or not, many people are alone for much of the holiday season. One way to spend part of the time is writing. That may be a particularly good time because Christmas, year-end, and the upcoming New Year inspire reflective thoughts.

Perhaps one of the approaches to writing for self-improvement that I describe in my article today might appeal to you.

Monday, December 23, 2019

A Jewish Atheist and Christmas: Finding the joy, dealing with the issues

My article today discusses how to find the joy and deal with the issues of a Jewish atheist at Christmas, including with a Christian's romantic partner who isn't Jewish.

Sunday, December 22, 2019

Memorable Counseling

Whether you’re a counselor or counselee, isn’t is sad or at least surprising how little is remembered from a session?
Even though my clients record our sessions on their phone and I encourage them to listen, many don’t, and even if they do, they remember only a small fraction of the takeaways they had agreed is important.

On reflection, that shouldn’t be so surprising. Think of all the counseling, workshops, let alone college courses, you’ve taken. How much do you remember? If you’re like most people, not much lives beyond a day or two. Takeaways’ half-life is short indeed.

An antidote is for counselors — whether psychological, career, life coaching, whatever — to build-in memorability. Counselees can use some too. My article today offers some tactics I’ve used.

Your Slow Learner

Despite getting your child special help, s/he still struggles academically. Now what?
If I had such a child, and moderate help yielded little progress, I would not do what so many parents do: add tons of tutoring, summer school, plus maximum nagging: Did you do your homework? Let’s go over your homework. Do that again, Johnny.

Nor would I do what some parents, who are driven at least in part by a misplaced sense of guilt that the problem is their fault, fight with the school district, even hiring an attorney to get yet more on top of the special ed services the school already provided, even demanding private school at taxpayer expense.

My article today tells what I would do.

Friday, December 20, 2019

Ignored or Rejected? Options for the ghosted and roasted

You’ve been ignored or rejected a lot.
It’s hard to go through life feeling that way. As usual, there are no magic pills but maybe one or more of the ideas in my article today will help.

Thursday, December 19, 2019

Marry? Should you aim for marriage? With your current partner?

This is the third and final installment in a series on romantic relationships.  

The first attempted to help you get clear on what sort of person and relationship you’re actually looking for. It also described good ways to use online dating, getting set up, meeting at work, and participating in ongoing group activities.  

The second installment offered tips on how to make the most of a first date, both in assessing the person and in making a good impression while being authentic.

Now, we turn to the big question, the M word, should you marry? And if so, is this person Mr/Ms Right? That's my article today.

The Big Bad Wolf: The other side of the story

I couldn’t help it. I was too hungry. Besides, I was pissed at them. Pissed at them all: the three little piggies, and with Peter. You know, Peter and the Wolf. They’re little, they’re cute, so everyone loves them. But not me, I'm big and ugly. They keep saying that what matters is what’s on the inside. Not really.

Speaking of which, I gotta take care of my insides. I am hungry, so I better go into my routine: You know, “The better to eat you with my dear?” I'm sick of it but it works.

Ah, that’s better. But as you may know, depending on which version of my story you read, soon after I’ve got the hero in my stomach, my guilt takes over and I have to vomit the lucky twit right back up again. Excuse me a moment.

That’s better. But now I’m hungry again. But finally, someone is paying attention to me, so I’ll talk with you for a few minutes before I find some fairy-tale twerp to eat. And this time, I will not vomit him up. You just wait and see.

You ask how a wolf can feel guilt? I’ll tell you how: My mother, that’s how. Every time I’d gnaw on a piece of furniture, let alone a deer—She’d only let me eat beavers, birds, and fish. I hate fish—She’d look at me with those big eyes and whimper, “How could you, Wolfie? How could you!?” So I spent my childhood feeling like crap just for doing what comes naturally.

Okay, enough of the psychobabble sob story. I need to get something to eat. They didn’t come up with the saying, “Hungry like a wolf” for nothing.

Hey, I think I see some easy prey. There’s this kid skipping down the lane singing, “To grandmother’s house I go.” Well, there’s only one house in this forest. I’ll break in, eat grandma, and then maybe have the kid for dessert.

What a naive grandma; the door’s open. Hmm, no grandma. She must have gone out to, ha-ha, kill a deer. People like to eat deer but the thought makes them squeamish so they call it venison. But I digress. I’ll hide and if the kid comes in, dinner is served.

Here she is! But she’s so cute. No, I can’t fall for that looks crap. I’m going to eat that kid! But she has her whole life ahead of her. And my mom would kill me if she knew I was dining on kid, even if it wasn’t a goat. No-- I’ll put on the stupid grandma babushka and her apron.

Little Red Riding Hood exclaimed, “My what big ears you have.”

“The better to hear with you with my dear.”  I’m hungry. I’ll skip widening my eyes. I don’t need to hear “Grandma what big eyes you have.” I’ll cut to the chase and flash my teeth.

 “Grandma, what big teeth you have.” 

“Bingo. Better to eat you my dear.” Aw shit, I just don’t have the heart. “Kid, I’m the Big Bad Wolf, and at the risk of screwing up your 500-year-old fairy tale, I’m outta here. I’m gonna get some fast food, a bird or something. Get out of here before I change my mind.

Why I can’t I be a dog? They all have some wolf in ‘em. Then, some nice person would feed me special recipes made just for me and I wouldn’t have to hunt. The opposite: They’d pet me, they'd rub my belly, hell, they'd let me sleep in the bed with them as long as I didn’t pee there.

Wishful thinking. I’m just a wolf, a big bad wolf. I’m consigned by my family of origin and hundreds of years of puerile fairy tales to be the bad guy: The Big Bad Wolf. Maybe I should see a shrink. 

Wednesday, December 18, 2019

The First Date: Judging Wisely and Making a Good Impression While Staying Authentic

Whether it’s that brief coffee meeting after “meeting” online, or a traditional first date, the advice I offer in my article today should be helpful.

Tuesday, December 17, 2019

Finding a Great Romantic Partner

My article today describes how to make the most of online dating, getting set-up, and participating in ongoing group activities where your Mr/Ms Right is likely in attendance.

Monday, December 16, 2019

8 Potentially Life-Changing Gifts

Sweaters, jewelry, and even socks are okay but especially for people who are psychologically or personal-growth oriented, one of the eight gifts I suggest in my article today might be more appreciated and beneficial.

Sunday, December 15, 2019

Finding Your Personal Philosophy

All of us should have a personal philosophy, an identified set of core beliefs. That's foundational to figuring out the life you want to live. To offer an example and perhaps help motivate you, I offer mine in my article today.

Nuggets from Psychology Today's "Essential Reads"

Psychology Today's editors select a small percentage of its articles as Essential Reads. Five years ago, I reviewed many to identify some particularly useful nuggets. 

It seems time for a current version. So, from among the latest 200 Essential Reads, My article today offers excerpts with particularly useful takeaways. For most, I add a comment.

Saturday, December 14, 2019

Your Child's Education

Some of the ideas in my article today are contrary to conventional wisdom, but I feel confident that they're worth considering because they're informed by my three decades as an education and career advisor plus my Berkeley Ph.D. specializing in the evaluation of education.

Thursday, December 12, 2019

Learning to Enhance Your Career

Most readers of my work have at least one degree and if they want more education it's to enhance their career. 

My article today proceeds on those assumptions.

Sometimes, going back to a college or university is necessary. For example, you can’t be a psychotherapist without at least a master's. And in some fields, even if not required, employers tend to prefer advanced degree holders.

But more often than you might think, you can learn more, especially more of practical value to you, at dramatically less cost and far more quickly, through one or more of the following: self-study, just-in-time help at work, tutoring, one-shot classes, longer courses, and conferences.

Of course, if you’re pursuing education to enhance your career, you’ll need to convince the employer that you’ll be at least as good an employee for having attended “You U” than State U. Later in the article, I show you how to do that, indeed that you’re a better candidate.

If you decide you do need a degree, at the end, I discuss how to maximize your chances of admission to that small percentage of schools that actually are highly selective.

Wednesday, December 11, 2019

Adulting: What they should have taught you in school

UC Berkeley is among the growing number of colleges offering a student-run course in adulting. If I were teaching a course on adulting, My article today offers what I’d hope would be the main takeaways.

Tuesday, December 10, 2019

Losing Weight: Tiny tweaks may be the best approach

It’s well established that diets don’t work. Fellow Psychology Today blogger, Meg Selig reviews the literature.  Nor will exercise work—Whatever calories expended are at least as compensated by increased hunger and entitlement

If you’re obese (BMI of 30+), medically supervised diet and/or surgery may be indicated but for the more typical overweight person (BMI-25-29), tiny tweaks may be the wisest approach. You’re more likely to stay with tweaks, avoiding the dangerous yo-yoing. Plus, tweaks are less likely to trigger your set point: your body resisting effort to losing weight.

My article today offers ideas on how to make it work 

Sunday, December 8, 2019

Reviewing Your 2019: Toward a good 2020

There’s a simple reason why many people have a hard time identifying the year’s lessons learned: They don’t remember even all the important things that happened.

My article today offers ways to help you remember the events, identify lessons learned and, in turn, a goal or three for 2020.

Saturday, December 7, 2019

What Works in Time Management and Procrastination

My article today distills what has worked best for my clients who have a problem with time management and procrastination.

Friday, December 6, 2019

Identifying Your Secret Desires. . . and using them to make plans for 2020

We may have desires that we won’t even let ourselves think about, let alone try to achieve. Does one of your unspoken desires appear on the list I offer in my article today?

Family Dinner: An old-fashioned idea worth revisiting

“Dinner’s on the table!”
“Come on mom, just five more minutes!”

“So, what did you do in school today?”

“Eat your vegetables”
“I HATE vegetables.”

While troubling, such exchanges are more from an earlier era in which family dinner was virtually inviolate. Today, that glue of familial connection and problem solving is often but a memory from ancient Ozzie and Harriet TV shows. Families often graze individually, with one parent still at work, if only in the home-office. The exhortation to "eat your vegetables" is moot because the parent ordered in pizza, both because it’s easy and the kids prefer it to broiled chicken, broccoli, and quinoa. The kids pop open the pizza box (assuming they hadn’t earlier raided the fridge and are no longer hungry), grab their favorite slices, and abscond to their room so they can eat while chatting or texting on the phone, watching TV, playing video games, or just maybe doing their homework.

While there’s humor in all that, at the risk of being atavistic, I think individuals and families would be wise to try to make family dinner the norm. My article today offers some thoughts on how to make family dinner work.

Thursday, December 5, 2019

Is Luxury Worth It? A self-assessment: For you? For your holiday gift giving?

Some of my clients wonder whether the American Dream game is the game they should be playing. If you're asking that of yourself, perhaps a look at luxury life’s benefits and liabilities may help you assess. 
In my article today, I've done my best to make the best case both for and against the luxury lifestyle.

Honest Reactions After a Spouse's Death: A top psychotherapist reacts to the loss of his wife.

Rational Emotive Behavior Therapist (REBT) and friend Michael R. Edelstein has just lost his wife of 27 years.

I found his reactions to her death remarkable in their honesty and usually unspoken universality. Many people may have such feelings but aren’t honest enough to voice them, especially in the face of well-wishers’ conventional, perhaps dutiful words.

I asked Michael if he wouldn’t mind sharing those thoughts. As my article today, I present what he said. 

Tuesday, December 3, 2019

When Willpower Isn't Enough

You know you shouldn’t procrastinate but you do.

You know you should be more (or less) assertive but you aren't.

You know you shouldn’t overeat. But you do.

There is such a gap between what we know we should do and actually do.

The most realistic answer is to accept your basic self. Increasingly, scientists are learning that lack of discipline is heavily in our genes. According to a recent metaevaluation, which synthesized the results of 31 studies, 60 percent of the variance in self-control is genetic.

While we may need to accept that we’re unlikely to transform from procrastinator to superproducer, meek to magisterial, overeater to mousy eater, we can, ahem, nibble around the edges. The key is to identify a realistic baby step. I offer some likely candidates in my article today.

Monday, December 2, 2019

Resume Fixes

In my article today, I describe the most common flaws in my clients' resumes and how you can avoid them.

Sunday, December 1, 2019

Want to Change Your Life?: Potentially quick routes to turning around your life

Five years ago, I wrote on a similar topic: Realistic Sources of Hope, but its focus was on incremental, the proverbial baby steps.

Many people would at least like to consider if there might be an even quasi-possible approach to a quick, dramatic life turnaround, of the type promised to contestants on America’s Got Talent, Survivor, Who Wants to Be a Millionaire, etc.

As usual and especially with such a huge challenge, there certainly no guarantees but my article today offers my best shots at how to make a quick, dramatic life turnaround.

Saturday, November 30, 2019

Abracadabra!: Conjuring the practical from watching magic

It would seem that magic is antithetical to practicality. Yet even practical me loves magic, both for entertainment but also some practicalities. I explain in my article today.

Friday, November 29, 2019

The Case for Chucking it All

I told a client, who is Director of Economic Development for a county about another client who decided to chuck it all and live an ultra-simple life. I tell about them and the case for chucking it all in my article today.

Thursday, November 28, 2019

The Know-it-All: Dealing with one, being one

My article today attempts to explain why know-it-alls do what they do . . .and why they deserve more respect and kindness rather than the typical antipathy and even retribution.

Wednesday, November 27, 2019

Mindful Eating: An internview with Susan Albers

Fellow Psychology Today blogger, Susan Albers is a psychologist at the Cleveland Clinic who specializes in mindfulness and eating. Her new book is Hanger Management: Master Your Hunger and Improve Your Mood, Mind, and Relationships. 

In my article today, I interview her.

Tuesday, November 26, 2019

Monday, November 25, 2019

Evaluating Your Current or Prospective Job

Sometimes, it’s hard to get clear on what’s truly important in a job. So, many people default to money and status. 

The list I offer in my article today may be more helpful in deciding whether, when today, when unemployment is at a 50-year low, to stay in your current job or to seek greener pastures. And if you're a less-than-ideal employer, perhaps it will give you a gentle nudge.

Sunday, November 24, 2019

A Fast Way to Identify Your Strengths

Self-report is a valuable way for you to identify our strengths and weaknesses. Not only does that enable you to consider the full range of your life’s past experiences, it allows you to project forward: what are your latent attributes—those that life hasn’t yet afforded you sufficient opportunity to express but that you might like to. Plus, self-report is free.

To keep concise the self-report strengths inventory in my article today, it isn't universally applicable. It focuses on the Psychology Today readership—people who are well educated and/or with above-average intelligence. So, for example, it doesn’t ask about physical strength or ability to do repetitive tasks.

Saturday, November 23, 2019

24 Rules of Thumb for a Better Life

Many people are more likely to benefit from simple than complex advice, for example, one-liners that are easy to keep top-of-mind. Rules of thumb are particularly helpful because they’re more flexible than rules — They’re guidelines: usually but not always wise. 

My article today offers some rules of thumb that have been particularly helpful to my clients.

Friday, November 22, 2019

Distractions: 14 ways to distract yourself from worry or to spend time when you're bored.

Sometimes, there’s reason for worry and nothing we can do about it, at least for now. Then, distraction may be a good alternative. Perhaps you’ll find something sufficiently compelling in the list below.

Or you find yourself bored, perhaps after work or on the weekend. Sure, if you could motivate yourself, you’d get out and exercise, see a friend, work on your novel, but you’re not motivated—You’re in the no-win of feeling bored yet not energized enough to do much.

Worry and/or boredom too often results in drugs or alcohol. It’s so easy—Just open the bottle or pull out the vape pen and you’re not bored anymore; you're blitzed. And if you want some weed, endless billboards tell us to just click and it will materialize at your door.

What to do? Often in writing self-help advice, I feel the need to issue the disclaimer that there are no, ahem, magic pills, but might any of the ideas in my article today be helpful?

Thursday, November 21, 2019

My Most Potent Dating Tips

Many of my clients have wanted help in meeting their special someone. The tips I offer in today's article have been the most potent.

Wednesday, November 20, 2019

How to Be a Good Parent of a Student Athlete

We’re mid basketball and football season, and parents of student athletes from elementary school through college are trying to be good sports parents: encouraging and teaching life lessons without overinvesting.

Like most potentially fraught human interactions, threading the needle isn’t so easy. Perhaps the thoughts I offer in my article today will help.

Tuesday, November 19, 2019

Pruning Your Life: What to cut out so you flower more in 2020.

When we think of improving our lives, we tend to think of adding or replacing, but pruning your life’s weak wood often helps more. My article today offers a checklist--Should you prune any of these from your life?

Monday, November 18, 2019

My Seven Most Potent How-to-Do-Life Tips: Career, relationships, money, mental health, physical health, and the life well-led

Amid the information overload, it may help, even at the risk of reductionism, to offer a super-distillation of the advice on how to live life.

So, as a thought experiment, I reflected on my 1,538 How To Do Life posts here on to identify what, for each of life’s seven core components, is the single idea that has been most helpful across the 5,700 career and personal advising clients I’ve had the privilege of serving. I offer them as my article today.

Sunday, November 17, 2019

Do You Look for Reasons to be Angry or Sad?

Some people tend to seek a reason to be happy, others to be angry, still others to be sad.

It’s easy to understand happiness seekers, but what could motivate people to want to be angry or sad?   

My article today offers my hypothesis, the pros and cons of trying to change, and if you want to change, some baby steps that can help.

Saturday, November 16, 2019

Anatomy of an Epiphany: Toward better solutions

Sometimes, epiphanies, brilliant solutions, just pop into a person’s head out of nowhere.
Those may be beyond our control, but we may be able to generate epiphanies. I offer a four-step process for doing that in my article today.

Friday, November 15, 2019

Sparks: 10 Triggers That Have Made People Drop Bad Habits or Make Other Major Changes

It seems almost mystical. A person has long suffered, for example, from overeating, substance abuse, anger issues, laziness, or spending too much. And then suddenly, poof, the person changes, not incrementally, not in baby steps, but all at once.

With my clients, it's tempting to credit my advising but rarely does that have much to do with it. More often, it’s one of the occurrences that I list in my article today. Perhaps my describing them will help you drop that bad habit or make that major change you want to make.

Thursday, November 14, 2019

The 20-40 Rule: The case for talking less than your share.

The 20-40 Rule: Speak a little less than your share. My article today makes the case for why that's wise.

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

A Writer's Life: and lessons learned

You wouldn't think I could become a professional writer, with lots of well-published books and articles. Yet I did. I tell how in my article today. It also embeds lessons for non-writers.

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

The Joy of Rushing: A counterpoint to the gurus' urgings

The gurus, motivation or spiritual, tell us to slow down, to do less to accomplish more, or simply to enjoy the joy of chillin’.

As I am wont to do, I like to advocate for contrarian practices that I believe in. One such is rushing. I make the case in my article today.

Facing the Apocalypse: A thought experiment that can help us live more wisely

While the chances of an apocalyptic even such as an all-out nuclear war are tiny, a thought experiment in which that were imminent can help us gain clarity about how we want to live our life. I explore that in my article today.

Sunday, November 10, 2019

Money and Private Practice

Many helping professionals worry about going into private practice: All the motivation, all the expenses, all the structuring are on you. And it can be lonely. From a practical standpoint, particularly worrisome is the money: Will I earn enough? 

My article today offers some thoughts on making that happen.